The Top 7 Things To Do in Leeds

27th September 2022

Leeds is a city with so much to offer it’s hard to know where to start! Here at Visit Leeds we’ve come up with what we think are the Top 7 not to be missed places in the centre of Leeds. Although this is just the tip of the iceberg, we reckon these legendary Leeds’ places are not-to-be-missed.

Corn Exchange

The Corn Exchange is the one stop shop for all that is cool, quirky and independent in Leeds. Set in an incredible Grade I Victorian building inspired by French architecture, it houses over 30 independent retailers and food outlets. You can find everything from art prints at On the Wall to roller-skates from Roller Girl Gang here, and the best part is that you will be supporting a local small business. And the Corn Exchange is not just great for shopping; Owt is an independent restaurant, where you can sit back and take in the stunning architecture of the Corn Exchange whilst enjoying a selection of seasonal dishes and fine wines. The menu is seasonal and adapts to the freshest ingredients to be sourced at nearby Kirkgate Market so that there is always something new to try.

Kirkgate Market

Kirkgate Market is beloved by locals and visitors alike. It’s widely regarded as the largest indoor market in Europe, hosting over 600 stalls that offer everything from smoothies to CD’s. You could easily spend hours in here browsing the market stalls and admiring the stunning interiors with grand domes, lanterns, glazed-glass ceilings and detailed metalwork. And it has a history as iconic as it’s architecture – British store Marks and Spencer began in Kirkgate Market in 1884 and was known as Marks’ Penny Bazaar as they sold everything for a penny. The original store has been recreated in the market so you can get a taste of where and how this British institution first started.

The vibrant food court features street food stalls serving cuisine from around the world. Including: Fat Annie’s, a completely vegan burger and hotdog joint, Manjit’s Kitchen, an award winning vegetarian Indian street food stall, Bánh & Mee, a fresh and authentic Vietnamese street food café, and Jenny’s Jerk Chicken, serving healthy and delicious Jamaican classics, as well as many, many more.




Victorian Arcades

Leeds’ arcades are second-to-none and quite simply breath-taking. Within these beautiful buildings you will discover every kind of shopping experience you could hope to have – whether that is treating yourself to some luxury products from high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood and Kurt Geiger, supporting supporting independents like Village Books or Next One Leather and their creative wares, or browsing well-known and loved mainstream stores like Levi’s and Accent Clothing.


Interior view of Victoria Arcade in Leeds showing beautiful ornate architecture and glass ceiling


All six arcades are within a ten-minute radius on foot and connected by pedestrianised areas, and each arcade has its own unique character, from the neo-gothic style of Thornton’s Arcade to the ornate Victorian design of Victoria Quarter. Take time out of shopping to enjoy quirky details like the Robin Hood tableau in Thornton’s Arcade and the painted stone pomegranates in the County Arcade.

Not just great for shopping, the arcades are host to a variety of delicious eateries, whether Taiwanese bubble tea or creative, locally sourced dishes are more your taste.

The Yorkshire slang ‘loiners’ (meaning someone from Leeds) actually is thought to have originated from the arcades of Leeds, as in the 19th century the back entrances around Briggate were referred to as ‘low ins’ or ‘loins’, hence ‘loiners’.



Street Art Trail

Leeds’ Street Art Trail takes you a little off the beaten track. It’s a great way to navigate your way around the city so you can (re)discover Leeds whilst also viewing some fantastic artworks. Some highlights include Athena Rising, which is just outside of the train station on New Station Street featuring an owl (the city’s mascot), a crown and a moon. This piece is taller than the statue of liberty and was created by graffiti artists Nomad Clan. The Grey Heron, by Centenary Bridge on Leeds Dock, which can sometimes disappear with the changing water levels of the River Aire! So be sure to spot it at the right time. The Barge which sits on the water beside Grey Heron is painted in colourful geometric patterns so you know you’re in the right place. You&Me, Me&You and Paving the Way on The Calls are two of the most iconic Leeds murals. You&Me, Me&You was designed by an alumnus of Leeds Beckett University, Anthony Burrill, and is a symbol of unity when the world has never felt more divided. Paving the Way commemorates Leeds’ own football club, Leeds United, featuring some club legends.

These are just a few examples of many, and handily we already have a blog where you can read all about the art in detail, with a map to help you hunt them down.

Find out more

The Royal Armouries

The Royal Armouries, located at Leeds Dock, is the sister museum to The Tower of London and houses the UK’s national collection of arms and armour. Explore five floors of over 4500 objects from the ancient world to the modern day, with exhibitions ranging through the Tournament Gallery, the War Gallery, the Oriental Gallery, the Self-Defence Gallery, the Hunting Gallery and the infamous Hall of Steel, with it’s five-storey high walls covered with thousands of weapons and armour pieces from the 17th and 19th centuries. Collection highlights include the M41A pulse rifle, designed by director James Cameron for his 1989 film ‘Aliens’, and the elephant armour, which depicts a war elephant typically utilised by South Asian armies in the 15th and 16th centuries.

At certain times you can also catch a live combat demonstration by the Royal Armouries live interpretation team, who will show how the arms and armour would have been used in years gone by, or attend a show where stories of battles and warrior are retold – and  – it’s all free!

Once you have finished at the Armouries, why not take the water taxi from the train station? This takes you along the river Aire and past important landmarks like The Heron and Barge art murals and Leeds Bridge, where the first ever film was created by Louis Le Prince in 1888.


Leeds Art Gallery and Central Library

Leeds Art Gallery is a flagship gallery with a significant collection of contemporary art. The lower floor has collections of Victorian art, sculpture and an exhibition space for a year round programme of curated shows, retrospectives and solo shows by emerging artists. The upper floor has collections of and changing displays. Next door which is linked by a corridor is the Henry Moore Institute, established by famous Leeds-born sculptor Henry Moore to encourage the appreciation of the visual arts, with a focus on contemporary sculpture. In here you’ll find a diverse range of immersive art that deals with a wide range of themes and issues.

Once you’ve had your culture fix, visit the stunning Tiled Hall Café for a bite to eat. The Tiled Hall was originally the main library reading room, and from 1888 to 1941 it functioned as a sculpture court. It was renovated in 2007 with the help of English Heritage to reveal the original stunning Victorian design, which you can see today.

Just along the road you can find the Central Library, a Grade II listed building built between 1878 – 1884 by George Corson, a Leeds based architect also responsible for The Grand Theatre and parts of Leeds General Infirmary. Find an extensive collection of books, including a specialist collection of 10,000 items related to the arts, as well as free computer and Wi-Fi access and a reference and research library. Room 700 on the second floor is a highlight, where you can roam through a stunning studio space that houses various exhibitions and events across the year. These activities are suited for all ages and interests, all inspired by the heritage, special collections and books of the library.


Detail from Leeds Tiled Hall Cafe



Leeds is a must-see destination for theatre-lovers, with a wealth of prestigious venues offering every kind of performance imaginable, from contemporary reimagining’s of the classics to indie stand-up comedy.

Leeds Grand Theatre, or ‘The Grand Old Lady of Leeds’ as she is more affectionately known, was notably commissioned after Prince Albert remarked that “nothing was more calculated to promote culture and raise the tone of the people” than a good theatre. They host touring West End shows like Jersey Boys, The Book of Mormon and School of Rock, as well as performances from Opera North and Northern Ballet who call this city home.

Leeds Playhouse is one of the most important repertory theatres in the UK, with their aim to create world class, relevant and compelling theatre that reflects the diversity of society. Featuring modern retellings of classics like Macbeth and The Importance of Being Earnest, to family favourites like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, alongside debut and original work by emerging playwrights and new talent from Leeds and beyond.

City Varieties Music Hall is a Guinness world record holder for the nation’s longest running music hall, established in 1865. Welcoming stars from Houdini to Russell Crowe, this venue hosts a variety of different performances including comedy, music, variety and pantomime.

The Carriageworks aims to champion work by local artists, through a varied program of theatre, film and events, with a particular emphasis on family friendly shows. They are also home to a range of theatre collectives, such as Leeds CAN, and Carriageworks Young Theatre Makers (CYTM), who also put on performances and workshops in the space. The venue is a Grade II listed building that was remodelled from a Victorian carriage manufacturer, the West Riding Carriage Manufactory.


If you’re looking to stay in Leeds for longer and want more inspiration to plan your trip explore our Love Leeds for Longer pages, and to keep yourself fuelled for discovering our city check out the food and drink pages.