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5 Reasons Why You Absolutely Have to Visit Leeds This Christmas

· Ali Turner · Christmas

Leeds promises a day (or night) out like no other this Christmas.

New Substance Spirit

From magical adventures after dark to cosy pop-up bars and street food markets that will do more than fill your belly – there are loads of reasons to come to Leeds in the run-up to Christmas.

Whether you’re looking for an unforgettable day out, a night on the town or a way to make your Christmas shopping a little more interesting, you’ll find everything you need right here in Leeds. The city has come alive for the festive season, with a series of unique installations and events that make a trip to Leeds an absolute must. Don’t believe us? Here are five reasons why you should hot-foot it over here quick smart…

Shop, drink and cosy up in a Viking-inspired tipi

Thor's Tipi & Leeds Big Wheel

Before you start your night on the town, jump on board the Leeds Big Wheel – cheesy tunes and killer views await. It’s a great way to kick off the festivities.

If you want to get into the Christmas spirit, you have to go to the German Market on Millennium Square. You’ll find over 40 wooden market stalls here, with everything from flavoured coffee beans to traditional Christmas decorations. It’s not just shopping though, they also have two bars – the Ski Hutte, which as you might have guessed, is an apres-ski inspired drinking den, and the Kuh Stall, a covered bar with a roaring fire to keep you warm. If you want to eat, try The Alp Chalet, a Bavarian-style restaurant that serves up traditional eats like Wiener Schnitzel and Rostbratwurst.

Thor's Tipi Leeds

When you’re done at the German Market, head around the corner to Victoria Gardens where you’ll find another fabulous festive pop-up. Thor’s Tipi Bar is exactly what it sounds like – a bar that’s made up of two giant tipis. They’ve got Leeds Brewery’s finest on the taps – or you can warm up by drinking mulled wine and hot cider around their cosy fire pits. They even have a hot chocolate station for the kids – top ‘em with cream, marshmallows and your favourite choccy bars. And if you’re hungry, grab a meat boat from The Mussel Pot’s Viking-inspired BBQ.

Head into the city after dark and make the most of our lively nightlife

The Queens Christmas

There are two reasons to come to Leeds after dark. You see, the city has been transformed into a magical wonderland for the festive season. Head out of the train station and into City Square where you’ll find the official Christmas tree – and if you turn back towards The Queens, you’ll be treated to a vast wall of twinkling lights on their elegant art deco facade.

From here, you could head to Park Square, where the trees are decorated with fairy lights and Alison Smith’s Frost Blossoms turn recycled commercial packaging materials into glowing lanterns. Greek Street is just a hop, skip and jump away, so why not treat yourself to experimental cocktails at The Alchemist, New York-style glamour at Manahatta or spontaneous flash mobs at Neighbourhood? You could even head across the road for handpicked wine at The Decanter or original concoctions at their sister bar, Thewlis.

Alternatively, go straight from City Square to Call Lane, the original Leeds nightspot. You’ll pass the beautifully lit, Grade I listed Holy Trinity Church, which has been decorated with a curtain of fairy lights for the festive season. Call Lane is a huge, winding street with something for everyone. Seek out The Maven, its unmarked doorway leads you to a secret pre-Prohibition style cocktail bar – or try the latest addition, Cuckoo, a crazy colourful venue where you can get free stone-baked pizza until 9pm.

Go shopping, get into the festive spirit and see the sights in one fell swoop

New Substance Spirit

Shopping in Leeds isn’t like shopping in other big cities. Oh, we have all the big high street and designer stores, but we also have beautiful Victorian arcades, historic markets and statement modern shopping centres. It makes doing your Christmas shopping that little bit more interesting, especially when you add all the incredible festive events taking place in the city.

You’ll want to get in early to tick off as much as you can. Queens and Thornton’s Arcade are essential – why not grab breakfast at Hepworth’s Deli or their sister cafe Olive & Rye? Their French toast is the stuff of legends. From here, head to the Victoria Quarter, where you’ll find a maze of designer boutiques under Brian Clarke’s beautiful stained glass roof – it’s the biggest in Britain, and this year, it’s accompanied by SPIRIT, a 6-metre long figure filled with twinkling lights that’s suspended from the ceiling of the historic shopping arcade.

Leeds Corn Exchange

Credit: Tom Joy

Across the road, you’ll find even more designer stores in Victoria Gate, alongside the city’s flagship John Lewis store, then it’s off to Kirkgate Market. You can pick up everything from artisan bread to curry making kits here, as well as grabbing a bite to eat at the street food market. You’ll need to refuel because we’re not done yet – you still have Leeds Corn Exchange to tick off. Not only is it a Grade I listed building designed by Cuthbert Brodrick himself, but it’s filled with independent traders, like Nautical and Nice, where you can buy all manner of handcrafted gifts. This year, they’re also hosting The Festive Yard with family entertainment, music and arts in amongst a maze of creative stalls.

There’s one last stop, and it might well be where you’re resting your head if you’re staying the night – The Art Hostel will once again be hosting The Arctic Bazaar, creating a mystical Nordic world filled with art stalls, craft activities and even a mobile sauna – oh, and did we mention the mulled wine?

Take a magical walk around one of Europe’s biggest urban parks

Magical Lantern Festival

Roundhay Park is always a wonderful reason to visit Leeds. It’s perfect for long winter walks, with over 700 acres of parkland for you to explore, including two lakes, a beautiful gorge and a medley of landscapes gardens – but this Christmas, you have another reason to go, because The Magical Lantern Festival is back in town.

The park will be lit up with 30 intricate Chinese lanterns until 1st January 2018 and it’s a sight to behold. You can see a replica of the Beijing Temple of Heaven, which is lit up with 10,000 lights, as well as polar bears, penguins and even a heavenly phoenix. After you’ve followed their magical trail around the park, head to the entertainment area, where you can drink beer, mulled wine and hot chocolate in their tipi bar – or work your way around their street food stalls. The churros are to die for! They also have a traditional Santa’s Grotto for the kids.

Christmas With Us

Credit: Tom Joy

If you’re passing through Leeds Train Station on your way to The Magical Lantern Festival, why not go for a very different festive experience? Christmas with Us is a pop-up installation that will help you rediscover the magic of the festive season. Come inside, have a cup of tea and hear the voices of the community as they talk about their experiences of Christmas.

Get your street food fix, while you finish up shopping

Fu Schnickens, , Belgrave Music Hall - Street Feast Feb 2014

This Christmas, Belgrave Music Hall will be holding two very special Christmas Feasts – and trust us when we say, you want to be there. They’re bringing together their biggest selection of street food vendors of the year, so you can tuck into everything from Taiwanese steamed buns to jerk chicken, Mac & cheese and loaded burgers.

But it’s not just about the food. You can nip to the bar for a pint of their finest craft beer, although you’ll have a hard time choosing because they’ve got a fair selection of them competing for the title. And once you’ve got your pint, you can start your Christmas shopping, because they’ll also have an array of craft stalls packed with handmade pieces that make perfect gifts, as well as a record market where you can pick up rare and second-hand vinyl. The party will carry on all day, with a live brass band soundtracking the festivities and a DJ later in the evening.

When you’ve had your fill of street food, make the most of the location – Belgrave Music Hall is in the heart of the Northern Quarter, the city’s hottest nightspot. So head over to North Bar for a mind-boggling selection of craft beer, nip into Chida Cantina to sip tequila in a Mexican-inspired party bar or head over to Vice & Virtue to try their award-winning cocktails. You’ll soon discover why Leeds is such a great night out.