How to spend 72 hours in Leeds

By Barbara Henderson

You will be surprised how much you can pack into a weekend in Leeds. Take some inspiration from our weekend guide.

Day one

At Leeds Station in the heart of the city centre, you’ll find a wealth of visitor information at Leeds Visitor Centre, the city’s Travel and Information Centre. You’ll find plenty of information to make the most of your stay – check performance times, book tickets, pick up a free pocket guide and what’s on leaflets and look at the best travel options. If in doubt, a team of advisers are on hand to assist and point you in the right direction.

Stop for lunch at one of the many cafe bars and restaurants throughout the city, there are options to suits all tastes and budgets. For a spot of people watching al fresco style, head to The Restaurant Bar and Grill on City Square or Italian family restaurant Casa Mia on Millennium Square.

The Light on The Headrow is a cosmopolitan entertainment and shopping retreat home to a range of world cuisine under a one stylish glass roof, visitors can choose from a selection of offerings. You’ll also be spoiled for choice at Trinity Leeds, the city’s fabulous shopping centre.

After lunch, stretch your legs and expand your mind with a trip to the many free cultural attractions on offer. The magnificent Town Hall, home to Leeds International Concert Season events, is a prime example of the Victorian architecture that at one time dominated the city. Next door stands Leeds Art Gallery, where you can enjoy some of the best collections of 20th-century British art outside of London, and its Tiled Hall Café is well worth a look. Also next to the gallery is The Henry Moore Institute, named after this famous Yorkshire icon.

Stroll past Millennium Square, where you may catch some street entertainment, an international market or open-air concert. Leave plenty of time to visit Leeds City Museum. Come face-to-face with a tiger, meet ‘Nessy’ the Egyptian mummy, learn about the evolution of Leeds from pre-historic times to the modern day, and discover the some of the unusual collections some of Leeds’ greatest collectors.

If you prefer to escape the city crowds, head to the Royal Armouries. This national museum, with its 8,000 exhibits, demonstrations and re-enactments is a short distance out of town and can be reached by a stroll alongside the River Aire. After returning to the hotel to freshen up, what better way to start your evening than with a delicious meal only a stone’s throw from the Leeds Playhouse? With pre-theatre menus available at the stylish The Wardrobe and the French restaurant, Kendells Bistro, a night out shouldn’t break the bank. If you prefer something to spice up the evening, try Aagrah, opposite The Wardrobe, with Kashmiri cuisine guaranteed to warm you up.

The award-winning Leeds Playhouse has a national and international reputation for staging some of the most exciting shows around. The seasonal programme is diverse, showcasing talents of new writers, alongside RSC productions and comedy nights. For West End shows and productions by Opera North, try the Grand Theatre, a true feast for the senses.

The magnificent Town Hall, home to Leeds International Concert Season events, is a prime example of the Victorian architecture that at one time dominated the city

Day two

With its compact array of shops, arcades and emporiums, Leeds is a shoppers’ haven, and has rightly earned its title ‘Knightsbridge of the North’. Shoppers can revel in labels such as Vivienne Westwood and All Saints under the stunning stained glass roof of the Victoria Quarter. Adjoining the arcade and top of the list for many visitors, is Harvey Nichols or ‘Harvey Nic’s’ as it is affectionately known by locals.

If you are a little overwhelmed by the choice on offer, you make want to make the most of their personal shopper service. A mix of independent boutiques can be found opposite in Thornton’s Arcade and Queens Arcade, with high street favourites found on and around Briggate. If shopping has built up a hunger, head to Olive & Rye in Queens Arcade for one of the best sandwiches in Leeds.

For a treat, splash out and dine at Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Café in the Victoria Quarter or for true gastropub cuisine guaranteed to fulfil the larger appetite try The White Swan, next to the City Varieties, or The Reliance slightly further out of the centre, on North Street. And to quench your thirst with a real taste of Leeds, try one of Leeds Breweries’ distinctive ales which have built up a big following in the city. As well as being stocked in a growing number of Leeds pubs the brewery also runs three of its own, all in the city centre.

If you’re feeling adventurous after lunch, visit some of the top attractions lying only a few miles out of the city centre, and are easily accessible by bus or car. Harewood House is a breathtaking country house and is the seat of the 8th Earl and Countess of Harewood. It offers a lively season events programme.

Harewood House is a truly breathtaking country house

Harewood House is a truly breathtaking country house

Alternatively, take a trip to the nearby suburb of Roundhay and visit the key attractions – Roundhay Park and Tropical World. Stroll around 700 acres of rolling parkland and lakes that make Roundhay Park one of Europe’s largest municipal gardens. Nearby, Tropical World is one of the UK’s most popular garden tourist attractions. Home to the largest collection of tropical plants outside Kew Gardens, it is also the only place in Leeds to meet meerkats, snakes and butterflies.

If choosing your evening outfit was difficult, you may have a task deciding where to head out for your evening meal – the choice is endless. For European flavours, treat yourself to a meal at Raymond Blanc’s critically-acclaimed Brasserie Blanc. This old Victorian building by Leeds canal has been converted into a warm, cosy French eatery. With brick-vaulted ceilings, cast-iron pillars and candlelight it offers the perfect mix for a relaxed evening out with friends or family.

If your tastebuds prefer something a little more Eastern, visit local favourites Fuji Hiro for Japanese noodles and soups served at honest prices in simple surroundings. Alternatively, try Chaophraya restaurant for an unforgettable fine dining Thai experience.

The night is still young, and Leeds’ nightlife can be found with only a short walk in almost any direction. If bar hopping appeals, head to Call Lane, where back-to-back bars are on offer, including uber cool Maven, crowd-pleasing Jake’s Bar & Still Room and Oporto alongside gay-friendly Queen’s Court and Fibre. For a more alternative soundtrack and bar experience, head across town to North Bar, Sela, Blind Tyger and award-winning MOJO, where crowds dance the night away until the early hours.

If you’re feeling adventurous after lunch, visit some of the top attractions lying only a few miles out of the city centre, and are easily accessible by bus or car

Day three

After a big night out, you may need a lie in. But if you still have the energy after breakfast, take a relaxed wander through the city as it’s just coming to life. The Leeds Farmers’ Market held at Leeds Kirkgate open market on the first and third Sunday of the month, offers plenty of foods direct from the farmer’s field and with samples to try and more than 70 stalls taking part. Alternatively, take time out for a quick pamper and a lazy Sunday, visit Elemis in Harvey Nichols for a relaxing facial or try a massage treatment at Neal’s Yard.

Finish off your morning with a Sunday lunch to remember. Try the ever popular ‘Sunday Joint’ at the HiFi Club, where Sunday lunch and traditional roasts combine with a live jazz, blues and funk. Free entry is an added bonus, but arrive early to beat the crowds to a table.

Across the river on Hunslet Road lies The Adelphi. This Tetley Heritage Inn serves as a fine example of late Victorian architecture, as well as being one of the best-kept secrets as a place offering it all – continental beers, cask ale, quality wines, unique decor and of course the good food! If you have time, spend the last few hours of Sunday afternoon watching one of the latest movies and art house productions at the Hyde Park Picture House. As Leeds’ premier art house cinema it is located near the student populations of Hyde Park and Headingley, with its pubs and vintage shops worth a visit.

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Image credits: ©Alastair Wallace/; Kasto/; Royal Armouries; Simon Dewhurst Photography/Trinity Leeds; Tom Joy/Hyde Park Picture House

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