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Top Things to Do in Leeds, UK

by Marina Utami
Top Things to Do in Leeds

Since I came back to real life in Indonesia, I have been thinking a lot about the past year. Leeds. The city where I called ‘Home’, the town where I have spent the longest time away from my hometown. This stage of my life has put numerous memories and feeling towards Leeds. I had a fun student life where I finally crossed my ultimate bucket list ever in 2016. And therefore to commemorate the joy of time, I tried to gather some top things to do in Leeds.

Leeds University Marina at Leeds University

I am not gonna lie, it was kinda hard to even for me to explore them all in one year. Nonetheless, if you just wanna try to visit them in one week, I think I can make a good itinerary and some travel guide for you 🙂

Leeds Travel Guide:

The Vintage Architecture

Leeds offer many amazing interiors and exterior architecture around the city. Take a peek on the crowded Kirkgate Market rooftop, and you can see the old details are well preserved! The Leeds Corn Exchange has the loveliest part of the town. I can just stare and spend my morning coffee here just looking at the details and the people. Another favourite thing to do is watch a movie at Hyde Park Picture House which is so-called–to-be one of the eldest movie theatre in the UK. Oh and of course.. The shopping malls in Leeds in the heart of the centre are super gorgeous. Even for a non-shopaholic like me, I can spend one day around the City Centre mall halls, just to admire the beauty of the architecture. They do have complete collections that are comparable with London, but the heritage and the stories behind it.. Leeds win! 😉

Top Things to Do in Leeds

Hyde Park Picture House

Leeds City Center Mall

Shopping Mall Architecture in Leeds

Top Things to Do in Leeds - Kirkgate MarketTop Things to Do in Leeds - Kirkgate MarketLeeds Grand TheatreLeeds City Center Mall

Useful tips:

  • Visit Leeds Corn Exchange, Kirkgate Market, Leeds Public Library, Hyde Park Picture House, shopping hall around the city centre. Amazing!

The University of Leeds

After went around visiting the Universities around the UK, I have yet realised that Leeds has a good structure of the university building. Whereas other put the building separately around the town, Leeds put their own in one whole blocks for themselves. Make it easier for all students from different major to commute around.

Top Things to Do in Leeds - University of LeedsOne thing for sure, the University has plenty of history and inheritance that they tried to preserved. My favourite place was the Clothworkers building that they kept in its original state. It has red bricks walls,  beautiful gate and amazing Great Hall inside. They even keep the door with an old wood (with enhancing electronic open door of course). Another place you should see is the Parkinson Building that becomes the main characteristic of the University. It is the largest building with the clock tower that you can easily spot from afar. The inside architecture is already amazing, moreover the Brotherton library inside, so damn beautiful (sadly, it’s not for public). But hey, they also put a gallery and exhibition for the public to see. And as they put lots of space for gardens, expect lots of students laying on the grass during summer.

Marina at Leeds University

me and my study buddies in University of Leeds

Leeds University Leeds University Top Things to Do in Leeds - University of LeedsLeeds University

I am saying this not only because I am the University of Leeds student, but also because I have yet analysed other universities in the UK, and I can’t see any reason why you don’t want to spend more time here. So, if you have plenty of time to spare in Leeds, visit the university won’t hurt!

Kirkstall Abbey

Another favourite spot of mine in Leeds. Even though its a bit far from the city centre and you have to take the bus to come here, it would be worth! Here’s why; First, it’s free. Second, it’s enormously gorgeous. Even the other paid Abbey I visited in the UK, is not as good as the one in here. You can get lost and go around the ruins for a whole day. Psst.. don’t forget to bring picnic box here because they even have spots to eat inside the building!

Leeds Kirkstall Abbey Top Things to Do in Leeds - Kirkstall Abbey Top Things to Do in Leeds - Kirkstall Abbey Top Things to Do in Leeds - Kirkstall Abbey Top Things to Do in Leeds - Kirkstall AbbeyAnd that is why, I always took all of my friends who came over to visit Kirkstall Abbey (Couldn’t even count how many times I have been here!)

Useful tips:

  • They open start from 10 am – 5 pm
  • Bus to come here is number 33, 33A
  • Oh, don’t forget to bring lunch picnic as well!

The Beautiful Festivals & Events

Leeds has many festivals and events that even myself didn’t have time to attend. But of course, there are several big events that should not be missed! The best event that I ever visited in was during the Leeds Light Night Festival. The town turns off their big lights and using many small neon lights with colourful events for one night. Every place opens up their doors with free events that able to enchanted all the visitors. I remember that I went to the Grand Theatre and saw the acoustic event with gorgeous ambience. The best one was the dancing play from the Carriageworks Theatre, as the performance was stunning and super professional. The city was super beautiful at night because of these lights all around. I wouldn’t know these amazing places if it weren’t for Leeds Light Night!

Another festival that you probably should go is the Guy Fox night where they make huge bonfire and beautiful fireworks play! I had a good time spent it on Roundhay Park, the largest park in Leeds. Halloween night is also interesting as people dressed up and filled the nights with cool ambience! 🙂

Top Things to Do in Leeds - Leeds Light NightTop Things to Do in Leeds - Leeds Light NightLeeds Light NightLeeds Lights NightTop Things to Do in Leeds - Guy Fox NightLeeds Light Night Leeds City HallUseful tips:

  • My recommendation of the festival to come: Leeds Light Night, Halloween Night, Leeds Light Switch, Leeds Beer Festival, Film Festivals, Guy Fox night.
  • If you like Music Festival, Leeds is the winner: Leeds Festival, Let’s Rock Leeds.
  • Couple of bands and singer also often perform here in Leeds: Belgrave Canteen and Hall, or Arena Stadium.

The Canal, Waterside and Leeds Dock

Leeds and Liverpool Canal that stretch 127 miles is the most popular one in the UK. You can get on the boat from Leeds and get on Liverpool for 3 days! But if you are not as rich as I am (having a real boat), you can just walk around the canal. The canal is a pretty long road across Leeds so you can start anywhere and stop wherever you want. When I went to Kirkstall Abbey, my housemates decided to walk by using the Canal road back to our house. It was 2 hours walk but the view was good. We even get to greet horses along the way!

Top Things to Do in Leeds - Leeds Liverpool Canal StreetTop Things to Do in Leeds - Leeds Liverpool Canal StreetTop Things to Do in Leeds - Leeds Liverpool Canal Street As much as I like the canal walking, I love the waterside even more. When me and my housemate, Max decided to visit the Waterside Festival, we took the chance to walk along the canal again to get to Granary Wharf. Granary Wharf is the heart of the waterside canal in Leeds. You can walk from there till Leeds Dock with plenty of bridges and beautiful view.

Top Things to Do in Leeds CanalTop Things to Do in Leeds CanalTop Things to Do in Leeds CanalTop Things to Do in Leeds Canal Top Things to Do in Leeds Canal

Useful tips:

  • Free Taxi Boat ride from Leeds Dock to Granary Wharf (and return!)
  • Several free events along the canals and Granary Wharf that you can try (make sure to set the date)
  • Prepare your walking boots!

The Museums

When you come to the UK, of course, the museums is the must visit one. There were a couple of cool museums in Leeds as I would recommend. But you can always visit them along the road that I mentioned above; Kirkstall Abbey has Abbey Museum (paid museum) that would give you knowledge about the Abbey. The Leeds Dock is where the Royal Armouries Museum is; a good day to spend if you are a family coming with children. They have lots of play performance that your kids will enjoy! The Leeds Liverpool Canal passed the Leeds Industrial Museum, where they have stored 3 levels of antique places (Did you know that Leeds is where the Movie was born?!). And if you were already in the city centre, Leeds City Museum and Leeds Gallery is the best place to visit to get to know the city even more.

Leeds Town Hall

Useful Tips:

  • Make sure you’ll go the museum along the way to other places (read above). Save plenty of time!
  • If you come during the low season or almost at the end of the visiting hour, they can give you discounted ticket!

The Night Out + The Cool Bars

As Leeds is a student city, there were plenty of cool bars that you should go. I have not been to many, but I know that most of the friends have plenty of cool recommendations here. The best place that I went were called The Heathrow House where it has a cool rooftop. Belgrave Music Hall also provides cool spot that holds many various events. It’s not just about bars, but also yoga place, much festival and street food events! Shuffled has a cool basement where you can play shuffleboard games with your friends!

Top Things to Do in Leeds - Leeds BarYou can read more of the list here.

Useful Tips:

  • Check out the bar’s event that you want to go. Every place has its own specials performance.
  • Some of them offer good promo for the cocktail drinks or beers. Always ask!
  • Use Uber or Amber Car to get home when it gets too late (just to be safe).
  • Student discounts in several places.
  • Most of the bar always ask for your ID card. Some of them don’t even accept driving license, so make sure bring a reassuring ID such as Passport or BRP.

The Harewood House

I never thought about this place as I visited the place very last minute. One of my friends wanted to see as it was known as the Pride and Prejudice movie set (but later I found that Chatsworth House was the one). But still, the place was largely beautiful! They have a spacious park with many themes, a small zoo (cute penguins!), and of course the museum inside the Harewood House. Even though the ticket was bit expensive, but if you come with the public bus, they give you half price discount! Overall, I had a good time at the end of the summer. I had a chance to explore the park and just relax beside the lake. It was a good experience with my good gals!

Top Things to Do in Leeds - Penguin Harewood HouseLeeds Harewood House Top Things to Do in Leeds - Harewood House Top Things to Do in Leeds - Harewood House Top Things to Do in Leeds - Harewood HouseTop Things to Do in Leeds - Harewood House Top Things to Do in Leeds - Harewood HouseTop Things to Do in Leeds - Harewood House

Useful tips:

  • Take the bus and you can get half price discount when you show them the bus ticket!
  • Come around in the morning cos it will take a whole day.
  • Prepare lunch box and picnic preps again!

Trekking to the Countryside Around Leeds

The best part about Yorkshire is that it’s close to the couple of small towns that has the countryside feeling. If you got bored with the big city atmosphere, you will feel more joy when you hike the Ilkley Moor, wander around in Otley, trekking at Yorkshire Dales National Park or visit the ruins of Bolton Abbey. Gosh, so many places that you can stop by when Leeds is your home!

Top Things to Do in Leeds - Yorkshire Sculpture ParkTop Things to Do in Leeds - Ilkey Moor LeedsTop Things to Do in Leeds - Bolton AbbeyTop Things to Do in Leeds - Bolton Abbey Leeds Top Things to Do in Leeds - Hike Leeds Top Things to Do in Leeds Hike LeedsLeeds sure does have a strategic spot as a base to go to other cities. It is also very close to a couple of cities that you should put on the list to go in the UK, such as Knaresborough, Sheffield or York. Whenever I feel bored during my study, I went on a day trip to a couple of cities or trekking to nearby hills.

Top Things to Do in Leeds - YorkLeeds - Knaresborough

Useful tips:

    • Check out the One Day Ticket bus to go around the city cheaper. The weekend also are the best time use the promo ticket!
    • Sometimes trains are cheaper and faster too. Make sure to check the prices!
    • Places I can recommend: Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Otley, Skipton.

The Nicest People

I always remember the first day I stepped on the Leeds Bradford Airport and the bus driver were shocked that I said it was my first time in the UK, hell.. first time in Europe. And then the driver started to talk to me and chatted with the other Irish passengers. The first impression I had was.. damn, they are so friendly! Even when I sit on the bus all alone, the old man that sit next to me started to chat and ask couple questions, and turned out he can speak Bahasa Indonesia as well! What a surprise! Even every little thing that I do, such as bump their bags on the road, we always greeted each other and say ‘Sorry’ with a smile. It is true what they always say, “People who are living in a countryside always nicer and friendlier than in the big city.”

Just be careful with the accent, you might have to think harder to understand what they say 😀

Leeds Town Hall 22 Leeds Living in Leeds for one year surely made the place feels like home. More and more it feels familiar when I had my best housemates around that always like to cheer up the place. Countless house parties and day trips with friends surely made time flies in Leeds. The best thing that made my stay comfortable was the people that I have met, friends that spent their valuable time with me, and the comrades that get through the hard times when I got down. Nonetheless, it has become my third home and the longest time I ever stay in one place. I am not sure if I would come back again in the future, but it sure gives a good memory that will ever last.Leeds

Have you been to Leeds? Did I miss anything that I should put on the list?

© 2017 Writing & Images copyright of Marina Utami.


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Frédéric Paulussen January 28, 2017 - 10:03 am

Great tips! Will definitely put Leeds on my wishlist now!

Marina Utami January 28, 2017 - 10:45 am

Yaayy!! You will have good time there! 😊

Marina Utami January 25, 2018 - 8:59 am

Enjoy Leeds!

Sean K Riley January 14, 2018 - 8:16 pm

A fantastic compilation of my Hometown, I really enjoyed it, if you ver return I’ll be sure to be a Guide. Great Post.


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