Things to do in Leeds

From owl-spotting to arcade hopping – this Yorkshire metropolis is brimming with surprises

Take in some Tetley

Tetley, one of Yorkshire’s biggest names in tea (and it has a few), signed over its landmark former headquarters in 2012, and it has since been turned into a new centre for contemporary art and learning. Operated and curated by Project Space Leeds, a charitable organization, the Art Deco space gives workspaces to promising young artistic talent from all over Yorkshire. The Tetley is also a very cool place to visit – not just for its exhibitions but also for its stylish café. Come along for a weekend brunch, and then peruse the latest works of its resident artists.

Shop till you drop at the Leeds arcades

Independent shopping is alive and well in Leeds’ historic arcades. Queens Arcade and Thorntons Arcade both house boutiques, cafés and comic shops – you’ll struggle to find any of the usual chain stores here. The wrought iron framework of each shop is exceedingly pretty, and these little covered shopping centres make for very pleasant browsing – especially in the event of bad weather. Much of the centre of Leeds is pedestrianised, meaning you can amble between arcades and the high streets.

Hit the maze at the manor

Just half an hour’s drive from Leeds is the stately Stockeld Park, and its Georgian mansion built by renowned architect James Payne. It was sold to Robert John Foster in 1875, and remains a family house. However, the Grant family, who now occupy the estate, are a creative bunch and have turned the house and grounds into an incredible adventure park and visitor centre. The entrepreneurial residents have turned over much of their land to growing Christmas trees, building a go kart track, ice rink and incredible natural fir tree maze. At Christmas time, it’s a magical place to visit, but at any time of year it is a fabulous place to spend time with the family – book in advance if you’d also like a tour of the house.

Take a bird’s eye view of the city

If you need an excuse to take to the streets and discover the city, why not make it ornithology? The Leeds Owl Trail is a hunt that takes you across 25 locations, spotting owls in statues, carvings and other prominent places. In case you didn’t know, the owl features on the Leeds coat of arms of 1626 and is thus a popular icon in local art and architecture. You can download a free map at or buy one for 50p at the Leeds Visitors Centre. You’ll take in much of the city as you go, and it’s an energetic and unusual thing to do in Leeds.

Pay a call on the sculptor of the North

Henry Moore is one of the UK’s most famous sculptors, and the Leeds College of Art’s most famous graduate. Leeds is justifiably proud of its eminent son – the artist was born in Wakefield and spent much of his life in Yorkshire. The Henry Moore Institute is a highlight of Leeds’s cultural scene, with a considered line-up of exhibitions presented in a modern context. It’s attached to the Leeds Art Gallery, which has a broad range of modern and 19th-century artists, and a nice café.

Take in the magnificent dome of the Leeds Corn Exchange

Leeds’ Corn Exchange is a glorious place – a stunning Victorian domed structure built in 1864 to trade, you guessed it, corn. It’s still in trade, but nowadays houses a blend of shops and cafés. From specialist drum shops to vintage fashion and handmade jewellery, there really is something for everyone.

Delve into Britain’s war history at the Royal Armouries

A fascinating, if sobering, experience is a visit to the Leeds Royal Armouries – the home of the nation’s arms history. It’s a huge museum with nearly 70,000 exhibits related to man’s experience of war. Situated in the docks area of the city, it’s free to visit and features medieval armour, tremendous cannons and insightful exhibitions and talks explaining traditional and modern strategies of warfare. Allow a full afternoon.

If a mixture of shopping and amazing open spaces sound like your cup of tea, then take a look at the hotels in Leeds we have to offer.