10 things you can only find in Leeds

1st May 2024

Leeds is a city with personality. We’re a city full of surprises, with hidden gems and ‘one-of-a-kind’s around every corner.

Looking for what makes our city unique? You’ll find it in our vibrant and diverse culture and in the hundreds of independent venues hosting events every night of the week. Leeds is home to not one but two of the only national touring arts organisations outside of London and one of the countries oldest and biggest carnivals –  Leeds West Indian Carnival. You’ll see it in our buildings. Within the city centre you’ll find one of the UK’s best preserved Cistercian monasteries – Kirkstall Abbey, an abundance of industrial heritage alongside some of the countries’ most stunning Victorian arcades and architecture. And you can even taste it in the delectable dishes found at our amazing street food stalls, cafes and restaurants.


For places not to be missed, here is our list of ten things you can only find in Leeds.


(Carl Milner Photography for Visit Leeds)

Water Taxis

Granary Wharf / Leeds Dock | Open everyday 10am – 6pm

Being able to ride from one side of Leeds to the other with Leeds Water Taxis offers us a truly unique mode of transport down by the docks, for just £3 per person.

Originally brought in from Amsterdam, the striking yellow taxis travel between Leeds Dock and Granary Wharf every 15 minutes, come rain or shine, this mini tour of Calls Landing passes through some of the cities most memorable street art, including the Me & You, You & Me mural, a 50ft-odd Kalvin Phillips and hints at Leeds’ industrial heritage along the River Aire on your journey.

Best of all, Leeds Water Taxi is a dog-friendly option for those wanting to transport tired pooches and children (kids under 5 ride free) across the city.

Where to find them: Either at 1 Canal Wharf, Granary Wharf, Leeds City Centre LS11 5BB or alternatively at La Salle, 147 Chadwick St, Leeds Dock, LS10 1NW


Yorkshire Pudding Burgers

Kirkgate, Leeds city centre | Open Tuesday – Sunday from 9am

It’s no secret here in Leeds we love a Yorkshire pudding – but where else can you find them replacing just about every other carb on the menu? Wapentake on Kirkgate serves “A little piece of Yorkshire”, serving brunch by day and craft beer by night.

Everything is sourced locally, whether it’s the produce bought from the 200-year-old Kirkgate Market just a stone’s throw away, the local craft ales on rotation and micro brewery cans sold are all from God’s Own Country, and the spirits that have been brought in from local distilleries like Libations rum, Forged in Wakefield and House of Wine.

Where to find them: 92 Kirkgate, Leeds City Centre, LS2 7DJ


The Leeds Library - credit The Leeds Library(The Leeds Library – credit The Leeds Library)


The UK’s oldest subscription library

Above Commercial Street | Open Monday – Saturday from 10am

If you’re looking for a cosy spot in the city centre to hide away from the hustle and bustle, Leeds Library is the perfect spot to bury yourself in a book, play a game of chess or simply admire one of the oldest buildings in the city and its incredible wall-to-wall lines of books from across the centuries.

Leeds Library was founded back in 1768 and is officially the oldest surviving subscription library in the British Isles. Paid for and run by its members, it’s a fine example of how literacy can be preserved by the public – but that doesn’t mean you have to be a paying member to visit.

The Grade II listed building offers walk-arounds during the month to the public on the second and fourth Saturday of the month (11am – 12pm), and the last Thursday of the month from (6pm – 7pm) all free of charge – and if you pop in to the Thursday session, there’s even a bar to grab a drink or two as well.

Where to find them: 18 Commercial Street, Leeds City Centre, LS1 6AL


Roast dinner cheese fondue

The Cheesy Living Co., inside Leeds Corn Exchange | Every Sunday 12-4pm

As if the best meal of the week couldn’t get any better. One of Leeds’ most loved lockdown success stories The Cheesy Living Co., stocks everything cheese lovers could want or dream of.

The Sunday roast fondue is just one example, but a great one. Plate up with piles of slices of Lishman’s ham and peppered beef, fluffy Yorkshire puddings and roasted veggies aplenty before dipping in the gooey Swiss melting pot. Add lashings of gravy before tucking in – it’s a Sunday roast like you’ve never experienced before.

Where to find them: Ground Floor of Leeds Corn Exchange,  Call Lane, Leeds City Centre, LS1 7BR

William Dazeley as Don Alfonso, Helen Sherman as Dorabella, Gavan Ring as Guglielmo, Máire Flavin as Fiordiligi and Nicholas Watts as Ferrando in Opera North's Così fan tutte 2016 © Tristram Kenton

(Opera North’s Così fan tutte 2016 © Tristram Kenton)

The only recognised resident opera company outside of London

New Briggate, Leeds city centre | Opening times vary depending on performances

Opera North is the only recognised resident opera company outside of London, and each year it brings a wealth of talent to the city. From family-friendly showings of beloved woodland creatures singing to dramatic Italian and French classics sung in their native languages and instrumental performances that’ll take you through the motions without saying a single word.

The company’s mission is to “entertain, engage, challenge and inspire”, and whatever you’re watching, expect to forget reality for a few hours, captivated by bright costumes, emotional instrumental and truly heartfelt performances – it’s no wonder Rough Guides reckons that anyone visiting Leeds will be “spoiled for choice” with live performances, noting Leeds in its top ten ‘best travel destinations in 2023′.

Where to find them: On the corner of New Briggate and Harrison Street, Leeds City Centre, LS1 6PA

MS Kirkgate market stall - The Marks & Spencer Company Archive

(MS Kirkgate market stall – The Marks & Spencer Company Archive)

The original Marks & Spencers

Michael Marks opened a Penny Bazaar inside Leeds Kirkgate Market in 1884 with the simple slogan ‘Don’t ask the price, it’s a penny’ – and ten years later Tom Spencer joined to form the very first Marks and Spencer store.

The original home of M&S is still treasured today inside the market where you’ll find a walls adorned with historical memorabilia and information about the 200 year old history of the British supermarket- plus plenty of Percy Pigs and sweet treats to tuck in to.

Where to find them: Inside Kirkgate Market, Vicar Lane, Leeds City Centre LS2 7HY

The longest-running original Music Hall: City Varieties Music Hall

Swan Street, Leeds | Open Thursday to Monday, show times vary.

Built in 1865, City Varieties Music Hall is one of three surviving Victoria Era Music Halls in the country (alongside Hoxton Hall and Wilton Music Hall both in London). It is the only Music Hall to be in consecutive use since opening – nearly 170 years of performances! It even holds a Guinness World Record for being the longest running Music Hall in the UK.

The likes of Houdini and Charlie Chaplin trod the boards of this historic venue back in the day, and it found fame as the venue for ‘The Good Old Days’ variety show, televised for thirty years from 1953 to 1983. Today you’ll find an eclectic mix of shows including comedy, theatre, drag, film screenings, and live music five nights of the week.

A visit here is a must on any trip to Leeds.

Where to find them: Swan St, Leeds LS1 6LW

Picture House Project works - June 2023 - 11 (Credit - Ollie Jenkins)

(Picture House Project works – Credit Ollie Jenkins)

The UK’s last remaining gas lit cinema

Brudenell Road, Hyde Park | Re-opening in late April 2023

CGI images show how Hyde Park Picture House will look upon reopening. / Image: HPPH

Hyde Park Picture House has been undergoing some serious renovation work recently, but finally reopened in 2023, with its beautiful 1920s architecture still very much intact.

Besides catching the latest blockbusters here, Hyde Park Picture House showcases independent movies from near and far, and has launched a ‘lost cinemas of Leeds tour where you can head across the city centre to rediscover some of Leeds’ movie spaces that have disappeared or been repurposed over the past century.

Where to find them:  73 Brudenell Road, Hyde Park, Leeds LS6 1JD


One of Europe’s biggest city parks

Roundhay Park, Roundhay | Open 24/7 but best explored during daylight

Roundhay Park is far more than just a walk in the park. The huge 700-acre parkland space hosts everything from cricket, triathlons, dragon boat racing, food festivals, brass bands, Red Bull FlugTag, geology, canoeing and magical Chinese lanterns throughout the year.

Grab yourself a coffee and sweet treat in hand from The Savvy Baker Cafe and lose hours exploring the woods to find the ‘lost summer house’, a Victorian bandstand-come-gazebo built by the then-Mayor of Leeds James Kitson, or head over to one of the two lakes, one a wildlife area whilst the larger Waterloo lake can be used for fishing or just a good spot of bird (or people) watching.

Where to find them: Roundhay Park, Mansion Ln, Roundhay, Leeds LS8 2HH


Tharavadu - Amy Heycock for Visit Leeds

(Tharavadu – Amy Heycock for Visit Leeds)

South Indian Restaurant of the Year 2023

Mill Hill, Leeds City Centre | Open 12 – 1.30pm / 5 – 9.30pm Monday – Saturday

Images: The Hoot Leeds

What do Keir Starmer and the Indian national cricket team have in common? They all have visited, and known to thoroughly appreciate Tharavadu, the award-winning Keralan restaurant in the heart of Leeds.

Serving up a traditional A La Carte menu made up of options ‘from the coast’ and ‘from the butchers’. The Meen Koottan, the restaurant’s most popular main, is a true reflection of the flavours that go into each meal. The ‘authentic fisherman’s family speciality’ is packed with freshly ground Keralan spices and cocum, ideal with the  street food favourite Paratha.

Where to find them: 7-8 Mill Hill, Leeds City Centre, LS1 5DQ


**This blog was originally published in June 2023, and has been revised and re-published for 2024.