Six of the Best Christmas Experiences in Leeds City Centre
18th November 2022
Our city is a sight to behold at Christmas. To the towering tree in city square, to the lights running the length of some of Britain’s best shopping streets, you’ll struggle to find a more fantastically festive place to visit.
You’ve sorted your hotel room, you’ve arranged your transport (and if you need a little inspiration, those links should help). Whether you’re heading over for a city break, or just making a day of it, you’ll need some outstanding Christmas experiences to fill all that festive free time.
Luckily, Leeds is up to the task. So here are six tinsel-tastic Christmas experiences that would put a smile on Santa’s face, and yours too.
1. Shop modern makers in Victorian splendour at Leeds Corn Exchange
Leeds Corn Exchange is one of the jewels in Leeds’ retail crown, and a striking example of the city’s Victorian architectural heritage to boot. Corn isn’t required these days, but the venue still serves the same purpose it always has but with a present day vibe. It’s a place where people come together, connect, make memories and overall, just have a great time!
Alongside the resident collection of independently minded shops and boutiques, you’ll find the return of the much-celebrated Leeds Corn Exchange Christmas Market popping up on the ground floor plaza. Festive retail therapy comes courtesy of Mahogany Market and Indie Makers, with a host of winter-appropriate food and drink options on site too – with room for 200 crimbo revellers.
We like the sound of the ‘alternative Christmas menu’ mashup between local street food heroes Dijon Boys, and indie wine merchants Latitude Wines. Think braised ox cheek stew with polenta mash and braised red cabbage, stuffing sandwiches with sauerkraut and gravy, and harissa spiced winter veg pastilla. This is one delicious Leeds Christmas market!
2. Plan a THORsome night in a log-fired, mulled-wine-fuelled tipi
- Victoria Gardens daily (11am-11pm) from 18th November – 1st January
- Briggate daily (11am – 9pm) from 16th November – 1st January
Ok, so there are some snow-capped certainties when it comes to creating a proper Christmas atmosphere. Crackling log fires. Hot drinks with mulled spices. Twinkling, fairy-lit trees. Chunky festive knitwear.
Well, you might have to bring your own jumper but we can guarantee the rest at THOR’S tipi and winter gardens, popping up in Leeds city centre for Christmas 2022. The tipi itself is returning to Victoria Gardens for its sixth year, clearly beloved by Leeds locals and tourists alike. And there’s a brand new concept appearing on Briggate – THOR’S Winter Garden!
It’s basically the perfect crimbo pitstop amidst all the madness. By day you might sip on a hot chocolate, with plenty of space for little ones to warm up out of the chill air too. By night you might meet friends for a Bailey’s Blitz (that’s Bailey’s, butterscotch liqueur, vanilla and chocolate. Hello!) and a boogie to some free live music.
You don’t need a ticket, so just turn up, open the flap and dive in!
3. Enjoy the return of the Winter Village at Chow Down
- Daily (12pm – 11.30pm from 10th November – 31st December
Multi-faceted street food location Chow Down has become a firm Leeds favourite over the past few years, and 2021’s Chow Down Winter Village proved about as hot a Christmassy ticket as they come! So much so that lucky Leeds punters were bagging tickets months in advance.
With good reason, because you can find just about everything you might want to fire up that festive feeling. All under one… well not one roof. Under a beer hall tent, and a tipi, and an aprés chalet, and a… you get the idea.
The rotating lineup of street food traders offers some of the best festive grub in the city, and there will be bags of entertainment courtesy of everything from comedy acts and drag artists, to bingo games, live bands and gospel choirs. Not forgetting the curling club, of course.
It’s a great place for groups, anyone with multiple tastes to cater for, and those dreaded office Christmas parties. Or book yourself a ski chalet for two and keep things intimate.
4. Take your seat for an unmissable show in a breathtaking venue
The performing arts is thriving in Leeds, with national and international companies and venues hosting groundbreaking performances year-round. But Christmas really brings that cultural heritage home, offering visitors and residents the chance to take their seat in front of new festive favourites and Christmas classics combined.
This year, there are at least half a dozen Santa-approved stages to choose from. If you like the traditional Christmas productions, you can’t beat Northern Ballet’s annual rendition of The Nutcracker, a live performance by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia alongside well-loved classical music by Tchaikovsky, set in the aptly-named Leeds Grand Theatre.
Over at Leeds Playhouse, kids of all ages, shapes and sizes (including grown up ones) will delight in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical. The production is a mouthwatering reinvention of the successful West End and Broadway show. One that’s rumoured to be more satisfying than a Whipple-Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delight! Younger children will also love the Playhouse’s Stick Man, from the team behind Zog and the Flying Doctors, Zog, Tiddler and other Terrific Tales, and Tabby McTat. The puppets are truly delightful.
Panto lovers have plenty of options too, including the hilarious Cinderella at Carriageworks Theatre (say hello to Buttons for us!). Over at City Varieties, one of Leeds’ oldest continuously loved venues, you’ll find Dick Whittington: Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto, where the clever cat will be belting out hits by Meatloaf, Cher, The Kinks, Billy Joel and The Police to name but a few.
5. Tick everything off the gift list at some of the UK’s best retail locations
Leeds is famous for its shopping. And why not? It’s a truly walkable city, where you can find everything from the most exclusive designer stores to the best high street favourites all just a few minutes away from each other, alongside a vibrant independent retail scene, and thriving food and drink to match.
Two pins for your potential festive map have to be Trinity Leeds and Victoria Leeds. You’ll find Trinity Leeds spanning the streets beside Briggate, with a vast covered centre housing over 120 shops, restaurants, bars and even a cinema. There’s something for even the pickiest friend or family member on offer. You can park on site, and there’s even an in-house street food market – Trinity Kitchen!
Across the street, Victoria Leeds unites two of the city’s best shopping opportunities. The covered Victorian arcades are an amazing place for a wander at Christmas, and the site of more than a few instagrammable selfies. But Victoria Leeds has even more to show you, with the iconic John Lewis store and beautiful expanse of retail around it extending the Victorian experience in an award winning arcade whose design is based on the Victorian architecture Leeds is known for.
6. Glide glamorously (or have a laugh trying) at Ice Cube in Millennium Square
- Daily from 25th November – 31 December
With all that shopping, eating and drinking on the cards isn’t it time your Christmas plans included something a little more active? Roll up, Ice Cube! This pop-up ice rink will be returning to Millennium Square to give winter sport fanatics and ice rink newbies alike that chance to strap on their skates and do their thing.
But it’s not just the skating that’s on offer. Millennium Square will be filled with festive food and drink stalls, and a family fun fair featuring the Starflyer, Golden Gallopers, and the Wheel of Light.