Easy Escapes: Leeds

Fancy some great shopping and a fun night on the town? Then try a short break to the UK's third largest city

Fancy some great shopping and a fun night on the town? Then try a short break to the UK’s third largest city

Why go? Yorkshire’s unofficial capital is easy to enjoy, with a very walkable city centre and lots of exciting developments to see. A rich architectural heritage, including historic markets and shopping arcades, is matched by a contemporary energy being fuelled by fresh investment and some 250,000 students.

When: Anytime, but check what’s coming up as you might want to book tickets for bands, shows and festivals such as Live at Leeds (2-4 May, liveatleeds.com) and the Leeds Festival at Bramham Park (22-24 August, leedsfestival.com).

The night is for the young: Leeds Town Hall at dusk

Where to stay: Popular with hen parties, the three-star Bewleys Hotel (from £63, bewleyshotels.com) is ten minutes’ walk from the city centre with 334 bland but comfortable rooms and a hearty buffet breakfast (from £7.50). Other options include 42 The Calls (42thecalls.co.uk), Malmaison Leeds (malmaison.com) and The New Ellington (thenewellington.com).

You really must: Check out what’s on at the 13,000-capacity First Direct Arena (0844 248 1585; firstdirectarena.com), which opened last September and can be reached on foot from the city centre – upcoming appearances include Robbie Williams, Pearl Jam and Lee Evans. Soccer fans can usually get tickets on the day for matches at Leeds United (from £25, leedsunited.com), now under new ownership. The city’s great strength, though, is its welcoming shops, bars and restaurants, and there are also attractions such as the free-entry Leeds Art Gallery (leeds.gov.uk/artgallery), Royal Armouries (royalarmouries.org) and Harewood House and Gardens (harewood.org).


White sky thinking: dine Mexican at Cielo Blanco in Trinity Leeds

Dine at: Conran-designed Crafthouse (crafthouse-restaurant.com), on the fifth floor of Trinity Leeds, is a slickly-run contemporary restaurant where Yorkshire-born executive chef Lee Bennett serves regional treats such as Bridlington lobster (bisque £8.50) and Denby Dale lamb chops (£20) cooked on a Josper grill. Kick off the evening with a gin-based Wasabi Martini (£8.50) at buzzy Angelica (angelica-restaurant.com) on the floor above. You can also dine French at much-loved Kendells Bistro (kendellsbistro.co.uk) or Mexican at loud and colourful Cielo Blanco (cieloblanco.co.uk).

Drink at: Leeds is made for bar-hopping. Start at Roxy Ball Room (roxyballroom.co.uk) which serves cocktails in tea-pots (£22.50 for four) and has wildly contested ping-pong with bowling lanes to come (book a table online). A short walk east in bar-packed Call Lane you’ll find the downstairs Jake’s (jakesbar.co.uk) and the upstairs, Prohibition-styled The Maven (themavenbar.com). Further north, there’s more partying to be had in Merrion and Belgrave Streets – seek out Blind Tyger (blindtyger.co.uk), above Sandinista on Cross Belgrave Street, where the thought-through cocktails certainly say ‘hello!’ and include an intriguing Popcorn Mai Tai (£8.50).

Second life: don’t miss the vintage fairs at Leeds Corn Exchange © imagepalace.co.uk

Bring home: Leeds is a famously windy city so it’s no surprise it has some splendid late Victorian shopping arcades, including Thornton Arcade (1877), Queen’s Arcade (1889) and County Arcade (1898), all close to the pedestrianised shopping boulevard of Briggate. It’s also where Marks and Spencer started life in the not-to-be-missed Kirkgate Market (leedskirkgatemarket.co.uk), where you can pick up haberdashery and ‘traditional smalls’, along with excellent fish, fruit and veg. Grandest of all is the oval-shaped Leeds Corn Exchange (leedscornexchange.co.uk), which opened in 1864 and is now home to choice vintage boutiques such as Alice Found Treasure (marketplace.asos.com) and Mad Elizabeth (marketplace.asos.com) – try to be there when Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair (7 June and onwards, judysvintagefair.co.uk) is in town.

Cosy times: bag a bargain blanket at Fabric-ation © imagepalace.co.uk

For something now, Trinity Leeds (trinityleeds.com) opened just over a year ago with 100-plus shops including new to the area brands such as Apple, Victoria’s Secret and the Everyman cinema. Head to Victoria Quarter (v-q.co.uk) for luxury stores and originals such as Leeds-grown fashion pioneers AQ/AQ (aqaq.com). Small independent micro-retailers are another strength – have a look round the Handpicked Hall outlets in Grand Arcade and Fabric-ation (fabric-ation.co.uk) in The Light.

Book now: British Airways (ba.com) flies from London Heathrow to Leeds Bradford, from £95 return. A taxi to the city centre takes around 30 minutes and costs £24 one-way. For rail services see nationalrail.co.uk.

Info: See visitleeds.co.uk and leeds-list.com.

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