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Christmas Shopping? 5 Ways to Make a Day of it in Leeds

· Ali Turner · Christmas

Love it or hate it, Christmas shopping is an absolute must, so you might as well make the most of it…

Shopping in Leeds Corn Exchange

Leeds is now one of the best places to shop outside of London, but while the shops may bring you in, they’re not the only reason to make the city your go-to shopping destination…

You’ll find shops galore in Leeds, with a host of independent, high street and designer stores for you to choose from – not to mention a brand new shopping centre. But if you want to make a day of it, you need more than just shops, so let us introduce you to the cafes, bars, restaurants and attractions that will make your trip to Leeds special.

Indie coffee, unique culture & quality beer

Laynes Espresso, New Station Street

One of the must-see attractions in Leeds this Christmas is conveniently placed in Leeds Train Station, so you can get a glimpse of it on your way to the shops. SPIRIT is a six metre-long figure lit by thousands of glittering lights and suspended from the ceiling of the station by a woven network of coloured strings. Once you’ve gawped at that, head out of the station and stop at Laynes on your way up to the shops. This is, without a doubt, one of the best independent coffee shops in Leeds, so grab an expertly made brew and maybe a bite to eat – after all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Trinity Leeds is straight ahead of you from here, with all the high street brands you know and love inside, but if you turn right, you’ll find yourself headed towards the historic Corn Exchange, which is full of indie stores, selling everything from animal-friendly cosmetics to cool Korean threads and Yorkshire-made goodies. Try Yellow Sunrise, where you’ll find a range of exotic, but ethically sourced gifts, or head to Simcha Gallery, a treasure trove of handmade jewellery, ceramics, knitwear and stationery. From 25th November 2016, Leeds Corn Exchange will also be lit up by a groundbreaking light installation that projects The Northern Lights onto the domed roof, spilling out into the streets of Leeds.

Bundobust Beer Paddles

Shopping is hungry work, so why not stop here for lunch? They have their own little legendary eatery here – Humpit has been lingering in TripAdvisor’s top 3 for the last few years, and you’ll soon understand why when you tuck into their homemade hummus, topped with the likes of salsa, falafel and mushrooms.

Kirkgate Market, Victoria Gate and the Victoria Arcade are just a hop, skip and a jump away, if you have more presents to pick up, but don’t forget that there are a host of fantastic bars on your way to back to the station, for post shopping drinks. Bundobust serves craft beer with Indian street food, while Tapped and The Brewery Tap make their beer on the premises and Friends of Ham have found fame with their mix of quality beer, wine and charcuterie.

Traditional market stalls, festive lights & Christmas drinks

Leeds Kirkgate Market Christmas

The city centre has plenty of shops to keep you busy all day, but don’t forget to pop into Kirkgate Market. It’s the biggest covered market in Europe, and you’ll find all kind of treasures inside – think fruit, veg and award-winning pies, as well as gift wrapping, festive bouquets and even Christmas trees. Be sure to stop at Teapot while you’re here, for a reviving cuppa and some great gifts – the flowering tea will go down a storm with hard-to-buy-for tea drinkers.

The fun doesn’t end when the sun sets either, aside from the plethora of stores that are open late to help you pick up those last minute gifts, you can also get into the festive spirit with an adventure or two. Take a walk down Boar Lane to see Holy Trinity Church lit up in a cascade of Christmas lights before passing through City Square where the city’s official Christmas Tree awaits.

The German Market Returns to Leeds

If that doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit, a trip to the German Market certainly will. You’ll find the Christkindelmarkt in Millennium Square, where 40 traditional wooden stalls sell everything from jewellery and decorations to chocolate, coffee and honey. Stop by one of the three restaurants and bars for a glass of mulled wine, a pint of beer or a festive bite, which could include anything from medallions of red deer to wiener schnitzel.

There’s one more stop before you go home – this year, Victoria Gardens will welcome Thor’s Tipi Bar to Leeds. The Viking themed drinking den serves local ales, mulled wine and hot cider in two massive tipis. You can sit inside where it’s cosy and warm, or head outside where they’ll be serving burgers and churros with roaring fires to keep you toasty.

Big name brands, cool architecture & rooftop drinks

Kissmass Tree

Credit: Tom Joy

If you’re after the big designer and high street brands, there are three places you need to know about. Trinity Leeds is the first, it’s got all the big high street names, from TopShop, River Island and Next to Jack Jones, SuperDry and Adidas. But it’s not just fashion – you can stop by The Lego Store for the latest Star Wars set, The Apple Store for the new Mac or Rox for that perfect ring. And you won’t be short of options when it comes to lunch either – try Cielo Blanco, an independent Mexican eatery whose sharing boards are the talk of the town or try the tapas at Pintura.

From here, it’s a short walk up Briggate to the Victoria Quarter. It may be filled with designer stores now, but in days gone by, the shopfronts were home to traditional butchers and greengrocers. The modern stained glass roof that now covers the Victoria Quarter sits alongside remnants of the arcade’s past, like the old entrance to The Empire Theatre, which once stood where Harvey Nichols now is. Why not grab a drink in their Espresso Bar to take in the scenery before weaving your way in and out of stores like Vivienne Westwood, Le Creuset and All Saints?

Victoria Quarter

It forms part of Victoria Leeds, the new designer destination, created when Victoria Gate opened in October – so don’t forget to head across the road to find the Victoria Quarter’s modern twin. Expect curved shopfronts, a slick modern design and the North’s flagship John Lewis store, which covers a massive 24,200 square metres. Here you’ll find luxury stores like & Other Stories, Anthropologie and Hackett.

If you’ve worked up an appetite, there are two new eateries for you to check out, in the form of new Belgian eatery Le Pain Quotidien and the meat-obsessed CAU – or you could always head back to Trinity Leeds for cocktails with a view at Angelica and The Alchemist.

Handmade presents, street food & a show

Belgrave Feast

Credit: Giles Smith

Looking for a more laid back shopping experience? We’ve got just the thing. First, stop at Fabrication in The Light. It’s one of the only stores that remains here, but you don’t need any other shops, because they’ve squeezed the work of the over 80 independent designers  into their eclectic store. They’ve got everything from jewellery to art, all made by local makers – which makes this essential shopping.

From here, make your way down The Headrow to New Briggate where you’ll find the Grand Arcade. An independent hub, it’s got a few present-worthy shops inside. Try Our Handmade Collective, where they’ve brought together 60 independent designers, all under one roof. You’ll find all manner of marvellous handmade pieces here – think cufflinks, cushions, mugs and more. A few doors down, The Original Shaving Company is equally good for Christmas shoppers, although here, you’ll be stocking up on old school male grooming products.

Beauty and the Beast, Northern Ballet

Credit: Emma Kauldhar

There are even more handcrafted treasures to be found on this side of town, but only if you time it right, because Belgrave Feast takes place every second Saturday. It’s a street food and arts market that brings together a host of local artists and vendors, in one of the most popular bars in town – Belgrave Music Hall. It’s the perfect opportunity to pick up a host of cool, one-off presents – and you’ll be able to feast on some seriously tasty treats while you’re here.

If you don’t have to rush home, why not spend the evening at Leeds Grand Theatre? This Christmas, they’ve got The Full Monty, The Commitments and Northern Ballet’s Beauty & The Beast.

Historic arcades, hidden treasures and tasting menus

Queens Arcade

Credit: Daria Wszolek

One of the things that makes Leeds such a great place to shop is its historic arcades. These beautiful remnants of the city’s past are now filled with shops and cafes that will make your visit unique. Start with Thornton’s Arcade, where you’ll find an original William Potts clock and a mighty fine feed – Hepworth’s Deli is the place to go for breakfast, their French toast is divine.

Ready to shop? Thornton’s Arcade is home to a medley of independent stores, like Welcome Skate Store, where you can pick up the latest skate gear, and Tall Boys Beer Market, a little beer shop with a cafe upstairs where you can drink your new beer for a small corkage fee. One street down, Queen’s Arcade is a little more brand savvy, so you’ll find the likes of Levi’s and Cath Kidston rubbing shoulders with independents like vintage jeweller Aladdin’s Cave and designer treasure trove Accent.

Mr Nobody Leeds

By now you’re probably ready for a break, so nip down Turk’s Head Yard to one of the oldest pubs in Leeds. Whitelock’s is full of old world charm, and they pride themselves of serving an exceptional selection of quality ales. The food is home cooked and tasty – but don’t fill up too much, because we’ve got a treat lined up for you later.

Now, head back to Briggate and keep on walking, over the road to Lower Briggate. Here you’ll find one of the city’s best kept secrets – Lambert’s Yard. It’s hidden off ground level, but venture inside and you’ll find a cool as heck shop, filled with emerging designer brands. Your next stop is just downstairs – Mr Nobody is independent bar and restaurant that does things a little bit differently. Take a load off and enjoy their creative cocktails, before heading downstairs to indulge in a 5 or 7 course tasting menu. You can tuck into the likes of pork rib dumplings with soy roasted trotter juice and baker’s baguette with cod’s roe and seaweed butter – just make sure you book in advance.