Leeds is situated within Yorkshire, in England. Considered to be one of the gems of the north, it has an array of Victorian buildings and modern architecture, providing the perfect contrast that most travellers don’t get the chance to see in one place. Attracting millions of tourists and students every year it’s not shocking that many people find themselves wanting to travel to Leeds while they’re in the north of England.
You’ll get the opportunity in this list of the best things to do in Leeds to see just how many fun things there are for you to experience, and just how much of a family friendly city it is. Many of the attractions focus their attentions to also catering to a younger audience, making it perfect for both solo travellers and families alike.
1. Roundhay Park
Within the cities of England, it’s often hard to find beautiful green locations, although they are plentiful outside of the cities. At just three miles north of Leeds City Centre you can find a whole 700 acres of rolling parkland, two clear lakes and woodland as far as the eye can see. Alongside the natural beauty of nature there are several formal gardens, and two playgrounds to keep your travelling children entertained. So to escape the busy style of the city while you travel, you can easily catch one of the buses that runs regularly from Leeds City Centre and have yourselves a beautiful family outing.
2. Tropical World
Fitting in perfectly with our list is Tropical World, which is actually situated in Roundhay Park. This is fantastic for you, not only is it a popular attraction but it will also offer you some shelter from the weather should it turn bad. There is a small admission fee of £5 for adults, or £2.50 for children, but it’s more than worth it for what you’ll be seeing. Step inside the building to see a butterfly house that houses up to forty different varieties of butterflies from around the world. Go from the rainforest to the Australian outback before venturing across the desert. Not only will you get your money’s worth just based on that, there are also a number of rare birds, reptiles and bats. But the star of the show involves the cheekiest family you’ll meet in Leeds, the meerkats!
No matter where you go in the world chances are you’ll meet people who naturally think of fish and chips when they think of English people. It’s a stereotype that we can happily live up to, and a tradition that you should certainly dive into head first while you travel here. Murgatroyds is quite possibly the best fish and chip restaurant in England, with a reputation that means you could be queueing for a little while if you don’t make a reservation. Although it is a little more expensive than a normal fish and chip shop, with a haddock fillet and chips costing £9.95, it’s more than worth it for the fresh quality of food that you’re provided with. For people who may be travelling you who don’t like fish and chips, they also serve things like chicken breasts, lasagne and cheese and tomato pizza. So there’s something that will satisfy your taste buds.
4. The Royal Armouries
Do you like history? If so, The Royal Armouries in Leeds is the place for you. With 8,500 objects across six themed galleries, there is certainly a lot to be seen in the free admission attraction. You can see pieces that are focused on hunting, peace, war, tournaments, self-defence and even oriental pieces. The collection was deliberately created for visitors to view, and its origins lie all the way back in the middle ages. The rest of The Royal Armouries items lay in The Tower of London. Something within the national museum of arms and armour will captivate your attention and your imagination.
5. Trinity Shopping Centre
It wouldn’t be an English city without a shopping centre that you should definitely visit while you’re on your trip. For many people who live in Leeds, and many tourists who visit, the Trinity Shopping Centre leaves an impression on them. It houses retail, dining and leisure options, as well as providing entertainment. But if you find yourself in Leeds over the Winter you’ll get to see the beautiful Christmas decorations that seem to appear overnight, with Christmas trees and lights that make it appear to be a wonderland. So treat yourself to something new, or go grab a bite to eat at the Chicago Rib Shack, you’ll enjoy yourselves under the roof of the Trinity Shopping Centre.
6. Leeds Corn Exchange
Unlike most modern day shopping centres, this one is situated in one of the finest Victorian buildings standing in the north of England. Proving itself to be an architectural masterpiece and one of the cultural icons that makes Leeds the city that it is today. If you prefer independent retail enterprises to large chain shops, this is where you belong. With everything from independent music shops to some beautiful hand crafted jewellery shops you’ll get to satisfy your curiosity getting lost in there. Hunt through Twit-Woo Vintage, sit and have a coffee in Vanilla one of sit and eat in Humpit, one of the first hummus and pita bars in Leeds.
7. Jackrabbits Pottery
If you’re parents, you’ll surely know just how hard it can be to keep your children entertained when they’re in a café. Luckily Jackrabbits provides the perfect one step solution to that, they’re a pottery café. So you can sit and eat cake and sandwiches while choosing from a wide range of pottery items to paint. Now they do vary in price, ranging from £1 to £30, and there’s a £5 fee per painter, but that fee doesn’t change if you paint more than one item. Let your imagination run wild while painting anything from mugs to animals. The only thing with this is that you should make sure you visit at the start of your trip, as each item takes 7 days to glaze, so you have to leave it in the café for a week!
8. Grand Theatre
If theatres are more your cup of tea, which is a very typical expression you’ll hear throughout Leeds, then you should pay a visit to the Grand Theatre. It was built with a rather comedic intent, as a backlash to the tradition of lowering the tone of entertainment with the sort of comedy presented in your typical pub-based establishment. It did the job perfectly, and with architecture coming from a variety of influences, from gothic to Romanesque, it’s a sight to behold for many travellers. Have a look at what’s on, usually it can be anything from stand- up comedy to ballet, or even family shows.
9. The Alchemist
Have you ever noticed how fun it is to watch a mixologist create something that looks as though they must be secret alchemists? That’s what The Alchemist is all about, situated on the second floor of Trinity Shopping Centre you can witness stunning views of Leeds City Centre at night, or you could even go drink coffee during the day. The drinks that they describe as molecular madness include names like Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and White Chocolate and Raspberry Martini. But they also have simple handcrafted cocktails, with a rustic appeal to them, such as a Surprise Strawberry Daiquiri and a Strawberry Cup. Their fantastic service will leave you wanting to watch them mix more and more drinks.
10. Thackray Medical Museum
Now be warned dear travellers that some exhibits, although suitable for children, may be distressing for exceptionally young children. But in true Yorkshire style the staff are friendly and will help you with any questions you may have about which exhibits to avoid if you are travelling with younger children. Residents and tourists alike travel to the museum on a regular basis, as it provides entertainment and knowledge. You can learn about the grimy streets of Leeds back in the 1800s, or you can learn about how scientific breakthroughs affect our lives. For younger visitors they have the Life Zone, providing a fun and interactive learning environment where they can work their way through the body. Looking at their teeth and learning just how high they can jump will provide them with a wave of entertainment.
11. Kirkstall Abbey
If you want to experience the type of history that can capture your imagination with just how far back it dates, then Kirkstall Abbey is the perfect place for you. It’s one of the most complete medieval Cistercian abbeys in Britain today. It also offers a picnic area, and play area for children, but don’t panic if you forget to bring something to eat. There’s a café on site too. Most people prefer to venture to the abbey in summer, when the weather is pleasant as it’s situated along the side of the River Aire. You can find plenty of planned walking routes along its banks, or if you check in advance, you may even be able to witness one of the live Shakespeare plays in the ruins during the Summer!
12. City Varieties Music Hall
What would you say if you were told you could walk on the same boards as people as brilliant as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harry Houdini? Well, you can. The City Varieties Music Hall has existed across three centuries, surviving virtually unchanged. Considering that most Victorian structures have long since passed into history you won’t get many opportunities to see a hall as beautiful as this. Most famous for its pantomimes, it provides a little, quirky space that most travellers enjoy. But one of the things most people notice is that you have plenty of leg room in the building, don’t fear tall travellers!
13. Abbey House Museum
Are you looking for a day out that suits all of the family? As this attraction was once short-listed for the Museum Family Friendly Award you can expect just that from it. It contains crafted sets, made to look like the enchanting streets, shops and houses that you would have seen during the Victorian era. You can interact with all of the actors in traditional Victorian costumes, or even sneak into a recreated model of a Victorian drinking house if you’re in need of a little rest. Children will love the displays that show you some of the toys that were common during the 19th century, although they may start questioning what they did for fun given the toys modern day children have access to!
14. Leeds Kirkgate Market
Seeing Leeds Kirkgate Market for the first time is quite a unique experience. When people think of markets they often don’t think of them on quite this scale, and it’s the scale of the market that attracts thousands of travellers each month. You can find hundreds of stalls that contain everything from good quality, fresh food to jewellery, electronics to fishmongers. What makes it a nice experience is that each person selling their product actually knows about their product, with many doing it for decades. But the structure of the building will fascinate you, with its Victorian era glass roof really standing out to you. Spend an hour or so there while travelling through the centre of Leeds, you won’t regret it.
15. Middleton Railway
Do you want a relaxing day where you get to see the city and the countryside? Middleton Railway could be the place for you, after being in operation for over two centuries it is among the oldest working railways in the world. For children, it’s best to visit in the Winter when they run a very special Santa service, allowing the children to meet him while they’re on the train, which many of them seem to love. Experiencing the English countryside during the Winter, when snow usually coats the fields, tends to bring out the happiness of a lot of young children. This attraction is certainly not to be missed.
16. Town Hall Tavern
Classic pub food is one of the many things that English people love, and if you haven’t had traditional Yorkshire pub food then you just might be missing out. Make a stop off at the Town Hall Tavern, one of the best rated taverns in Yorkshire to experience this for yourself. With a variety of options, all using food sourced from local suppliers you’ll be able to get a real feel for what home cooked Yorkshire food actually consists of. So take yourself in, you don’t need a reservation, and take the time to relax and enjoy a family friendly meal in a cosy pub.
17. Harewood House
Are you looking to view an estate house with both a history and a twist? That’s exactly what Harewood House has to offer to you, while constantly striving to stay relevant it also manages to keep a firm grip on the past, with some of the finest art collections in England. The short trip out of the city centre shouldn’t put you off, buses run directly to and from Leeds City Centre every 15 minutes, and you’ll even get the chance to see penguins, flamingos and parrots. The house is famed for its renowned Bird Garden. Take the time to relax, strolling through the formal gardens, see the beauty of the art, culture and heritage in the building. Or watch your children run around in what must be one of the biggest playgrounds in Yorkshire.
18. Victoria Quarter
As a tourist you’ll notice that Leeds seems to have a perfect mixture of the old and the new, with modern day buildings and traditional architecture. If you go through the city centre to the Victoria Quarter you’ll get to see this mixture for what it truly is, from the outside the Victoria Quarter looks quite modern. But as soon as you turn your detective eyes to it you’ll see that it’s far from that, as a Victorian arcade once you’re inside you’ll want a camera for the beautiful medley of steel and marble that decorates the Quarter. A typical Victorian glass ceiling lets light flood in from above. Even if you don’t intend on shopping, you should make sure you look around this beautiful building.
19. My Thai Leeds
Sometimes it can be hard to find eating establishments that you want to try while you’re abroad. You don’t always know what to expect, or whether you can trust an establishment while looking at it. My Thai Leeds is one of the most intimate restaurants you could go to, seating around 25 people. You’ll be given a warm welcome and offered traditional Thai food, but it is best to place a reservation before going. In Leeds it’s hard to find authentic Thai cuisine, but you’ll find exactly that here, in a delicious way that may leave you eating more than you intended to!
20. Leeds City Museum
We all love museums that charge nothing to enter them, don’t we? This one is fantastic for adults with a childlike side and children, focusing on a younger audience. They actually have a Toddler Town within the museum, where children can have fun and perform craft activities, or they can go up to the Life on Earth Gallery and have a go at digging for fossils. Chances are, you’ll want to dig for fossils just as much as they will, so who knows what you might find in Leeds City Museum?
21. Hyde Park Picture House
During WWI not very many new buildings came to life. Which is what makes the Hyde Park Picture House such a unique visit for many people, it was built and opened in 1914. While the newspapers focused on the war, a small advert announced it’s opening, calling it “The Cosiest in Leeds”, it still aims to live up to that today. With many of its original features, including an ornate balcony, classic red chairs and the original gas lighting. It also has rare, fully operational 35mm projectors. Go watch a classic film, or something from the award winning cinema scene around the world. If you want to experience it, but are travelling with people younger than the shown films would be suitable for, they show family films every Saturday at 12pm!
Do you like Japanese food? If the answer is yes, you need to go and experience Teppanyaki. One of the best Japanese restaurants in Leeds, you get to experience an atmosphere similar to one you will have experienced if you have ever eaten in Japan. Watch as your skilled chefs cook your food in front of your own eyes to the best of standards, feel your jaw drop as they juggle and flip your food, throwing a dash of fire into the mixture. It’s advisable to make a reservation, as this highly successful restaurant is sought after by many people. A lot of people try to avoid Japanese restaurants if they’re quite fussy, but Teppanyaki offer to cater for everyone from the fussy to the adventurous. You won’t have a bad experience there.
Imagine, you’re sat up at the top of the Trinity Centre in a room surrounded by glass windows at night, with a cocktail in your hand and a beautiful panoramic view of the whole city. That’s what you’ll find in Angelica. Mixing modern day architecture and a pewter bar with a bright and airy design they act as one of the best cocktail destinations in Leeds. With their skilled mixologists working the bar, and their chefs working away behind the scenes you can sit back, relax and enjoy the view of the city lights.