Like any big city, Leeds has bundles of surprises waiting for you to discover and we’ve dug out some of the best.
Leeds is the city that just keeps on giving. Just when you think you’ve got it all down, something else pops up. But fear not, we’re letting you in on a few insider secrets, so you can live like a local. From hidden drinking spots to lesser-known architectural gems and forgotten pieces of history, it’s time to get exploring and discover another side of Leeds you never knew existed – until now.
The tailors that’s also a 1920s gin lounge
Ever wanted to travel back in time? Well if you’re in Leeds, you’re in luck. At first glance the aptly named Tailors is nothing more than that – a luxury tailors. But step through the doors and rummage through the dress-up box and you’ll be transported back to the 1920’s. It’s the time of prohibition, but at this sneaky speakeasy, the gin is flowing and the dancing never ends. Prepare for a Gatsby-level party, full of feathers, tassels and all that jazz.
Tailors Gin, 23-24 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
The cinema that’s one of the oldest in the UK
Cottage Road Cinema is a time capsule. They’ve been showing films since 1912, right through the silent film era to the rise of the blockbuster. It may be old with a vintage feel but the cinema is equipped with state-of-the-art projectors and sound. Showing both classics and the big recent releases, this antique gem has got something for everyone. It’s also a main venue for the annual Leeds International Film Festival, where you can catch one-off screenings.
Cottage Road Cinema, Cottage Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 4DD.
The Victorian hall that’s been reinvented as a cafe
Not only will you find seriously impressive works at Leeds Art Gallery, you can also stumble across one the city’s most treasured hidden gems. Look left from the entrance and you’ll get a glimpse of the Tiled Hall Cafe, a Victorian hall that was once their gallery reading room but today, is the perfect spot for a cuppa. Grand pillars, arches and walls surrounded by countless green tiles create an atmosphere that feels like it was made for cake and coffee with a good book.
Tiled Hall Cafe, 16-18 The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AA.
The tiny beer garden where you can sup pints and spot trains
Perhaps the most unassuming bar in Leeds, Roland’s has a very well-kept secret. Grab your drink of choice from the bar and forget the benches out on the street, we’ll one up you. Head out back and up the steps to find yourself in what might be one of the smallest, prettiest beer gardens in Leeds. Drenched in sun with benches to huddle around, it’s a prime location to enjoy those rare sunny days. Plus, you can watch the trains as they pass the tracks right above.
Roland’s, 39 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
The queer-owned bookshop hidden inside the Merrion Centre
With so many shops around Leeds, you could easily pass by the Merrion Centre. But if you do, you’d be missing out on one of the coolest little shops in Leeds. The Bookish Type is an independent queer bookshop tucked away upstairs, boasting countless titles spanning young adult fiction, poetry, memoirs and essays. They’re all about championing LGBTQIA+ voices and they even have a Pay It Forward scheme to make literature more accessible.
The Bookish Type, 58 Merrion Shopping Centre, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8NG.
The craft brewery tap by the river
Piglove By the River is without doubt one of the best kept secrets in Leeds. Nestled on the banks on the River Aire, this is a hop-tastic escape on the outskirts of the city centre, at the heart of CITU’s Climate Innovation District. It’s popular with local residents, but it’s open to all, so head down to the water to try their latest and greatest brews, like the Minka Pale Ale, alongside a revolving door of street food vendors.
Piglove By the River, Climate Innovation District, 29 Secret Garden, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS9 8FB.
The super-cool pay-as-you-feel theatre
It may have been founded over 20 years ago, but Slung Low is still a mystery to some. It’s an award-winning theatre company based at The Holbeck – one of the oldest working men’s clubs in Leeds. Everything that goes on here is Pay What You Decide, so you can come along to any of Slung Low’s productions or one of the independent touring performances and pay what you feel or just what you can. The shows here are a real celebration of the city’s diversity.
Slung Low at The Holbeck, Working Mens Club, Jenkinson Lawn, Holbeck, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 9QX.
The public art mural that’s hidden in plain sight
Walls around Leeds are covered with amazing public art that’s free to all. You might have seen a few already, like awe-inspiring Athena Rising, but may not have heard of the ‘Here We Go Now’ mural. A collaboration between LeedsBID, Hilton Leeds City Hotel and Moniker Culture, it stands at 20 metres tall and 50 metres long, injecting a pop of colour into an otherwise dull walkway on Little Neville Street, that leads you to and from the south entrance of Leeds Station.
Here We Go Now, Neville Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 4BX.
The country’s oldest surviving subscription library
Thought print declining? Think again! The Leeds Library is the last remaining subscription library in the UK, founded in 1786. You can go on a self-guided or public tour of this hidden gem to explore the Grade II-listed Georgian building and its two floors of mahogany book shelves. Or, join the library and you’ll have access to over 140,000 books, periodicals, CDs and DVDs. And it’s only set to get even bigger – it’s taking over 15 Commercial Street by 2023.
The Leeds Library, 18 Commercial Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6AL.
The indie film photography lab with a letterbox drop-off
Looking for somewhere to develop that roll of film you keep forgetting about? We’ve all been there, but Take It Easy make it that bit, well, easier. You can just bring your film along, drop it off (or pop it through their letterbox after-hours) and off you go. It’s a family-run indie film lab, working to bring film back. They do black and white and colour developing, negative scans, hand printing and so much more to meet all your film needs. They even offer a same-day service!
Take It Easy Film Lab, 30-34 Aire Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 4HT.