Under the guise of seeing more of what the UK has to offer I ended up on an eye-wateringly early 7 AM train to Leeds with a mini itinerary and about 9 hours to explore the city. To me, Leeds was just the place in the north that the Keiser Chiefs, Mel B, and Malcolm McDowell came from, so I was curious to see what it was all about. Here’s what I got up to.
Arcades & Alleyways
Fun fact, if you get into the city at 9 AM on a Saturday, nothing much is open. Which makes it the perfect time to grab a cup of coffee/tea from one of your favourite chains and explore the hidden arcades and alleys before they get swamped with shoppers. How amazing are these ceilings?
Blue Rinse Vintage
I should have read up on Leeds’ vintage stores before I set off as they were everywhere and I do love a good vintage find. I only went into Blue Rinse to see what the fuss was all about and have to say that their corduroy offering did not disappoint.
Leeds Kirkgate Market
This market is full to bursting with fresh fruit and veg, delicious street food and all things arts and crafts. It’s also the founding location of Marks & Spencer which opened a stall there in 1884! I just loved walking around the gorgeous building and seeing the city come to life with everyone setting up.
The Corn Exchange is something I saw on TV and always imagined it as a huge mall type of thing, but it’s actually a much smaller space that houses independent shops on the upper section and food places on the ground floor. Don’t leave without marvelling at its magnificent ceiling.
Royal Armouries Museum
Here I was complaining about the lack of armours in castles … well looks like they are all on display in Leeds at the Royal Armouries Museum. Along with historic weaponry from various eras and parts of the world. The museum also features outdoor jousting tournaments, ghost hunts and if you want to blow off some steam – a crossbow range.
Leeds Art Gallery + The Henry Moore Institute
The Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute house fine collections of contemporary art pieces and sculptures that will keep you busy for at least 1 hour. I’m a huge fan of both, but if you’re not into it go here for the Instagrammable coffee shop and photo wall.
Parkinson Building Library
The University of Leeds’ (not to be confused with the nearby rival Beckett University!) main building is a nice piece of art deco architecture and the library/reading room looks like something out of Harry Potter. Especially since my uni only had five desks that were never free. For more Potter, head further into the campus to see university’s Great Hall, which screams Hogwarts.
Woodhouse Moor & Hyde Park Corner Cinema
I mentioned here before that I wanted to go to Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds ever since seeing a picture of its external ticket booth. There was sadly no time to go and see The Wife – so I’m saving that for another time. Keep an eye out for activities in the nearby Woodhouse Moor – I was lucky enough to catch a quidditch practice session in action, with the hoops and everything.
No trip to Leeds is complete without a visit to Kirkstall Abbey. About 20 minutes outside the city centre, you’ll find yourselves a world away at the complex that used to be the home to an old Cistercian monastery. These days it’s an adventure playground for kids, dogs and photographers, plus it hosts a food market on some weekends. Despite the crowds, it’s easy to find a little corner to hide away and get whisked back a few hundred years.
Abbey House Museum
Across the street from the Abbey you’ll find the Abbey House Museum, which I wanted to skip as it I thought it would just give background info on the abbey. But it’s actually set up as a Victorian high street, with shops, a bar and chemist. The upstairs floor does feature the history of Kirkstall Abbey, as well as a section on childhood. I was so happy I did end up going as it’s actually one of my favourite types of museums: dusty, clustered and too many things on display.
Leeds is a great place for a short trip, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it in just one day – I only just managed it due to a custom-made itinerary from a local and good walking weather. Instead, make a weekend trip out of it and perhaps combine with nearby Manchester?