When it comes to shopping, Leeds can compete on a national scale. Here’s why…
Leeds is the ultimate shopping destination, a ready-made day out with a spectacular mix of high street, designer and independent stores. But the shops are just the beginning – it’s just as much about the experience as the hoard you take home, so what makes Leeds so special? From the historic arcades to the post-shopping pit-stops, this is why Leeds is one of the best places to shop in the UK.
Oodles of shops, crammed into a compact city centre
Bigger isn’t always better. In fact, our petite city centre is one of our greatest strengths. Leeds has high street stores, designer brands and one-of-a-kind independents, all crammed into a surprisingly compact space. In fact, you can get from one side of the city to the other in just 30 minutes (but don’t be surprised if you’re tempted into a shop or two along the way).
So what are you after? High street favourites? Trinity Leeds has 120 shops, bars and restaurants, all under one roof – and what an impressive roof it is! 3,700 square metres of sweeping glass panels bedecked in twinkling fairy lights. It’s home to a raft of high street heavyweights. We’re talking M&S, Boots and Next, not to mention Decathlon, Hollister, Superdry and River Island. More shops line Briggate, including House of Fraser, which is positively brimming with fashion, beauty and homewares.
It’s a mere hop, skip and a jump to Victoria Leeds, where you’ll find a vast array of designer brands spread across two unique arcades, one historic, one modern. Harvey Nichols takes pride of place in the iconic Victoria Quarter, offering three floors of high-end fashion and beauty, while John Lewis has opened its biggest home outside London in the recently completed Victoria Gate, which, by the way, was voted the best shopping centre in the world at the MIPIM Awards 2017.
And if you want the kind of unique, one-off buys you can only find at the independents, you’re in luck because Leeds is full of ‘em. You’ll find everything from legendary records stores to traditional cobblers tucked away in The Merrion Centre, but that’s just the beginning. There are independent hubs all over the city, so whether you want to pick up vintage threads at Blue Rinse, kawaii gifts at Giant Kitten or cool zines at Village, you’ll love hunting out all the city’s hidden gems.
Shopping and sightseeing come hand in hand
There’s nowhere quite like Leeds for shopping. You’ll stumble upon some of the most spectacular landmarks in Leeds, almost by accident, because they’ve been transformed into unique shopping destinations. Cuthbert Brodrick’s spectacular Corn Exchange is an absolute must – inside, you’ll find a dazzling array of independent shops, with everything from handmade jewellery to potted plants, all under one awe-inspiring domed roof.
And that’s just the beginning. Leeds is famous for its traditional shopping arcades. Not only do they have a rich history, but they’re still used for their original purpose, so you’ll find all manner of treasures within. Take the Victoria Quarter for example. Designed by Frank Matcham, the architect behind The London Palladium, it’s a triumph of marble, terracotta and wrought iron. As you weave your way between Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood, raise your eyes to the skies and take in Brian’s Clark’s incredible stained glass roof, the biggest in Europe.
Across the street, you’ll find one of the oldest shopping arcades in Leeds. Thornton’s was built in 1878 and it has a few surprises in store. Alongside the gothic arches and lancet windows, there’s a giant Ivanhoe Clock with characters from Robin Hood that strike the bell every quarter. In this unique setting, high street names rub shoulders with indie favourites like OK Comics and Welcome Skate Store. Which brings us on to Queen’s Arcade. Named after Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, it’s a mishmash of colourful shopfronts that house independent gems like Accent Clothing, a family-run clothes shop, and Aladdin’s Cave, a lovely little vintage jewellery store.
No trip to Leeds would be complete without a visit to Grand Arcade. Designed by local architects Smith & Tweddle in 1897, it connects two quaint Victorian Streets under a glazed roof. Quirky shops like Our Handmade Collective and Bridal Emporium sit alongside pubs, bars and independent eateries, making this the perfect post-shop pitstop. Time your visit right to see the knights of their famous Wm Potts & Sons of Leeds strike the hour.
Every pre, post and mid-shop pitstop you could need
The shops are great, there’s no denying it, but shops alone don’t make a world-class shopping destination – which is why our thriving food and drink scene is so important. You’ll find every kind of pre, post and mid-shop pitstop here, so whether you want a coffee to go or sit down meal in the spring sunshine, you won’t have to go far to get it.
It begins, not with pubs or restaurants, but instead, with the biggest covered market in Europe. Leeds Kirkgate Market has over 400 stalls inside and another 200 outside, which means you can pick up all kinds of goodies, from fruit and veg to meat, fish and artisan bread. You can even grab a takeaway from their street food market, where they serve up Turkish kebabs, loaded hotdogs, Yorkshire pudding wraps and bao buns, to name just a few of the delicious morsels available inside.
But we get ahead of ourselves, before you start thinking about lunch, you’ll need a pre-shop caffeine fix and we’ve got it covered. Try Laynes Espresso, right by the train station. They’ve spent the last 10 years perfecting their art, so you can get a quality brew, on-the-go. Alternatively, head to La Bottega Milanese, where they’ve recreated the ‘continental cafe culture’ of their Italian homeland, a mere stone’s throw from Trinity Leeds.
And, of course, the city has reopened for alfresco dining, so you’ll have plenty of options for lunch, dinner and post-spree drinks. From rooftop terraces to riverside gardens, cocktails to beers, high-end sushi to vegan junk food, there’s something for absolutely everyone – and yes, we’ve rounded up all the reopenings, all in one place. Of course, if you want to make a real day of it, look out for foodie events like Chow Down, an almighty outdoor street food market at Temple Arches.