Leeds, a vibrant city in West Yorkshire, England, blends the British tradition of a rich history with a bustling metropolitan setting. The third largest city in the UK, Leeds is a hub for art, culture and history, and houses many attractions sure to satisfy any tourist. Home to four universities, flourishing financial districts and the busiest train station outside of London, activities abound for the visitor here in this exciting, cosmopolitan area. Here is The Culture Trip’s guide to the 10 best things to do and see in Leeds, England.
Set on the bank of the River Aire to the northwest of Leeds city center, Kirkstall Abbey is a 500-year-old monastery, now in ruins. Despite being disestablished under Henry VIII around 400 years after it was built, the Abbey is a great historical, medieval site. Guests can enjoy the surrounding park, peruse the market and tour the grounds of the Abbey to gain insight into the religious turmoil England has previously experienced.
Watch out for: a Medieval religious structure open for tours or leisure time in the surrounding park
Temple Newsam is one of the most visited estates in Leeds. Over 1500 acres wide, and with a history of over 500 years set within its walls, this estate is modeled on a mixture of the Tudor and Jacobean styles of architecture. It is popular amongst tourists for both its pretty surrounding woodland, and the expansive collections of art available for viewing on-site.
Watch out for: a popular English estate which can be experienced as a museum, or can be enjoyed via its surrounding woodlands
Visitors here will find just what they would expect to see in an establishment named the Royal Armouries Museum; a collection of 8,500 of England’s armaments. The catalogue of weapons is arranged across six different exhibits, incorporating the categories of War, Tournament, Oriental, Self-Defense, Hunting, and Peace. This museum houses objects which were previously on display in the Tower of London. This is a great venue to look at history through a different light, and to learn about the way weapons have changed and advanced over time.
Watch out for: a wide variety of weapons dating back to Medieval periods
One simply cannot go to England without taking advantage of the beautiful greenery that even the cities have to offer. Roundhay Park is a beautiful example of this, where even in the depths of Leeds city center guests can stroll through one of the largest and most charming city parks in Europe, sprawling over 700 acres. With lakes, a mansion to tour and a beautiful castle gate built as a diversion in the 19th century, guests will encounter a wealth of exciting outdoor activities when walking through these parts.
Watch out for: one of the largest city parks in Europe
If you’re in the mood to be entertained on your holiday, consider buying a ticket to one of the many performances held at the Grand Theater and Opera House in Leeds. Patrons can watch everything from ballet, to opera, to plays at this establishment, and this is a venue which proves to be a highlight of many a trip to the city. Opened in the late 19th century, and with a capacity for around 1500 guests, every space in the elaborately designed interior here is warm and welcoming, and provides a great setting in which to watch and listen to a fabulous variety of shows.
Watch out for: a beautiful venue to watch a variety of performing arts shows
Formerly known as St. Ann’s Cathedral, the Leeds Cathedral was restored in 2006. Designed in the Gothic revival style, this Catholic establishment continues to deliver Mass to an active congregation. It represents one of the most important places in the landscape of Leeds, and illustrates a contested point in the religious history of the city; the region has often oscillated between the Catholic and Protestant faiths. Whether religious or not, it is a beautiful place to view English design and indulge in an ethereal atmosphere.
Watch out for: beautiful Gothic-revival architecture with a rich history
Ideal for all artistic souls, the Leeds Art Gallery is a collection of national importance. Founded in 1888, the gallery was established in honor of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee the year prior to its opening. The exhibits here feature British 20th century art as well as some 19th century works. The Leeds Art Library is also an interesting component in one part of the gallery, and provides extensive, unbeatable material on art history and culture.
Watch out for: an opportunity to view an array of 20th century British art
The Leeds City Museum officially reopened in 2008 after suffering damage from WWII bombing in 1941, and thus experiencing subsequent closures and a relocation of exhibits. The museum showcases interesting aspects of Leeds’ history, with featured items including the Leeds tiger, a stuffed animal which began as a tigerskin rug and was later filled and combined with other pelts to create a much-loved Victorian artefact. The museum also features natural history and ancient worlds exhibits among other enthralling collections.
Watch out for: an engaging look at the history of the city of Leeds
The Thackray Medical Museum is an educational look into the past at one of the most progressive current fields: medicine. The official museum opened in 1997, but the grounds on which it is built harbor historically strong medical ties, and have served as a workhouse, a workhouse infirmary and then a hospital. The museum offers many opportunities for students and children to learn about the process of development which has transformed the practice of medicine, including interactive games and tours. There are also exhibits transporting guests back in time to a day in Victorian Leeds, illustrating the health risks associated with city living before national health regulations were introduced.
Watch out for: interesting histories of medicine, educational and accessible for all ages
This canal links Leeds to the city of Liverpool. Its full length runs around 127 miles, and it is an idyllic stretch of waterway which was completed during the early 19th century. Presently it serves as an ideal place to ride boats for fun, or to amble along during leisurely afternoons. It is a quiet spot to in which to stroll or to chat with friends.