Heading to Leeds for the weekend? There’s loads to squeeze in, so take advantage of our local know-how…
From secret bars to incredible architecture, there’s so much to do in Leeds that you could never fit it into one weekend. So what should do and where should you start? That’s where we come in – we’ve put together a day-by-day guide to the perfect weekend break in our fine city, so you can make the most of every minute.
There’s only one way to start the weekend – with craft beer and street food. Dump your bags and head to Bundobust to feast on Indian street food that’s 100% veggie. First and foremost, it’s a bar, so you can pair their Vada Pav with a pint of Bombay Dazzler Indian Witbier.
Prefer pizza and burgers? Try Belgrave instead (or save room and do both). They’re just as obsessed with craft beer, but they serve dirty burgers, loaded fries and pizza slices – top tip, head up to the roof terrace in summer, it’s a stunner. Sister venue Headrow House has a rooftop terrace too, in fact, it’s got two of them, as well as a beer hall and cocktail bar. You can even enjoy laid-back fine dining at Ox Club in the adjoining restaurant, where creative dishes are made on the coals of a wood-fired grill.
Maybe dinner is just the warm-up though? After all, you can always catch a show. Leeds Grand Theatre hosts the latest West End productions alongside the work of our very own Opera North and Northern Ballet. Or you can head to the Leeds Playhouse for an ever-changing line-up of hard-hitting plays, entertaining shows and ingenious productions. Here’s what’s on in the city’s theatres right now.
The night doesn’t have to end there though. The city’s bars will be open until the early hours, so you can make a real night of it. If you fancy cocktails head to one of the city’s secret Prohibition-style drinking dens. The Maven will leave you perfectly placed to explore Call Lane, the city’s original nightspot, while Blind Tyger promises all the delights of Merrion Street.
Beer lovers should head to North Bar. This is the bar that started it all. For 20 years, they’ve served an unparalleled selection of beer from all over the world, and their obsession with hops has spread far and wide. Now they’re joined by institutions like Tapped, Brewdog and The Head of Steam.
In the morning, it all begins again. Start the day at Laynes Espresso, one of the city’s most cherished independents, where you can get a quality coffee and a delicious brunch – try the Turkish Eggs. Alternatively, hunt out Mrs Atha’s, a hidden treasure that toes the line between cool and laid back. They serve their own local brew, Maude Coffee, and make one of the best sausage sarnies in the city. Or why not indulge in one of the city’s many bottomless brunches?
Saturday morning is the perfect time to check out the city’s best art galleries and you can cross two off the list right away – Leeds Art Gallery is home to a massive collection of 20th-century British art, and just next door, the Henry Moore Institute is a world-renowned sculpture gallery. Leeds Town Hall is up here too, and it’s one of the most impressive landmarks in the city sure, so take a moment to appreciate the Victorian Architecture, before you take a break in the Park Square, a hidden swathe of green space in the heart of the city.
Got time for a spot of retail therapy? You’ll find some of the city’s finest independents tucked away in our historic arcades. Or you can combine shopping and culture at Leeds Corn Exchange. Another incredible architectural feat, it’s now filled with cool indie shops where you can pick up everything from local beer to handmade jewellery.
Then it’s over to Victoria Leeds, a complex full of high-end boutiques and brands. It’s split into two parts. The original Victoria Quarter is a beautiful collection of 19th-century arcades covered by Brian Clarke’s stunning stained glass roof, which is the largest of its kind in the UK. Across the road, the modern Victoria Gate is equally impressive, but here it’s all sweeping lines, curved shopfront and the North’s flagship John Lewis store.
No weekend break in Leeds will be complete without a trip to Trinity Leeds. It’s got all your favourite high street shops, and if you’re feeling peckish, why not check out Trinity Kitchen? This is not your usual food hall – from fried chicken to loaded burritos, you can get it all, with six rotating food vans that mix up the options available. Alternatively, you could head to Leeds Kirkgate Market. It’s worth a visit for the architecture alone, but inside, you’ll find hundreds of stalls and a tantalising array of street food vendors.
Lunch is a big decision though, so you might want to weigh up your options. You can get Roman-style pizza ‘al taglio’ at Simpatico or chow down on homemade sandwiches and salads at Olive & Rye, both in Queens Arcade. For something a bit more substantial, head over to Crafthouse at the top of Trinity Leeds to enjoy fine dining as you look out across the city or make a beeline for Granary Wharf where you can feast on all-you-can-eat-meat at Fazenda.
Granary Wharf is the perfect place to start your next adventure. You can ride the famous yellow Water Taxi up to Leeds Dock, where you’ll find the Royal Armouries. It’s home to the National Collection of Arms and Armour, so expect cool exhibits that range from one of the earliest handguns ever made to the largest suit of animal armour in the world. You can even have a go on the crossbow range.
From warfare to great escapes, why not spend your Saturday afternoon locked up? Leeds has loads of escape games to try on your weekend break. At Escape Hunt in The Light, you can take on the first ever Dr Who themed game, while The Great Escape Room will pit you against the devil himself. You can even try the Hyper Reality Experience, a virtual reality game in Trinity Leeds that gives you just 15 minutes to triumph.
Dinner is an Instagram-worthy experience in Leeds. You can enjoy a relaxed take on British fine dining from former MasterChef: The Professionals runner up Matt Healy at The Foundry. Or book in for a unique supper club at The Swine That Dines and try their nose-to-tail, roots-to-shoots ethos – expect creative dishes made with unusual ingredients. The Man Behind the Curtain is our Michelin Star restaurant, but you’ll have to book in advance if you want to squeeze that into your visit. That’s just the beginning, so if you want more ideas, check out our list of the best restaurants in Leeds.
Saturday night is a great time to catch a stand-up show in Leeds. The HiFi Club hosts a weekly comedy club, while The Wardrobe and City Varieties often welcome touring comedians. If you prefer live music, you’re spoilt for choice. The big shows come to First Direct Arena, established indie bands play O2 Academy Leeds, and out in Hyde Park, up and coming stars perform at Brudenell Social Club. For something a little more intimate, try The Domino Club. You’ll find it hidden in Lords Barbering, head down the back staircase to discover a secret jazz club with live music and creative cocktails.
Beer aficionados can also continue their love affair with the city by heading to one of two city centre breweries. Northern Monk and North Brewing Co. both have brewery taps, the latter has two, and its second is a stone’s throw from the train station, where you can pair their latest craft beer creations with Little Bao Boy’s tasty bao buns. Or you can visit one of the city’s oldest pubs. The historic Whitelock’s has been hidden down an alleyway of Briggate for over 300 years and is blessed with old-school character and quality local beers.
You won’t struggle for cocktails either – Below Stairs is a cool-as-heck underground bar where you can get experiential drinks designed to take you to another time and place. On the same side of town, Thewlis serves all the classics in a wonderfully decadent setting. If you’re settling in for the night, you can buy a bottle of your favourite spirit and store it in their secret overhead lockers. The Lost & Found, The Alchemist and Dirty Martini are all nestled in this petite nightspot, so you have lots of options, but if you want to join the crowds, you need to get yourself back to Merrion Street and Call Lane.
Down on Call Lane, you can drink exotic cocktails at The Tiki Hideaway, try all manner of homemade spirits at Jake’s or throw back a Jäger at Oporto, while over on Merrion Street, you can visit rock bar Mojo, whisky den Santiago and karaoke wonderland Loop. The city’s clubs will keep you going until the early hours – Church is the home to legendary Leeds club night Back to Basics, but if you want to check out the modern wave of dance music, take your pick from Mint Warehouse, where you’ll find the best house tunes, and Wire, which is perfect for cool, underground beats.
Got a thick head from the night before? You’ll want a hangover cure and there are few better than a full English – you can get a cheap and cheerful one from Riveresque or head over to the cool Scandi-style cafe Fettle for their more refined version. That’s obviously just a snapshot – we have a whole list of breakfast options for you. If you just need a shot of caffeine, La Bottega Milanese has two city centre cafes where you can indulge in classic Italian brews from 10am.
Up for leaving the city centre? Head out to Lotherton Hall, a picturesque stately home with a fantastic bird garden or visit Harewood House, where you can see historic works of art and explore the vast grounds. Alternatively, Roundhay Park is one of the biggest urban parks in Europe, and it’s perfect for a brisk Sunday morning walk to blow away the cobwebs. It’s also home to Tropical World, where you’ll find meerkats, piranhas, bats and more. And then there’s Kirkstall Abbey, the 12th-century ruins of a Cistercian monastery surrounded by a stunning park.
You can end your trip to Leeds doing something out-of-the-ordinary. Go Ape is a tree-top adventure centre hidden in the Menagerie Wood at the beautiful Temple Newsam estate. Or why not join Slung Low for a few hours? They run The Holbeck, a social club where you can see thought-provoking works from small, independent theatre companies. Their events are usually pay-as-you-feel, in case you’ve over-indulged on your weekend in Leeds. Of course, no Sunday would be complete without a proper roast dinner, and you’ve got loads of options, all of which have been tried and tested by us.