Check out all the free things you can do in Leeds, from museums and galleries to outdoor adventures.
If you’re on a budget, it doesn’t mean you have to stay at home. There are tonnes of ways to enjoy a day out in and around the city without spending a single penny. Discover more about the world around us with a trip to the museum, get back to nature at a wildlife reserve and rock out to live music – the options are endless. Here are 40 fantastically free things to do in Leeds.
The Royal Armouries Museum is home to the UK’s national collection of arms and armour. You’ll marvel at over 4,500 objects displayed over five floors of galleries, making it a fantastic choice for families and historians. On top of live combat demonstrations, highlights include Henry VII’s foot combat armour from 1520, the iconic pulse rifle straight from classic eighties film Aliens and the world’s largest collection of animal armour – including a ginormous elephant armour! Their summer jousting tournaments are a must-watch, too.
Royal Armouries, Armouries Drive, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1LT.
Leeds City Museum
Leeds City Museum will transport you to faraway worlds, and best of all, it’s absolutely free. There are plenty of fun things to do at the museum – start off by exploring the curious worlds of the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks in the Ancient Worlds Gallery, where you’ll find Nesyamum, the 3000 year old Leeds Mummy. Next up, The Leeds Story uncovers the city’s vast history. In addition to the fixed exhibits, there are two changing exhibitions per year, so there’s always something new and exciting to sink your teeth into.
Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BH.
Leeds Art Gallery
If you’re into your art, Leeds Art Gallery should be high on your list of free things to do in the city. Founded in 1888, the gallery is home to one of the largest collections of 20th century British art in the UK. On top of the captivating permanent collection which features works from the likes of Jacob Epstein, Barbara Hepworth and Damien Hirst, there’s also a diverse calendar of temporary exhibitions, all showcased within the stunning grade II-listed building. The Tiled Hall Café provides a picturesque setting for a coffee afterwards.
Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AA.
Kirkstall Abbey is one of Leeds’ most striking and most recognisable landmarks. Over 800 years old, the abbey is one of the best-preserved Cistercian monasteries in England. Immerse yourself in the past as you wander the tranquil grounds and absorb the dramatic architecture of the ruins. You can also explore the abbey’s vast history at the visitor centre, before browsing wares from local craftspeople at the Abbey House Museum. Situated on the banks of the River Aire, it’s also a scenic location for a leisurely afternoon stroll, maybe even a picnic.
Abbey Rd, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH. Entry is free for Leeds residents – proof of address must be shown on first visit.
The magnificent Leeds Minster is a feat of architectural excellence, and it’s steeped in history. While the current church was completed in 1841, it stands on the site of the oldest one in the city, dating back to the 7th century. Highlights include stunning 16th-century stained glass windows, religious artwork and the Leeds Cross, one of the earliest artefacts to be found in the city. Whether you visit to say a prayer, light a candle, or simply to experience a moment of solace, the Minster welcomes all visitors with open arms.
Leeds Minster, 2-6 Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DJ.
Leeds Discovery Centre
A trip to Leeds Discovery Centre is always a fascinating day out. This state-of-the-art storage facility is a unique resource, built to house the incredible collections of Leeds Museums and Galleries. Inside, you’ll find over one million objects, taking you from elephant skulls to meteorites, stuffed penguins to viking log boats. The possibilities are endless, and the centre’s attentive staff are more than happy to share their passions, answering any questions you may have. Admission is free, but you’ll need to book your visit in advance.
Leeds Discovery Centre, Carlisle Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1LB.
Roundhay Park is one of the best and most popular free things to do in Leeds, welcoming almost a million visitors per year. Spanning more than 700 acres, it’s one biggest parks in Europe. Take your pick from five different walking routes, leading you to a 19th-century mansion, ornamental gardens, castle ruins and more. Fancy something active? Drop in at the skatepark, enjoy a spot of tennis, football or cricket, or work up a sweat in the outdoor gym. For the little ones, there are two playgrounds to explore, as well as a cafe for a well-earned break.
Roundhay Park, Roundhay, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 2ER.
Assembly House is an artist-led gallery and project space, situated within a Victorian mill in Armley. Founded in 2013, it’s a thriving hub of creativity, where you can find a mix of exhibitions, workshops and activities, focused around bringing the community together. There’s a wonderful sense of inclusion here – Assembly House is home to 49 creatives who paint, sculpt and design within the collaborative space of the studios. Seen something you like? You’re able to purchase work from the resident artists, helping you to support local talent.
Assembly House, 44 Canal Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 2PL.
Henry Moore Institute
The Henry Moore Institute is a must-visit for culture lovers. Dedicated to the work of Yorkshire’s own Henry Moore, it’s a glorious celebration of sculpture, both historic and contemporary. It also showcases world-class artists such as Jean Tinguely, Jiro Takamatsu and Joan Miro. There’s an ever-changing programme of exhibitions, helping you to understand more about sculpture, what it is and how it’s made. It’s an educational experience with its own academic research library, and one of the best free things to do in Leeds.
Henry Moore Institute, 74 The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AH.
The wonderfully scenic Yeadon Tarn is a 17-hectare park, centred around an expansive boating lake. Situated just seven miles north-west of Leeds city centre, there are plenty of free things to do during your visit. You can wander the route around the tarn and watch the water sports, enjoy a picnic on the grass or simply sit and spot the planes flying overhead from nearby Leeds Bradford Airport. There’s plenty to keep the kids entertained too, including a sprawling playground and a huge BMX track. You can even enjoy free on-site parking.
Yeadon Tarn, 3-5 Cemetery Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS19 7UR.
The Craft Centre & Design Gallery
Hidden away under Leeds Art Gallery is The Craft Centre & Design Gallery. Founded in 1982, it’s a celebration of all things craft and design, featuring work from both emerging artists and established makers from across the UK. You’ll find everything from intricate jewellery and ceramics to limited edition prints and textiles. With work from over 300 designers on show at any one time, there’s plenty to peruse. What’s more, everything here is available to purchase, so you can take home your own little piece of the gallery.
The Craft Centre & Design Gallery, City Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AB.
RSPB St Aidan’s Nature Park
The wonderful nature park at St Aidan’s is a fantastic place for a day out in Leeds. Once an opencast mine, the area has been transformed into one of the region’s most stunning nature reserves. Stretching across 400 hectares, you’ll find a variety of landscapes, including wetlands, meadows and woodland. As you’d expect, it’s a hotbed for nature, so bring your camera to capture up close and personal wildlife shots. There are four trails to choose from, whether you’re on bike, on foot or even on horseback.
RSPB St Aidan’s Nature Park, Astley Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS26 8AL.
The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery
Over at the University of Leeds you’ll find The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery. Established in 1970, the gallery is free to visit, and houses the University Art Collection. You can browse ceramics, photographs and sculptures, and marvel at British and European paintings, drawings and prints. In addition to their permanent exhibitions, there’s also a lively programme of public events, including craft workshops and insightful expert talks. Continue your art adventure after you leave, too – it marks the start of the uni’s Public Art Trail.
The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Parkinson Building, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT.
Leeds Lunchtime Concerts
Lift up your lunchtime with a free classical concert set within stunning surroundings. Leeds Lunchtime Concerts gives the public a wonderful taste of live music, with regular sessions taking place at Leeds Conservatoire. The packed calendar is the most extensive programme of free music in the UK, and features everything from jazz recitals to piano soloists and operatic singers. You could be discovering emerging talent one day and being blown away by a world-renowned musician the next – the variety on offer is endless.
Leeds Lunchtime Concerts are held regularly at Leeds Conservatoire, 3 Quarry Hill, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PD.
Woodhouse Moor Skatepark
Grab your board and hit the pipes at Woodhouse Moor Skatepark. The large concrete park is made up of three large sections, suitable for skateboarders, rollerbladers and BMXers. There are two street sections featuring flat banks and quarter pipes, alongside a transition section with a central spine and roll over. Known for having a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, it’s a great choice for experienced skaters and younger boarders alike. With the adjoining Woodhouse Moor Park to explore too, it’s a great day out in Leeds for all the family.
Woodhouse Moor Skatepark, Woodhouse Moor, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AP.
Meanwood Valley Trail
The Meanwood Valley Trail is a 7-mile trail of lush greenery, taking you all the way from Woodhouse Moor to Golden Acre Park. If you’d rather tackle a smaller walk, the trail’s broken down into three bitesize sections, each offering a slightly different view of the valley. The trail will take you through stunning woodland, where you’ll discover plenty of interesting landmarks, including the Seven Arches Aqueduct and the ruins of an old flax mill. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a common lizard or an Orange Tip butterfly.
Meanwood Valley Trail, Woodhouse Moor Car Park, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1BJ or Golden Acre Park, Off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 8BQ.
Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery
Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery is a public exhibition space hosted by the University of Leeds, offering a free day out to all. It showcases works from Leeds University Library’s Special Collections and there are thousands of fascinating rare books and manuscripts on display, alongside an extensive collection of art. Discover original handwritten materials from the Brontë sisters, ancient Babylonian clay tablets, and much more. The display items are regularly rotated, so there’s plenty to explore each time you visit.
Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, Parkinson Building, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT.
Leeds Country Way
Grab your walking boots and take a stroll along the Leeds Country Way – a 62-mile circular route that takes you through some of the city’s most beautiful countryside, from Golden Acre Park to Cockersdale and beyond. It’s a mammoth walk if you tackle it all, but it’s can also be split into four sections of 15 miles, which are further divided into short 5-mile stretches, perfect for short rambles or day walks. Whichever route you take on, you’re in for a treat – from waterside marinas to glorious woodland glades, there’s scenery in abundance.
The Leeds Country Way starts at Golden Acre Park, off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 8BQ.
Blue Plaque Trail
The Leeds Civic Trust’s Blue Plaque Trail pays homage to the important people and places that have contributed to the city’s rich history. It’s sure to keep you busy – there are 180 blue plaques across the city to find. Taking you from Roundhay Park Mansion to Leeds Corn Exchange, via Leeds School of Medicine, you’ll discover fascinating stories and learn more about some of Leeds’ most influential citizens. It’s completely free to walk the trail – simply download the map and visit some of the city’s most important landmarks.
Check out the Blue Plaque Trail.
Free live music at the city’s gig venues
There’s nothing quite like watching live music, and there are plenty of free events taking place across the city on a regular basis. To discover what’s on, check out the listings for the likes of Brudenell Social Club, Verve and The Duck & Drake – each of these venues puts on live gigs for everyone to enjoy, without the admission fees. Whether you’re exploring new genres, discovering up and coming talent or rocking out to a classic cover band, there are plenty of free shows to rock out at, all without spending a penny.
Free gigs are available across the city.
Golden Acre Park
Golden Acre Park is one of Leeds’ most popular parks, and a fantastic way to spend a free day out. Stretching across 179 acres, you can roam through leafy woodlands and heather meadows, before taking a wander around the boating lake at the centre of the park. It’s a perfect spot for bird watching, with many varieties of ducks, swans, herons and geese making the park their home. During the summer there’s even a chance to catch live music, with live performances taking place on Sundays.
Golden Acre Park, Otley Road, Bramhope, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 8BQ.
Sahaja Yoga Meditation
Practice mindfulness in a warm and welcoming environment at Sahaja Yoga Meditation. The free sessions take place on Wednesday evenings at Radisson Blu, offering blissful guided meditation and gentle yoga, designed to help people of all abilities find balance and self-awareness. There’s no need to don your yoga pants or bring a mat for these no-pressure sessions, simply turn up, get comfy and enjoy the experience. You’ll feel calmer in no time, and you may well be able to adopt these healthy practices in your day-to-day life.
Sahaja Yoga Meditation runs in person every Wednesday from 7pm to 9pm at Radisson Blu Hotel (top floor), No. 1, The Light, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 8TL.
Welcome to Leeds Street Art Trail
Leeds is a vibrant, colourful city, and there’s more to it than first meets the eye. Uncover some of the city’s most awe-inspiring street art by taking on the Welcome to Leeds Street Art trail, a wild urban adventure that will lead you far and wide as you discover colourful murals, heartfelt tributes and abstract creations. Combining art and culture, it’s a great way to check out hidden places you might not have ventured to, making it one of the most interesting free things to do in Leeds. Simply download the map and get exploring.
Leeds Street Art Trail is across the city, starting with Athena Rising, Platform, New Station Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 4JB.
Eccup Reservoir’s 5.5-mile circular trail will take you on a scenic route around the region’s largest body of water. Not only is it a popular walk, but it’s also a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its thriving bird population. Grab your binoculars and head to the viewing platform – you might spot anything from a sandy-coloured Desert Wheater to a Ring-Necked Parakeet, and, of course, the famous colony of Red Kites, which were saved from the brink of extinction. For wildlife lovers, a trip to Eccup is one of the best free things to do in Leeds.
Eccup Reservoir, Alwoodley Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS17 7DJ.
Leeds Urban Bike Park
Leeds Urban Bike Park offers an adrenaline-packed day out that’s completely free. With many courses and circuits that wind into the woodland, there’s plenty to keep you entertained all day, whether you’re on two wheels or simply enjoying a walk through the woods. With easy tracks for beginners and difficult trails for expert riders, it’s a fantastic facility that truly does offer something for everybody. There’s even bike hire if you don’t have wheels of your own. Hungry? The on-site cafe serves hot and cold food all day, as well as a quality brew.
Leeds Urban Bike Park, Ring Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 3TN.
Free tennis courts
Perfect your serve and bolster your backhand with a spot of tennis. There are plenty of courts across the region where you can turn up and have a free game, making it a fantastic way to spend a day out in Leeds. Tennis is a great way to have fun and keep fit, whatever your age or ability level. Some courts require booking, but others are also available for walk-ups. If you’d like to brush up on your skills, keep an an eye out for free coaching sessions throughout the summer – you’ll be a pro in no time.
There are free tennis courts at various parks across Leeds.
Leeds Owl Trail
Leeds has been obsessed with owls ever since they featured in the city’s coat of arms, and you can spot the clever creatures incorporated in the architecture of many city centre buildings. The Leeds Owl Trail helps you uncover some of these hidden owls, simply download a map and get searching. There are two trails to go for – the Civic Owl Trail, with 10 owls to spot, and the Grand Owl Trail, with a further 15. It’s a unique way to explore Leeds and find out a little more about its heritage, and makes for a great free day out for the family.
The Owl Trail starts at Millennium Square, Calverley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 UR.
Not only is it beautifully picturesque, Middleton Woods is also the largest remaining ancient woodland site in West Yorkshire. Wander its 40 hectares and you’ll find rich oak-filled forests, as well as streams and ponds, which provide a habitat for a variety of mammals, birds and amphibians. There are plenty of intriguing archaeological features to stumble upon too, including bell pits from the early days of coal mining and former tram routes. Visit in spring to see the bluebells in all their splendour.
Middleton Woods, Middleton Grove, Middleton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 4HX.
Leeds Central Library
While away the hours in the cosy confines of Leeds Central Library for a totally free day out. There are plenty of things to do – lose yourself in a fantasy world, uncover fascinating historical secrets, or even learn a new skill. Head up to the first floor to explore the art and music libraries, as well as the Drawing Room – a collaborative studio space that hosts regular workshops, activities and events. With free wifi and computer access on-site, you can also get online should you need to, but you will have to book ahead.
Leeds Central Library, Calverley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AB.
Once the headquarters of the former Tetley Brewery, The Tetley is now a contemporary art space on the South Bank, and one of the city’s true cultural gems. It’s a great day out, and one of the best free things to do in Leeds. From exhibitions that showcase works from emerging artists, to a vibrant events calendar that includes gigs and workshops, it’s the place to go if you’re seeking a culture injection. After you browse the three floors of curious modern works, stick around and enjoy a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant.
The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1JQ.
Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve
Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve brings together the city’s industrial past with a thriving wildlife community. What was once the site of the old Kirkstall Power Station has now been well and truly reclaimed by nature. Take a walk on one of the reserve’s trails and you could come face to face with the many resident animals – there are kingfishers, dragonflies, otters, bats and newts to name but a few all within these 10 hectares. It’s a fantastic place in which to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve, Redcote Lane, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2AW.
Verve Comedy Cellar
What’s better than a comedy night? A comedy night that’s free, of course! Head down to Verve Bar on Tuesday evenings and pull up a pew in their Comedy Cellar. You’ll be treated to a whole host of stand-up comedy acts, and you won’t have to splash the cash. It’s a popular affair, with plenty of punters jumping at the chance to catch rising stars, or even witness a big name practice their new material. If you fancy giving it a go yourself, they host regular open mic nights too, welcome to all and sundry.
Verve, 16 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PQ.
Sunny Bank Mills
Once a working textile mill, Farsley’s Sunny Bank Mills continues to play a key part in the city’s community. Featuring a 3,000-square-foot in-house gallery and resident artists, it’s a hub for art and culture, and one of the best free things to do in Leeds. Learn a new skill by joining in with one of their many creative courses, or wander around the wonderful outdoor gallery, which showcases the work of emerging talent and studio artists. If you get peckish, there’s food available from the likes of Mill Kitchen and Grumpy’s Pizza nearby.
Sunny Bank Mills, 83-85 Town Street, Farsley, Pudsey, West Yorkshire, LS28 5UJ.
Hope Pastures is an equine rescue centre, taking in horses, donkeys and ponies in need, rehabilitating them and helping them to find new homes. Visits are free, although donations are welcomed, making it a great family day out in Leeds. You can say hello to the resident animals while learning about horse care, or attend one of the sanctuary’s many events, which include fairs, pony days and a popular dog show. There’s a visitor centre that sells tea, coffee, soft drinks and refreshments, and you can even bring your pooch along.
Hope Pastures, Westwood Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 5PH.
Victoria Gardens Chess
Looking for intellectual things do to in Leeds? Put your brain to the test with a free game of giant chess outside of Central Library. Each morning the library team put the pieces out for passers-by to play. All you need to do to take part is turn up and grab one of the boards, which are painted onto the floor. It’s a wonderful sight to behold, and things tend to get pretty competitive during the summer months, so turn up early if you want a chance to strut your stuff. It’s equally as fun to watch, simply take a seat nearby and watch the action unfold.
Victoria Gardens, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AA.
Little Free Library
The Little Free Library is a lovely network of book exchanges that take place across the city. It’s even more wholesome than it sounds – these miniature libraries exist in the form of beautifully painted boxes, each with its own design from a local artist, scattered in various locations across the region and kept in wonderful condition. The concept is simple – leave a book, take a book. You can drop off your once-loved reads and pick up a new favourite, and it’s all completely free.
Leeds Little Free Library has a growing number of locations across the city.
Vinyasa Yoga at Hyde Park Book Club
Relax and unwind with a spot of vinyasa yoga at Hyde Park Book Club. Their laidback sessions are perfect for yogis of all levels, offering a no-pressure environment in which you can come down and find your own flow. It’s pay as you feel and there’s no need to bring your own mat, simply turn up, grab a spot under the disco ball and prepare to stretch your mind, body and soul. Stick around afterwards to enjoy a green tea and some plant-based food from the Hyde Park Book Club kitchen.
Hyde Park Book Club, 27-29 Headingley Lane, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1BL. Yoga classes take place on Fridays at 9.30am for one hour.
The cycling trails of Leeds
Cycling is one of the best ways to explore the region, and one of the best free things to do in and around Leeds. Take in the sights of God’s Own County while soaking up the great outdoors by jumping on your bike and taking to a trail. There are plenty of them to choose from – you can take a leisurely yet scenic ride along the banks of the River Aire, or amp up the adrenaline along the rugged terrains of the Ilkley Loop. The best bit? If you’ve got your own bike, it won’t cost you a penny.
Check out our list of awesome cycling trails in Leeds.
Adel Damn is a wildlife haven, made up of woodland and wetland, all teeming with nature. Once a fully-functional dam, it was turned into gardens by the Victorians, who planted a plethora of exotic trees, some of which can still be seen today. Take a walk around the circular route, which leads you around the lake, through the woods and the marshlands – it does get boggy, so be sure to wear suitable shoes. It’s a fantastic spot for bird watching – head to the viewing hide and keep your eye out for kingfishers and herons.
Adel Dam Nature Reserve, Next to Golden Acre Park, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 9JY.
Middleton Railway Museum
Discover the oldest working railway in the world, established way back in 1758, with a visit to Middleton Railway Museum. Experience what life was like back in the days of steam railways as you shovel coal and peat inside an old boiler to discover how locomotive parts were made. After you’ve played out your train driver fantasy, wander around the Display Room, home to a vast collection of industrial steam and diesel railway trains. It’s a fascinating museum, steeped in history, and one of the most immersive free things to do in Leeds.
The Middleton Railway Museum, Moor Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 2JQ.Cover image credit: Jerry Hardman Jones