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The ultimate Leeds guide 2019

Love Leeds

Whether you are coming to the University for a conference or just visiting Leeds, there are lots of things to do in and around the city!

With a flourishing arts scene, fantastic array of restaurants, vibrant nightlife and an abundance of beautiful parks and cultural sites, Leeds has something for everyone! No wonder Lonely Planet named Leeds as one of Europe’s top 10 destinations for international travellers in 2017- the only UK city on the list.

Make the most of your stay in Leeds

MEETinLEEDS have done the hard work for you by finding some of the best activities in and around Leeds city centre.

There are many free sports activities and live music experiences, whatever your interests and whether you want to stay around campus or head into Leeds, the details of which are below.

Choose a section below and start exploring Leeds!

Leeds has a wide array of outstanding galleries, libraries, and heritage sites, with a number of  museums and archives on campus.

Leeds is very compact with a number of green spaces, parks and waterways, all within walking distance of the city and the University.

The University has a number of excellent places to have a bite to eat or grab a drink, with plenty more options available in the city.

The University of Leeds provides one of the best sporting experiences in the UK for our students, and it’s no different for our visitors.

Leeds has a rich musical history and a thriving music scene with lots of places to see live music, whatever your personal preference.


Leeds University Library Galleries

If you like Galleries, look no further than our two free galleries right here on campus: the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery. The galleries exhibit; rare books, manuscripts, art and archives from their world renowned Special Collections as well as free drop in sketching sessions every Friday for those art enthusiasts.

The galleries also look after the art located around campus. To help you find all the hidden gems around campus, follow our Public Art Trail guide.

Leeds Art Galleries

Leeds city centre is home to numerous galleries such as; Leeds Art Gallery, The Tetley Gallery and The Henry Moore Institute.

Works by the local artists Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth are also on display around the city but if you can’t get enough then a visit to The Hepworth Wakefield and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is highly recommended. Those galleries are a little further afield, but both are free to enter and easily accessible by car or public transport

Royal Armouries

Take a step back in history and marvel at the 8,500 war-related treasures the Royal Armouries Museum has to offer. Not only does the museum showcase armour that has previously belonged to Henry VIII and weapons used in ‘The Lord of the Rings’, it also hosts daily performances and live combat displays. With so much to offer, this free admission museum is a definite must-see.


Hyde Park Picture House

As the last standing gas lit cinema in the UK, Hyde Park Picture House offers an ornate but pocket-friendly cinematic experience unlike any other. You can take a bottle of beer to your seat and watch either a new release or a screening of a classic which will certainly please any film buffs out there.

As a Grade II listed building in Hyde Park, it is only a short 10 minute walk from the University campus across Woodhouse Moor. Hyde Park Picture House has a rich heritage, it was first opened in 1914 at the start of World War I to show newsreels from the front line and since then it has retained many of its original features such as the external box office and balcony seating.

Leeds Grand Theatre

Want a night at the theatre? Check out Leeds Grand Theatre! The Theatre boasts a variety of performances ranging from opera to ballet as well as touring West End musicals and drama productions.

Leeds Grand Theatre is a Grade II listed building that first opened in New Briggate in 1878 and ever since has been the home of Opera North and the local Northern Ballet. With so many performances, there is something for everyone’s taste.

Temple Newsam

Temple Newsam has been described as the Hampton Court of the North. The Tudor-Jacobean country house is set within 900 acres of stunning parkland and boosts one of the most important collections of decorative arts in Britain.

In addition to the historic house, no visit to Temple Newsam would be complete without visiting Home Farm. The farm has some of the rarest breeds of farmyard animals in the country and you can even get the chance to hold some of the piglets and chickens roaming free in the yard! Temple Newsam is suitable for the whole family.


Leeds & Liverpool Canal

If you are looking for a stroll in the sun to a cafe, a ride on the Leeds Dock Water Taxi or a fun place to cycle, take a trip to the Leeds & Liverpool canal.

The canal is easy to get to from campus, we recommend you take this walking route. The walk along the waterfront towards Liverpool to Kirkstall Abbey will allow you to see all the sights along the Leeds Heritage Trail as explained by our friends at Visit Leeds.

A little further along west, you will find lots of lovely views and tranquil villages, such as Saltaire, and a number of cafes and pubs to stop at for a well-earned break!

Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey is a 500 year old monastery located north-west of Leeds city centre. The Abbey was disestablished under the rule of Henry VIII yet it still remains an interesting medieval heritage site. We recommend a tour of the Abbey followed by a picnic in the surrounding grounds.


Ilkley Lido

Ilkley Lido is the best place to soak up the sun, with its outdoor pool open for a dip from May through to September. Complete the day with an outdoor picnic or grab a bite to eat at the onsite café followed by a game of tennis or mini-golf on the green.

Tropical World

Who would have thought that Leeds is home to meerkats, monkeys, crocodiles and clown fish? You can catch all these exotic animals at Tropical World just outside Leeds city centre in Roundhay Park. At Tropical World you journey through the rainforest, wade into the mangroves, trek through the desert and enter the nocturnal world, meeting animals from around the globe at every stage.

Don’t worry if you are not fond of animals, at Roundhay Park you will find a skate parks, lakes, water sports, a café and even a golf course.


The Sustainable Garden

The best things in life are free! The Sustainable Garden is a multi-functional space free for staff, students and visitors to relax in the peace and quiet. The main draw of the Sustainable Garden is the allotment-and-forest-style edible garden, where you can pick produce and herbs completely for free.

Instructions are signposted with a ‘traffic-light’ system. If you have already got lunch it is a perfect sun-trap and a great place to sit and eat. The array of edible herbs will go nicely with your salad! If you are interested in gardening, there are regular gardening sessions open for all and can be viewed on the Sustainability events page.

Great Food at Leeds 

The University campus is home to the award-winning Refectory and 16 cafés, with all establishments offering something delicious and nutritious for under £10. Eating on campus is an excellent way to stay on a budget!

When the sun is shining there is nothing better than grabbing a baguette and an iced latte from Hugo, the Camionnette Café. Usually parked in the University Precinct, he sells a ‘magnifique’ range French inspired food and drink, including coffees, croissants, fresh filled baguettes and most importantly – ice cream!


Trinity Kitchen

Experience new cuisines under the same roof at the Trinity Kitchen located in the Trinity Leeds shopping centre. Trinity Kitchen rotates six new street food vans every eight weeks alongside their permanent eateries.

Leeds Kirkgate Market

If you are in the city you need to visit Leeds Kirkgate Market, where you can pick up fresh produce as well as tuck in to delicious cuisine from around the world on the many food stands.

For more food and drink in the city the Leeds List and Visit Leeds are very good places to start. From vegetarian Indian street food to locally produced charcuterie, Leeds has somewhere to fill your belly for under a tenner.

The Edge

A little caveat here – access to the Edge is only free if you are staying at the University as a residential conference delegate or have booked our on campus accommodation. You can get a £10 day pass too, which gives access to the swimming pool, sauna, steam room, fitness suite and exercise classes.

However, they do have taster sessions such as this introduction to climbing, so it is well worth getting in touch with them if you want to reach new heights!

For the tennis enthusiasts out there, Woodhouse Moor has six tennis courts which are free to access throughout the year, so you can just turn up with your racket and balls for a set or two!


Leeds is very bicycle friendly. There are a number of bike paths around the city and plenty of parks to glide around.

Being a ‘Bike Friendly Business’, the University has lots of cycle parking points, and the wider city has a commitment to being a cycle-friendly city.

If you are into circuit cycling, you have to visit the University of Leeds cycle track at Bodington Playing Fields. One of the longest tracks in the country, it provides a safe and traffic free environment for cyclists of all abilities. You can take your own bike or rent one there, and there are a number of free sessions as well as a pay and pedal scheme. Maybe you will follow in the illustrious footsteps of the Brownlee brothers!

Leeds Urban Bike Park at Middleton Park is perfect for both for mountain bike and BMX enthusiasts. It has a cross country mountain trail with 6 kilometres of track to explore. You will find something for you whatever level you are, from the mini pump track to get initiated with jumps, to a full sized version for those looking to catch big-air.

If you are coming to Leeds with a cycle, but looking for something a little more sedate, check out the Leeds & Liverpool Canal for a gentle ride without too many hilly exertions.

The Refectory

Yes, it is one of our venues. Yes, we are slightly biased. Yes, we do realise that everyone who is anyone knows “Who” played there for their seminal “Live at Leeds” album. But when you are privy to a piece of local history you are entitled to shout about it. So we do. Find out more about the illustrious past of the Refectory, along with a Spotify playlist here.

No visit to Leeds is complete without closing your eyes in front of the stage area of the Refectory. With the right ears the clang of chords that open “Substitute” will resonate around the columns. You know “Who” that song is by…

Visit Leeds Tickets to see what gigs are happening at all of the venues in the Leeds University Union, including the Refectory.

Millennium Square

Millennium Square is the place for outdoor gigs in the city. If jazz is your thing you need to go to the Jazz Leeds Festival. If you are more into classical music with a side of dramedy set in a small northern town, then Brassed Off Live will be music to your ears.

There are also regular gigs and sports event screenings, so there is truly something for everyone!

Leeds Music Venues

Leeds is home to lots of places you can find local bands and free music, such as the Belgrave Music Hall and the non-profit Brudenell Social Club, which has been a mainstay of the Leeds music scene for a number of years, and hosts gigs most nights of the week.

The Leeds List has a great guide on the local venues that have free music that is well worth checking out.