Leeds – City Guide

Leeds – City Guide

The City 

Students couldn’t speak more highly of Leeds.

The rumours are true; you’ll be stunned by its vibrant nightlife, cultural gems, and enough bars and restaurants to finish off your student loan. The only downside: you might only get to spend 3 years there!

Leeds is without a doubt a cultural hotspot in the North, with many things to see and do.  Trying to fit fun things around your workload often proves difficult, yet many things to do in Leeds don’t have to take up your whole day.

Check out the article below on the ultimate Leeds Student Guide.

Things to do

Leeds is without a doubt a cultural hotspot in the North, with many things to see and do.  Trying to fit fun things around your workload often proves difficult, yet many things to do in Leeds don’t have to take up your whole day.

  • The historic shopping arcades in the city centre like the Victoria Quarter are always enjoyable to walk around; the décor is definitely a contrast to student accommodation.
  • The Corn Exchange is also really impressive, home to an array of independent shops and unique cafés. The venue also hosts regular record, gift and vintage fairs.
  • Likewise, there is a brand new swanky shopping centre called Victoria Gate. It has a John Lewis, need I say more

If you fancy just getting out the flat but still want to have a chilled time, Leeds has multiple board game cafés and bars

A lot of students will spend three years in Leeds and never even see the canal that runs through the city centre. ​

  • Taking a stroll down the canal is a good way to see areas of the City that are not always known to students, and of course there are some tempting pubs along the way!
  • Although the renowned Hyde Park Picture House is slap bang in the middle of the student area, a lot of students simply walk past the quirky Grade II listed building and never venture inside. The Picture House not only shows independent films during Leeds’ International Film Festival, the cinema hosts live music nights and topical political talks.
  • My own favourite activity is visiting one of Leeds’ rooftop bars and not just because this often involves alcohol. The Belgrave Music Hall uses its atmospheric rooftop bar to its advantage by holding events such as Morning Gloryville where you can wake-up to yoga, art, massages and a tasty breakfast.
  • Equally, the rooftop garden at Headrow House is tucked away off the main road and will definitely not disappoint on a summery day.

Arts & Culture

  • The grand buildings of the Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute are impressive in themselves, let alone the artwork they hold inside.
  • A gallery with a less elaborate exterior but an equally impressive interior is the White Cloth Gallery. Not always known to students, this gallery is a unique space for emerging visual artists and is truly supportive of the artistic community.
  • Likewise, a place only really known by medical students is the Thackray Medical Museum, one of Europe’s largest museums of this kind. Displaying material from Leeds in the Victorian era to recent breakthroughs in science, it combines culture with education so it is certainly a good procrastination trip!

Venturing outdoors a little;

  • Roundhay Park is a tropical sensation in the middle of Yorkshire. Explore the butterfly house, aquarium and gardens – even take a look at the meerkats!
  • Although you’ll have to brave the cold again, Kirkstall Abbey is definitely worth a visit. Situated not far from Headingley, it has recently started hosting out-door screenings of films such as Harry Potter, Alice and Wonderland and it even holds Halloween and Christmas movie specials.
  • If you are looking for day trips, Harrogate, York and Harewood House are definitely places to take your friends and family.

Unexpected venues in Leeds are full of hidden cultural gems.

  • The LS6 bar in Hyde Park, for example, puts on topical documentary and film nights, charity exhibitions and has a weekly Jazz evening. At their documentary nights they even provide free unlimited popcorn, cushions and quilts.
  • Likewise, culture is tucked away in city centre side streets in bars such as Wharf Chambers. Run by a workers’ co-op, this space brings people from different communities across Leeds to share art, politics and discussion.
  • Leeds is also home to the largest film festival in England outside of London, which shows over 300 hundred films and shorts from around the world, both commercial and independent. Hosted at various impressive venues across the city such as the Leeds Town Hall and Leeds City Museum, locals always recommend the 15-day festival to students.
  • Likewise, it is always worth taking a stroll down to Millennium Square in the centre of town as this site regularly hosts quirky events such as vegan food festivals and open-air concerts.

Music & Nightlife

The reputation that Leeds has for its nights out has not been overstated. As potentially harmful as it is for your Uni work, there are countless venues for every day of the week.

  • Alongside classic Mint ClubWarehouse and Hifi, Leeds is known for nights such as Regression Sessions and Cirque Du Soul, which take place every few weeks.
  • A club popular with second and third years, Wire certainly offers the crowds fresh electro and alternative tunes from up and coming DJs.
  • A venue that would not be caught dead playing chart music is the Leeds West Indian Centre, just outside of the City. The Centre hosts the sell-out night Subdub, where you can get down to Reggae, Dubstep & Jungle music.

Not a massive Dub fan and just fancy a classic and predictably good night out?

  • Hifi is definitely a student favourite in this field and unless you have a 9am on Monday, even try it out on a Sunday, when you can hear live bands playing some of the Soul, Funk and Salsa classics for free.
  • Leeds, like Manchester and Liverpool, is also home to ‘Bongo Bingo at Canal Mills. For just over £5 you can expect raunchy dance offs, impromptu club bangers and massive cash prizes.

Places to Eat

  • Trinity Kitchen is the ‘go to’ food area for Leeds’ students. Far beyond your normal shopping centre food arcade, the kitchen is a unique mix of vibrant street food stalls and restaurants.
  • Many of the street food stalls are pop-ups, but Rola Wala is a permanent Indian street food restaurant which dishes up healthy naan rolls with exciting flavours such as Goan pulled pork or oasted Mumbai gobi.

Leeds is also home to some great vegetarian eateries

  • For example,  Roots & FruitsBundobust and Humpit. For the hummus and falafel lovers out there, Humpit is not one to miss.
  • A new studenty vegetarian café is Hyde Park Book Club which serves ‘fake chicken’ so tasty you’ll question yourself. This venue also hosts live music nights, performances and open turntable sessions.

And if you’re looking for something a little more filling?

  • Having travelled around Thailand last Summer I was dubious about trying out Zaap, the newest Thai café on the bloc. Tucked inside the Grand Arcade, it took me back to the ambience of the bustling streets of Bangkok. The décor is just as elaborate as the flavours of the food and you can even eat inside tuk tuks.
  • Fancy a cuisine with a bit more groove? Marvin’s Pizza Parlour is an unusual Motown themed all you can eat restaurant with music inspired graffiti murals on the wall and enough Marvin Gaye music that you will struggle not to boogie. The all you can eat menu is only £7 before 5pm and £12 after 5pm and don’t be worried about running out of pizza, you simply turn over your table’s record disc to green and you’ll have pizza on tap.
  • Not your usual kind of café, Leeds is home to the first ever Real Junk Food Project that now serves food in Santiago Bar in town. Turning food that was destined for the dustbin into tasty meals, the incredible ethos of the project allows you to combine your foodie habits with a worthy cause.
  • And finally, the edgy venue Canal Mills hosts the monthly Brandon Street Food Market. A venue not necessarily known for cultured and cosmopolitan vibes, Canal Mills transforms into a haven of good food, cocktails, live art and DJs.

Even a quick lunch on Uni Campus can be an elaborate affair.

  • A beacon of glory to Leeds students is the talk of the town Bakery 164, dishing up the best focaccia and rocky roads you’ll ever lay your eyes on.
  • Although I was dubious of the overly healthy name, the Salad Box in the SU is actually really filling, offering a nutritious and delicious alternative to your unappealing packed-lunch.

When it comes to food joints, Leeds has it covered.