9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Leeds & Easy Day Trips
A university city situated on the River Aire, Leeds offers great shopping in its historic downtown area and has a number of interesting museums and art galleries. It has a long-established tradition of industry, especially textiles, and its primary importance is as West Yorkshire's commercial and financial center. But the city is also the cultural hub of the area with numerous annual events like the Leeds Festival in Bramham Park, the Leeds International Concert Season, a year-long celebration of music featuring more than 200 concerts, and the Leeds International Film Festival.
Many attractive parks and gardens are ideal for relaxing walks, and the surrounding Yorkshire Dales and moors are excellent for hiking and biking.
1 Civic Quarter
The hub of Leeds is the pedestrian area known as City Square, famous for its numerous statues, including figures of the Black Prince and inventor James Watt. Nearby is Joseph Priestley Church, as well as the spectacular Town Hall, consecrated in 1858 by Queen Victoria. A lovely Corinthian colonnade adorns its front, dominated by a 200 ft high clock tower, and its ornate Victoria Hall is used frequently for concerts. Another important city structure is Leeds Civic Hall with its owl decorated towers, the heraldic emblem of the city.
Located in Victoria Square, the 1888 Leeds Art Gallery is a must for art lovers. Its superb collection of works by British artists include 750 paintings by J.S. Cotman (1782-1842), as well as works by Constable and Gainsborough together with Italian and French masters such as Courbet, Renoir and Signac. The Henry Moore Sculpture Galleries contain works by the artist and his contemporaries Jacob Epstein and Barbara Hepworth. Finally, be sure to visit Millennium Square, a focal point for theatrical performances and concerts. The square is also the location of Leeds City Museum with its excellent departments of geology, zoology, ethnology and archaeology.
Location: City Square/Millennium Square, Leeds
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Leeds - TripAdvisor.com
2 Headrow and Briggate
The Headrow is a pedestrian friendly half-mile where many of the city's premier shopping, civic and cultural attractions are found. The Headrow leads into Westgate, Eastgate and Quarry Hill, which also host important cultural attractions, including the West Yorkshire Playhouse - the biggest production theatre outside London - and the Grade II listed Leeds City Varieties, the oldest music hall in the world. Another theatrical landmark is the Grand Theatre, an opera house that serves as home to Opera North.
The Briggate area is famous for its historic shopping arcades, many of them of architectural significance. Those to explore include Grand Arcade, built in 1897 and home to a number of small boutique shops, and Thorntons Arcade, completed in 1878 and notable for its clock with four life size figures. Queens Arcade was opened in 1889 and is home to high-end designer and novelty shops, while County Arcade in the Victoria Quarter was completed in 1903 and features marble floors, intricate stonework and elegant iron domes. The jewel in the crown is undoubtedly Queen Victoria Street: although only arcaded in 1990, it's the largest expanse of stained glass in Europe.
3 St John the Evangelist's Church
The finest of the Leeds' churches is St John's in New Briggate, built in 1634. The interior is notable for having two naves, as well as its original Renaissance rood screen, pulpit and stalls. Other religious sites worth visiting include St Anne's Cathedral, the Roman Catholic cathedral in Cookridge St (built 1904); the Georgian Church of Holy Trinity on the riverbank in Boar Lane (1727); and St Peter's, a medieval church rebuilt in 1841 and the oldest parish church in Leeds.
Address: 23 New Briggate, Leeds
4 Leeds Corn Exchange
One of only three such structures surviving in the UK, the Grade I listed Leeds Corn Exchange is considered one of England's finest Victorian era buildings. Designed by Cuthbert Brodrick and completed in 1864, the building is now home to an eclectic variety of shops, galleries and cafés.
Location: Call Lane, Leeds
5 The Royal Armouries
The Royal Armouries is Britain's national museum of arms and armor. There are over 8,500 objects on display in five galleries, which cover a period of some 3,000 years. When you add live demonstrations and stunning reenactments to the mix, it's a must-see.
Another museum to check out is the Thackray Medical Museum located next to St. Jame's University Hospital. The museum has a collection of 20,000 medical artifacts and displays the development of medicine through the ages.
Location: Armouries Dr, Leeds
6 Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills
Located just two miles west of Leeds city center on Canal Road stands the former Armley Mills, once the world's largest woolen mills and now home to the excellent Leeds Industrial Museum. The museum presents the fascinating history of wool production in Yorkshire from the 18th century onwards, as well as exhibits concerning the manufacturing of textiles and clothing, printing, engineering and locomotives. The Thwaite Mill, a carefully restored watermill located in nearby Stourton, is also worth visiting.
Location: Canal Rd, Armley, Leeds
7 Temple Newsam House
Temple Newsam House is a 40-room Tudor-Jacobean mansion set in a 900-acre park on the oustskirts of Leeds. It was the birthplace of Lord Darnley, the husband of Mary Queen of Scots, and contains many Old Master paintings, as well as furniture by Thomas Chippendale and collections of Leeds creamware and silver. The house stands amid beautiful grounds with marvelous rose bushes and rhododendrons, as well as one of the largest working rare breeds farms in Europe.
Location: Temple Newsam Rd, Leeds
8 Lotherton Hall
Edwardian era Lotherton Hall was built before WWI for the Gascoigne family, avid collectors of antiquities and art. Particularly good are the Oriental Gallery, which has items dating back to the 19th century, and the Nightingale Gallery displaying the work of local artists.
The house is surrounded by a formal Edwardian garden and a bird garden that's home to over 200 species, as well as a number of superb walking trails.
Location: Lotherton Lane, Aberford
9 Kirkstall Abbey and Museum
Situated just four miles west of Leeds in the Aire Valley, Kirkstall Abbey is a Cistercian house founded in 1152. The picturesque remains include a roofless church with a narrow choir and a ruined tower, an almost completely preserved chapterhouse, a refectory, kitchen and various other buildings. The gatehouse is now part of the Abbey House Museum with reproduction houses, shops and workshops illustrating Yorkshire life down the centuries.
Location: Abbey Road, Kirkstall, Leeds
Surroundings and Easy Day Trips
Bradford, just nine miles west of Leeds, is the principal center of the British woolen industry and boasts a number of important attractions including the 15th century Bradford Cathedral, the National Media Museum and Bolling Hall, one of the city's oldest buildings and now a museum. Bradford hosts several major events throughout the year, including the Bradford Festival in June, a showcase of various ethnic acts from around the world including traditional dance, theatrical and musical performances.
Bradford Industrial Museum
At the Bradford Industrial Museum you'll discover what life in a Victorian working mill was like. Historic textile machinery is operated daily, and the museum boasts an excellent collection of vintage vehicles. There's also the mill owner's house to explore, as well as perfectly preserved back-to-back workers' cottages.
Location: Moorside Rd, Eccleshill, Bradford
Cartwright Hall Art Gallery
The Cartwright Hall Art Gallery is an elegant Baroque style gallery built in 1904. Its collections include 19th and 20th century British art and contemporary prints by European and British masters, with four permanent galleries including contemporary prints and South Asian art and crafts.
Location: Lister Park, Bradford
National Media Museum
The National Media Museum features over 3 million items of historical, social and cultural value related to television and radio, as well as new media. The Museum is home to the UK's National Photography, National Cinematography, National Television and National New Media collections. The museum is also home to the BBC in Bradford, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to watch presenters and researchers in action.
Location: Pictureville, Bradford
Hardcastle Crags is a heavily wooded 400-acre valley with trails that connect with the Pennine Way. Characterized by its deep rocky ravines, streams and rich natural history, Hardcastle Crags is also home to the hairy wood ant whose huge anthills are scattered all over the landscape.
Location: Crimsworth Dean, Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge
Harewood House, residence of the Earl of Harewood, is a magnificent three-story mansion built in 1771. Located just eight miles north of Leeds, this spectacular home's interior is by Robert Adam and includes fine wall and ceiling paintings by Angelika Kauffmann and furniture by Chippendale. As well as an outstanding collection of porcelain, it has a large number of valuable works by the likes of Reynolds, Gainsborough and El Greco.
Outside, the grounds include a beautiful park designed by Capability Brown, with a large lake, a bird garden, and the remains of a 12th century castle.
Location: Moor House, The Harewood Estate, Leeds
Ikley is a tremendously popular spa town located northwest of Leeds. The town's attractions include the remains of a Roman wall, the Manor House (one of the oldest buildings in Ilkley) with a museum and art gallery, as well as the Ilkley Toy Museum with its fascinating collection of toys dating from 350 BC to the present day.
Ilkley is home to the Ilkley Literature Festival each October, as well as the famous Ilkley Moor, which rises 1,319 ft above sea level and is the subject of the classic Yorkshire tune, On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at.
The town of Wakefield contains an interesting museum of mining and an open-air sculpture gallery, and is the birthplace of English author George Gissing (1857-1903). The Wakefield Theatre hosts performing arts events, as well as a city museum. Other notable attractions include the ruins of Sandal Castle, Wakefield Cathedral, the Wakefield Art Gallery, and Nostell Priory, built on the site of a medieval priory in the 18th century. The house contains a collection of Chippendale furniture, paintings and Chinese wallpapers.
Keighley, located 17 miles northwest of Leeds, has a number of attractions sightseers will love, including Cliffe Castle, home to the Keighley Museum; East Riddlesden Hall, a spectacular 17th century manor house; and the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, a five mile-long branch line that served mills and villages in the Worth Valley and which now operates as a heritage railway.