With its fantastic shopping, contemporary art scene and vibrant nightlife – not to mention its proximity to some of England’s best countryside – Leeds makes for a fantastic short break away
When is the best time to visit Leeds?
Like the rest of the UK, the sunniest months to visit are July to August, which is also when the student population departs and the city quietens down a little.
What events are happening in Leeds?
If you fancy planning a short break in Leeds around a festival or cultural event, there are many to choose from. April sees The Spring Flower Show take place over a long weekend in the neighbouring spa town of Harrogate, and its offering is far more expansive than just plant stalls – there are also cooking demonstrations, workshops for children and a garden furniture department. Even those without green fingers will appreciate the stunning floral displays and creative horticultural presentations.
In May, there’s the Leeds Half Marathon, which has more than 9,000 participants – it’s a great time to see the city at its liveliest. It’s also worth bearing in mind if you plan to drive around the town – many roads are closed and traffic is disrupted at this time.
In June, the Otley Walking Festival sets off – this outdoorsy event started life as part of the Millennium celebrations, but was so popular it has occurred ever since. More than 50 walks and events are organised by enthusiastic volunteers, and all walks are free. It’s a fun way to get to know and see the stunning Wharfedale countryside that surrounds Leeds, and get a bit of exercise while you’re at it!
For die-hard music lovers, Leeds Festival (the northern counterpart to Reading festival) takes place during the August bank holiday, and it always pulls in a big line-up of bands. Past headliners include Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Metallica and Pixies.
Film fans have a number of reasons to visit Leeds throughout the year, thanks to three superb independent cinemas in the city showing great art house movies, as well as the Leeds International Film Festival, which takes place in November.
Unsurprisingly, Christmas sees some magical events take place too – from the lantern parade and Victorian Fayre, usually at the beginning of December, to the Christmas Experience (think grottos, enchanted forests and elves) at nearby Lotherton Hall.
Leeds – the gateway to the great outdoors
There is extraordinary countryside on all sides of Leeds, meaning your short break can be the perfect mix of city life and country living. Otley Chevin is a pretty place that provided the stomping ground for JMW Turner, who was inspired to paint his famous work Snow Storm: Hannibal And His Army Crossing The Alps after viewing a dramatic storm there.
Further north at Ilkley Moor, you can hike up to the ‘Cow and Calf’ – two rocks supposedly separated by a fleeing giant. Beyond, the Yorkshire Dales National Park offers stunning landscapes and picturesque stone-built villages. Head to Ingleborough and see its stunning cave full of artefacts dating back millions of years.
What are the best places to visit in Leeds?
In Leeds itself, The Tetley is a former tea manufacturing HQ that has now been turned into a centre for contemporary art and learning, run by Project Space Leeds, a charitable organisation. The Art Deco space gives studios and workspaces to promising young artistic talent from all over Yorkshire, and has great exhibitions in a handsome setting.
Roundhay Park is set in over 700 acres, and its Tropical World features the largest collection of tropical plants in the UK outside London’s Kew Gardens. It also has butterfly houses, aquariums, glorious birds and a popular gang of meerkats. More than one million visitors hit the park every year – making it one of Leeds’s leading attractions.
Stockeld Park is also worth a visit, particularly at Christmas. This family-owned estate, which is run with fun in mind, is a private residence and home to a maze, a lit-up forest, a Christmas tree plantation and much more. If you book in advance, you can also have a tour around the house itself, which is an architectural treasure.
Back in the city, you’ll want to see the Corn Exchange – a tremendous old trading centre with a spectacular domed roof, which is now home to a handsome run of Victorian style independent shops.
Take a look at our hotels in Leeds and experience all the beautiful open spaces and shopping that this city has to offer.