Leeds: From Industrial Revolution to shopping revolution

Leeds has evolved from a centre for the Industrial Revolution to a world-class capital of shopping, culture and food. Shop while buskers sing at Trinity Leeds, eat the finest Yorkshire grub and lose yourself for an hour or two in a city museum. 

Here’s our guide to some of the best places for sightseeing, eating, drinking and shopping in Leeds…

Things to see and do in Leeds

The centenary of the start of the First World War last year means military history is on the agenda. Boost the kids’ and your own understanding of this period and beyond with a visit to the Royal Armouries.

Learn about the armour and weaponry used by soldiers in the trenches – with153 objects ranging from a huge anti-tank rifle to a tiny silk pin cushion. This collection sheds new light on the experiences of solders, inventors and tacticians.

But the museum goes much farther back than the First World War. The UK’s national collection of arms and armour features more than 8,500 objects. These include major artefacts, such as Japanese shoguns and Henry VIII’s tournament armour.

Also don’t miss the world’s largest and only surviving elephant armour – which weighs nearly 20 stone.

Leeds has many more museums – here are 2 of our favourites:

  1. Leeds City Museum: Combining local and world history over four floors of interactive and engaging exhibits. Don't forget to say hi to Nesyamun, the Leeds mummy who lives in the Ancient Worlds exhibition.
  1. Thackray Medical Museum: Kids and big kids alike will love the interactive Life Zone which focuses on how the body works. Do you know how long a human's intestines are? Or how a pea travels through the digestive system? You will by the time you leave.

Want to blow off some cobwebs with a brisk winter walk? Leeds is known for its cosmopolitan city centre, but less than 15 minutes from the hustle-bustle is the stunning Rodley Nature Reserve - dedicated to bringing wetland wildlife back to the Leeds area.

The reserve is open to the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays and good news for anyone watching their pennies - it's free.

Shopping in Leeds

Leeds offers some of the UK’s best shopping – here are a few of our favourite areas:

Briggate: Leeds’ main shopping street is home to the city's big three department stores: Debenhams, House of Fraser and of course Harvey Nichols. Also find H&M, Zara, Schuh, The Body Shop, River Island and many more. 

Harvey Nichols: A Leeds institution, Harvey Nichols offers everything from high-end fashion to fine food and wine. Here are 3 things we love:

  • The designers: Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Marc Jacobs and Paul Smith are just a few of the high-end labels
  • The foodmarket: Balsamic vinegar from Modena and olive oil from Campania are among the treats to be had
  • Personal shopper: Feel like an A-lister for an afternoon with the Harvey Nichols personal shopper – find inspiration, advice and your own personal suite 

Trinity Leeds:  If you think shopping centres are staid, then check out Trinity Leeds – where buskers perform as you browse the shops, and pop-up restaurants mean dinner can always be different.

Trinity Leeds opened in 2013 and joins the city’s busiest three streets beneath a dome roof.Spend an afternoon wandering its contemporary aisles, with everything from Apple to Adidas and Mango to Marks & Spencer.

Victoria Quarter: A real hipster heaven. Victoria Quarter is all about high fashion and heritage brands. Wander its ornate floor and browse contemporary fashion at Vivienne Westwood, retro trainers at Apsecto, high-end cookware at Le Creuset and leather bags at Louis Vuitton.

Food and drink in Leeds

When the weather's cold you need something hearty and warm in your tum and Leeds' many eateries are happy to oblige...

Superb Sunday roast. Head to The Adelphi on Hunslet Road. This popular watering hole has passed the test of time; it was actually the Tetley Brewery's original flagship pub. Enjoy 21-day aged beef, Shropshire chicken or Norfolk pork and crackling with all the trimmings, including homemade Yorkshire puds, of course. Save room for the salted caramel cheesecake...

Classic pub grub with a bit of style. Pay a visit to the Town Hall Tavern. This gastro-pub claims to focus on ‘home cooked Yorkshire food’ and with dishes like twice-cooked lamb shank and Wensleydale gammon sitting alongside good old fish and chips it's hard to argue with that description.

Something spicy. Sample some authentic Indian street food washed down with a pint of craft beer at one of Leeds’ coolest new eateries.

Tucked away on Mil Street, Bundobust is a truly original place to eat.

Start with some spicy nuts before moving on to pawa bataka – rolled rice with peanuts, potato and mustard seeds, or the ultimate onion bahji. When it comes to the draft ales, we love Three Swords from the Leeds-based Kirkstall Brewing Company. 

Hidden Leeds

There’s plenty to find off the beaten track if you go looking for it…

Gallery Munro House: Culture vultures will love this secret treasure trove of photography, illustration and fine art hidden away in Munro House. Even if you've been before, with exhibitions rarely lasting longer than six weeks and some only taking place over one day, there's always something new to feast your eyes on.

Centenary Bridge Love Locks: If you've admired the locks adorning famous bridges in Paris, Venice and Prague, why not check out Leeds' own tribute to true love? Since the First World War couples have signed locks and left them attached to the bridge, throwing their keys into the water below as a sign of their undying affection.

Le Keux Vintage Salon: There's more to Le Keux than just styling hair. This hidden gem on Lands Lane is the perfect venue for hen or birthday parties and offers a range of vintage-inspired activities from pin-up photoshoots to afternoon teas and cocktail masterclasses.

Enjoy your stay in Leeds.