Going out in Leeds? Plan your night out around the city’s finest independent pubs and bars.
Independent bars are the heartbeat of a city’s nightlife and nowhere is that more true than Leeds. Secret speakeasies, Victorian-era pubs and craft beer havens, there’s truly something for everyone on your next tipple totter around the city. Each one highlights a different reason why Leeds is one of the best nights in the UK, so whether you’re a seasoned veteran or you’ve never been out here before, it’s time to pay them a visit, one by one.
Older than the United States, but as good today as it has ever been, Whitelock’s is one of the finest pubs in Leeds. It’s a proper local favourite and once you step inside from the epic alley beer garden, you’ll see why – it’s a Victorian-era throwback, full of character, with mahogany furniture, brass bar tops and old beer mirrors. The proper pub grub is some of the best in the city and the alcohol offering is varied, but it’s truly a place for beer lovers – local cask from Kirkstall and Ilkley sit alongside one-offs from around the world.
Whitelock’s, 4 Turk’s Head Yard, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 8HB.
One of the first craft beers in the UK when it opened in 1997, North is still leading the way. Beer lovers won’t know where to look as you make your way down this beanpole bar. Whether it’s keg, cask or bottle, you have more than 150 beers to choose from at any one time. You’ll find many of North Brewing Co’s own wonders on the taps here, but that’s just the start. They have local and global brews changing regularly, including rare finds from Belgium, Japan and America. Don’t know where to start? Their expert staff will light the way.
North Bar, 24 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
Outlaws Yacht Club
An exhibition space, a record shop, a cafe and, most importantly, a cool-as-heck independent bar, Outlaws Yacht Club is many things to many people. Whether you fancy a few daytime drinks or a place to start your night out, it’s the perfect place to go with a relaxed atmosphere and DJs often spinning cool tunes. Bag one of their comfy sofa seats, admire the ever-changing artwork and visit the bar. You’ll find quaffable craft beers from Leeds and beyond, as well as a tempting cocktail menu – top tip, their Bloody Mary cures all ills.
Outlaws Yacht Club, 38 New York Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DY.
Nestled on the northern tip of the city centre, The Brunswick is one of the coolest bars in Leeds. The stripped-back decor puts a modern twist on the classic pub. Downstairs, all beer lover’s whims and palates are catered for with five cask and nine keg lines home to a revolving selection of hoppy delights. One pint you could be supping a delightful Ilkley Mary Jane, the next it could be an exotic limited edition from the likes of Cloudwater. Hungry? Their menu of burgers or the emphatic Sunday lunch are the perfect pairing for your brews.
The Brunswick, 82 North Street, Mabgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.
Brownhill & Co
Brownhill & Co. is one of the best specialist craft beer bars in Leeds. It comes from the folk behind Little Leeds Beerhouse and you can drink down all their hoppy expertise here. They have a huge selection of beer from around the world and you can order yours without moving an inch because they offer table service as standard – now that’s a treat. There are 10 rotating kegs and one cask, with loads more in bottles and cans in their fridges, so grab a table, pore over the expansive, often exotic beer list and enjoy.
Brownhill & Co., 30 Central Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DE.
Good luck walking past The Reliance. The huge windows, vintage-chic furniture and a bar filled with wonderful wine and brilliant beer don’t just invite you in, but implore you. The cosy feel makes it perfect for both daytime drinking and night out revelry – craft beer aficionados can sup local favourites like Kirkstall and Northern Monk, while vino diehards can enjoy French reds, Italian whites and even orange wines. Come hungry, too – this is a gastropub of the highest order with a menu of refined British dishes and glorious charcuterie boards.
The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.
Want to visit a true Leeds legend? Pop down Sela’s stairs. This subterranean sanctum is famed for its music – jazz, funk, soul and blues are cornerstones of the soundtrack, whether they’ve got live bands or DJs on. While you move your feet to the beat, you want to sip on the good stuff and they have plenty. Their twists on classic cocktails are a must, like the totally tropical Long Island Iced Ting. Prefer beer? The craft offering is cracking, by pint or bottle. If you get there early enough, you can even line your stomach with their stone-baked pizza.
Sela Bar, 20 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
In the heart of Leeds’ most vibrant nightlife spot, but completely different to its Call Lane neighbours, Roland’s is an independent bar to be reckoned with. It’s a grown up gaff, with a rustic-cum-industrial decor and a super-cool, secret terrace garden above the courtyard. Whether you sit in or out, you can enjoy all manner of treats. Craft beer is big business here, with an extensive selection of brews you’re unlikely to find elsewhere, but if cocktails are more your bag, their Espresso Martini is a caffeine-fuelled force to be reckoned with.
Roland’s Bar, 39 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
One of the coolest independent bars in Leeds is also easy to miss – you’ll find Wax and its steamy windows above Sela on New Briggate, and it’s another hotspot for music lovers. Framed records, vintage posters and bright orange walls set the tone for all the fun to come. You can have a laid-back beer by day, but it really shines when night falls. It’s lively, even a little raucous, this is a rock & roll party bar with a soundtrack of classics and DJs on weekends. There’s cocktails aplenty, but the real star is a pint of Jever, served in a frozen stein.
Wax Bar, 20 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
Wapentake is a Yorkshire treasure. It’s a charming, unpretentious bar full of rustic, vintage chic where you can enjoy the best of God’s Own County. Sup a pint from an ever-changing line-up of Yorkshire beers on eight keg and cask pumps, like Sunbeam, Nomadic and Roosters, or go for one of their locally made spirits. Peckish? Their bar snacks are the stuff of legend, so tuck into Yorkshire puddings, crisp sarnies and loaded wedges over your pint. Top tip – the first floor hideaway is one of the best places to watch live sport in Leeds.
Wapentake, 92 Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DJ.
This is a subterranean speakeasy hidden inside Lords Barbering – just that alone makes The Domino Club one of the coolest indie bars in Leeds. But wait, there’s more. Head down the stairs and enter a candle-lit drinking den where live jazz bands play every night of the week and bartenders whip up cocktails that are the stuff dreams are made of. Slink on to leather booths, dance on the parquet floors and work your way through everything from White Russians and French Martinis to one of their signature cocktails, each one sparkling with creativity.
The Domino Club, 7 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
One of the most legendary Leeds indies, Smokestack is a speakeasy with a love of soul, funk, jazz and blues music. They often have DJs and live bands on, which helps create the lively, party atmosphere it’s known and loved for. Get ready to dance the night away with a cocktail in hand, but you’ll have a choice on your hands. They do a host of classics and they do them perfectly, but if you want to push the boat out, you have to try one of their signatures, like the Tramp Stamp Martini, a mix of vanilla vodka, strawberry puree and peach liqueur.
Smokestack, 159A Lower Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6LY.
The Cross Keys
The Cross Keys is one of the most legendary pubs in Leeds, packed with character, atmosphere and amazing tipples. This is a free house, so the bar is well stocked with an ever-changing assortment of local and global brews – beer nerds will have a field day. But don’t worry if hops ain’t your thing, there’s spirits, wine and prosecco aplenty. Quality pub grub and even better Sunday roasts round off an exceptional offering, but the setting really makes this pub a must – exposed brick, vast beer garden and roaring fires, it’s good for all seasons.
The Cross Keys, 107 Water Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5WD.
If you’re looking for a bar that defines the term ‘multi-faceted’, Headrow House is it. This is a place that offers something for everyone. It’s split across four levels, starting with the ground floor beer hall that’s home to a bar stocking over 60 craft beers, while the Michelin-recommended grill restaurant Ox Club sits next door. Upstairs, there’s an event space, followed by the Redondo Beach cocktail bar above which leads out to not one, but two breathtaking roof terraces. Beer, cocktails, kebabs, you can enjoy it all amid spectacular views.
Headrow House, 19a The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PU.
Tucked away in the basement of a Grade-II listed building, Below Stairs is one of the best-loved indie bars in Leeds. It’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, as you enjoy table service in a cool-as-heck venue with an old school feel. Their cocktails are like nothing you’ve ever tried, experiential creations designed to take you to another place. Take Between the Pines, which will transport you to the countryside with its mix of St George Terroir Gin, Pear Brandy Liqueur, absinthe, Angostura Bitters and pine soda.
Below Stairs, 12 South Parade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 5QS.
Once of The Watermark, cocktail king Filippos Filippopoulos now mans the liquid lines of Tabula Rasa. This is a seriously classy joint – you can sit amongst deep teal walls, velvet furniture, polished wood floors and art deco decorations, all of which combine to create a past-meets-present vibe. The back bar sets the tone for what’s to come, with copious spirits promising a potable paradise for cocktail lovers, as drinks arrive ready for the ‘gram. Add in character platters and sharing boards, and you and your gang will have no need to bar-hop.
Tabula Rasa, 8 Eastgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7JL.
The Brew Society
Part indie coffee shop, part craft beer bar, The Brew Society can quench your thirst from morning through to night, but it’s the latter we’re concerned with here. They have 13 rotating beer lines, each one adorned with a different micro-brew. From Vault City’s Strawberry Skies to Northern Monk’s Divine Faith and Kirkstall’s Jasper, their taps read like a who’s-who of brewing’s finest. There’s more in the fridges and, should you find yourself in a mood for something else, wine, whisky, gin and cocktails will call your name.
The Brew Society, 26 Aire Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 4HT.
Hello Music Lounge
House of Fu is now well known and well loved, but you might not know it’s home to an almost-secret, upstairs karaoke bar. Now, ‘karaoke bar’ might make you wince, but Hello Music Lounge has made it cool. Buzz the buzzer for entry, then climb the stairs which lead you into a super-stylish bar, inspired by the 60s and 70s, but very much now – it’s all pinks and oranges, tiled bars and vinyl decks. You can kick back with original cocktails and craft beers on the cosy sofas or book out a booth to belt out bangers into the early hours with pals.
Hello Music Lounge, House of Fu, 15-19 The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PU.
The Maven is the original cool-as-heck speakeasy, hidden away behind an unmarked doorway on Call Lane – a real secret worth hunting out. Take the stairs and you’ll enter an incredible drinking den where suited and booted bartenders take cocktail alchemy to another level with their rotating line-up of creative concoctions sitting next to a medley of classics. Soundtracked by classic hip-hop, pop and rock, your Velvet Punch and its mix of Havana Club 3 year rum, mandarin liqueur, Falernum and lime juice will go down nice and easy.
The Maven, 1 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7DH.
It might be petite, it might be a little hidden away, but Farrands stakes a big claim for being one of the best bars in Leeds. It’s packed with personality and style, from the stripped-back decor to the indoors-outdoors terrace and cosy leather booths. The small, but perfectly and carefully formed cocktail list is full of originals, but don’t be afraid to make requests – the bartenders know their mojitos from their juleps. There’s a hand-picked wine list which comes with personal recommendations and even local beers like Kirkstall’s Virtuous too.
Farrands, 18 Swinegate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 4AG.
Belgrave Music Hall
Three floors of revelry awaits at Belgrave Music Hall. It’s cemented itself as one of the best independent bars in Leeds over the past decade, starting with the ground floor. You can take your pick from a well-stocked selection of craft beer, real ale and spirits, but don’t go hungry – slices of pizza from Dough Boys and juicy burgers from Patty Smith’s await. Upstairs, the first floor venue houses gigs, arts markets and film screenings while, up on the roof, you’ll discover one of the finest roof terraces in the city – it’s the place to be when the sun shines.
Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen, 1-1a Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JR.Cover image © Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Corvin Pamp.