Why Leeds is an affordable staycation destination
23rd March 2023
Want to get away without spending a fortune? It is possible in Leeds to get away on a city break and explore new things without breaking the bank.
From museums and galleries (the majority of which are free to enter) to affordable nights on the town and the exciting year-round programme of events as part of Leeds 2023, we’ve rounded up some inspiration for ways that Leeds is an affordable city break destination for couples, families, and solo travellers.
Let’s dive in to see why!
A city for cultural connoisseurs
Over the past few years Leeds has developed a reputation for being the UK’s most vibrant city with a diverse and inclusive cultural scene. From street art trails to trailblazing venues and organisations Leeds is a city with culture around every corner.
This is thanks in part to the many museums and galleries to explore in Leeds, most of which are free to enter. In the city’s cultural quarter Leeds City Museum, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds Central Library and the Henry Moore Institute are these some of the best cultural institutions in the city and all within a two-minute walk from each other.
Leeds City Museum is home to some incredible collections and exhibitions, allowing you to step back in time and take in some incredible history. At Leeds Art Gallery you’ll find one of the best collections of 20th century modern art outside of London alongside displays of Victorian art, sculptures, paintings and portraits. Leeds Central Library houses a vast history of literature from across the globe, while the Henry Moore Institute celebrates the art of sculpture and is one of the largest sculpture galleries in Europe.
Leeds is home to a selection of amazing theatres and touring organisations – so there is always a spectacular show or entertainment on any night of the week. Leeds Grand Theatre – is one of the most magnificent Grade II listed theatres in the UK where you can enjoy a show from just £15. Northern Ballet and Opera North (the only National resident ballet and opera companies outside of London) have a home here. You can also catch some of the most popular Westend Shows here for less – this year sees Sister Act, The Bodyguard and Dirty Dancig coming to town. The newly-refurbished Leeds Playhouse is one of the UK’s leading producing theatres; and hosts a number of incredible shows each year with tickets starting from just £14 at off-peak times. Another popular city-centre venue, The Carriageworks hosts some of the city’s best arts and cultural events, with affordable tickets to boot.
Take in the culture of LEEDS 2023
Need more reasons to visit? 2023 is a super exciting year for the city of Leeds, as this year we’re celebrating our Year of Culture – with an events programme throughout the year and across the city designed to ‘let culture loose’ in Leeds. There are hundreds of events and activities to choose from which showcase the rich, cultural life of the city and its people. With most events free or ‘pay as you feel’.
Some highlights include ‘The Leeds Artists Show’ at Leeds Art Gallery, with 90 different artists from all over the city will be showcased (on until 30 April). ‘As You Are’, a sound walk in music through the centre of Leeds composed by South African cellist Abel Selaocoe for the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North, promises to be an incredible evening and is operated on a pay-as-you-feel basis. And there’s much more to look forward to.
Savour a tasty food scene
Looking for a staycation fit for foodies? Leeds has just the tasty ticket. The unofficial foodie capital of the North, the city is packed full of cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants, with a thriving independent food scene to boot.
Can’t choose what you fancy? Head on over to Trinity Kitchen. With a rotating cast of street food stalls serving up everything from pizza to Pho in a relaxed and unique setting, Trinity Kitchen is a fantastic place to visit for lunch, dinner, or even an afternoon snack.
And for a similar street-food set up, consider Kirkgate Market. The birthplace of M&S, Kirkgate Market now stands as the biggest indoor market in Europe, and their newly-refurbished food hall is home to some delectable treats including the award-winning Vegetarian Punjabi street-food vendor Manjit’s Kitchen and Fat Annie’s – an American-inspired, completely plant based burger and hot dog eatery. And you can’t miss a visit to the infamous Yorkshire Pudding Wrap Company for one of their mouth-watering Yorkshire Pudding wraps.
Looking for exciting new openings in the food and drink space? Leeds has you covered. Things in Bread is founded by the masterminds of Doh’nut (who create the best doughnuts in town), and is a brand-new gourmet sandwich shop in the heart of the city centre. Serving classic sandwich flavours using high quality ingredients encased in their freshly baked bread, you’re onto a winner here.
And if fancy a sit-down meal that won’t break the bank, then there’s plenty of places to choose from. Thai Aroy Dee is one of many Thai restaurants in the city and a favourite among locals. With a BYOB policy and affordable menu options, this is one meal that won’t leave you dreading the bill. House of Fu is another popular favourite; dishing up mouth-watering bowls of ramen, gyoza and rice bowls that are equal parts reasonably priced and delicious, while Bundobust offers plant-based Indian street food that won’t hurt your pocket.
The city has a wealth of more formal restaurants too, including Italian Riva Blu, tapas hotspot El Gato Negro and the Fourth Floor Brasserie and Bar at Harvey Nichols. Many of these eateries, and others around the city, also offer early bird deals and lunchtime deals, so why not check them out when you’re visiting the city midweek.
Toast to affordable drinks
Drinking and going out can be expensive, but that isn’t always the case in Leeds. The city has plenty of watering holes with affordable drink options and Happy Hour that mean you can have fun on your city break without worrying too much about the cost!
The New Conservatory is one of the oldest and most popular drinking spots in Leeds, and offers a fantastic £4 drink deal from 4pm – 10pm on Monday-Friday, while, or head on over to Speakeasy bar Smokestack for Negroni Sundays, where drinks start from £4. Sticking with the Speakeasy-vibe, Blind Tyger is a hidden gem in the city and their Friday Fix menu offers up amazing drinks deals each and every week. Sela is a jazz-bar and pizza place where you can grab two cocktails for £12 every day until 8pm, while favourite Waterlane Boathouse serves up a fantastic G&T daily deal where you buy one and get another for just £1 and two for £12 cocktails from 4pm-7pm Monday to Thursday.
There’s plenty more lip smacking drinks deals to be had when you visit the city’s watering holes off-peak – perfect for that first holiday tipple once you arrive in the city!
Escape the city-centre rush
A visit to Leeds means you’re not just getting the hustle and bustle of the city centre, and there are so many ways to Love Leeds for Longer. Beyond the exciting nightlife, museums, shopping and eateries, lies some of the UK’s most spectacular areas of natural beauty.
Just a few miles outside of the city centre, Roundhay Park boasts over 700 acres of parkland, lakes, woodland and gardens to enjoy. Pick up hot drinks and snacks at the on-site Lakeside Cafe, or venture to the adjoining Tropical World, an island adventure which is fun for all the family. Exotic butterflies and birds roam free around the recreated rainforest environment, while meerkats stand proudly in the desert section. Tickets to Tropical World cost £7.20 for adults, £3.80 for children and under 5’s go free.
And on the outskirts of the city lies the mediaeval ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. With the ruins and acres of grounds to explore, tickets start from £5 and under 5’s go free. Kirkstall Abbey lies along the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, so why not enjoy a scenic walk along the canal first?
Leeds is also a perfect central spot to explore the beauty of the area surrounding it. From Leeds station, you can easily access the Yorkshire Dales National Park, home to some of Yorkshire’s most iconic scenery and attractions including the Yorkshire Three Peaks, Ilkley Moor, Bolton Abbey and the nearby historic towns of Harrogate and Knaresborough.
Yorkshire’s industrial towns also make for a great day trip. Saltaire, a UNESCO world heritage site set alongside the Leeds-Liverpool canal, is the perfect place to while away an afternoon wandering through the pretty streets, or visit the popular Salts Mill. Boasting a fantastic Hockney collection and filled with art, books, flowers, food, and 21st century industry and with free entry, it’s well worth a trip. You can find all of this and more on your affordable city break to Leeds.
Leeds is a perfect destination for music lovers to visit, and there’s so much quality live music and entertainment to enjoy that doesn’t cost a premium. The Domino Club is a secret speakeasy bar that offers live jazz, soul, reggae, blues and outstanding cocktails. With free entry on a Wednesday or Sunday, it’s the perfect time to go and enjoy a step back in time to the roaring 20s.
Other incredible and affordable live music venues include Belgrave Music Hall, a three-story city centre venue offering affordable gigs from up-and-coming artists, or Oporto, a popular bar on nightspot Call Lane where there’s free entry to late night funk and rock shows. Hyde Park Book Club and Headrow House also regularly host fresh new talent for intimate gigs, and are great places to grab a reasonably-priced drink while enjoying the show. Comedy your thing? Verve is a well-liked bar on the popular Merrion Street, and every Tuesday, the basement tequila bar morphs into the “Comedy Cellar,” a free comedy night with upcoming comics and amateur comics taking to the stage.
For a truly magical musical experience, take in a free concert at Leeds Cathedral – one of the finest Catholic Cathedrals in England. In their free series of concerts, there’ll be live music from organists, brass bands and singers, all in a magical setting. If music be the food of love – you can fall head over heels in Leeds!
Discover the city like never before
An accessible and walkable city, there are loads of unique ways to discover Leeds on foot. The city’s Street Art Trail allows you to take in stories from Leeds and its communities through street art, with incredible artworks along the way for you to take in (and pose in front of for your next Instagram post!)
Then there’s a selection of food and drink tours so you can eat and drink your way around the city. From pub crawls to gin tasting and independent tours of some of the city’s greatest bars and eateries, it’s the perfect activity for foodies.
And to experience all of the magnificent architecture in the city, why not take one of Leeds architecture tours to uncover the history of the city through its buildings, or enjoy a Leeds Walking Tour, a special trail through the city led by registered blue badge guides.
Tours not for you? Then why not explore yourself. Some good places to start would be Victoria Quarter, a 19th century Victorian shopping arcade with rich marbles, hand-crafted mosaics and intricate stonework, or the Corn Exchange, a Grade-I listed building designed by revered British architect Cuthbert Broderick that opened its doors to corn traders in 1864. It now stands as one of the most unique shopping destinations in the city.
Staying and getting here
Fancy a staycation in Leeds? Getting around the city and staying here is easy, and most importantly, affordable.
For always-affordable and unique accommodation, stay at Art Hostel. It is the first of its kind in the UK and the perfect place to rest your head after a long day’s exploring. The creative, affordable, and unique accommodation was crafted by local creatives from East Street Arts, a dynamic artist-led organisation that leads on innovative art projects and exhibitions. Each themed room in the Art Hostel has been devised, designed, and created by Leeds-based artists in collaboration with local craftspeople.
And for fantastic deals on city-centre favourites such as The Queens, The Marriott, Radisson Blu and DoubleTree by Hilton, consider booking a few days holiday and visit at off-peak times, either midweek or on a Sunday. Top, luxury hotels in the city are considerably cheaper on weekdays and you get added time off too. Bonus!
Leeds is situated in the heart of the UK and is an accessible and well connected city well within reach. Travelling by coach or train means it’s much more sustainable than a flight or long car journey, plus with tools such as LNER’s Deal Finder, that searches live ticket availability and finds the best price available at that point, it can be cheaper too.
Once you’re here, it’s good to know that getting around the city is also easy. You can’t miss a ride on the city’s infamous yellow water taxi boats that take you from outside Leeds station along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and over to Leeds Dock. The famous yellow boats with the names Twee & Drie were shipped to Leeds from Amsterdam to take passengers between the city and the docks. A great opportunity to relax whilst you admire the city from the water. The water taxis run every 15 minutes and cost only £2 per person. And to make life even easier, you can also hop on a Leeds City bus if you want to rest your legs. For this circular trip, fares are super affordable and start at just £1.40.
There’s so much to do in Leeds, making it an affordable staycation spot in the UK. There’s always something going on in the city that doesn’t have to cost the earth. And whether you have 24 hours, 48 or 72, find out how to fill your time here with one of our itineraries.