Illustration above by Julia Rothman
Today’s city guide comes to us from Beth Nicholls, an entrepreneur, explorer, artist and author of the blog Do What You Love who has lived, worked and traveled all over the world. Beth has settled (at least for now) in Leeds, in the north of England and she shares with us some of the beautiful gems Leeds has to offer. Thank you, Beth, for this glimpse into a wonderful city! — Stephanie
CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!
Welcome to Leeds! This is a buzzing city in the north of England known for its industrial heritage, but boasting a growing creative vibe. Just over two hours from London by train, Leeds is a vibrant, friendly place, big enough to house great museums, theatres, shops, festivals and nightlife, but small enough to get around and get to know. It has been rated the Best Place to Live in Britain and Britain’s Most Female Friendly City.
Sweeping hills, sweet villages and fantastic country pubs reside just minutes from the stunning Yorkshire countryside. I moved here last year after three years of weekend commuting across the Pennines from Manchester to visit my man. We have now bought a house and I love it. I spend a lot of time in cafés and wandering dreamily around vintage and arty indie shops. For more general tourist information and an up-to-date guide to what’s going on in the city, see the Leeds Guide.
Photos by Beth Nicholls.
Below is a list of places I would take you if you came to stay with me. It is organized into City Centre, Headingley & Hyde Park, Chapel Allerton and other places “around and about” – all within 20 minutes of Leeds City Centre. Read on, enjoy and come visit!
The Corn Exchange is a stunning old oval-shaped building dating back to 1852, has been renovated to house a couple of Leeds’ best indie shops and a fabulous eating area. 42 Call Lane, Leeds LS1 4ES. These include:
• The Hidden Wardrobe — I warn you, if you like slightly offbeat clothes you’ll be tempted by everything.
• Dawn Stretton — Good for seriously posh party dresses, film premieres and more.
• MKI Miyuki -Zoku — Full of heritage and contemporary brands from some of the world’s coolest cities.
• Mummy and Little Me — Cute baby-wear made from organic cotton, with lots of lovely stuff for mums, too.
• Little Pink Jewellery House — Sells good value slightly blingy bags from Italy and sparkly jewellery.
• All American Vintage — Offers original clothing from every decade between 1950 and 1990. Some real finds to be had here.
In the gorgeous covered arcades of the Victoria Quarter:
• Rose & Co — An incredible shop. You just have to go in and see it. It is laid out like an old-fashioned apothecary, with sparkly chandeliers and antique fittings that make their girly beauty products look irresistible. They also sell vintage perfume bottles and 1930s/1940s lingerie and dresses. 24 County Arcade, Leeds LS1 6BN
• Daisy Chain — My favorite florist in Leeds. Smells amazing, and they make stunning contemporary arrangements. Victoria Quarter, 65 Vicar Lane, Leeds, LS1 6BA
• Cadeaux — Sells all sorts of things for the home, such as fine art prints, kitchenware and posh gadgets. 3 King Edward Street
Victoria Quarter, Leeds, LS1 6AX
• Upstaged — An award-winning vintage boutique with a new burlesque range. No.5 Grand Arcade, Leeds, LS1 6PG
• Tunnel — A small boutique selling funky dresses, handbags and shoes. 8 Queens Arcade Leeds LS1 6LF
• Octopus — First opened in Carnaby Street, London, Octopus has grown to 17 stores across the UK, but it still feels independent. It is full of colorful accessories and fun stuff for children. 7 Queens Arcade, Leeds LS1 6LF
• Mary Shortle — If you like teddy bears or dolls, this shop and its sister shop a few doors away will fascinate you. I collected teddy bears when I was little, so it is quite nostalgic for me. 9 Queens Arcade, Leeds LS1 6LF
• Sugar Lump — Not your average card and gift shop. It doubles up as a tattoo parlor! 22 Thorntons Arcade, Leeds LS1 6LQ
• Bon Bon’s of Leeds — For traditional sweets for gifts or for you to suck while shopping (rhubarb & custards for me, please). 13 Thornton Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS1 6LQ
Peter Maturi sells a fab collection of kitchenwares. 84-86 Vicar Lane, Leeds, LS1 7JH
Kirkgate Market is Europe’s biggest undercover market, with over 800 stalls, selling everything from haberdashery and fabrics to clothes and DIY tools. Some of it is tacky but there are many great bargains to be found. An outdoor market next door is good for rummaging and sells fresh fruit and vegetables. Next to City Bus Station on New York Street.
Pop Boutique literally pops with bright retro clothing from the 60s, 70s and 80s. 12-16 Central Road, Leeds LS1 6DE
Samuel Taylor haberdashery overflows with ribbons, fabrics, buttons and lace. 10A Central Road, Leeds, LS1 6DE
Travelling Man is a manga & games shop that also sells books on how to draw and paint cartoon-style. 32 Central Road, Leeds, LS16DE
Butterfly Attic is a furniture shop selling restored and vintage pieces. New and used mannequins are their specialty – perfect for displaying the vintage accessories you can pick up in the shop. Birds Yard, 83 Kirkgate, Leeds LS2 7DJ
Leeds Art Gallery houses a significant collection of twentieth-century British artists’ work, and it’s free to wander round. City Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AB
Henry Moore Institute is home to the UK’s biggest sculpture archive and regularly displays choice pieces within its contemporary building for the public to enjoy. This place is small, but free to enter and definitely worth a visit. Next to City Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AB
The Craft Centre & Design Gallery in the City Art Gallery building showcases contemporary crafts including jewelry, ceramics and print exhibitions that change on a regular basis. Also includes a shop packed with unique handmade items that make great gifts. City Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AB
Project Space Leeds is an independent, contemporary art space that hosts exhibitions of modern and contemporary art as well as peer critique sessions for local artists and talks and seminars for the public. Their website provides a downloadable “Leeds Art Walk Map” highlighting the best of the current exhibitions in any given season. Whitehall Waterfront, 2 Riverside Way, Leeds, LS1 4EH
For info on Leeds’ many museums and galleries see here.
Leeds also has some fantastic theatre and opera venues such as the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Carriageworks Theatre and the Grand Theatre and Opera House, home to Opera North. For more information on the lively Leeds music scene, click here.
Food & Drink
The Tiled Hall at Leeds Art Gallery has to be the most beautiful café building for miles. Part of the Art Gallery and Library complex, it was originally built as a reading room in 1884. While you sip your tea and tuck into tasty cakes, you can marvel at the incredible vaulted mosaic ceiling and grand marble columns. Upstairs, the public library houses a large collection of art books including a huge selection of design, art and craft magazines for free.
Arts Café serves tasty food in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Local artists’ work on the walls is for sale. 42 Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 6DT
La Bottega Milanese is a tiny pavement café serving great coffee Milan-style. 32 The Calls, Leeds LS2 7EW
Simpson’s of Leeds is a grocery, deli and wine shop stocked full of local produce. Perfect for picking out yummies for a picnic by the river. 28 Dock Street, Leeds LS10 1JF
Salt’s Deli is a tiny little Spanish-style place jam-packed with homemade bread and cakes, olives and olive oil and cheeses and preserves. 14 Swinegate, Leeds LS1 4AG
Anthony’s Patisserie serves up English tea and delicate cakes (try the pink macaroons!) under Britain’s largest stained-glass roof. 37 Queen Victoria Street,Victoria Quarter, Leeds, LS1 6BD
The Reliance is the place I most often take visiting friends for a casual but delicious dinner. It somehow feels like you are being served amazing food (all sourced locally) round at a friend’s house. The furniture is a mishmash of old school desks and retro dining tables, the kitchen is on full view and the specials (and wine) are always delicious. Not to mention the traditional English desserts . . . yum! There’s a good bar downstairs, too, with sofas and outside tables. They also hang a new exhibition of local artists’ work every six weeks. 76-78 North Street Leeds LS2 7PN
Piazza by Anthony covers the whole ground floor of the Corn Exchange and includes a restaurant (in the central area, open to the stunning vaulted ceiling floors above), a cafe, a champagne bar, private dining rooms and four inviting shops — a bakery, a patisserie, a chocolaterie and a fromagerie. You can fill yourself up just sampling the delights on the taster tables outside each shop! The Corn Exchange, 42 Call Lane, Leeds LS1 4ES
Café Guru features fantastic Indian food in a very un-curryhouse-like place. Very swanky and chic with all white walls and furniture near the canal. 6 Brewery Place (off Dock Street) Leeds LS10 1NE
Ciao Bella is a tasty family run Italian restaurant set in an airy building with exposed brick and big windows by the canal. 20 Dock StreetLeeds, LS10 1JF
Kendells Bistro is next to the dance school where my man and I used to take tango lessons, and we nearly skived on many occasions to duck inside this tiny special French place. St. Peters Square, Leeds, LS9 8AH
Sela Bar is a very cool bar that gets its name its cellar location (although it has now expanded). It has a continental feel, hosts live jazz nights and serves my favorite beer (Modelo). What’s not to like? Perfect for a chilled and friendly night out. 20 New Briggate Leeds LS1 6NU (right by North Bar)
The Calls Landing is a “stew and oyster bar” next to the river. I’m not a huge fan of oysters, but it’s a great place for a glass of wine and a natter down by the water. 36-38 The Calls, LS2 7EW
North Bar is rated the “best place to drink in the UK” by Observer Monthly, and as such, is a great place to sample English beers and ales whilst checking out the local artists’ work hanging on the walls. 24 New Briggate, Leeds
Whitelocks is Leeds’ oldest pub and a fantastic oldy-worldy place serving good hearty food and local beers. First licensed in 1715, it stands in a small courtyard surrounded by former working men’s cottages. Turks Head Yard, off Briggate, Leeds
The Adelphi is a warm and cozy Victorian pub with classic décor in each of its four bar rooms. Settle in for a night in one of Leeds’ best kept secrets. 1-3 Hunslet Road, Leeds LS10 1JQ
Headingley (studenty) & Hyde Park (bohemian)
Baa Ram Ewe is just the cutest and funkiest little wool shop specializing in wool from Yorkshire’s many sheep. Baa Ram Ewe also offers knitting classes and a weekly stitch n’ bitch night.
The Story of O, named after a steamy French novel from the 1950s, is a vintage boutique laid out like someone’s darkened boudoir and hidden down a flight of mirrored stairs. 5a The Crescent, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS6 2NW
Retro Boutique is an amazing furniture shop selling everything from 5m-long antique farmhouse kitchen tables to full 1950s kitchen units, old typewriters and mannequins. It is set over two floors and has several independent concessions run by jewelry makers, upholsterers and vintage fashion aficionados. 10 Headingley Lane Hyde Park Leeds LS6 2AS
Vintage Wardrobe Leeds stocks a mixture of vintage-inspired and real vintage items. Picked up a fabulous belt here not long ago. North Lane, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3HG
Tableau houses a delightful collection of lovely bits and pieces for your home and garden, along with handmade jewelry, gifts and cards. 29 Otley Road, Headingley LS6 3AA
Pad is a furniture shop selling lovely, quirky imported furniture, mainly from southeast Asia. I bought a set of chairs made from fence posts on a farm in Thailand and I love them! 40 Commercial Road, Leeds, LS5 3AQ
Food & Drink
The Bowery. See the girl in the back corner with the laptop, frothy cappuccino and cheeky slice of carrot cake? That’s me. I go to The Bowery so often it’s like a second office. Noted for having one of the top 10 best coffees in the UK by the Times Online, this sweet little café also sells arts and crafts by local artists and makers including Rachael Taylor, dear emma and Kathryn Edwards. An upstairs gallery showcases emerging artists and houses workshops for courses in writing, photography, sewing and painting. Owned by a husband-and-wife team who dreamed it up whilst traveling the world, The Bowery is not to be missed! 54 Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 2AL
Pickles and Potter is a wonderful little deli café selling delicious sandwiches, soup and other breakfast/lunch offerings. P&P uses organic produce and source their ingredients locally. They have a fantastic selection of cheeses, gorgeous cakes and the best brownies in town. 51 Otley Road, Headingley (there is a sister café in town at 18-20 Queens Arcade, Leeds, LS1 6LF)
LS6 is a cool café with a strong retro feel featuring 1960s clocks, vintage mirrors and more. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy lunch after all the excitement of finding treasures at nearby Retro Boutique (see above). It has a tiny sun terrace growing blueberries, strawberries and blackcurrants in pots, and a yoga studio on the top floor. 16 Headingley Lane, Leeds, LS6 2AS
L’Oranaise is a relaxed Moroccan-style cafe by Hyde Park. Great ice cream. 1 The Crescent, Leeds, LS6 2NW
La Cafetiere is a dark and cozy café bar with a bohemian feel. 5 The Crescent. Hyde Park Corner. Leeds LS6 2NW
Brod serves the best take-home sandwiches in town. Mine favorite is a barbecue chicken and Mediterranean vegetables with rocket on a seeded bap. Oh yeah! 43a Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 3AB
Jino’s Thai Café offers delicious food (especially the starters) at a great value, despite the basic décor. 46a Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds LS6 2AL
Salvo’s Restaurant and Salumeria is a 34-year-old family-run Italian restaurant that recently won a national TV cooking program award for “Best New Restaurant.” It’s always busy and you can’t book a table, but it is worth the wait. They have an Italian deli a couple of doors away if you fancy cooking at home.
Brett’s Fish Shop has to be one of the sweetest fish and chip shops in the country. It is housed in an ivy-covered Yorkshire stone cottage with a tiny front garden, and has been rated in the top ten chippies in the UK. Beware if you are vegetarian though, as they cook their chips in beef fat. 12-14 North Lane Headingley Leeds LS6 3HE
Chapel Allerton (young professional, this area has been described as the “Notting Hill of the north”)
Radish is an independent book and eco-fashion seller with a hippie vibe. Good for cookery, gardening and arty books. 128 Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds
Casablanca has bits and pieces for the home, stocking both established brands like Cath Kidston and some newbies. 126a Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds LS7 4NZ
Angels sells a wide range of cards and gifts a variety of brands, including East of India, gorjuss and kimmidoll. 132 Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds LS7 FNZ
Margot & Miller offers a bespoke interior design service but also sells a selection of soft furnishings and furniture in its Chapel Allerton shop. 138 Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds LS7 FNZ
Coco Loco sells and odd but appealing mix of handmade interior accessories, chandeliers, funky boots and couture handbags. 138 Harrogate Rd, Leeds LS7 4NZ
Social enterprise Seven Arts is an independent arts space that is also a café and 100-seat event venue, showcasing the best in emerging theatre, dance and comedy.
Food & Drink
The Sunshine Bakery is an absolute delight. Individual old-fashioned tea cups and saucers, vintage style interior, cute cupcakes and Turkish Delight brownies. What’s not to love? 182 Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, LS7 4NZ
Love Organic is perfect if you love organic. Fresh fruit and veggies straight from the farm, homemade quiches and pies and crusty bread. Take home or enjoy at their little tables outside. 4 Regent Street, Leeds LS7 4PE
The Mustard Pot is a pub with a contemporary interior, awesomely decorated toilets and a large beer garden. They also serve hearty food – try the Bangers and Mash. 20 Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton, Leeds LS7 3QY
Around & About (Horsforth, Kirkstall, West Park, Roundhay, Holbeck)
HoMA is a small commercial art gallery showcasing and selling the works of artists who have worked locally in the past 100 years. 2 Back Lane, Horsforth, LS18 4RF
Temple Works is a contemporary art space built around 1840 that used to be a flax mill with sheep grazing on the roof. With imposing columns like those from an ancient temple, it houses what is reportedly “the largest room in the world.” It now hosts exhibitions and installations. Marshall Street, off Water Lane, Holbeck. Leeds, LS11 9YJ
Steptoes Dog Vintage Wares is tiny treasure trove of lovely vintage things — clothes, jewelry and homewares, with a bigger selection available on their website. 164 Kirkstall Hill, Leeds. LS42SX
Food & Drink
The Gatehouse at Kirkstall Abbey is café/restaurant set in the old gatehouse of the 1,000-year-old monastery Kirkstall Abbey. It has retained its stunning Gothic windows and Cistercian arches, and has tables outside overlooking the Abbey ruins. The
Abbey Walk, Kirkstall, Leeds LS5 3EH
West Park Café is the place we always collapse after a long Sunday-morning mountain bike ride in the countryside. Great breakfast, steaming mugs of tea and free newspapers. It’s got a squishy sofa and whole host of homemade cakes to choose from, and a sister deli next door. 251 Otley Road, Leeds LS16 5LQ
Pooky & Grumps deli is jam-packed with kitchen delights, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask — the staff are qualified in charcuterie and cheese. 92 New Road Side, Horsforth, Leeds, LS18 4QB
Viva Cuba. The fact that there is always a queue here speaks volumes for the quality of this awesome little Cuban tapas restaurant. I am never too bothered about the wait, though, which means plenty of time to drink delicious red wine in their lively upstairs bar. 342 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, LS4 2DS
Salt’s Mill is an old textile mill converted into a wonderful open shopping space that sells lovely things — paintings, musical instruments, art materials, coffee table books, interior accessories, flowers and other beautiful gifts. It is situated at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire, Bradford. I usually get there by bike along the canal from Leeds (about an hour) but it is only about 15 minutes in a car. Shipley, Saltaire, BD18 3LA
Yorkshire Sculpture Park describes itself as “an extraordinary place that sets out to challenge, inspire, inform and delight.” It is one of the leading outdoor sculpture exhibition sites in the world, housed in 500 acres of parkland and boasting four indoor galleries. It is an hour from Leeds, within the same area of Yorkshire. West Bretton, Wakefield, WF4 4LG
Places to Stay in the City
42 The Calls. This lovely boutique hotel by the waterfront used to be a corn mill. It has a great restaurant, Brasserie 44, downstairs and an Argentinian steakhouse, Riverplate, next door. 42 The Calls, Leeds, LS2 7EW
Quebecs, a boutique hotel close to the Victoria Quarter (great for shopping), is small but grand, with dramatic stained-glass windows and an impressive oak staircase. 9 Quebec Street, Leeds GB LS1 2HA
The Queens. Art deco hotel in City Square. Afternoon tea anyone? Leeds, LS1 1PJ
Malmaison Leeds. Seductive and moody, there’s something about this place that makes you want to dress up in your highest heels, order cocktails and tell wild stories with your closest friends. 1 Swinegate, Leeds, LS1 4AG
Roomzzz City. Apart-hotel with Apple Macs in every apartment and free wi-fi. Good space and location for the money (from £59). 10 Swinegate, Leeds
Art & Craft Supplies
In case you find yourself inspired by the landscape (as were Turner, David Hockney and more), here are a few good places to pick up supplies:
Hobbycraft Arts & Crafts Superstore (Unit 9a, Crown Retail Park, off the A653)
Leeds, LS10 1EW
Dinsdale’s (6-8 Chapel Place, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 3HY)
Craft Wise (5 Merrion Way, Merrion Centre, Leeds LS2 8DB)
*A note about finding everything: If you go to StreetMap and type in the postcode (given with each listing above), this site will show you locations on a map.