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What to do and where to go in Leeds

We 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!

Leeds has fantastic restaurants, excellent nightlife, a thriving music scene, beautiful parks and plenty of cultural activities for all the family. Lonely Planet named Leeds as one of Europe’s top 10 destinations for international travellers for 2017, and 2018 is shaping up to be even better!

Make the most of your stay in Leeds

MEETinLEEDS have done the hard work for you by finding some of the best free activities and things to do on a budget of up to £10. Obviously, you are welcome to spend more!

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. We have also included all the information you need to find something to your taste that may cost a little bit more.

Choose a section below and start exploring Leeds!

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

We have two amazing free galleries right here on campus: the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery. They have lots of innovative art exhibitions as well as rare books, manuscripts, art and archives from their world renowned Special Collections.

They also look after the public art you can see around campus. Some of it is very well known, other pieces are hidden away in the quieter areas of the University. This helpful guide has a list of what is around campus and where to find it.

Leeds Art Gallery

Described as a collection of “national importance,” Leeds Art Gallery is home to a vast collection of paintings and sculptures. The gallery includes work by famous British artists such as Anthony Gormley, Eric Bainbridge and Francis Bacon.

Works by the local artists Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth are also on display. If you want to view more work by these artists, a visit to the Hepworth Wakefield and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is highly recommended. They are a little further afield, but both are are free to enter and easily accessible by car or public transport.

Up to £10

Hyde Park Picture House

Film buffs will love this cinema, it is a real blast from the past. You can take a bottle of beer to your seat and watch either a new release or a screening of a classic. Located in a Grade II listed building in Hyde Park, it is a lovely short stroll across Woodhouse Moor from the campus, so you can catch a breath of fresh air before you settle into one of the plush seats. It still has many original features from when it first opened in 1914, such as ornate balcony seating and external box office, and is the only remaining gas lit cinema in the UK.

Thwaite Mills Watermill

Forget the latest ‘Love Island’ shenanigans – visit the lovely island just outside Leeds! Thwaite Mills was a bustling industrial site for hundreds of years, but now the heritage site gives visitors an opportunity to step back in time and find out what life was like in the 1800’s.

The island on which the mill stands has become a rich wildlife habitat, attracting many different species. It’s the perfect place to visit for a leisurely stroll and picnic. Suitable for the whole family.

Temple Newsam

If you are interested in the Tudor or Jacobean period, then Temple Newsam is right up your street. Described as one of the best stately homes in Britain, it has been beautifully restored to its former glory and sits in one of the most stunning parks in the Yorkshire region.

If you are an animal lover, no visit to Temple Newsam is complete without visiting Home Farm. Some of the rarest breeds of farmyard animals in the country live there, including pigs, sheep, goats, cattle and ducks. You can even get hands on with the piglets and chickens running free in the yard!


Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Stretching out over 127 miles, the canal is the longest single waterway in Britain. If you are looking for a stroll in the sun to a cafe, a ride on the Leeds Dock Water Taxi or a fun and safe place to cycle you will find it here.

Here is a walking map from the Parkinson Building to Leeds Waterfront. If you walk from Leeds Waterfront towards Liverpool, finishing at Kirkstall Abbey, you will see the sights of the Leeds Heritage Trail. Our friends at Visit Leeds have more information about this and many other historic trails around Leeds.

For those that like to explore a little further, here is a walking map from the Parkinson Building to Leeds Canal. From here you can go east to Leeds city centre (it might take you a little bit longer than usual, but it is a very nice walk), or west towards Liverpool. If you head 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!

Up to £10

Ilkley Lido

If you want to a beach holiday vibe without going to the coast, Ilkley Lido is the perfect place to enjoy the sun. The outdoor pool is open for a dip from May through to September. You can grab a bite at the cafe or take your own to eat in the picnic area. If you are looking for a bit more than a lounge by the pool can have a game of tennis or a round on the pitch and putt.

Tropical World

Who would have thought that Leeds is home to meerkats, monkeys, crocodiles and clown fish? At Tropical World you can see them all just outside the Leeds city centre, as you journey through the rainforest, wade into the mangroves, trek through the desert and enter the nocturnal world.

Tropical World is located in Roundhay Park, so if you don’t fancy all the exotic wildlife, you can find a skate park, lakes, a café and a golf course here.


The Sustainable Garden

Who says you can’t eat for free! The Sustainable Garden provides a multi-functional space for staff, students and visitors to campus to enjoy some peace and quiet. It is also home to an allotment-and-forest-style edible garden.

The food is intended to be picked. Instructions of what can be picked and how to pick 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!

Regular gardening sessions are open to all and can be viewed on the Sustainability events page.  These sessions are an opportunity to learn new skills in growing food and will hopefully inspire you to try it at home.

You will also find plenty of drinking fountains and water coolers around the University to stay hydrated!

Up to £10

Great Food at Leeds

The University is home to 16 cafes and the award-winning Refectory, where you can pick up something delicious and nutritious for under £10.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

You can get a £10 day pass, which gives access to the swimming pool, sauna, steam room, fitness suite and exercise classes. They are also running a fantastic summer offer of 10 days of entry for just £20. This is just the ticket if you are in Leeds for an extended period, or live here and want a taster of the gym without over-committing.

For tennis nuts there are 6 hard courts at Woodhouse Moor, 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.

Just walking around you can take in the history, the placards on the wall recalling historic moments that happened in the main catering outlet at the University. 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.