Leeds is a wonderful city. It’s the 3rd biggest city in the UK, yet it feels welcoming and homely. It’s easy to get to being just two hours from London and Edinburgh, 20 minutes from York and an hour from Manchester by train, and with it’s own airport. It’s full of history, culture, food and shopping and the people are oh-so-friendly! Whatever your interests, and whether you live in the Leeds, are visiting for the day or travelling for a longer trip, there are so many things to do in Leeds without even leaving the city centre. So here is my list of 67 things to do in Leeds city centre, with a warning that the food and drink section is by far the largest (if you’re familiar with my blog this won’t come as any surprise to you).
Museums & Galleries
Visit Leeds City Museum, located at Millennium Square right in the heart of the city. There are six galleries to explore with displays such as the famous Leeds tiger, the mummy of Nesyammun and changing community displays reflecting people’s lives in the city today.
Visit the Royal Armouries at Leeds Dock to explore arms and armour from across the world over five floors of displays.
Learn about the history of medicine at Thackeray Medical Museum. I’m not sure if this strictly counts as Leeds city centre but it’s close enough, and this former Leeds Union workhouse is definitely worth a visit.
Admire modern and contemporary British art at Leeds City Art Gallery before stopping for a cup of tea in the beautiful tiled hall cafe, and it’s free (entry to the gallery, not the cup of tea!)
Celebrate sculpture at The Henry Moore Institute. Their changing programme showcases historical, modern and contemporary sculptures from all over the world.
Head to Leeds Gallery and Cafe 164 at Munro House to browse photography, illustration and fine art at this independent commercial art gallery.
Combine contemporary art and great beer at The Tetley. They have changing exhibitions, various workshops and a great food menu too.
Get lost in Leeds Central Library. Even if you’re not that into books, its worth a visit just to look at the stunning interior of the grade II listed building.
Take a tour of the Town Hall to admire views of the city from the clock tower and descend into the dark prison cells. The tours aren’t running at the moment due to refurbishments of the roof, but as soon as they are this is a must do in Leeds!
Book onto the Leeds Kirkgate Market heritage tour. I love the market (I’ve even written a blog post about it here), so I couldn’t leave this off my list of things to do in Leeds city centre. Attend a free tour and learn about the history of the market, the stories of the traders and even visit the first floor balcony for a unique perspective. You’ll need to book in advance which you can do here.
Take a walking tour of the city. Whilst we’re on the subject of tours, the best way to learn about the city is definitely a walking tour and there are loads on offer. Tales of a City Tours offer pay-as-you-feel tours led by refugees, or Leeds City Walking Tours have a huge range of historical and cultural tours.
Find some peace in Leeds Minster. You can wander around for free, or book onto a tour for £7.50 and explore the treasures of the 19th Century building in the company of a Minster guide.
Admire the UK’s tallest mural ‘Athena Rising’, which is apparently taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York! The mural can be seen from the station and depicts an owl alongside the moon and a crown.
Venture along Leeds Welcome Art Trail. Starting at the train station, the trail takes you through the city centre past the work of local artists, illustrators and sculptors in the direction of Mabgate. Leeds List have written a brilliant guide to the trail which you can read here.
Walk the Waterfront Art Trail. Another art trail for you, this time along (you guessed it!) Leeds’ waterfront from Holbeck to Leeds Dock. Again Leeds List have covered this in detail so have a read here.
Search for owls on the Leeds Owl Trail. Pick up a map for £1 at the Leeds Visitor Centre and discover the 25 owl statues around the city centre to understand a part of Leeds’ rich history.
Have a night at the theatre. There’s plenty of choice in Leeds when it comes to theatres, so there’s bound to be something on whenever you choose to go. Try Leeds Grand Theatre, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds Playhouse, Carriageworks, Leeds City Varieties or the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre.
Listen to live music at a venue of your choice. For bigger artists head to First Direct Arena, for indie music try O2 Academy and for smaller bands head to Belgrave Music Hall, The Wardrobe or Sela Bar to name just a few.
Food & Drink
Eat, drink and learn with on a food tour with Leeds Food Tours. The signature Local Leeds tour takes you to six different venues around the city and provides you with food at each venues, a load of foodie history and a few drinks along the way – making it one of the ultimate things to do in Leeds city centre.
Learn to cook the perfect steak at Blackhouse Steak School. Learn not only a whole host of knowledge about beef, but also how to pair it with wines from Australia, Argentina, Spain and Ireland.
Embark on a Gin Journey. Gin Journey run regular gin tours which include 5 samples of gin, 5 gin cocktails, a chauffeur to take you to 5 different venues, and a whole load of new gin knowledge – the best of things to do in Leeds city centre for gin lovers! Tickets can be booked here.
Try tea tasting at Le Chalet. Spend an hour tasting various blends of tea and learning about their origin before enjoying your favourite with a warm scone, clotted cream and jam. The only thing you need to worry about is which goes first, the jam or the cream?! Click here to book.
Learn how to make the perfect coffee. North Star offer a 3 hour home barista course where you can learn about the key principles of using coffee, sensory skills, coffee supply chain, latte art and much, much more. No prior experience is needed, just a love of coffee! Similarly, 200 Degrees offer a variety of courses such as Basic Barista, Home Brew and Latte Art.
Try some new wines with a Yorkshire Wine School wine tasting. They hold loads of different tastings on an evening at Radisson Blu hotel, but if that doesn’t suit you I’d highly recommend a tasting flight at Veeno as well.
Enrol in the School of Chocolate at Hotel Chocolat’s Roast and Conch. Try a bean to bar experience (I’ve done this and it was excellent), a chocolate lock-in or a tasting experience and learn everything you need to know and more about chocolate.
Compete in a food challenge. This is one of the things to do in Leeds city centre that I haven’t partaken in, mainly because I wouldn’t want to embarrass everyone else participating with my incredible eating skills. If you want to give it a go you could try Tapped’s Challenge Pizza (named ‘a furious disc of agony’ and topped with a sauce containing drops of a secret ingredient measuring almost 7 million units on the Scoville scale); Mojo’s Mad Dog food challenge (eat 5 extremely spicy chicken wings without leaving the table, taking a drink or wiping your face); or MEATliquor’s Triple Chilli Challenge (a burger, a hotdog and fries all covered in Jalapeños and eaten in under 10 minutes).
Take a brewery tour. Brewtown Tours are your best bet for covering a variety of bases as they’ll pick you up outside The Queen’s Hotel right in the city centre and take you to three different breweries (Quirky Ales, Northern Monk and North Brewing Co.).
Crawl around Leeds’ historic pubs whilst learning about the history of beer in Leeds. The Leeds Heritage Beer Tour is run by Mike, who is incredibly passionate and knowledgable about everything beer-related, and will take you to five venues dating back to the Victorian era. And yes, you get to sample the beer along the way.
Understand whisky at The Whisky Lounge. It describes itself as “a place in which EVERYONE is encouraged to develop and nurture their interest and passion in the Water of Life” and holds whisky tastings, blending workshops and more in the city centre throughout the year. Find out more here.
Find a secret supper club. Not the easiest to find or book onto because they’re somewhat secret, but if you can get into one of these pop up dining experiences you’re guaranteed to have a great night! As they’re a secret I won’t disclose my favourites here, but send me a message if you’d like more information.
Learn to cook at one of the many cooking classes in Leeds. Hansa’s and Chaophraya hold regular cooking classes in the city centre, or if you’re happy to venture just outside of the city you must try Leeds Cookery School, which I’ve written a blog post about here.
Indulge in Leeds’ street food scene. If you like your street food vendors in one place then visit Assembly Underground, Trinity Kitchen or Leeds Kirkgate Market. If you want to read more about Leeds’s street food have a read of my blog post here, and Leeds Food Tours will be launching a special street food tour next year.
Eat as much as you wish at one of Leeds’ all-you-can-eat restaurants. My favourites are Crown Buffet for Chinese, Fazenda for meat, Blue Sakura for sushi (have a read about it here), Gaucho for brunch on a Saturday and the Wellington Pizza Pub for (unsurprisingly) pizza. If it’s a Sunday you have even more choice with Hansa’s, Thai Edge, Sukothai, Aagrah and more offering an all-you-can-eat menu.
Splash out on a tasting menu. If all you-can eat isn’t your scene, why not go high end with a tasting menu? Great options in Leeds are Man Behind the Curtain (which you can read about in this blog post), Vice and Virtue and Home but you’ll need to book well in advance.
Play with some pussy at the Kitty cafe. The food and drink isn’t anything special here and service can be slow, but it doesn’t matter when you’re surrounded by the cutest kittens who just want to play!
Enjoy one of Leeds’ rooftop beer gardens. There are some lovely rooftop bars in Leeds including Headrow House, Belgrave Music Hall, East 59th, Issho, Angelica, Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Cafe, Sky Lounge, Everyman Cinema, Victoria Gate Casino, East Parade Social.
Take a ride on the water taxi which runs between Granary Wharf and Leeds Dock. It’s a little touristy but it’s a lot of fun and a great way to see Leeds for just £1. You can also track where the boats are here, which is pretty cool.
Go for a waterfront walk along the Leeds Liverpool canal. You have a choice of which direction you head in from the city centre, starting at Granary Wharf and heading along the Leeds Liverpool canal towards Kirkstall and Armley or starting at Leeds dock and heading along the Aire & Calder Navigation towards Thwaite Mills.
Hire the Kirkstall Flyboat! If there’s a big group of you and you can plan in advance, hiring the ‘party boat’ is a really fun day or night out. The boat is complete with tables and chairs and, most importantly, a bar and they have a range of catering options including afternoon tea and curry nights.
Explore Leeds’ many arcades. Browse every type of shop and admire the architecture in the Victoria Quarter, Thornton’s Arcade, Queen’s Arcade, Grand Arcade and County Arcade.
Shop at beautiful, independent retailers in Leeds’ Corn Exchange. Not only is this building steeped with history, it’s also home to some fantastic shops including my favourite, the Great Yorkshire Shop. I have a whole blog post on shopping in the Corn Exchange which you can read here.
Shop high street fashion at Leeds Trinity. This is where you’ll find all your favourite high street shops such as Topshop, Mango, Primark and New Look. There’s also a floor of restaurants to choose from and even a rooftop bar.
Wander around Victoria Gate, Leeds’ newest shopping centre. Featuring a John Lewis and some excellent restaurants, this shopping centre shouldn’t be missed.
Fun & Games
Play some seriously crazy golf at Junkyard Golf with three themed indoor courses and plenty of cocktails. If you’re going at a busy time make sure to book ahead, which you can do here.
Get your pong on with beer pong at Roxy Ball Room. As well as beer pong tables they have ping pong, pool tables, crazy golf and shuffleboard, not forgetting the food and drink!
Drink and bowl at Roxy Lanes, where you can book a full size ten pin bowling lane right in the city centre.
Play shuffle board at Brew Dog, whilst drinking award winning craft beers such as Punk IPA, Elvis Juice or one of their collaborations such as All Roads (Lead North) with North Brewing Co.
Get your geek on with retro arcade games, Pokemon card games, board games and American candy at Geek Retreat. You can buy a whole host of geek culture merchandise such as comic, posters, figures and memorabilia to encourage you to “stop in and geek out”.
Play a game of giant chess. Head to Victoria Gardens in front of Leeds City Art Gallery for a game of giant chess in the sunshine (because it’s always sunny up north up right?).
Play petanque! Visit the petanque court in Bond Square and play for free – there’s even a statue of a Frenchman to demonstrate for you.
Shout out Bingo! This is one of my favourites things to do in Leeds, although I’m yet to win anything. Mecca is the best place for Bingo in the city centre, and if you go on a Monday you can play for free.
Take your chances at Victoria Gate Casino, the ‘super casino of the North’. With 140 slots, a 100 seat poker area and 80 electronic gaming terminals as well as food, drink, live sports and comedy nights, it’s pretty hard to get bored in there!
All the Other Things to do in Leeds City Centre
Scare yourself silly on a ghost hunt. I haven’t done any of these but I’m desperate to at some point… any volunteers to go with me? Armley Mills or Leeds Old Workhouse (now Thackeray Medical Museum) are both good locations for an overnight hunt!
Investigate your friends at a murder mystery event. In researching this I’ve just a found an Abba themed murder mystery event (take a chance on murder)… it’s already happened but here’s hoping it happens again because that sounds amazing! Aside from that, there seem to be a variety of companies offer murder mystery evenings at different venues in Leeds so have a Google or send me a message if you need help finding one.
Get creative on an evening city photography tour. There are a few companies offering this, but the best that I’ve found looks to be this one. I’ll give it a go soon and let you know!
Learn a new craft at Fabric-ation, with craft workshops such as bookbinding, jewellery and metalwork, leatherwork and textiles. Have a read here and find something to suit you!
Scream “HOLY SH*T”at underground pro wrestling. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but I’ve been a couple of times now and it’s one of the things to do in Leeds city centre that I’d recommend trying at least one, I promise it’s really fun. Details can be found here and if you’re not convinced have a read of my blog post about it.
Relax at at spa. Very much the opposite to the above, if relaxation is your thing then there are a few options in the city centre. Lush is INCREDIBLE but very pricey, I also love RMUK and Millie’s for a wide range of treatments.
Learn the art of Burlesque. Leeds Burlesque offer a variety of classes, courses and workshops for beginners through to experts so why not give it a go and learn something new?
Take Salsa lessons at Casa Columbiana. They offer weekly Bachata, Salsa and Kizomba classes and serve authentic latin food, cocktails and coffee.
Have a laugh at a comedy club. There are a few venues offering comedy in Leeds, and where you need to go will depend on the day of the week. Try HIFI, Wardrobe, Leeds City Varieties and, of course, Leeds Comedy Club.
Uncover your family’s history with a genealogy workshop at Leeds Central Library. As well as a huge collection of over 18,000 books, local newspaper archive, journals, directories, maps, photographs, electoral registers, playbills and parish records, they offer family history workshops and drop-in sessions.
Develop (see what I did there?) your photography and printing skills at Aire Street dark rooms. You can become a member and book onto a printing session to use their facilities, or book onto a 5 week beginners course to learn the basics of dark room photo development.
Belt out your favourite tunes at Mix Karaoke! Maybe this should have gone in food and drink category as I’m not sure anyone does karaoke sober (correct me if I’m wrong), but either way it’s a highly entertaining way to spend an evening.
So, with all of those incredible things to do in Leeds city centre, which one will you be doing next? This post will be kept up to date with new things that I discover, and if there’s anything you think I should add please let me know. Oh, and if this has been useful please use the icons at the bottom of the post to share on social media!