Leeds-List: The Best & Most Insightful Guide to Leeds

The Best Bars in Leeds

· Ruth Hargreaves · Food and Drink

Slurp your way around the city.

Oporto

Whether you’re after craft beers, exquisite cocktails or just your favourite bottle of plonk, these Leeds bars rule the roost.

It’s simple – you’re planning a night out in Leeds city centre and are in need of a spot where you can enjoy top notch booze, in comfy surrounds, with a cracking atmosphere and maybe a couple of tasty nibbles to boot. Is it too much to ask? Heck no! From good ol’ Yorkshire boozers to secretive subterranean sips, there are plenty of hideouts jostling for the title of best bar in Leeds. Which earns the crown? That’s down to you…

1. Bundobust

Bundobust

Credit: Giles Smith

Bringing together scrumptious Indian street food with lashings of craft beer, Bundobust is a surefire winner when you’re going out in Leeds. Part bar, part restaurant and full-on delicious, it’s your pre-party dinner and drinks all in one. The beer list is ever-changing but always celebrates local breweries with Leeds legends Northern Monk, Kirkstall Brewery and North Brewing Co. regularly gracing the taps, alongside their own beers.

Amongst the gluten-free IPAs and English porters, you’ll also find a healthy selection of wines and cocktails that champion Indian flavours. Mango and Rosewater Bramble? Cumin-infused Indian lemonade? Sign us up! Once you’ve ordered your drink at the bar, pull up a bench in the colourful restaurant (there’s a heated patio out back too) and dig into delicacies ranging from brioche bhaji butties to paneer tikka massalas. Everything’s designed to share so it’s a perfect start to your night out in Leeds.

Bundobust, 6 Mill Hill, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 5DQ.

2. Belgrave Music Hall

Belgrave Music Hall

Three storeys of boozy revelry await at Belgrave Music Hall. They’ve have taken the term ‘bar’ and stretched it to the extreme. Sure, there are cask ales to glug across the venue’s two bars. Sure, you can chill on a picnic bench to neck a frozen cocktail or two. But there are also two in-house kitchens serving up Dough Boys’ hand-stretched pizzas and Patty Smith’s juicy burgers, buzzing street food markets every month and even a 300-person event space.

Live music, retro games nights, free yoga, burlesque shows – Belgrave Music Hall is a bar firing on all cylinders. And at the top of this beautiful 1930s building? A humungous roof terrace where you and your mates can pull up a deckchair and enjoy a crisp beer in the summer, or a warming mulled cider in winter. Wherever you choose to lay your hat, every space invites you to kick back and relax. Who are we to decline?

Belgrave Music Hall, 1-1A Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JP.

3. The Reliance

The Reliance

© Copyright Leeds-List 2021 by Aimee Stevens

It’s not easy to walk past The Reliance. From the outside, it draws you in with floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing a snuggly yet simple bar area packed with happy patrons. Once inside, it gets even better. The wine list is impressive – French reds, Italian whites and even a selection of lesser-seen orange wines, made when white grapes are fermented with the skin on. The beers are just as exciting. Locally brewed kegs, a stellar selection of Belgian beers and five ever-changing guest ale and cider pumps that favour independent breweries await.

Pop in to nurse a pint in the front bar area, or step through to the dining room at the back. With just the same stripped wooden floors and relaxed vibes, it’s the perfect place to tuck into anything from homemade pork scratchings to full-blown Sunday roasts. The Reliance even has its own curing room. Team their exquisite home-dried charcuterie boards with your tipple of choice and you’ll wonder why coming to this bar took you so long.

The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.

4. The Domino Club

The Domino Club

Credit: McFade Photography

How many watering holes do you know hidden below a barbers? Not many, we bet, but The Domino Club is full of surprises. And it’s not just the clandestine location that makes it one of the best bars in Leeds. Once you’ve descended the back staircase inside Lord’s Barbering, you’ll find yourself faced with an oh-so-sultry underground jazz bar. Leather booths, flickering candles and a teensy stage where live music takes the reins ’til the early hours throughout the week.

It feels like you’ve stumbled on a gem and, quite frankly, you have. The exciting cocktail menu is just the icing on the cake. Original creations rub shoulders with old classics, but the talented barkeeps can often veer off-menu if you ask nicely. One thing’s for sure, these bad boys are strong. Pick your poison (there are beers, whiskies and wines too) then spend an evening sipping and crooning like you’re in the movies.

The Domino Club, 7 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.

5. North Bar

North Bar

Credit: Jo Ritchie

The original craft beer bar in Leeds, North Bar is a delightful city centre hideout that’s been all about the best brews since 1997. It’s no mean feat. While other bars have been and gone, North Bar has stood the test of time thanks to its utter dedication to serving knockout beers. That, and its no fuss, inviting atmosphere. Cosy tables, twinkling lights, local art on the walls – it’s no surprise North Bar inspires such a huge crowd of loyal (and thirsty) patrons.

From well-known brews to rarer finds, you usually have around 150 beers to choose from thanks to an ever-changing menu, including some from their very own North Brewing Co. brewery just up the road. Not sure where to begin? Tap into the boozy brains of their always-friendly staff, who know those beers back to front. Basically, you could come here every day of the week and never get bored. Challenge. Accepted.

North Bar, 24 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.

6. Oporto

Oporto

Credit: adamstealslight

On the hunt for a rip-roaring night out in Leeds where you can drink, dance and be merry until the sweat drips off the walls? Oporto is a must-visit for music lovers, a dive of a drinking den where live bands, good times and shots reign supreme. A variety of musicians take to the stage here, from up-and-coming indie outfits to seasoned rock ’n’ rollers, ensuring there’s always a lively crowd to throw yourself into.

Landing the right side of messy, this is a prime place to let loose ’til the early hours. You’ll stay well-lubricated with all manner of beers, ciders and spirits. Even the food is delightfully dirty, with vegan junk food masters Knave’s Kitchen churning out crispy seitan ‘chicken’, chilli-non-carne and meat-free kebabs. Because who really wants to pig out on bulgur wheat and kale? Comfort food, first rate drinks and bop-worthy bands – this bar means business.

Oporto, 33 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.

7. Whitelock’s Ale House

Whitelocks

© Copyright Leeds-List 2021 by Ollievision

As you may have guessed from the name, ale is big business at Whitelock’s. One of the oldest public houses in Leeds, it’s also one of the best bars, tucked away down a minuscule side alley between The Headrow and the back of Trinity. The term ‘hidden gem’ was made for this place, where you can indulge your passion for real ales surrounded by a fascinating interior that dates from the late 1800s. Tiled bar, antique glasswork, old brass fittings – it’s old school boozing at its finest.

Locals take pride of place on the extensive ale list. Kirkstall, Ilkley, Saltaire and Ossett breweries are all here, plus a short but sweet wine list and cocktails for those who fancy a break from the brews. Whatever drink you choose, settle down by the roaring fireplace in winter or enjoy the fresh air in the little beer garden when the sun is shining, and toast to having sought out this historic hideout. It may be old, but it hasn’t lost its sparkle.

Whitelock’s Ale House, Turk’s Head Yard, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6HB.

8. Sela

Sela Bar

© Copyright Leeds-List 2021 by Max Wailes

Love to finish a top night out in Leeds with a pit stop at your local takeaway? Who doesn’t?! But you’ll be pleased to know there’s one city centre bar where you can slurp cocktails and scoff pizzas without ever having to leave your seat. It’s Sela, and you’re going to want it on your hit list. Picture this. You’ve wandered down to the hip basement hangout, a soundtrack of jazz, funk and blues is humming away over the speakers and you’re in the mood for a drink.

Sela is famous for their craft beers, imported from around the world. Japanese ales, American stouts, Yorkshire porters – there are many taps to taste. The cocktails are pretty darn exciting too, like Espresso Martinis made with coffee by Leeds local, North Star, or their signature Cherry Bakewell creation. Yum is an understatement, and there’s still the pizzas to go. Stone-baked and smothered in exciting toppings. Perfection.

Sela, 20 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.

9. Wapentake

Wapentake

© Copyright Leeds-List 2019 by Aimee Stevens

For a no fuss Yorkshire bar where you can sup right gradeley drinks without having to cry “‘ow much?!”, pay a visit to Wapentake. Even the name pays homage to our fair county, referencing Yorkshire’s historic subdivisions. And Wapentake certainly is a lovely little corner of God’s Own Country, where you can work your way through rotating cask and keg ales from nearby breweries, sip on Yorkshire gins or quaff organic wines. Designated drivers will be pleased to know that even the bottles of water come from Harrogate!

It’s this support of local business that makes Wapentake one of the best bars in Leeds. That, and an attitude towards food that never fails to put a smile on your face. The ethos? Hearty, simple and blimmin’ delicious. There’s brunch, lunch, Sunday roasts and snacks (we’re talking Yorkies with gravy and crisp butties). But when you’re getting your guzzle on, it’s their cheese on toast with Henderson’s relish that’ll go down a storm with that beer – there’s nowt else like ‘it.

Wapentake, 92 Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DJ.

10. Smokestack

Smokestack is a two-storey bar with music at its heart. In short, they don’t compromise on their beats, spinning only the finest Motown, soul, funk, reggae and blues tunes from across the ages. Their musical dedication even stretches to the decor, where you’ll find famous album covers lining the walls of the small first floor bar. Technically there’s a separate dance floor, but everyone just gets their groove on wherever they stand. With music this good, why wouldn’t you?

Upstairs a second New York-style jazz bar awaits, plus a stage where live music takes over on weekday evenings. For such an easy going bar, you may be surprised by quite how decadent the cocktails are. Friendly staff whip up the likes of Bonded Sours made with rye whiskey, apricot liquor and lemon foam, or signature Hurricane Smokestacks where pineapple, lime and passion fruit join forces with no less than three different rums and two liqueurs. You’ve probably guessed by now, but it’s always a good night a Smokestack.

Smokestack, 159a Lower Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6LY.

11. Blind Tyger

Blind Tyger

Next time you’re going out in Leeds for cocktails, make sure you hunt down the unassuming blue door on Cross Belgrave Street. It belongs to Blind Tyger. From the outside there’s no clue what awaits you, but through the doorway lives a teensy bar lavish with prohibition-style swank. Blind Tyger are passionate, nay, obsessed with cocktails and their barmy drinks menu proves it, filled with concoctions you’ve never seen before and old favourites given a dash of inspiration.

There’s the tequila-heavy Batanga, where Tapatio Reposado is mixed with Montenegro amaro, spiced house cola syrup and Double Dutch soda for a flavour explosion. Or the Hanami Highball, an immensely popular Japanese concoction made with Nikka whisky, cherry blossom tea liqueur, Double Dutch pomegranate & basil soda and eucalyptus mist. Waistcoated barkeeps divvy out each picture-perfect cocktail from a bar that looks like a cross between your nan’s kitchen and the lab of a mad scientist. Just the right mix of extravagant and accessible.

Blind Tyger, 5A Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JP.

12. Mojo

Mojo

© Copyright Leeds-List 2021 by Max Wailes

Tip-top booze and great beats await at Mojo, a long-running favourite for thirsty punters in need of a rocking night out in Leeds. Mojo was the city’s original rock ’n’ roll dive bar and the good times have just kept on rolling. Neon signs, sticky floors and a foot-stomping selection of classics from The Rolling Stones to Stevie Wonder never fail to put you straight into the party spirit – the sort of place where you go for one, then end up staying all night long.

It’s totally unpretentious, a late-night hangout where your most enthusiastic dance moves can come out to play. Need a little dutch courage first? Cocktails are Mojo’s speciality and you have nearly 50 to choose from across all kinds of spirits. Gin and rum are their favourites (there’s even a special Rhum Room upstairs with over 100 labels behind the bar) so a night of utter mojito and mai tai madness is never too far away.

Mojo, 18 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PQ.

13. Assembly Underground

Slap and Pickle, Assembly Underground

Credit: Krisztina Kerekes

Tucked away below street level, one of the best bars in Leeds awaits. And it’s not just a bar. Assembly Underground is a one-stop-shop of night out awesomeness, complete with a 50-beer tap room, gin hideaway and a full-blown street food selection. Start your evening chugging away on a full range of craft beers fresh from Vocation Brewery in Hebden Bridge, plus a few handpicked favourites they just couldn’t resist.

While you’re getting your gulp on at one of the picnic benches, keep a close eye on that black door at the back. That’s where the secret gin bar can be found and you’ll want to be ready to nab one of the few sofas and chairs available. Evening munchies kicking in? No need to leave, simply head back out to the street food traders who also call Assembly Underground home. Neapolitan pies from The Pizza Authority, loaded burgers from Slap & Pickle and Middle Eastern wraps from The Falafel Guys. All. Bases. Covered.

Assembly Underground, 12 Great George Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AL.

14. Water Lane Boathouse

Water Lane Boathouse

Credit: Reece Leung

Teetering on the edge of Granary Wharf’s waterfront, Water Lane Boathouse is only a few minutes’ stroll from Leeds Station, yet it feels a world away from the city centre hustle. Vast light-filled windows that look out over the water, a huge vaulted ceiling and hanging plants aplenty – this is the sort of bar that’s good for the soul. A former transhipment warehouse, there’s even an enormous beer garden close enough for you to dip your toes into the River Aire. It’s dog friendly too!

Once you’ve finished marvelling at the super cool interior, it’s time to get stuck into the really good stuff. We’re talking about the drinks of course, and Water Lane Boathouse serve up a great selection of local beers, decent wines and all the behind-the-bar spirits you’d expect. It’s all too easy to spend a lazy evening sipping by the water, but make sure you pop by for a bite to eat too – they do burgers, pizza and sharing boards to perfection.

Water Lane Boathouse, Canal Wharf, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5PS.

15. Outlaws Yacht Club

Outlaws Yacht Club

© Copyright Leeds-List 2021 by Katie Nicole

Sometimes you don’t need fancy schmancy drinks, suited bar staff or an interior dripping in Victorian grandeur. Sometimes, you just want a night out in Leeds where you can plonk yourself down on a comfy sofa and while away the hours listening to vinyl records with a glass of your favourite poison in hand. Enter Outlaws Yacht Club, the cool-as-heck venue that’s part-bar, part-record shop and part-cafe all in one.

There’s plenty to suit all appetites on the menu. Margaritas and black raspberry sours for the cocktail-lovers, lots of wine available by the glass or bottle, craft beers on tap and enough spirits to go totally freestyle on a concoction of your own choosing. Feeling peckish? The grilled cheese sarnies are out of this world, the Yorkshire pork pies are divine and the hot brownies an indulgent treat. But what really sets Outlaws apart is the atmosphere. Laid back, fuss-free and good times only, even on weekends when DJs take to the decks.

Outlaws Yacht Club, 38 New York Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DY.

16. Farrands

smoking cocktail at farrands

Credit: Crop45

Farrands is one of Leeds’ best kept secrets. Elegantly decorated across two levels that are all exposed pipework and brick walls, it has a cool industrial chic look without losing any of the warmth of a real independent gem. You can kick back on the light and airy terrace overlooking the city below or cosy up in the snug bar – wherever you nestle, get ready for your senses to go into overdrive with their drinks offering.

Wine lovers are in for an absolute treat. White, red, rosé or bubbles, there’s a pour for all tastes – the Les Deux Rives Olivier Leflaive Chablis should be high on your list. Prefer cocktails? There are five (you can always try to go off menu, the barkeeps know their tipples) – try the Chocolesp, an awakening mix of coffee vodka, frangelico, chocolate liqueur, espresso and sugar. Or if beer’s your bag, they have Camden on tap and local craft beers in the fridge. You can even grab a bite – the Melt Haus’ grilled cheese sarnies are something special.

Farrands Bar & Restaurant, 18 Swinegate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 4AG.

17. Junkyard Golf Club

Junkyard Golf Club

Junkyard Golf Club ain’t your usual night out in Leeds. In fact, it ain’t your usual night out anywhere. We don’t know what bright spark first realised that crazy golf and epic cocktails made good bedfellows, but we salute them because this totally random combination is a hole-in-one. Literally. Grab your mates and putt your way around three colourful 9-hole courses, ranging from a zany circus to a neon-filled scrapyard, then indulge your inner child even more with candy-filled cocktails.

Gin and watermelon topped with Ribena? Rum and elderflower with a jammy dodger garnish? Boozy slush puppies for the authentic 90s experience? You may need to fast track your next dentist appointment, but by jove it’s worth it. And if you’re not so sweet on the sweet, there’s beers, wines and ciders too. It may have been a combination you never saw coming, but you’ll wonder why on earth this hasn’t been done before.

Junkyard Golf Club, The Light, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 8TL.

18. Below Stairs

Below Stairs

A subterranean sanctuary on South Parade, Below Stairs may initially be easy to miss, but it’s darned hard to stay away from once you know it’s there. Look out for the mysterious hanging sign, descend the staircase and you’ll enter a bar where everything, from the drinks to the decor, is 100% class. The deep blue walls, cosy rugs, deep armchairs and unique art on the walls make it the sorta spot you’ll want to come back to time and time again.

And every time you do pop by? Sample a different liquid treat from a menu of cocktails that tantalise far more than just your palate. Yes, they’re delicious, but Below Stairs knows amazing drinks can captivate the senses, which is why they’ve taken the time to give each cocktail a backstory. From walks along the Yorkshire coastline to rhubarb meadows, this is bar-hopping on a whole new level. Join the journey.

Below Stairs, 12 South Parade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 5AL.

19. Headrow House

Headrow House

Credit: Jo Ritchie

Headrow House is another multi-floor behemoth that manages to smash city boozing out of the ballpark. How so? Because no matter who you’re with, there’s enough to keep every single one of your bar buddies happy. Pull up a bench in the ground floor Beer Hall to work your way through over 60 beers from around the world, make a pit stop in the 150 capacity event space for live music and DJs, or spend many a happy hour chugging cocktails on one of the two (yes, two!) roof terraces.

It’s easy to see why this is considered one of the best bars in Leeds. The upper terrace offers views over the city rooftops, the lower has all the cosy heaters to snuggle up under, and there’s oodles of indoor seating for when you don’t want to brave the elements. Oh, and if all that’s not enough, there’s a full-blown Michelin-recommended restaurant here too in Ox Club, who also serve up booze-friendly meat and meat-free kebabs.

Headrow House, 19a The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PU.

20. The Maven

The Maven

Perhaps the worst best-kept secret in Leeds, The Maven continues to top best bar lists both in the city and further afield. Its dedication to first-rate cocktails in every colour of the rainbow means the speakeasy-style surrounds are far more than a mere gimmick. Discover the unmarked door on Call Lane, ascend the staircase and prepare to enter a dimly-lit world where 1920s drinking, dancing and downright decadence take centre stage.

Modest in size yet full of flair, it’s the sort of place you want up your sleeve to impress your mates. Challenge the expert mixologists to whip up a bespoke creation from your favourite tipple, or simply opt for a classic and spend an evening in a leather booth, sipping Old Fashioneds like a modern day Don Draper. The Maven is old school snazzy through-and-through.

The Maven, 1-3 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7DH.

21. Call Lane Social

Call Lane Social

© Copyright Leeds-List 2021 by Max Wailes

Yet another Call Lane contender for the title of best bar in Leeds, Call Lane Social is a tale of two halves. Step off the streets and into a stylish ground floor sanctuary where the exposed brick walls and dark wood bar give no hint as to what lies just metres above. Take the time to run through a couple of your favourite classic cocktails and have a quick bop to the indie, rock and funk numbers that dominate the speakers.

As the drinks really begin to flow, it’s time to stagger upstairs for your next surprise. It’s the Tiki Hideaway, a bold, bright, bamboo-clad bar that’s as delightfully garish as the downstairs is elegant. There’s no holding back once you’re here, so don your flower garland, order a flaming fruity cocktail and get well and truly into the tropical spirit. It’s the perfect place to forget that cold rainy England is just a staircase away.

Call Lane Social, 38 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.

Cover image credit: adamstealslight