Here’s everything you need to know about the best venues in Leeds.
Leeds has a thriving music scene, but if you want to check it out for yourself, you need to know where the city’s best venues are. We’ve rounded them all up in one place, so you know where to go to see the biggest stars in huge arenas, promising artists in intimate spaces and unusual sounds in the city’s bars and clubs. So the next time you’re out for gig night, here’s where to go.
First Direct Arena
If you want to see the biggest stars in the world, you should check out what’s on at First Direct Arena. Since it opened in 2013, it’s welcomed the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Fleetwood Mac to the city and their calendar reads like a who’s who of popular music. It’s a league apart from other arenas. In fact, the 13,500 capacity venue has won awards for its unique fan-shaped design, which gives you incredible views wherever you sit.
First Direct Arena, Arena Way, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BY.
O2 Academy Leeds
O2 Academy Leeds is one of the busiest music venues in the city. The former Town and Country Club has a constant stream of pop, rock and hip-hop stars playing to 2,300 people across a standing area downstairs and seating upstairs. In the past, it has put on gigs from acts like Foals, Ellie Goulding and Morrissey. Today, it continues to attract some of the most popular artists from around the world.
O2 Academy Leeds, 55 Cookridge Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AW.
If you want to check out the best new bands before they hit the big time, get down to The Wardrobe. It’s a 450-capacity underground venue beneath a cool, music-loving bar that’s been putting on must-see gigs for 20 years. They’ve hosted stars like Amy Winehouse, First Aid Kit and Catfish and the Bottlemen before they hit the big time, and with around 250 gigs and club nights a year, you’re bound to find something you like.
The Wardrobe, 6 St Peter’s Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 8AH.
Leeds University Union
Leeds University Union has been at the heart of the city’s music scene for over 50 years. There are three venues here. The Refectory is the biggest – it holds 2,100 people and has an impressive back catalogue. The venue has been immortalised in The Who’s iconic Live at Leeds record, and has seen David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd all play. The 1,000-capacity Stylus is currently the busiest of the venues, playing host to Arctic Monkeys, The XX and The Strokes, but the more intimate Pyramid is the place to find the best new bands.
Leeds University Union, Lifton Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT.
Brudenell Social Club
The Brudenell Social Club is one of the most important music venues in Leeds. It’s a pub that doubles as a gig venue with three different concert spaces, the largest of which holds up to 400 people. There are shows on nearly every night of the week, as the best up and coming musicians make their mark. They even welcome popular artists to play intimate gigs – Bloc Party, Johnny Marr and Franz Ferdinand have all graced its hallowed stage in recent years.
Brudenell Social Club, 33 Queen’s Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1NY.
Belgrave Music Hall
Head through the bar and up to Belgrave’s first floor where you’ll find their music hall. 300 people cram in here to see the best indie, dance and hip-hop artists on their way to superstardom – Jungle, Royal Blood and Jorja Smith all graced the stage before they hit the big time, and they’ve even welcomed bigger names like Ulrich Schnauss and The Fall for special intimate shows.
Belgrave Music Hall, 1-1a Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JP.
Oporto is one of the best live music bars in Leeds. On one side, you’ve got a buzzing rock and roll dive bar where drinks are poured freely, while next door you’ll find their gig space. The Gaslight Club welcomes up and coming artists for free every Monday night, but they also put on the best new bands from around the UK just as they’re starting out. Glass Caves, Dutch Uncles and Viola Beach have all played the venue in the past.
Oporto, 33 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
If it’s cutting edge modern music that does it for you, Headrow House is the venue to check out. It has an intimate gig space that fits just 150 people, who come to check out the next big thing – Loyle Carner, Biffy Clyro and Everything Everything have all played the venue since it opened in 2015. Either side of your gig, you can head downstairs to the beer hall or upstairs to the cocktail bar and their two roof terraces.
Headrow House, Bramley’s Yard, 19 The Headrow, Leeds. West Yorkshire, LS1 6PU.
Leeds Town Hall
There are few gig venues quite as impressive as Leeds Town Hall. It’s home to the grandiose Victoria Hall, where you can see the world’s finest classical musicians as part of the annual Leeds International Concert Season, as well as regular performances from the Orchestra of Opera North. But the 1,200-capacity venue also welcomes new forms of music, as The Cribs, Rufus Wainwright and Kaiser Chiefs have all headlined the iconic space in the past.
Leeds Town Hall, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AD.
Remedy is a stylish bar with a constant jazz soundtrack, but there’s more music to it than that. Head downstairs and you’ll find Poison Cocktail Lounge. It’s a secret drinking den where creative concoctions rule the roost, but you can also enjoy a spot of live jazz music here. If you pay a visit on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, you can check out top local jazz musicians, like Terri Shaltiel or Alice Higgins, who will play you into the night.
Remedy, 16 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
Temple of Boom
If you like your music heavy, get down to Temple of Boom. It’s a DIY venue run by locals that doubles as a rehearsal space for local bands, complete with its own recording studio. There are three stages, and they host 80 to 250 people. In each one you can expect a programme of events that showcases the best punk, rock and metal bands around. Just take a look at who’s played there in the past, like Cannibal Corpse, Code Orange and Moose Blood.
Temple of Boom, Byron Street Mills, Millwright Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7QG.
The Fox and Newt
The Fox and Newt is an old fashioned pub with an on-site micro-brewery – but it’s also a hidden gem for gig-goers. Upstairs above the pub, it’s got one of the smallest music venues in Leeds with weekly gigs for around 80 people, some of which are free, others are not. There’s a huge variation to what you can expect to see here, from up and coming local bands to touring groups and tribute acts. This is as diverse as it gets.
The Fox and Newt, 9 Burley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS3 1LD.
If you’re looking for the beating heart of Leeds’ music scene, get down to Wharf Chambers. It’s a co-operative, which means it’s run by its members, for its members. You have to pay a £2 one-off fee to sign-up, but once that’s done, you can get access to all their gigs and club nights. They put on an eclectic array of live music, from psychedelic bands to dance groups and folk music in their 180-capacity events space.
Wharf Chambers, 23-25 Wharf Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 7EQ.
Sela Bar is more than just an underground hideaway known for its quality beer, cocktails and pizza – they’ve made it their mission to put on the very best in live jazz, soul, funk, blues and reggae. They have an eclectic soundtrack on all week long, with gigs throughout. Get down to The Mabgate Sela Sessions for live jazz every Wednesday, and check their listings for the array of touring acts they welcome to Leeds.
Sela Bar, 20 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
Howard Assembly Room
Howard Assembly Room is one of the most versatile music venues in Leeds. It’s in the same building as the Grand Theatre but is much more music-focussed with a maximum capacity of 150. You can expect classical recitals and chamber operas, including an extensive programme run by Opera North, but that’s not all. They welcome a constant stream of touring artists, like Nils Frahm, Songhoy Blues and The Unthanks, across a wide spectrum of genres.
Howard Assembly Room, 46 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU. It’s currently closed for refurbishment but will re-open at the end of 2019.
As well as being one of the city’s best rehearsal and recording spaces, Eiger Studios put on eclectic gigs all year round. The main venue holds 400 people, but it’s also got a series of smaller spaces for more intimate gigs. They’ve seen all sorts play over the years, from the reggae sounds of Theo Parrish to punk rockers Pulled Apart By Horses, house icon Carl Cox and indie legend Damon Albarn.
Eiger Studios, New Craven Gate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5NF.
The Domino Club
Love jazz music? Head to the back of Lords Barbering and follow the staircase down to The Domino Club, a New York-style underground speakeasy where quality spirits and top tunes intermingle. They have live music every night of the week – from Sunday to Thursday it’s free, and on Fridays and Saturdays it’ll set you back a fiver. You can see an eclectic line-up of music focused on jazz, but also touching on soul and blues. In the past, The New Mastersounds, Jacob Savage and The Hyde Park Brass Band have all played here.
The Domino Club, 7 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
Leeds Beckett Students’ Union
Leeds Beckett Students’ Union has been hosting live music since 1970 and it’s still one of the best gig venues in the city. The Stage is the main 1100-capacity space and it has welcomed the likes of Nirvana, Sex Pistols and Radiohead. But they also have Stage Two, an intimate room for 350 gig-goers that regularly welcomes up and coming artists from Leeds and beyond, including Two Door Cinema Club and Bombay Bicycle Club.
Leeds Beckett Students’ Union, City Campus, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3HE.
City Varieties is one of the oldest concert venues in Leeds. It opened way back in 1865 and has seen all the big musical trends echo through its grandiose hall, from jazz and blues to punk and pop. These days you can expect an eclectic blend of old and new artists to play the 467-capacity space – classic favourites like The Zombies and Fairport Convention have headlined in recent years, alongside younger artists like Lucy Rose, Mark Lanegan and Badly Drawn Boy.
City Varieties, Swan Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6LW.
The Duck and Drake
The Duck and Drake is a welcoming local boozer that’s renowned for its quality real ales and appreciation of live music. They have bands playing every Thursday, Friday and Saturday without fail, and the majority of them are free. Expect a diverse mix of musicians, from tribute acts who pay homage to classic rock stars to an array of touring artists who perform their own original music.
The Duck and Drake, 43 Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DR.
If you like your music heavy, make a beeline for Santiago. It’s a whiskey-swilling, heavy metal bar in Leeds that puts on live music on a regular basis for up to 150 people. They usually have gigs on Friday and Saturday nights from local and national bands, some of which are free, but keep your eyes out for weeknight gigs from touring artists. They’ve seen some big names play their space over the past 20 years, like Chuck Ragan and Frank Turner.
Santiago, 1-3 Grand Arcade, Leeds West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
Chunk is a music collective that has its own all-in-one rehearsal space, recording studio and gig venue. It’s a place where local musical talent go to share ideas and make music together, so you can see burgeoning artists playing live for up to 200 people. In the past they’ve put on gigs by the likes of Super Luxury, Cattle and Esper Scout, but it’s less about what’s been, and more what’s coming from the next generation – ready to find your next favourite band?
Chunk, 275 Meanwood Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 2JD.
Seven Arts is one of the most important concert venues in Leeds. Their JazzLeeds nights take over on Thursday and Sunday evenings, bringing a who’s who of the country’s jazz music scene to the city. But that’s not all. Seven is a venue that welcomes any and all types of music to its 100-seater space, from flamenco guitarists to folk groups, acoustic acts and indie bands, with something different on most nights of the week.
Seven Arts, 31a Harrogate Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3PD.
The HiFi Club
The HiFi Club is renowned for its club and comedy nights, but it’s also a quality venue for live music. The 350-capacity basement puts on the weekly Sunday Joint, a legendary showcase of the best soul, funk, jazz, hip-hop and salsa artists from around the UK, as confirmed by previous headliners Submotion Orchestra, Corinne Bailey Rae and Gentleman’s Dub Club. They also host regular gigs from touring acts throughout the year too.
The HiFi Club, 2 Central Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DE.
Hyde Park Book Club
Whether you want to see the next generation of indie talent or the city’s best new jazz artists, you need to check out Hyde Park Book Club. This former petrol station-turned-Greenwich Village-style cafe is a vibrant hub of new live music. The 100-capacity space welcomes touring bands on a regular basis as they work their way up the ladder and it also hosts weekly nights where you can enjoy live jazz for free.
Hyde Park Book Club, 27-29 Headingley Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1BL.
HEART is an increasingly important venue for Leeds’ music scene as they put on a popular weekly showcase. Tuesday Live is a regular celebration of the best new, exciting folk, Americana and country musicians from around Yorkshire, but that’s not all. They also have a monthly Jazz Jam, Headingley Social and Jazz@HEART, or you can check out touring musicians making their way to Leeds to play their intimate 30-capacity theatre.
HEART, Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 3HN.
Leeds Irish Centre
Leeds Irish Centre has been a hub of live music since it opened in 1970. The 800-capacity main room welcomes traditional Irish folk artists, but it’s also a popular stop for international pop and rock artists. Over the years, iconic artists like Joe Strummer, Oasis and The Fall have all played the venue, while legendary folk musician John Martyn made it a regular stop on his annual tours. It continues to attract top new musicians to this day, as recent gigs by Nathaniel Rateliff and Savages prove.
Leeds Irish Centre, York Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 9NT.
The Lending Room
If you love indie music and you want to find the next big thing, The Lending Room is a must-visit. The gig space is in a beautifully tiled room above The Library pub that has a constant stream of incredible gigs, usually from the best new bands from around the UK, to entertain up to 200 people. You can also attend regular nights from the likes of This Feeling and 360 Club, the latter of which was the scene of Alt-J’s first ever shows.
The Lending Room, 229 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AP.
Leeds College of Music
The Venue is a 350-seat auditorium at Leeds College of Music where you can see performances from their up and coming stars. It’s the perfect space for both students and touring artists to showcase their music in an intimate and acoustically brilliant room kitted out with two Steinway concert grand pianos. They also have a smaller, 120-seater Recital Room with its own Steinway piano for smaller shows.
Leeds College of Music, 3 Quarry Hill, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PD.
Church isn’t just a club, it’s also a pretty darn great gig venue. The 1700-capacity space is a sight to behold – the stage is where the altar should be and the stained-glass backdrop makes it one of the most visually impressive live music venues in Leeds. They regularly welcome big rock and indie groups, with the likes of Circa Waves, The Magic Gang and British Sea Power headlining in the past. And if you want to see your new favourite band, check out what’s happening in the Chapel, their intimate 500-capacity venue next door.
Church, 177-179 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AR.
As well as Seven Arts, JazzLeeds make use of another Chapel Allerton venue for their regular live music nights. Inkwell Divas takes over on the first Saturday of every month, so you can see jazz musicians play classic American standards with a live vocalist. That’s followed by the fortnightly Sunday Jazz Cafe, which sees top jazz artists from around the UK perform, as well as regular one-off concerts by local artists.
The Inkwell, 31 Potternewton Lane, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3LW.
LS6 Cafe is one of the most popular bars in Hyde Park. It runs regular live music nights, including the longest-running weekly jazz club in Leeds. Get down every Wednesday to see the assortment of up and coming jazz musicians from around Leeds found by organiser Ben Powling. They also put on a monthly open mic night and other one-off events throughout the week, which will go nicely with their craft beer and cocktail offering.
LS6 Cafe, 16 Headingley Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 2AS.Cover image © Copyright Leeds-List 2019 by Jess Rowbottom.