20 Things To Do In Leeds

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Leeds is a popular city in the North of England for shopping, football and creative culture. This West Yorkshire city is a great destination for nightlife as it has many excellent bars, pubs and clubs. Aside from its varied nightlife, Leeds has many large open green spaces, parks and gardens. Its location in West Yorkshire means it is only a short drive from many of the region’s best parklands, the Yorkshire Dales, and it is within an hour of the sprawling North Yorkshire Moors National Park.

Leeds is a popular destination for art lovers, with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, many museums and even a walking art tour of the city offering creativity at every opportunity. Music is a core part of Leeds’ heritage and culture, with indie bands frequenting the likes of Belgrave Music Hall. Leeds also hosts one of the UK’s largest music festivals, Leeds Festival, each summer on the grounds of Bramham Park.

Many people from neighbouring towns and cities flock to Leeds to take advantage of its shopping scene. Leeds has typical high-street retailers within walking distance of high-designer fashion giants, small independent boutiques and vintage stores. Whatever has brought you to Leeds, there is plenty to see and to do to make you want to return. Here are the best things to do in Leeds for a taste of the city. 

Leeds, England

Top Tours

Church In Leeds
Visiting churches like St. Michael and All Angels Church is one of the free things to do in Leeds.

20 Things To Do In Leeds

1- Royal Armouries Museum

Old Cannons
Seeing the exhibits in the Royal Armouries is one of the things to do in Leeds this weekend.

Royal Armouries Museum is the home of the UK’s collection of important and royal military attire.

The museum’s most famous piece of armour is the foot combat armour worn by King Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold tournament in 1520.

Aside from armour knights, kings and other military personnel would wear in combat, the Royal Armouries Museum also has a collection of animal armour, including armour made for an elephant in the 16th century.

A team of re-enactors and armour specialists add to your visit with live displays on how the armour was worn, used and demonstrations of how the armour performs in combat.

Royal Armouries Museum is at Armouries Drive, Leeds, LS10 1LT.

2- Roundhay Park

aerial view of Leeds buildings and canal
Looking for things to do in Leeds, UK? Here are 20 to keep you busy.

Roundhay Park is one of Leeds’ most popular parks and outdoor destinations.

The park spans over 700 acres (283 ha) of woodland and parkland centred around a lake.

Waterloo Lake, the park’s main body of water, is a popular destination for fishing and boating, with boats available to hire on-site.

There are plenty of things for children to do in the park, including various seasonal activities and trails, an adventure playground, skate park and football pitches.

One of the best things to do in the park is board the Land Train on its short journey from the Lakeside Cafe towards the park gates and back again.

For those looking for something less energetic, there are plenty of pleasant strolls around the park and its gardens, a golf course and a small cafe.

Roundhay Park is at Mansion Lane, Princes Avenue, LS8 2HH.

3- See Exotic Animals At Tropical World

Inside Roundhay Park is Tropical World, a large greenhouse filled with one of the UK’s largest tropical plants and animals collections.

Tropical World is home to many exotic animals, including frogs, monkeys, meerkats and crocodiles.

Each area of Tropical World forms a carefully designed habitat to replicate the environment both the creatures and plant life would have in the wild.

One of the best areas of Tropical World is the Rainforest Canopy, where visitors can ascend to the roof of the rainforest to see its beauty, plants and cute resident monkeys from above.

Tropical World is at Princes Avenue, Roundhay, Leeds, LS8 2ER.

4- Visit The Leeds Corn Exchange

classic historic architecture in Leeds
Wandering the streets and admiring historic architecture is one of the things to do in Leeds.

Leeds Corn Exchange is a must-visit destination in the city for independent shops and retailers.

Cuthbert Brodrick built the Corn Exchange in 1863 to allow the buying and selling of corn kernels.

The building is round and has a large domed ceiling with its myriad of small shops tightly packed into the space.

Today the Corn Exchange is a vibrant hub of independent shops offering cakes, art prints, tailored clothing, leather goods, repairs, drinks and much more.

The Corn Exchange prides itself on having a true community atmosphere for its sellers and customers.

Leeds Corn Exchange is at Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 7BR. Join this guided walking tour.

5- See A Show At The Grand Theatre

James Robinson Watson designed the Leeds Grand Theatre, which opened in 1878.

The theatre is Grade II listed and is one of the city’s best examples of Victorian architecture.

The theatre’s exterior features Romanesque and Scottish baronial architecture, while the inside is typically Victorian with fan-vaulted ceilings, columns and ornate ironworks.

Grand Theatre often hosts performances of West End and Broadway musicals and theatrical productions, comedy shows, ballet performances and orchestral concerts.

Grand Theatre is at 46 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NU.

6- Discover History At Thackray Medical Museum

Set inside a beautiful Gothic Victorian building that was once the Leeds Union Workhouse is the Thackray Medical Museum.

The museum tells the story of medicine in Leeds from its beginnings on the dirty streets of Leeds during the Victorian age to the modern day, where technology is helping track disease.

At the museum, immerse yourself in the live experience of a grizzly 19th-century operating theatre, learn how a microscope works, and understand the importance of looking after your health and wellbeing.

More than 3000 medical items are displayed in the museum, including a range of medical tools, books and even biological samples.

Thackeray Medical Museum is at 141 Beckett Street, Harehills, Leeds, LS9 7LN.

7- Explore The Gothic Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds, UK
Exploring Kirkstall Abbey is one of the things to do in Leeds today.

Kirkstall Abbey is the beautiful ruins of a former Cistercian monastery set inside a sprawling park.

The abbey was established in 1152 and is one of the best-preserved Cistercian abbeys to have been through the dissolution.

Due to the dissolution of the monasteries when Kirkstall Abbey was ruined, it was left as a shell with no roof, no windows and some parts obliterated.

It is a great destination to explore and uncover more about this turbulent time in British religious history while surrounding yourself with beautiful examples of early Gothic architecture.

Kirkstall Abbey is at Abbey Road, Kirkstall, Leeds, LS5 3EH.

8- See The Exhibitions At Harewood House

Harewood House is one of the most extravagant country houses in West Yorkshire.

John Carr and Robert Adam, both architects, designed the house for Edwin Lascelles in the mid-1700s.

Harewood House has several exhibitions, including a celebration of the works of art by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted portraits of the Lascelles family, and a collection focusing on Royal connections to the house in line with the coronation of King Charles III.

One of the house’s most engaging and harrowing exhibitions focuses on Lascelles and his role in the Transatlantic slave trade.

Harewood House is at Harewood, Leeds, LS17 9LG.

9- See A Performance At City Varieties Music Hall

City Varieties Music Hall is the oldest theatre in Leeds and should not be missed in the city.

The theatre holds a Guinness World Record for being the longest-running music hall in the UK, with many similar destinations having closed permanently or been repurposed for other uses.

The music hall opened in 1865 and has seen an incredible array of people perform on its stage, including the great magician Harry Houdini.

Today the music hall is a popular destination for stand-up comics and theatrical performances, including touring West End shows.

City Varieties Music Hall is at Swan Street, Leeds, LS1 6LW.

10- Ride The Middleton Railway

Middleton Railway is the perfect day out for families wanting to see the countryside and experience travel on a heritage railway.

The railway opened in 1758 and is the oldest continuously operating railway in the world.

A journey on Middleton Railway transports you from their Moor Road Station and depot to Park Halt and back.

The railway hosts several special trains, including Teddy Bear Specials, which allow children accompanied by teddy bears to travel for free on a special picnic train.

Children travelling on this train without a teddy bear are not left out, however, as a bear is included in their ticket price.

Middleton Railway is at Railway Trust LTD, The Middleton, Moor Road, Hunslet, Leeds, LS10 2JQ.

11- Admire The Works In Yorkshire Sculpture Park

A short drive or bus journey from the city centre will take you to the sprawling landscaped grounds of Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is considered an international leader in contemporary sculpture.

The park covers 500 acres of parkland inside the grounds of the 18th-century manor Bretton Hall and is dotted with many sculptures from sculptors such as Barbra Hepworth and Damien Hirst.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park also has an indoor centre where other sculptures and works of art, including textiles and paintings, are displayed.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is at West Bretton, WF4 4LG.

12- Visit The Leeds City Museum

things to do in leeds city museum
Spending time in the Leeds City Museum is one of the things to do in Leeds.

Leeds City Museum is filled with a range of exhibits, including taxidermy animals, archeological treasures and artefacts from ancient civilisations, as well as plenty of displays on the city’s history.

The museum uses its collection of more than 800,000 animals, vegetation and minerals to educate visitors on climate change and what they can do to reduce their impact on the environment.

The Leeds Story Gallery tells the story of Leeds’ history, beginning with its ancient location and settlements to the present day.

Leeds City Museum is at Millennium Square, Leeds, LS2 8BH.

13- Visit Hyde Park Picture House

Another excellent and Grade II-listed entertainment venue in Leeds is Hyde Park Picture House.

Thomas Winn & Son built the cinema in the early 1910s, with it opening its doors in 1914.

Many of the cinema’s original features remain a core part of the theatre, including the ticket office and gas lighting, making it the only remaining gaslit cinema in the UK.

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Leeds City Council and many donations from the public, Hyde Park Picture House has undergone an extensive renovation with plans to reopen in Spring 2023.

Hyde Park Picture House is at 73 Brudenell Street, Leeds, LS6 1JD.

14- Eat A Delicious Meal At Angelica

Angelica is a trendy brasserie and cocktail bar at the top of the Trinity Building.

This location allows Angelica to have a dining experience like no other in the city, as it has a roof terrace offering outdoor drinking and dining with views across the city.

Their brasserie menu is excellent and offers a range of seasonal dishes and traditional favourites.

Choose from a range of mains, including roasted parsnip risotto or stone bass vadouvan, or order a dry-aged Hereford chateaubriand for two from the grill for a luxurious shared dining experience.

Angelica is at Level 6, Trinity, 70 Boar Lane, Leeds, LS1 6HW. You may also like this guided food tour.

15- Step Back Into History At The Abbey House Museum

Abbey House Museum was once the gatehouse to the now-ruined Kirkstall Abbey.

The museum is Grade II listed and is the perfect destination to step back into Victorian Leeds.

The museum features a life-size replica of a Victorian street, including shops, pubs and houses that would have stood in the city during the 1800s.

Throughout the year, a range of events and special exhibitions are put on based on a theme from one of their archived collections.

Explore what life was like for Victorian children at the Childhoods Gallery, where you can see a range of 19th-century toys, games, teddy bears and dolls.

Abbey House Museum is at Abbey Walk, Abbey Road, Kirkstall, Leeds, LS5 3EH.

16- Relax At Rodley Nature Reserve

Rodley Nature Reserve is the perfect destination a stone’s throw from the city centre to immerse yourself in nature.

Created in 1999, the nature reserve and wetland is located inside the floodplains of Kirkstall Valley.

The wetland provides an important ecosystem and habitat for a range of British wildlife, including Little and Great White Egrets, Peregrine Falcons and owls.

The nature reserve is divided into various habitats, including a duck marsh, wet grassland, woodland coppice and scrub woodland.

There are several walks around the nature reserve with plenty of information boards informing visitors about the reserve’s work, the animals living there, and the habitats they live in.

Rodley Nature Reserve is at Moss Bridge Road, Rodley, Leeds, LS13 1HP.

17- Go On A Tour Of Elland Road

Elland Road stadium
Watching a football match is one of the things to do in Leeds.

Elland Road is the home of Leeds United and is a must-visit for football fans.

Tours are available during summer and offer exclusive access to otherwise out-of-bounds stadium areas.

Take in the player’s dressing rooms, press offices and dugouts, with opportunities to step onto the pitch.

Tours of the stadium are led by a knowledgeable tour guide who will share the history of the club, its accolades and its most important players.

Elland Road is at Elland Road, Beeston, Leeds, LS11 0ES.

18- Shop At Victoria Quarter

Victoria Quarter is one of the most beautiful shopping destinations in Leeds and a must-visit for architecture fans and searching for your next must-buy items.

Frank Matcham designed the building to be exceptionally ornate with marble, gilded mosaics, intricate wrought iron and arched glass ceilings allowing in plenty of natural light.

Inside Victoria Quarter is a range of shops, including Coach, Vivienne Westwood and beauty destination Space NK.

While in Victoria Quarter, explore Leeds’ Harvey Nichols store, the first to open outside London.

Victoria Quarter is at Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6AZ.

19- Admire The Architecture At Temple Newsam House

Temple Newsam House is one of Leeds’s best examples of Tudor-Jacobean architecture.

The Grade I building dates back to around 1066, with its first written documentation in the 1086 Domesday Book.

Throughout its history, many homes residents have added to the design of the building to make it more suitable to their needs.

Much of the original building has been demolished, making room for newer elements from the 16th and 17th centuries, however, many original elements remain, including some brickwork and the bay windows.

Capability Brown, a famous landscape gardener and architect, landscaped the home’s grounds in the 1760s.

Temple Newsan House is at Temple Newsam Road, Leeds, LS15 0AE.

20- Go Designer Shopping

Leeds is an excellent shopping destination for independent stores, high-street favourites and designer brands.

Leeds is home to the only Harvey Nichols outside of London and has many other designer shops and department stores.

Treat yourself to a classic monogram print at Louis Vuitton, browse and select from a range of designer brands at Flannels or opt for something a little more luxurious at Harvey Nichols.

Within Leeds’ Harvey Nichols is a bar and restaurant on the fourth floor offering views over the city while enjoying a glass of champagne.

Aerial View Over Leeds Festival In Bramham Park
Attending the Leeds Festival in Bramham Park is one of the fun things to do near Leeds.

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sarah holmes travel writer
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.