Whether you’re visiting Leeds for the first time or the hundredth, we’ve rounded up 41 attractions and landmarks you have to visit at least once.
Like most big cities, Leeds has a medley of incredible landmarks and attractions for you to see – in fact, there are so many that you may wonder why you haven’t visited more often. These 41 are all worth your time, so next time you’re planning a city break, why not head to Leeds? It might surprise you…
1. Lotherton Hall
An absolute gem that can be found in Aberford, just on the eastern outskirts of Leeds, Lotherton Hall makes for the perfect day out. This lovely Edwardian house is full of history – you can explore the Servants’ Rooms, take in their impressive collection of decorative art or visit the Fashion Galleries, which showcase beautifully preserved clothes from the past. Outside, there are eight acres of grounds to explore, with everything from landscaped gardens to an orchard and their famous bird garden.
Lotherton Hall, Off Collier Lane, Aberford, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS25 3EB.
2. Kirkstall Abbey
At the heart of Kirkstall, this historic Leeds landmark is one of the most intact examples of a medieval Cistercian abbey in the UK. Aside from the ruins themselves, which you’re free to explore, there are 24 hectares of parkland here, so pack a picnic and find a spot next to the scenic River Aire. Visit on the last weekend of the month and you can also make the most of Kirkstall Abbey Deli Market, which offers a delectable mix of street food and fresh local produce.
Kirkstall Abbey, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH.
3. Abbey House Museum
You wouldn’t guess it from the outside, but inside Abbey House Museum you’ll find a recreated Victorian street. Explore the high street, with its traditional shops full of old artefacts, nip into the Rover Inn to see what a pub was like back in the day and even call by the undertakers for a slightly more grisly glimpse of the past. Don’t miss the Childhood Galleries where you can marvel at 19th century toys, with everything from dolls’ houses to penny slot machines.
Abbey House Museum, Abbey Walk, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH.
4. Northern Ballet
Did you know that Leeds is one of just three cities in the UK with its own ballet and opera companies? The former is Northern Ballet, a critically acclaimed company that’s widely considered to be one of the best in the world. Led by David Nixon OBE, they offer up unique reinterpretations of classics like Swan Lake alongside new ballets like Cleopatra, The Great Gatsby and 1984. Their work is in demand the world over, taking them as far afield as China, Bangkok and Miami, but where better to see them than on their home turf?
5. Opera North
A national treasure and a source of real pride for the city, Opera North is one of Europe’s leading arts organisations, producing a constant stream of world-class operas that tour the UK and Europe. They’re based at Leeds Grand Theatre, and often perform there, so if you time your visit right, you can see them on stage performing the likes of Der Rosenkavalier, Billy Budd and even Cinderella. This is opera at its very best, so don’t miss out.
Opera North perform at Leeds Grand Theatre, 46 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NZ.
6. Elland Road
Opened in 1897, Elland Road was originally used as a rugby ground until Leeds City Football Club formed in 1904. When they were expelled from the Football League in 1919, it was sold to Leeds United FC and it’s been their home ever since. You can, of course, catch the match here, as United take on their Football League Championship competitors, but they also offer Stadium Tours if you’d like to see the ground from a new angle.
Elland Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 0ES.
7. Royal Armouries
Over at Leeds Dock, the Royal Armouries is home to a massive collection of 8,500 objects spanning five galleries that cover War, Oriental, Tournament, Self-Defence and Hunting. You can see a 15th century Chinese Ming Dynasty sword glittering with gold and semi precious stones, Henry VIII’s famous horned helmet and a Burmese bronze canon, shaped like a dragon – with so much to marvel at, there’s no doubt this is one of Leeds’ best attractions.
Royal Armouries Museum, Armouries Drive, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1LT.
8. Leeds Grand Theatre
Designed by architect George Corson, Leeds Grand Theatre is a beautiful example of Victorian design accented by Scottish and Romanesque styles inside and elaborate gothic motifs outside. Since they first raised the curtain for Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing on 18th November 1878, they’ve hosted a huge number of sell out productions from the West End, such as Wicked and Shrek the Musical, as well as being the main stage for the esteemed work of Opera North.
Leeds Grand Theatre, 46 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NZ.
9. Leeds City Varieties
Built in 1865, Leeds City Varieties retains much of its original charm, making it one of the last remaining examples of a traditional music hall in the UK today. Their stage has seen the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini and Mickey Rooney perform over the years, so it’s no wonder they have such a sterling reputation – and it’s still in use today, so you can see family-friendly pantomimes, live music, variety and stand-up comedy, all in a beautifully historic setting.
Leeds City Varieties, Swan Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6LW.
10. Harewood House
As one of the Treasure Houses of England, you know you’re in for a treat at Harewood House. The 18th century building is impressive to behold, set amongst 100 acres of beautiful landscaping, and it’s just as good inside, where you’ll find a huge collection of art, including the works of JMW Turner, Joshua Reynolds and El Greco. Wait, there’s more – they also have an adventure playground, bird garden and farm at Harewood, making this the perfect choice for family days out.
Harewood House, Harewood, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS17 9LG.
11. Henry Moore Institute
Set up by Henry Moore to encourage people to appreciate visual art, as well as providing an invaluable resource for those studying sculpture, the Henry Moore Institute is a one of a kind attraction that absolutely mustn’t be missed. Their calendar of events brings a constant procession of world-class art and sculpture into the city, with exhibitions from the likes of Eleanor Antin, John Latham and Olga Jevrić.
Henry Moore Institute, 74 The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AH.
12. West Yorkshire Playhouse
Since opening in 1990, West Yorkshire Playhouse has become one of the city’s most cherished cultural institutions. They have a well deserved reputation as one of the best repertory theatre companies in the UK, but the theatre itself also welcomes an exciting calendar of touring shows. From modern greats like To Kill a Mockingbird and Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories to classics such as Othello, The Grapes of Wrath and Dracula, it’s always worth checking what’s on at the Playhouse.
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Playhouse Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7UP.
13. O2 Academy Leeds
The O2 Academy has helped attract some of the biggest names in the music business to Leeds since opening in 2008. From local favourites like Kaiser Chiefs, The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present to superstars like Morrissey, Ellie Goulding and Kasabian, it’s a surefire hit with music fans. Add a lively club night scene, with events like Projekt, and it’s safe to say most tastes are covered here. So if you’re looking for things to do in Leeds, a night out at the O2 wouldn’t be a bad shout.
O2 Academy Leeds, 55 Cookridge Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AW.
14. first direct arena
This award winning arena is one of the best attractions in Leeds, bringing a roster of huge names to the city. Since it opened in 2013, it’s seen the likes of Elton John, Michael Bublé, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Pearl Jam take to the stage. It’s not just music though – from the Tour De France Grand Départ to big laughs from Lee Evans, first direct arena hosts an array of comedy, dance and sport events to keep you entertained.
First Direct Arena, Arena Way, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BY.
15. Leeds Cathedral
Believe it or not, Leeds is home to one of the finest Catholic cathedrals in England. Built in 1904, the present building replaced St Annes, the original church which was raised to Cathedral status in 1878. The new Leeds Cathedral was designed by John Henry Eastwood with the help of his assistant Sydney Kyffin Greenslade, and boasts a unique design that’s tailored to the compact city centre site. Despite its size, the building is incredibly grand, with eye-catching gothic revival architecture – and it’s just as spectacular inside.
Leeds Cathedral, Cathedral House, Great George Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BE.
16. Leeds Kirkgate Market
Not only is Leeds Kirkgate Market one of the finest landmarks in the city, it’s also the largest covered market in Europe. So behind the stunning facade, you’ll find hundreds of traditional stalls with everything from fresh fruit to loose tea, exotic spices and award-winning pies. Take a walk outside to browse even more, with a weekly Asian Bazaar and Flea Market to explore – or head to the new events and dining space to enjoy street food, pop-up fairs and entertainment.
Leeds Kirkgate Market, Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7HY.
17. Trinity Leeds
Since opening in March 2013, Trinity Leeds has helped the city to become one of the best retail destinations in the UK. This shopper’s paradise houses more than 120 stores like Topshop, Urban Outfitters and Apple. After all that shopping, head to Trinity Kitchen for delicious street food from all over the world, catch the latest flick at Everyman Cinema or grab a drink with a view at The Alchemist and Angelica.
Trinity Leeds, Albion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 5AT.
18. Victoria Quarter
If it’s big designer names you’re after, head to the Victoria Quarter. Not only is it packed full of fabulous designer boutiques like Vivienne Westwood, Reiss and Ted Baker, but it’s also one of the city’s most impressive landmarks. Look up and you’ll see the biggest stained glass roof in Britain – made by renowned artist Brian Clarke, it’s just one of the many standout features that make this a unique shopping destination.
Victoria Quarter, 4 Cross Arcade, Victoria Quarter, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6AZ.
19. Leeds Town Hall
Designed by Cuthbert Brodrick and opened by Queen Victoria in 1858, Leeds Town Hall is a strong symbol of civic pride and a magnificent example of Victorian architecture. It’s impressive to see, but you haven’t really ticked this Leeds landmark off your list until you’ve ventured inside. They offer regular tours that will take you down into the cells beneath and up to the clock tower – or why not put the acoustics to the test at one of their exceptional classical concerts?
Leeds Town Hall, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AD.
20. Thornton’s Arcade
Thornton’s Arcade began as a row of shops and offices, but by 1875, the owner, Charles Thornton wanted to expand and so, three years later, one of Leeds’ most treasured landmarks opened. Designed by George Smith, the three-storey arcade sports a lovely glass roof and a William Potts and Sons clock that features characters from Robin Hood. Today, Thornton’s Arcade is full of amazing indies like the award-winning OK Comics and craft beer shop Tall Boys Beer Market.
Thornton’s Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6LQ.
21. Headingley Carnegie Stadium
Football isn’t the only sport that’s important to Leeds. Indeed, rugby and cricket are very close to our hearts, which is why Headingley Carnegie Stadium is one of the biggest attractions in Leeds. The cricket ground, which hosted The Ashes in 2009, can be found on the northern side of the stadium and is home to the Yorkshire County Cricket, while the rugby ground on the southern side is shared by Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire Carnegie.
Headingley Carnegie Stadium, St Michael’s Lane, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 3BR.
22. Whitelock’s Ale House
One of the city’s oldest pubs lies right where you’d least expect it, in an alleyway just off Briggate. It’s come a long way since it was a pit stop for merchants and market traders back in 1715, but has still managed to retain that old school charm. Quench your thirst with a range of real ales and curb your hunger with their hearty British classics – they do one of the best Sunday roasts in the city. It may only be a pub, but Whitelock’s is an attraction in itself, and one that the locals like to visit as much as the tourists.
Whitelock’s Ale House, Turk’s Head Yard, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6HB.
23. Holy Trinity Church
This Grade I listed Georgian church was nearly lost in the 1950s, but was saved when church officials decided that it was a building of historical and architectural importance. While it’s still a place of worship, Holy Trinity Church is also a lively community space and they put on all manner of events for you to enjoy, including art exhibitions, vintage fairs and live music – the acoustics are fantastic.
Holy Trinity Church, Boar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6HW.
24. The Tetley
Founded in 1822, Tetley was once the biggest brewery in the North, becoming the largest producer of cask ale in the world. Its reign ended when the brewery was taken over by the Carlsberg Group, and the brewery closed in 2011, before being demolished a year later. Thankfully, out of its ashes, a new venue was born. The old HQ building was transformed into an art space that aims to nurture artists and inspire visitors with regular exhibitions, including artefacts from the former brewery.
The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1JQ.
25. Meanwood Valley Urban Farm
Would it surprise you to know that there’s a farm in the heart of Leeds? Well, there is and it’s well worth a visit. Meanwood Valley Urban Farm is open to visitors and it’s become one of most popular family-friendly attractions in the city. You’ll find a range of rare breed animals here, like Whitefaced Woodland sheep, Angora goats and Dexter cows. Why not stop by and meet them next time you’re in Leeds?
Meanwood Valley Urban Farm, Sugarwell Road, Meanwood, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 2QG.
26. Leeds-Liverpool Canal
Spanning 127 miles from Leeds to Liverpool, this is the longest canal in northern England. Through the 19th century, the canal was a vital resource for trade in the city, enabling the transport of coal, stone and other goods. Today, it’s a great destination for outdoor fun, whether you’re a keen angler, cyclist, runner, or just fancy taking the dog for a walk.
27. Leeds Corn Exchange
Designed by Cuthbert Brodrick, Leeds Corn Exchange is without a doubt one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. Completed in 1864, the beautiful building is still a centre for trade and has become known as an independent shopping haven. You’ll find a mix of vintage clothing shops, jewellers and gift stores inside, as well as cafés, hairdressers and a tattoo parlour. Look out for special events like their record and vintage fairs too.
Leeds Corn Exchange, Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BR.
28. Temple Newsam
This historic Tudor Jacobean mansion has been beautifully restored with over forty rooms for you to explore. Inside you’ll find a rich collection of Chippendale furniture, paintings, pottery and textiles, while outside there’s even more – it boasts gardens landscaped by Capability Brown, alongside acres of parkland and a working rare breed farm that’s home to over 400 sheep, pigs, chickens, goats and cattle.
Temple Newsam, Temple Newsam Road, Off Selby Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS15 0AE.
29. Thackray Medical Museum
Thackray Medical Museum is one of the goriest attractions in Leeds – and the kids will absolutely love it. The building itself first opened in 1861 as the Leeds Union Workhouse, before becoming St James’ Hospital in 1925, so it’s a fitting home for a museum that’s dedicated to the history of medicine. Your visit will see you moving from the realities of surgery in Victorian times to the way modern technology has changed medicine, with some interesting discoveries along the way.
Thackray Medical Museum, 141 Beckett Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 7LN.
30. The Gallery at Munro House
An independent gallery that’s hidden off the beaten track, The Gallery at Munro House is well worth hunting out. They put on an eclectic calendar of events that will take you from photography, including the work of award-winning photojournalist Peter Dench, to modern art, sculpture and design. Come often and you’ll learn to expect the unexpected, as they arrange intriguing collaborations, most notably with Leeds Indie Food, one of the city’s most prominent food festivals.
The Gallery at Munro House, Duke Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 8AG.
31. Grand Arcade
Built in 1897, Grand Arcade is a stunning building with a one-off William Potts and Sons clock, but that’s not the only reason to visit the Leeds Landmark. It’s an independent haven, full of shops, bars and restaurants worth checking out. Nip over to Our Handmade Collective for jewellery and crafts or try The Traditional Shaving Company for everything you need to stay well groomed. They’ve got you covered for food and drink too with Roots & Fruits, Casa Colombiana and Just Grand! Vintage Tearoom, before you finish up at rock bar Santiago.
Grand Arcade, Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
32. Leeds City Museum
This Leeds landmark is just as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside. With a host of intriguing exhibitions, as well as regular events that make coming back a little bit different every time, you might want to plan a return visit. Delve into four floors of galleries and exhibitions, that will give you a chance to meet the famous Leeds Tiger, feel a python’s skin, listen to the sound of a rainforest or see a 3000 year old Egyptian mummy up close.
Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BH.
33. Leeds Minster
One of the city’s most impressive landmarks, Leeds Minster was built in 1841 on an ancient, holy Christian site. It’s a beautiful, Grade I listed building, designed by Robert Chantrell, with huge stained glass windows by a range of high profile artists, including Schwanfelder, David Evans, Thomas Wilmshirst and most recently Sally Scott. You’ll also find The Leeds Cross inside – it dates back to the 10th century, making it one of the earliest objects in the city’s history. They offer daily services, if you’d like to attend, or you can just pop in for a look around.
Leeds Minster, St Peters House, Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DJ.
34. Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery
The latest museum to open in Leeds, Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery is full of surprises. It was created to showcase the Special Collections held at the University of Leeds, so you’ll find all manner of unexpected artefacts here, ranging from Ivan Bunin’s Nobel Prize medal and certificate to the first collected edition of the plays of Shakespeare published in 1623 and a Babylonian clay tablet that dates back to c.2500 BC.
Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, Parkinson Building, Woodhouse Lane, University of Leeds, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT.
35. Queen’s Arcade
Another of the city’s unique shopping destinations is Queen’s Arcade. Step inside and you’ll find yourself surrounded by colourful shop fronts, with loads of character. Believe it or not, this arcade was once home to a hotel, but now you’ll find a selection of independent boutiques and cafes inside, like Aladdin’s Cave and Accent Clothing, as well as big brands like Levi’s and Lipsy. Be sure to look up between shops to see the ornate roof of the Grade II listed landmark.
Queen’s Arcade, Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6LF.
36. Roundhay Park
You’ll find one of the biggest parks in Europe three miles north of Leeds city centre. Roundhay Park is a beautiful outdoor space that covers a massive 700 acres, with landscaped gardens, rolling parkland and two scenic lakes. It’s a great place to get back to nature, but you’ll also find a few man-made attractions here that are just as worthy of your time – think adventure playgrounds, sports pitches, tennis courts and a skate park.
Roundhay Park, Mansion Lane, Off Princes Avenue, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 2HH.
37. Tropical World
One of the most popular family attractions in Leeds, Tropical World makes for a fantastic day out. It’s home to one of the biggest collections of tropical plants outside of Kew Gardens, but that’s not what’s going to have the kids excited, because you’ll also find a medley of animals here. You’ll peer into tanks of piranhas, catch a glimpse of their crocodile and walk through rooms filled with butterflies, birds and even bats (don’t worry, there’s a wall of glass to protect you in that one). And the grand finale – the meerkats.
Tropical World, Princes Avenue, Roundhay Park, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 2ER.
38. Hyde Park Picture House
Not only is Hyde Park Picture House one of the oldest cinemas in the country, it’s also the world’s only surviving gas-lit cinema. It opened back in November 1914, despite the outbreak of war three months earlier, and went on to become a popular community cinema. As times changed, they moved from silent movies to talkies, and continue to show movies to this day, offering up a mix of independent, arthouse films and hollywood blockbusters in an incredibly unique setting.
Hyde Park Picture House, 73 Brudenell Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1JD.
39. Otley Chevin
If you want to know why Yorkshire is called God’s Own Country, you need to visit Otley Chevin. It’s a half hour drive outside the city centre, but you’ll be rewarded with scenic walks, challenging cycling routes and plenty of bouldering challenges, if you’re feeling adventurous. The best vantage point can be found at the Surprise View, which has its own carpark and will give you panoramic views of the countryside, stretching 60 kilometres, all the way to York Cathedral. Look out for unique works of art as you explore, as there are 8 timber sculptures to be discovered on the Heritage Time Trail.
Otley Chevin (The Surprise View), York Gate, Guiseley, Otley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS21 3DG.
40. Middleton Railway
Middleton Railway is the oldest working railway in the world, making this one of the most important attractions in Leeds. You can take a ride on the former colliery line, following the mile-long track from Moor Road to Park Halt station, as well as exploring the Engine House Museum. The latter is really quite exceptional, with a huge collection of steam, diesel and electric locomotives for you to look at, as well as interesting information and artefacts that tell the story of the city’s industrial past.
Middleton Railway, Moor Road Station, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 2JQ.
41. The Meanwood Valley Trail
The Meanwood Valley Trail is the perfect excuse to put your walking boots on and go out exploring. It stretches for seven miles, taking you from the statue of former Leeds Mayor Henry Rowland Marsden on Woodhouse Moor to Golden Acre Park and Breary Marsh, passing through woodlands, gardens and heath along the way. The route is split into three sections, so you don’t have to do it all in one go – and whichever section you choose, you’re sure to see a vast array of wildlife.
Woodhouse Moor Car Park, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS6 1BJ or Golden Acre Park, Off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds, LS16 8BQ.
Main and Harewood House images copyright Harewood House Trust. Meanwood Valley Urban Farm image copyright Barnaby Aldrick. Whitelock’s image copyright Ollievision Photography. Untold Stories photo copyright Antony Crolla. Pearl Jam and Ellen & The Escapades images copyright Jess Rowbottom. Leeds Cathedral image copyright Michael D Beckwith, licensed for commercial use under Creative Commons. Thwaite Mills photo copyright Leeds Museums and Galleries. The Tetley image copyright Mat Dale. Queens Arcade, Kirkstall Abbey & Abbey House Museum images copyright Daria Wszolek. Northern Ballet image copyright Guy Farrow. Opera North image copyright Robert Workman. Elland Road image copyright Chris Robertshaw licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.