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20 things to try in Leeds in 2020

It's a new decade so time for new challenges and experiences! See how many you can tick off the list...
The Owl, Kirkgate Market - credit Ben Bentley

 

1. Independent restaurants and bars

Leeds is a haven of independent eateries so there are plenty of places to sink your teeth into. You can eat your way through the day without needing to call into a chain. Try breakfast at IF coffee bar or Mrs Atha’s. Grab lunch in the Arcades from Simpatico or pop into Kirkgate Market to sample an array of dishes from some fantastic street food stalls. Try Indian for Dinner at Tharavadu or head to locals' favourite Ox Club or Northern Monk.

Plus, with so many of them making the Michelin Guide (The Man Behind the Curtain, HOME and Crafthouse to name a few), you’re guaranteed some of the best dishes around. And if it’s fine dining that floats your boat, head to the Owl in Kirkate Market…The Guardian did and here’s what they said.

Leeds’ love of independents is celebrated with a two week festival in May; Leeds Indie Food Fest!

 

2. Opera North

Opera North is working hard to change people’s perceptions of opera by creating contemporary, comical productions and modernising the classics. New to opera? You can get a ticket for just £20! There’s no need to worry about dress-code, jeans are fine, and many of their operas are sung in English. ‘Opera’ is as broad a genre as ‘film’ — there are so many different styles, and the music of one composer sounds utterly different to that of another. So what’s to lose? You might just love it!

 

3. Leeds West Indian Carnival

Rivalling London’s Notting Hill Carnival, Leeds West Indian Carnival is a fantastic day out for all the family; from the huge colourful parade to the child friendly Prince & Princess Show. Every year the carnival attracts thousands to Leeds, it is one of the biggest events in the North of England. Steeped in history, this carnival was the first in the UK to incorporate all three essential elements of authentic West Indian carnival – costumes, music and a masquerade procession. Your summer will not be complete until you’ve spent the day at Leeds West Indian Carnival!

 

4. Water Taxi

Arguably the cutest way to travel, hop on the little yellow boat Twee or brother boat Drie for just £1 each way at Granary Wharf near to the train station and chug along the River Aire to Leeds Dock where you’ll find the Royal Armouries Museum. This 10 minute trip may be short but it will brighten your day! Track them here.

 

5. A Relaxing Spa retreat

Leeds is known for being a buzzing, exciting city but it’s also the perfect place to relax with wonderful spas on our doorstep and even some in the city.

Relax in the roof top spa and garden at Rudding Park, winner of Best Newcomer at the Good Spa Awards, or soak up the luxury of Oulton Hall; they do a scrumptious afternoon tea too! Chevin Country Park Hotel & Spa is set in beautiful woodlands and close to the charming market town of Otley or wind down with a massage at Thorpe Park Hotel.

Stay in the city centre and enjoy a treatment at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Lush Spa, The Clarins Skin Spa in Victoria Gate or Liz Earle in Victoria Quarter.

 

Canal, South Bank - Carl Milner Photography for Leeds City Council

 

6. Walking tours

Explore the city from a different perspective. Whether you’re a tourist or a resident of Leeds, walking tours are a fantastic way to explore a new place or delve deeper into the city you love. From visiting the sights and places to see, to discovering more about the history of Leeds, the tours are informative and fun. Looking for something niche? There are food tours, art walks and tours led by guides with a refugee background who share their stories.
There are also a number of self-guided walks, many of which are available as a printed copy to pick up from Leeds Visitor Centre.

 

7. An outdoor concert in the city centre

Every summer, Millennium Square becomes a hub of energy and excitement with a calendar of live music, screenings and festivals. One of the not to be missed events is the incredible 80’s Classical which will return to the Square on Friday 24th July 2020. Experience some of the most iconic songs of the 80s reworked into stunning orchestral versions. Millennium square is not just alive in summer, in winter it is transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland with entertainment for all the family at the Leeds Christkindelmarkt and fair.

 

8. Exploring the local countryside

Leeds is a thriving, lively city with so much to offer but did you know it's also the perfect base for exploring the beauty of the surrounding countryside? The stunning Yorkshire Dales National Park can be reached in just half an hour. Otley Chevin Forest Park has themed walking and mountain bike trails, as well as magnificent views of the Wharfe Valley. Or visit Ilkley for a scenic walk on the famous Ilkley Moor and find the Cow and Calf rocks. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, call into the renowned Bettys Tea Room for some quintessentially English afternoon tea.

 

9. The Local Beer

Leeds is home to a number of wonderful independent breweries like Leeds Brewery, North Brewing Co and Kirkstall Brewery and you can try their delicious creations in bars and pubs in the city. If you like to get up close and personal, the guys at Northern Monk Brewery will give you a tour and talk you through their process before you head upstairs to the Refectory to sample a few. Leeds Beer Tours are a must for the beer lover, they provide a Leeds Heritage Beer Tour that takes guests into the history of beer in Leeds.

The city’s love of real ale and craft beer has led to the creation of various beer festivals across Leeds. Leeds Beer Festival takes place on the 4th-6th June 2020 but you don’t have to wait till June. North Leeds Charity Beer Festival is on 3rd - 4th April 2020 shortly followed by LS6 Beer Festival on 20th-21st March 2020. Don't miss Leeds International Beer Festival in the iconic Leeds Town Hall from 3rd to 6th September. 

Be sure to call into the Little Leeds Beer House in the Corn Exchange to pick up some bottles to take home.

 

10. An Afternoon Exploring Art

Leeds Art Gallery had a fantastic 2019 with The Yorkshire Sculpture International. From March 2020, a collection of new works will go on display from The Camden Town Group, French impressionists and a selection of surrealist works from the Leeds collections; find out for yourself why this is a flagship venue for visual art in Leeds. Then call into the Henry Moore Institute next door; a gallery dedicated to sculpture. If you prefer your art more contemporary, The Tetley and Leeds Gallery at Munro House are the place for you.

 

Heather Lehan as Jordan and Nicola Gervasi as Nick in The Great Gatsby. Photo Emma Kauldhar

 

11. An Awe-inspiring Ballet

Experience the breath-taking beauty of a performance from Northern Ballet. Northern Ballet have won a whole host of awards and take their productions all over the world but you can always catch one of their stunning ballets in their home of Leeds. Northern Ballet celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2019 and they have some spectacular performances planned for 2020. Immerse yourself in Japanese culture for their World Premiere of Geisha in March 2020 or experience the glamour and decadence of the Great Gatsby in September 2020.

 

12. Street Food from around the World

Try food from around the world without leaving the city. Kirkgate Market’s new street food dining offers some of the tastiest dishes around. Try Asian bakery Zm Zm, for a taste of India pop to Manjits Kitchen, Bánh & Mee Vietnamese Street Kitchen and, for a local twist, a Yorkshire Pudding wrap from the Yorkshire Wrap Company!

Trinity Kitchen boasts a changing line up of street food vendors, alongside some permanent residents, in its cool and colourful location at the top of Trinity Leeds, so there’s always something new to try.

There’s chicken waffles to monster wings at Absurd Bird, Pho specialising in great value Vietnamese food and fresh and delicious Indian street food at Rola Wala plus plenty more to tempt your tastebuds.

 

13. A Festival with a Difference

You may have heard of Leeds Festival, one of the UK’s most popular music festivals (a well-deserved accolade) but did you know there are over 80 festivals that take place every year in Leeds?!

There are festivals for arts, celebration, food and drink, family, outdoor, culture….the list keeps going!

Leeds Waterfront Festival brings the waterways to life and Leeds West Indian Carnival is an explosion of colour and celebration you’ll never forget. Light Night transforms the city into a stunning collection of installations while Thought Bubble is all about comic art.

Grab a festival wristband for Live at Leeds and head to one of the city centre venues for the best upcoming local bands and established artists or visit a more intimate venue for opera and jazz.

 

14. A Theatre Show

Don’t think a night watching a show is for you? Think again! With such a variety of performances to choose from across Leeds’ many great venues you’re guaranteed to find something you’ll love! Laugh out loud with a comedian at City Varieties, take the whole family to a play at Carriageworks theatre or be entertained with a touring West End Show at the beautiful Leeds Grand Theatre. Catch the world’s best artists at the first direct Arena, enjoy an original performance at Leeds Playhouse and soak up the atmosphere of a concert in the spectacular setting of Leeds Town Hall.

Check out some of the city’s smaller venues too for something a little different. Experience cutting edge theatre at The HUB, stunning dance performances at Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre and everyone from global stars to up-and-coming talent at The Venue at Leeds College of Music.

 

15. Going to a Gig

For music lovers, Leeds has one of the most vibrant live music scenes in the UK. The first direct arena hosts the big names on UK tours, but other favourites include O2 Academy, The Key Club, The Wardrobe, Belgrave Music Hall, Headrow House and the Brudenell Social Club. Brudenell has been a centrepiece of the Leeds music scene for a number of years, and hosts gigs most nights of the week.

 

 

Leeds Pride 2019 - CA for Visit Leeds

 

16. Leeds LGBT+ Pride

If you’ve never been to Leeds Pride you are missing out! Leeds Pride is Yorkshire's biggest celebration of LGBT+ life. The famous Leeds Pride Parade takes over the city centre with a rainbow procession complete with over 60 floats and 5 hours of entertainment! You’re guaranteed an incredible weekend at the UK’s friendliest pride!

 

17. A Night Out with a Difference

The nightlife in Leeds is arguably some of the best in the country so it’s time to pencil in a visit! Relax at one of Leeds’ rooftop venues for a delectable drink and views over the city, then shake your thing on the dancefloor and keep the party going all night at the city’s many great bars and clubs.

Fancy something a little different? Try the hugely popular Saturday cabaret at the Viaduct or the wildest bingo game you’ll ever play at Bongo’s Bingo. Go off the beaten path and try to find the secret bars: The Domino Club and The Maven. Or, for those with a competitive streak, mini golf with a twist Junkyard Golf, Retro Games Night (amongst lots of other events) at Belgrave Music Hall and even beer pong at Roxy Ball Room.

Plus, Leeds has been awarded the Purple Flag accreditation meaning you can have an entertaining, diverse, safe and enjoyable night!

 

18. Admiring the Architecture

Leeds is famous for its stunning Victorian arcades - Queens Arcade, Thornton's Arcade, Grand Arcade and the magnificent Victoria Quarter, all awash with history but each with their own unique atmosphere and identity. To see more Victorian gems, take a tour of Leeds Grand Theatre and City Varieties as well as Europe’s largest indoor market, Kirkgate Market, and the magnificent Corn Exchange.

 

19. Be part of the action?

In recent years, Leeds has gained a reputation as being THE host city for major international sporting events. In 2020, there are lots of opportunities to be part of the action as Leeds city plays host to Tour de Yorkshire, ITU World Triathlon Series, The Hundred and International T20 cricket, Rugby League Ashes Test 2 and Europe's Strongest Man.

 

20. Leeds Christmas

Leeds is a truly enchanting place in Winter and a visit here is sure to get even the sternest of Scrooges into the festive spirit! Enjoy magical and historical markets along with a great food and drink scene, plus plenty of festive fun for all the family. The city’s historic stately homes, beautiful parks, public spaces and magnificent Victorian shopping arcades come together to host an array of exciting seasonal activities. Be astounded by the beauty of ballet, cosy up next to the fire with your favourite drink, wonder at the magical lanterns and enjoy a weekend you’ll never forget! This is Christmas with a difference #LeedsChristmas