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50 Free Things to Do in Leeds

· Joseph Sheerin · Culture

You won't have to spend a penny on these free activities in Leeds.

St Aidan

You’ll find an abundance of free things to do in Leeds – so even when you’re feeling the pinch, you can still make the most of the city.

Even the wait for payday can be fun in Leeds because there are loads of things to do in the city that don’t require you to put your hand in your pocket. From exploring the city’s parks to hitting its galleries and taking on one of its many trails, you’ll find loads of free things to do in Leeds, to keep you busy when you don’t have a penny to spend.

1. Roundhay Park

Roundhay Park

© Copyright Leeds-List 2018 by Ali Turner

There are over 700 acres of green space to explore at Roundhay Park, with two beautiful lakes at the centre of it all. The city’s biggest park is a stunning setting for a cheap day out in Leeds, so pack up a picnic, take the kids to the playground or just have a wander around and enjoy the picturesque surroundings. It’s got everything from old follies to landscaped gardens for you to hunt out, if you’ve got time.

Roundhay Park, Princes Avenue, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 1DF.

2. Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey, Yorkshire

Credit: Ollievision

The 12th-century ruins of Kirkstall Abbey are rightly one of Leeds’ most important landmarks – and the hordes of people who visit every year prove it’s one of the best free things to do in the city. The abbey’s ruins are one of the most intact in the country, and the surrounding greenery is perfect for a picnic on a summer’s day.

Kirkstall Abbey, Abbey Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3AH.

3. The Meanwood Valley Trail

The Meanwood Valley Trail, Walks in Leeds

© Copyright Leeds-List 2018 by Joseph Sheerin

Stretching from the most southern point of Woodhouse Moor, along Woodhouse Ridge, Meanwood Park and Seven Arches Aqueduct before reaching Golden Acre Park, you can’t go wrong with a walk along the Meanwood Valley Trail. The 7-mile journey will show you a side of the city you may not realise is there, throwing up a few surprises along the way – and of course, it’s totally free.

The Meanwood Valley Trail starts opposite The Library Pub, 229 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AP.

4. Geocaching

Geocaching

‘What the heck is Geocaching?’ we hear you cry. Well, it’s basically an orienteering treasure hunt and it’s one of the most intriguing free things to do in Leeds. You’ll find a set of coordinates on the website, search the spot to find a container (AKA a geocache) hidden with an object inside. You can leave it there, or take it with you as long as you replace it with something of the same or greater value, and the game carries on.

Try geocaching on the Leeds Country Way…

5. Woodhouse Moor Skate Park

Woodhouse Moor Skate Park

Unlike other skate parks in Leeds, the one on Woodhouse Moor is completely free, so whether you’re into rollerblading, BMX-ing or skateboarding, you can feed all your extreme sports urges without putting your hand in your pocket. On summer days there’s a real community forged out of this corner of the park, with people flipping tricks and learning new skills, so why not join in?

Woodhouse Moor Skate Park, Hyde Park, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 2NW.

6. The Tetley

Tai Shani, The Tetley

Credit: Jules Lister

You can while away the hours wandering around the three art-filled floors of The Tetley for free, but that’s not all they have to offer. Their approach to art is all inclusive and they run free family-friendly workshops, from fun-packed sessions for older kids to specially tailored activities for toddlers, as well as open days that reveal more of the historic building than you usually get to see.

The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1JQ.

7. Yeadon Tarn

Yeadon Tarn

Credit: Tim Green licensed for commercial use under creative commons.

Yeadon Tarn is a gem if you’re looking for cheap days out in Leeds. If you’ve got kids, they’ll have a ball on the BMX track and the playground – or you can just take a leisurely stroll around the picturesque tarn and through the nearby woods. It’s also got a bowls court, although you’ll need to bring your own balls, and on Sundays, they regularly have live brass bands playing on the bandstand.

Yeadon Tarn, Cemetery Road, Yeadon, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS19 7BB.

8. The Hop Pub Quiz

The Hop

Tucked away under the Dark Arches on Granary Wharf, The Hop is a cracking venue for a pub quiz. Entry is free, as is a hearty supper – and a gallon of Ossett Brewery ale can be won every Tuesday from 8pm. It’s perfect if you’re looking for free things to do in Leeds, although you will, of course, have to pay for your drinks.

The Hop, The Dark Arches, Granary Wharf, Dark Neville Street, Neville Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 4BR.

9. Leeds City Museum

Our Buried Bones, Leeds City Museum

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

From Egyptian mummies to Roman artefacts, Iron Age tools and Greek pottery, Leeds City Museum has four floors of incredible stories just waiting to be discovered. It has oodles of local history, as well as a Collectors’ Gallery full of people’s weird and wonderful obsessions. Look out for their ever-changing exhibitions, which give you a glimpse of rarely seen objects from their vast collections.

Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BH.

10. Nature Reserves

St Aidan's Dog Walking

Credit: David Botgam

From The Hollies to Rodley Nature Reserve, Wyke Beck Valley to St Aidan’s, there’s an absolute abundance of nature reserves in Leeds and they’re perfect for free days out. Discover animals you never knew existed, spot unique flowers and take a break for a bite to eat while admiring the scenic views.

Check out our full list of nature reserves in Leeds…

11. Royal Armouries

Royal Armouries

Home to over 8,500 items from the National Collection of Arms and Armour, you won’t be short of things to see at the Royal Armouries. The Hall of Steel is the centrepiece, with over 2,500 different pieces making up the largest single display of arms since the 19th century. It’s an entertaining and educational day out that folk of all ages will enjoy – and best of all, it’s free to visit.

Royal Armouries, Armouries Drive, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1LT.

12. The Henry Moore Institute

Roy Ascott, Henry Moore Institute

Credit: Roy Ascott

The Henry Moore Institute is a one-of-a-kind art gallery that specialises in sculpture. They’ve made it their mission not just to study art but to make it available to the public, giving us access to some of the most exciting and influential artists of our time. As well as bringing us an ever-changing calendar of exhibitions, all of which are free to visit, they also oversee the Leeds Museums and Galleries’ sculpture collection, which includes the work of Moore himself.

The Henry Moore Institute, 74 The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AH.

13. Free Tickets to See Opera North

Opera North Trial by Jury

Credit: Robert Workman

Fancy trying the opera? Well if you’re under 30, you could go for free. No really, you could. It’s all part of Opera North’s Under 30s Membership Scheme – and they’ve built in all manner of perks. Sometimes you can get tickets for free, sometimes it’s tickets for a tenner, sometimes it’s a free glass of bubbly in the break with fun photo booths and a chance to meet the cast. Either way, you’ll get a fantastic night out on a shoestring.

Sign up for Opera North’s Under 30s Membership Scheme…

14. Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery

Treasures of Brotherton Gallery, Leeds

One of the newest museums to open in Leeds, The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery is one of the best free things to do in the city. Tucked away within the University of Leeds, you can cast your gaze upon some real finds here, from the Kelmscott Press’ books of William Morris to original material written by the Brontës.

Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, Parkinson Building, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT.

15. Eccup Reservoir Circular Walk

Eccup Reservoir

Credit: Rich Tea licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.

Keep your pennies in your pocket and take on this stunning circular walk across Eccup Reservoir. You can wander through the Goodrick Plantation and Owlet Hall Farm before you step out of the trees and up to the edge of the water. There’s plenty of green space if you want to bring a picnic and it’s great if you’re bringing the dog too.

The Eccup Reservoir walk starts at Alwoodley Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS17 7DJ.

16. The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery

The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery

Another free art gallery that you simply have to seek out is The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery. It sits within the grounds of The University of Leeds, so it’s easily missed, but they have a constant flow of exhibitions for you to explore – and they’re all free. They also have a free sketch club, so you can go and work on your own art, and they run their own artistic workshops.

The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Parkinson Building, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT.

17. Free Gigs

Quidrophenia at Oporto, Leeds

From the hallowed ground of Brudenell Social Club to city centre bars like Oporto, Headrow House and Smokestack, you won’t struggle to find free gigs in Leeds. With up and coming talent taking to the stages all over the city, you can have a great night out and see a band or two before they hit the big time.

Check out our full list of free gig venues in Leeds…

18. Leeds Art Gallery

Alison Wilding's Arena, Leeds Art Gallery

Credit: Alison Wilding, Arena, 2000, FXP, London 2016, Photo © Peter White, Gifted by Simmons & Simmons through the Contemporary Art Society

Leeds Art Gallery has one of the biggest collections of 20th-century British art in the UK. From Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth to Joseph Beuys and John Sell Cotman, there’s a wide array of work on display. Look out for their Artist Rooms series of exhibitions which takes you into the lives of the artists, as well as Alison Wilding’s major commission Arena, which sits under the restored barrel-vaulted roof. They also hold free talks, events and workshops.

Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AA.

19. The Leeds Urban Bike Park

If you’ve got your own set of wheels, the Leeds Urban Bike Park is one of the best days out in Leeds – and it’s totally free to use if you bring your own bike. There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re young or old, a beginner or a pro. The pump tracks are straightforward, but if you want something tougher, try their BMX and downhill routes.

Leeds Urban Bike Park, Middleton Park Bike Hub Ring Road, Beeston Park, Leeds, LS10 3TN.

20. Golden Acre Park

Golden Acre Park

Credit: Jack Ambler licensed for commercial use under Creative Commons.

It may be the end point of the Meanwood Valley Trail, but Golden Acre Park deserves its own place in our list of free things to do in Leeds. It’s a 55-hectare space, so there’s loads of exploring to be done here. You can head down to the wildfowl lake, take a turn around the woodland gardens or visit the cherry orchard – and you’re so close to Breary Marsh and Adel Dam nature reserves it’d be a shame not to nip over while you’re there.

Golden Acre Park, Off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds, LS16 8BQ.

21. The Leeds Welcome Art Trail

Windows of Leeds

Credit: Dave Lindsay

You can jump straight off the train and onto our Leeds Welcome Art Trail. It takes you past Windows of Leeds, before showing you everything from massive murals to traditional statues and art that’s etched into the very ground you walk on. Make your way from the station, through City Square and Briggate before heading out to Quarry Hill and Mabgate.

Try our Leeds Welcome Art Trail…

22. Civic Trust Blue Plaque Trail

Louis Le Prince Leeds Civic trust Blue Plaque

Credit: KGGucwa licensed for commercial use under Creative Commons.

Fancy checking out some of the most important places in Leeds’ history? Since 1987, Leeds Civic Trust has placed blue plaques around the city to mark important milestones in Leeds’ past. You’ll find them on a host of historic buildings, and while you may not be able to tick them all off in one day, seeing how many you can find on the blue plaque trail is a great free day out.

Kick off your trail at the Louis Le Prince blue plaque at Leeds Bridge, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2HJ.

23. The Little Picture House at Crowd of Favours

Crowd of Favours Cinema Club

Okay, so you might want to pick up a beer at the bar before you settle into the comfy sofas, but if you want a cinema experience for nothing, head to Crowd of Favours on Tuesdays. They stick on a cult film every week, so you can watch flicks like The School of Rock, Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Graduate for absolutely nothing.

Crowd of Favours, Harper Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7EA.

24. Pay-as-you-feel theatre at The HUB

The Hub,

The HUB is one of the most exciting theatres in Leeds – they put on an array of intriguing shows, but what makes it stand out is the fact that the majority of their events are run on a pay-as-you-feel basis. It opens up their offering to everyone, whatever your budget, and you can see everything from one-man shows to immersive productions.

The HUB, 67-71 Bath Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 9UA.

25. Leeds Waterfront Heritage Trail

Leeds Waterfront Heritage Walk

Starting off at Kirkstall Abbey, spend a perfect day in the Leeds sunshine by taking on the Leeds Waterfront Heritage Trail. It passes through Wellington Place, Holbeck Urban Village, Granary Wharf, The Calls and Brewery Wharf, showing off the city’s industrial development, all while you enjoy a picturesque 4-mile walk down the River Aire.

Follow the Leeds Heritage Trail…

26. The Water Taxi

Water Taxi Leeds

The Water Taxi is Leeds’ own Yellow Submarine. It’s absolutely free to use and takes you between Leeds Dock or Granary Wharf every day of the week. Not only is it a great way to travel, but you’ll get to see Leeds from a viewpoint you wouldn’t normally see. And if you’ve got little ones, it makes for a fun addition to a great day out in the city.

You can catch the Water Taxi from Leeds Dock or Granary Wharf – look out for the yellow flag.

27. The Gallery at 164

Gallery at 164

Tucked away within Munro House is one of Leeds’ secret treasures. The Gallery at 164 is perfect for cheap days out in Leeds, highlighting the inventive work going on in the fields of photography, illustration and fine art with exhibitions changing on a two and four weekly basis. There’s plenty to see and all for free – oh, and Cafe 164 is next door if you fancy a cuppa.

The Gallery at 164, Duke Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 8AG.

28. Marks In Time

M&S Marks in Time Exhibition

Want to know the story of one of the UK’s most iconic retail brands? The free Marks in Time exhibition at the M&S Company Archive is perfect if you’re looking for free days out. It will show you how Marks and Spencer grew from a small bazaar at Leeds Kirkgate Market into one of the most well-known department stores in the country – it’s a story that might well surprise you.

Marks In Time, Michael Marks Building, University of Leeds, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT.

29. Leeds Minster

Leeds Minster

Credit: Ollievision

It’s impossible to miss Leeds Minster. This imposing architectural landmark is beautiful from the outside, but have you ever been inside? Unlike the biggest cathedrals in the UK, it’s free to go in and have a look around, admire the stunning architecture and take a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Leeds Minster, Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DJ.

30. Leeds Country Way

Leeds Country Way

Credit: Tim Green licensed for commercial use under Creative Commons.

You might need more than a few days out in Leeds to tick off this one, but it’ll be absolutely worth it. The Leeds Country Way is a 62-mile trail that never goes more than 7 miles outside the city centre. Stretching from Golden Acre Park through Barwick-in-Elmet, Carlton, Cockersdale and back to the start, you’ll see a whole new side of Leeds.

Start the Leeds Country Way at Golden Acre Park, Off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds, LS16 8BQ.

31. The Academic & Civic Art Trail

A Spire Leeds

Leeds is a city filled with art and you can see it for free by following our Academic & Civic Art Trail. It will take you through the grounds of the University of Leeds, where you’ll find the work of critically acclaimed artists and their own academics, before heading into the city centre, where even more public art awaits.

Try our Academic & Civic Art Trail…

32. The city’s historic arcades

Victoria Quarter

Why not spend the day exploring Leeds’ historic shopping arcades? They’ll give you a stunning glimpse into the city’s past and you’ll see all manner of landmarks along the way. Start at Grand Arcade, where you can watch the iconic Potts Clock strike the hour before you weave your way between Thornton’s Arcade and Queen’s Arcade. The Victoria Quarter is next, and it’s arguably the best of them all with its stunning stained glass roof, the biggest in Great Britain.

Find out more about the city’s historic shopping arcades…

33. Leeds Central Library

Leeds Central Library, Super Fast Wifi in Leeds

Of course, it’s free, but if you’ve not yet been to Leeds Central Library (and we know there are plenty of you out there who haven’t), then you should change that pronto. It’s a stunning building, inside and out, filled with thousands of books, but that’s not all that can be found there. Whether you’re starting your own business or entertaining the kids, you’ll find loads of computers, classes and workshops to help you do it.

Leeds Central Library, Calverley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AB.

34. Horsforth Village Museum

Horsforth Museum

Formerly the biggest village in West Yorkshire, Horsforth was gobbled up by Leeds’ expansion long ago. Horsforth Village Museum offers an intriguing insight into the village over the last 200 years. From its humble beginnings through to its role in the World Wars and its place in modern Leeds, there are loads of interesting stories behind this Leeds suburb and this is where they’re being told.

Horsforth Village Museum, 5 The Green, Horsforth, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS18 5JB.

35. Games in Victoria Gardens

Chess Leeds Central Library

Whether you’re a whizz at chess or a dab hand at table tennis, you should head down to Victoria Gardens as they have two of the coolest free things to do in Leeds. There are two giant chess boards paved into the ground, with giant pieces to move around which you can use until 4.30pm every day, and the same is true of the table tennis.

Victoria Gardens, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AA.

36. Cycle trails

Mountain biking, cycling, bikes

Why not get on your bike? Whether you’re following the route the athletes took on the Grand Départ, heading out to Saltaire along the Aire Valley Towpath or exploring one of the city’s many many nature trails and bridleways, it’s a great way to get active and see the city.

Check out our list of 5 scenic bike rides in Leeds…

37. None Go Bye Farm

None Go Bye

Although it’s highly regarded for its farm shop produce, None Go Bye Farm is also a great day out for the whole family. You’re free to explore the farm itself, which means the kids can see everything from alpacas and prairie dogs to goats and rheas – you can even pick up a bag of animal feed, although you will have to put your hand in your pocket for that.

None Go Bye Farm, Otley Old Road, Horsforth, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS18 5HZ.

38. Live Art Bistro

Live Art Bistro, Leeds

There’s plenty of drama at Live Art Bistro, but it’s more than just a theatre. It’s the home of live performance art in the city and the bulk of their programme is free to watch. You can see anything from innovative shows by boundary-pushing companies to up and coming artists and quiz nights run by drag queens. Expect the unexpected.

Live Art Bistro, 1-2 Regent Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7QA.

39. The Waterfront Art Trail

Leeds Dock

© Copyright Leeds-List 2018 by Ali Turner

What better way to spend a day than by exploring the city, hunting out public art along the way? With our Waterfront Art Trail, you’ll make your way from Holbeck to Brewery Wharf, passing four-metre high sheep, bike trees and an artistic dome that reflects the world around you. Finish at Leeds Dock, where you can jump on the water taxi back into the centre.

Try our Waterfront Art Trail…

40. Bond Court Petanque

Bowls at Bond Court

Did you know that Leeds has its own petanque court? It’s the French version of boules and you’ll find it in Bond Court. You can pick up the balls from nearby La Bottega Milanese and it’s absolutely free, making this one of the coolest ways to while away an hour. Here’s how it works – you throw the small wooden ball down the court, then everyone has to try to get their silver balls as close to it as possible. It’ll cost you nothing, and if you win, you’ll get a unique set of bragging rights.

Bond Court, Wine Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2JZ.

41. Leeds Owl Trail

Owl Trail Leeds

You probably know that owls are synonymous with Leeds, appearing on the city’s coat of arms. But if you’re looking for free things to do in the city, you’d do well to take on the Leeds Owl Trail. 25 different owls pop up in all kinds of places and on all kinds of buildings, from the Leeds Tapestry to Leeds Minster, educating you about the city’s history along the way.

Find out more about the Leeds Owl Trail…

42. Free tennis courts

Tennis courts

Fancy yourself as the next Andy Murray or Johanna Konta? Leeds has plenty of places where you can enjoy a game of tennis. The outdoor courts at Roundhay Park and Springfield Park are both free, with classes every Saturday. There are also a number of leisure centres that have them too, including Kirkstall, Morley, Fearnville, Middleton, Pudsey and the John Charles Centre for Sport.

Find out where you can play tennis for free in Leeds…

43. The Living Room at St Mark’s Church

St Mark's Church, Woodhouse

It might surprise you to learn that St Mark’s Church offers one of the best free things to do in Leeds. The Living Room takes place every Tuesday and it promises a 90-minute window where folk can meet new people and get to know more about Leeds in a friendly environment. There are also board games, international food nights and even a cake making class if you go regularly enough.

The Living Room is at St Mark’s Church, St Mark’s Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9AF.

44. Luis Buñuel Cinema Club

If you’re a fan of Spanish culture, head to Instituto Cervantes every Friday night. They run a weekly cinema club named after legendary Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, where you can watch a host of Spanish, Basque, Catalan or Galician films with English subtitles. The films are focussed on particular themes that change every four weeks to cover all areas of Spanish life.

Instituto Cervantes, 169 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AR.

45. The Craft Centre and Design Gallery

Hannah Tounsend, Beneath the Surface, The Craft Centre and Design Gallery

Credit: Hannah Tounsend

The Craft Centre and Design Gallery sits just underneath Leeds Art Gallery. It’s home to works from 300 British designers and artists, featuring everything from jewellery and limited edition prints to ceramics and mixed media. But be warned – everything on display here is for sale, so you might find yourself tempted to spend money after all.

The Craft Centre and Design Gallery, Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AB.

46. The Lines Way

The Lines Way

Credit: Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

When you’re looking for free things to do in Leeds, getting back to nature has to be at the top of the list, and there’s no better way to do that than by taking on The Lines Way. It’s a four-mile stroll from Allerton Bywater to Garforth that’s perfect for walking, running or cycling. Along the way, the former railway line actually takes you through three different nature reserves, including Letchmire Pastures, Town Hills Nature Reserve and Hollinghurst Woods.

The Lines Way, 1 Blands Crescent, Allerton Bywater, Castleford WF10 2AF.

47. Leeds Discovery Centre

Leeds Discovery Centre

You can get free access to over one million objects at the Discovery Centre. It’s the home of the Leeds Museums and Galleries’ collections, and as long as you book ahead or pop in for one of their free Thursday tours, you can see it all. It’s home to a host of incredible artefacts, from toucans to meteorites, and they also offer special workshops for the little ones.

Leeds Discovery Centre, Carlisle Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1LB.

48. Free afternoon tea at Left Bank Leeds

Afternoon Tea

This one’s an absolute winner. Left Bank Leeds runs a free afternoon tea every month. It’s designed to bring the local community together over a cuppa and a slice of cake. It runs on the second Wednesday of the month and they have everything covered. There’s tea, coffee and soft drinks, as well as a selection of cakes, including veggie, vegan and gluten-free options.

Left Bank Leeds, Cardigan Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1LJ.

49. Bouldering at Otley Chevin

Make the most of the stunning Yorkshire scenery at Otley Chevin Forest Park by having a go at bouldering. Up on Caley Crags, with stunning views all around, you’ll find a host of bouldering problems. From Sugar Loaf to Martin’s Muff, they each offer a different challenge. If you’re after something a little bit easier, Zig Zag and Pedestal Wall are perfect for bouldering novices.

Otley Chevin Forest Park, East Chevin Road, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 3DD.

50. Verve’s Comedy Cellar

Live music at Verve, Leeds

Credit: Barnaby Aldrick Photography and Design

You might be more familiar with Verve from your nights out on Merrion Street, but if you head over on a Tuesday, you can enjoy free entertainment. They offer a free comedy club and previous guests have included Patrick Devine, James Christopher, Kahn Johnson and Rich Milner.

Verve, 16 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PQ.