Seven things to look out for in Leeds

15 Sep 2017
Sophie Thomsett Programme Officer – UK

Whether you’re just visiting for a few days or you’re going to call this city home for the next year, programme officer Sophie brings you seven things to look out for in Leeds.

1) Victorian architecture

Corn Exchange, Leeds. Image

Leeds Civic Hall

Victoria Quarter, Leeds

Once just a small market town but now the UK’s fourth most populous city, Leeds boomed into life during the Industrial Revolution. Walking around the city it’s impossible not to notice grandiose, ornate buildings like the Corn Exchange and the Civic Hall, legacies of the Victorian era.

Whilst many of these buildings are striking during the day, each October the free festival Light Night takes over the city centre, offering up a chance to see these buildings illuminated in a spectacular fashion.

This year’s Light Night will take place on Thursday 5 and Friday, 6 October, 18:00 to 23:00.

2) Hyde Park Picture House

Nestled in the vibrant student neighbourhood of Hyde Park, this cosy, friendly, lovingly-preserved cinema has been showing films since 1914. Offering a combination of foreign language, art house, and independent films as well as the latest big releases, the Hyde Park Picture House is a real treasure.

Look out for special events such as projection room tours, director Q&As and the annual Leeds International Film Festival. Student tickets are £5 on Monday nights, but be sure to queue up early as they often sell out!

3) Leeds West Indian Carnival

Leeds West Indian Carnival

Leeds West Indian Carnival

Founded by Leeds University student and Nevis native Arthur France, every year since 1967 the West Indian Carnival has brought colourful costumes and vibrant music to the streets of Chapeltown, Leeds as a parade of floats and dancers makes its way through the streets.

Taking place across the August bank holiday weekend, it is a three-day event, finishing with a grand carnival procession on bank holiday Monday. Look out for the carnival king and queen’s spectacular costumes!

4) The Royal Armouries

Royal Armoury, Leeds

Royal Armoury, Leeds

Home to the national collection of arms and armour, the Royal Armouries offers a fascinating insight into the history of warfare. Highlights of the collection include the grotesque ‘horned helmet’ made for King Henry VIII, and an elephant armour from the Mughal empire, which is actually the largest animal armour in the world.

Entry is free, but look out for ticketed events such as the spectacular International Medieval Jousting Tournament which takes place over the Easter weekend.

5) Leeds Owls

Leeds owls

Leeds owls

Leeds owls

Although no-one knows why these majestic creatures have come to represent Leeds as a city, it’s impossible to ignore the owls dotted everywhere in metal, glass, and stone. They even have their own Owl Trail, covering 25 locations across the city.

6) Kirkgate market

Kirkgate Market

Kirkgate Market

Marks and Spencer in Kirkgate Market

Boasting over 800 stalls, Kirkgate Market is the largest covered market in Europe. It’s also the birthplace of Marks and Spencer, which started as a penny bazaar in Kirkgate Market long before it became the huge multinational business it is today.

There are serious bargains to be had at the fruit and veg stalls, butchers and fishmongers, as well as tasty treats to be picked up at the street food cafes.

7) Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey

This twelfth century abbey flourished for more than 400 years before King Henry VII’s dissolution of the monasteries forced the monks to leave. Accessible by bus from Leeds city centre, these days the ruins are a popular picnic spot.

Admission is free, and between March and November there is a monthly weekend market selling hand-made crafts and local produce from across Yorkshire.

For even more things to do in Leeds, check out the Visit Leeds website.