Things to do in Leeds
Hey everyone, I am Pragya, a final year Law student from Dubai and hola! I'm Vicente, a PhD student from Mexico and we have both lived in Leeds for a couple of years now! Leeds is a beautiful city, filled with history and culture. It is truly an amalgamation of the old and the new, and the multicultural population has only added to its beauty. Allow us to show you around and give you some insight on how you can make the most of your time at Leeds!
Food in Leeds
Pragya here! Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a mouth-watering journey through the city of Leeds. Before we dive into the food part of this blog, I recommend you grab something to eat, looking at all these delicious recommendations, you’re going to get hungry!
Leeds’s multicultural food varieties are a testament to its multicultural population. From food trucks to fine dining options, Leeds has it all. So, let’s start at our very own, Leeds University Union. Grab a delicious pizza and drink at Terrace, or if you’re in a rush stop by Common Ground for a quick toastie and coffee. If you’re looking for a chill night out with friends on campus, stop by Old Bar for a chance to show off your pool skills and have a pint while you’re at this 82 year old establishment. Last but not least, here’s a shout out (no pun intended 😆) to our latest addition, Scream ice cream and dessert parlour. Now I haven’t had the chance to visit it yet because of a certain pandemic, but the wide range of sustainably sourced flavours make me want to scream in delight!
Moving into the city itself, this blog would be incomplete without mentioning the student loved Bakery 164. Right opposite the Parkinson Building, this toastie and coffee shop is perfect for a quick bite in between lectures. Their flavour combos keep students coming back for more.
If you’re on the lookout for something spicy and packed with flavour, Leeds has a selection of cuisines that won’t disappoint. Starting with Home Chinese where authenticity is at the heart of every dish. The quaint restaurant is always bustling with students, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself on a waiting list, trust me, it’s worth it. The best part, it’s a couple of steps from Laidlaw library which automatically makes it the best escape from long study sessions. Moving on to Little Tokyo...this restaurant is the first place I met some of my closest friends and so it holds a special place in my heart. If you’re looking for a taste of Japan, then look no further than their hearty bowl of ramen and cute bento boxes. The next stop on our spice journey brings us to the Indian Tiffin room. From Indian street food to desserts, this restaurant brings you classics like Butter Chicken and Biryani to some lesser known but equally tempting dishes like Phirni and Channa Bhatura. Indian Tiffin room is my one stop shop for whenever I need a little flavour of home.
Up next, Leeds’s very own, Kirkgate Market. It’s one of the largest indoor markets in Europe and hosts a variety of fresh food and drinks. Drop by every Wednesday for the exquisite Asian Bazaar and every first and third Sunday of the month for the farmers market on Briggate. If you can think of a cuisine, the chances are you can get it at Leeds Kirkgate Market. From shawarmas to chapatis, crepes to pho, and Yorkshire puds to patisserie, you'll find a collection of the city’s finest all under one roof. It's hard to resist! Fancy cooking instead? Kirkgate also has a collection of fresh and organic ingredients at prices often cheaper than your regular grocery stores. Filled with small businesses run by generations of diverse families, it’s hard to leave Kirkgate empty handed.
No meal is complete without dessert and neither is this blog. Starting off with another student favourite, Ice Stone. The only place you’ll find Red bull and Kulfi ice cream in the same place. While you’re there, do give their famous waffles and cookie dough a taste, you won’t regret it! Another place to satisfy your sweet tooth is just a short walk away, Haute Dolci in the Light. Beautiful décor and decadent desserts make this place nothing but Insta worthy. You might find yourself waiting for a spot at this popular café, but you’ll walk away with nothing but smiles.
Pro tip: a lot of these restaurants and many more are available on your local food delivery platform. So if you can’t make it to the place, have it delivered at your doorstep instead. Bon appetite!
Inclusivity and diversity is at the heart ❤️ of the University of Leeds. Thus, festivals provide a great way for individuals to learn about and celebrate other cultures.
First up, Holi - the Festival of colours. This Hindu festival is celebrated usually in the month of March. It involves loads of singing, dancing and of course colour! Individuals great each other by throwing colour powder all over their faces. You start the festival like a blank canvas with your plain white clothes, and end the festival covered in colour looking like a walking piece of art. You will find yourself constantly running after your friends to throw some colour on them, a great way to burn all those calories from eating all those Indian sweets or ‘Mithai’. The colours represent the arrival of spring; coupled with dancing and Bollywood music, it’s the perfect way to celebrate with your friends, let loose and have a fantastic time! Holi in Leeds is usually hosted by the Indian Student’s Association and is open to everyone.
Moving on to the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims all over the world fast for a period of 18 hours, from dusk till dawn. They use this time to practice gratitude and be charitable towards those less fortunate. This is also a time to practice self-control and refrain from engaging in unhealthy and negative habits. After a long day of fasting, friends and family get together and break their fast with a delicious meal. The end of the holy month is celebrated by grand festivities of Eid. On this holiday, people pray, cook delicious food and sweets, and celebrate with their friends and family. This year the Islamic society in Leeds celebrated Eid over zoom calls. Although it wasn’t the same as meeting everyone in person, it helped make everyone feel a sense of community by remaining connected through this virtual medium. You'll also experience one of the most diverse Eid prayers filled with Muslims from all over the world at Leeds Grand Mosque.
Next up, Christmas! In Leeds, you can spot Christmas coming from a mile away. The streets are lit up with beautiful lights, shops and shopping centers are filled with Christmas trees and eager shoppers trying to make most of the Christmas sales, and the Leeds Christmas market is set up in Millennium Square inviting individuals to join in on the festivities. There is something truly comforting about sipping on some mulled wine while listening to Christmas carols, surrounded by your loved ones. If you’re not afraid of heights do give the Leeds Big Wheel a go, it’s one of the more thrilling ways to see the city. The University also holds a range of events during the Christmas break. Some of the past events include Christmas lunch, crafts and carols, and even a Harry Potter movie night. There is always exciting something for everyone.
Nightlife in Leeds
The nightlife in Leeds is quite diverse, and you don’t have to be a either a dancer or a wild drinker for enjoying your time in Leeds once the sun has set. Towards the weekend, and after a busy day of research work, I usually go for a pint of my favourite drink accompanied by a light snack or a heavier meal in one of the 180 pubs and bars around the city. Whether I decided to start the night on campus at Old Bar and Terrace or in one of the pubs nearby (Hyde Park, Royal Park, Dry Dock, The Pack Horse, Eldon, Faversham), the pub tour can always continue in one of the multiple options I can find in Headingley or the city centre, which vary from the Wetherspoons to local breweries. Fun fact, a very common activity around students is the Otley run, a 16 venue pub crawl starting in Far Headingly and finishing at the Dry Dock, which involves a group of friends wearing fancy dresses through the adventurous journey of 16 pints/shots.
If I’m in the mood of dancing and music, Leeds embraces different night clubs covering jazz, soul, funk, hip hop (HiFi, Freedom Mills) house, disco and R&B (Warehouse, Pryzm, Sheaf Street Cafeteria, Canal Mills, Mission, Mint Warehouse, Space, Blueberry Hill), indie (Wire, O2 Academy) , electronic dance (Wharf Chambers, Beaver Works, Eiger studios, Distrikt), mod, ska, Britpop (The Wardrobe), reggae, dub, roots, dancehall, dubstep (West Indian Centre, Lake Victoria), jungle (The Old Red Bus Station), punk, rock, metal (The Key Club), oldies from the 80s-2000s (Popworld), as well as reggaeton and latino sounds (Revolucion de Cuba). Many of those venues host special events, concerts, or gather different rooms where you can change the mood of your night (Headrow House, Backroom). Now, to be honest I normally go for the LGBTQ+ nightlife experience with the drag queens at Viaduct and Blayds Bar, the disco classics at Queens court or one of the traditional and modern gay bars (The New Penny, The Bridge, Bar Fibre). And of course, our very own Fruity, located in the hearth of the LUU, which I have to say is a must every student should experience at least once.
When looking for an alternative activity, I know that Leeds’ nightlife also ranges from a bowling competition (Tenpin, Hollywood Bowl, Roxy Lane), a mini golf session (Jungle Rumble, Roxy Ball), a laser tag war (Laser zone, Laser quest & iCombat), a private or public karaoke (Mix Karaoke Bar), an escape room experience with my friends (Tick Tock Unlock, The Great Escape Game, Escape Hunt, Para Park) or simply enjoying my favourite blockbuster movie or independent film (Vue Cinema, Everyman Cinemas, Hyde Park Picture House). In addition, at specific dates of the year, the afternoon and night turn into a colourful celebration due to events such as Pint of Science, Leeds West Indian Carnival, Leeds Pride (August), the Light Night (October), bonfire night (5th November), Leeds Christmas lights switch-on event (November), and the German Christmas Market (November-December).
Music & the Arts
Leeds also offers different music festivals throughout the year including Leeds Festival at Bramham Park ( the most famous rock festival in the UK), Live at Leeds, Let’s Rock, Slam Dunk, Otley Folk, Mint, Dammnation, Leeds Fake, Black Music and Gold sounds festival. In addition, Leeds assembles different spaces for the expression of other art forms. For instance, a walk in the city is a great opportunity for discovering all the expressions, principally the sculptures and street art around the city (including Burley Banksy). Of course, I enjoy immersing myself into the halls of the Art Gallery (my favourite), the Leeds city museum to understand the history of the city, and the Royal Armouries Museum which surpassed my expectations, especially in the Asian section. When I want to show some historical buildings to visiting friends, Kirkstall Abbey is an essential stop, however Harewood House undeniably gives you the complete Pride and Prejudice/Downtown Abbey fantasy. Leeds is also home of the largest film festival outside London (LIFF), and many classical music concerts take place on campus (School of Music) and at Leeds Town Hall. Occasionally, some Broadway productions among other plays can be appreciated at Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House.
I need to admit that I am not the best at shopping, yet if that is your favourite activity, make sure you go to Trinity, the main mall in Leeds with 120 restaurants, shops, bars and a cinema. A couple of blocks away, John Lewis offers different types of high-quality clothes and home products, but if you definitely go for designer labels, Thornton’s Arcade is your place. For more affordable options, I would say places like TKMaxx and the charity shops are suitable for finding great deals and nice seasonal products (a.k.a. that’s where I get my Christmas panettone). However, one of my cherished places is definitely the Corn Exchange, a beautiful building finished in 1863, suitable for those looking for a warm coffee, nice shoes, a comfortable jacket, a colourful dress, souvenirs from Leeds and Yorkshire, or the next piercing and tattoo.
Sports and more
Any sports fan? Make sure you have a look at the scheduled rugby and cricket events from Headingley Rugby Stadium, as well as the Premiere League matches at Elland Road, the home of Leeds United. If you rather prefer to practice them, you can join the sports clubs from the university or any other independent club from the city. In my case, I like spending some time at the gym, but aside from working out, attending fitness classes or thinking to join one of the CrossFit places in Leeds; other activities I have already tried included playing tennis at the Hyde Park courts, indoor bouldering at Kirkstall lab, volleyball at The Edge, and jogging from Woodhouse to Roundhay Park. For all the gamers, there are some stores on the Headrow as well as many gaming clubs you can find online and across the city, including those for the Pokémon Go and the role playing game fans.
My personal selection
Last but not least if you want to know my personal choices, I have to say that foodwise, a very spicy piri piri chicken from HFC, spicy Chinese pig feet from Red Chill, a bowl of noodles from Noodlesta, a whole Japanese meal from HanaMatsuri, the Indian curry and Yorkshire cheese naan from the Cat’s Pyjamas, the Greek pork yeeros box from Mythos, the provola pizza from Ecco, any Thai dish from Zaap Thai, fries and burguer from Five Guys or a Turkish shawarma from the Kirkgate Market are responsible of my cravings right now. I also love going to the bars and pubs next to the river Aire (Waterfronts, Aire bar), the tea houses in the arcades near Briggate, getting some donuts from Dukes or even Trinity’s Krispy Kreme, a coffee from Teapot at Kirkgate Market, a delicious Oreo bubble tea from the Leeds University Union’s Pearls, and when I feel celebratory Mexican food from Lupe’s Cantina is a very good option. Still, my favourite activity in the city is walking next to the river from the train station to Kirkstall Abbey, going to Meanwood park and the Hollies, and spending some time at Gledhow Valley Woods.
We hope you enjoyed this little journey through Leeds. As you can see, there are many activities you can do on your spare time, and we both assure, some of them will remain in your heart and memories as a Leeds student.