On the edge of the National Forest lies Leicester, England’s tenth-largest city and one of the oldest towns in the UK. Among the many things to discover, you’ll find the Roman baths, industrial artefacts and the burial place of Richard III. Paired with a teeming cultural life, Leicester has a fantastic array of things to do and see – here are some of our top picks.
A natural number one attraction in Leicester is the King Richard III Visitor Centre, built right next to where the remains of the 15th-century king were discovered in 2012. Opened in 2014, the Visitor Centre aims to document King Richard III’s turbulent life and death as the last king of England to die in battle. The Visitor Centre was built into a former school and Victorian Revival building and blends the old with the new in its interactive exhibitions and state-of-the-art equipment.
Right across the street from the Visitor Centre lies Leicester Cathedral, another must on the list if you’re interested in King Richard III’s faith. The church, first established around the year 1089, became the king’s final resting place, as he was reinterred here in March 2015. The cathedral in itself is also a beautiful sight with stained-glass windows, spectacular interiors, and, now, the new royal tomb.
The National Space Centre in Leicester is the largest of its kind in the UK and, therefore, the leading attraction for astronomy and space science in the country. The Space Centre is a great destination for a rainy day and offers hours of education as well as entertaining fun thanks to numerous galleries, a rocket tower, interactive experiences and the UK’s largest planetarium. If you’re in want of an otherworldly experience, the National Space Centre in Leicester is the place to visit.
A listed timer building dating as far back as the 1390s, the Guildhall in Leicester has served as a city hall, meeting place and courtroom. The Guildhall was the original home of Britain’s third-oldest library and has been the site of many historical debates and events, especially during the English Civil War in the 17th century. The building is today both a museum and a performance venue, and it was in this place that the press conference announcing the find of Richard III’s remains was held in 2012.
Belgrave Hall is an 18th-century building in the northern part of Leicester that, today, serves as a museum. The museum documents daily life in the home throughout history and displays various domestic objects and artefacts in its authentic interior. Belgrave Hall also has a small walled garden – a serene refuge from the hustle and bustle of the modern-day city. Belgrave Hall is perhaps most famous for the two ghosts spotted on the building’s surveillance cameras, making it a place of interest to ghost hunters and paranormal experts ever since.
Leicester is a city of great historical significance and can boast numerous listed buildings and well-preserved historic sights. It is, however, important to remember that Leicester is also a city of great contemporary cultural importance today. Pay a visit to one of the many music venues in the city, and experience all kinds of acts, from small up-and-coming student collaborations to great bands and international artists, perform. The music scene in the city is active and vibrant, and it should not be hard to find something to suit your tastes. On the edge of the city’s leafy Victoria Park, De Montfort Hall has acted as a cultural centre for the people of Leicester for over 100 years.
Leicester is anything but a coastal town, but it does have a long canal snaking through it, which, in turn, provides a great way to see the city’s sights in style. The Grand Union Canal runs all the way from London to Birmingham, and Leicester sits right on top of it. Walk along it, or book onto one of the tour boats to experience Leicester in a unique way.
The grounds of the University of Leicester are beautiful in their own right, but the Botanic Garden is especially worth a visit. Established in 1947, the 16-acre (6.5ha) expanse is home to a range of exotic plants, sculptures and provides a great place from which to admire the Edwardian houses that now make up the campus halls of residence. Be sure to check out the nearby Attenborough Arboretum, too.
Additional reporting by Callum Davies
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