Leeds is one of the most surprising cities in the country to visit. As the sixth-largest city in the UK, it is hardly a place to go and become bored. While its main strengths lie in its shops, restaurants and bar scene, the West Yorkshire metropolitan borough is certainly not short of things to do in and around its centre. For these reasons, Leeds is sure to delight visitors on a day trip or city break.
The best-known sight in all of Leeds is the Royal Armouries Museum, part of the UK’s oldest museum and near the top of the list of oldest institutions of its kind in the entire world. Housed in its new permanent home on the tranquil Clarence Dock since 1996, this free-to-visit attraction has displays dedicated to all wars, hunting, tournaments (such as jousting), self-defence and also has one of the largest displays of Oriental weaponry in Europe. The Tiltyard hosts a jousting calendar, including a four-day international competition at Easter as well as an individual joust for the HM Queen’s Golden Jubilee Trophy in the height of summer.
Two other museums in Leeds never fail to impress tourists and Leodensians alike: Leeds City Museum and the Thackray Museum. Found in Millennium Square and Harehills respectively, these institutions are dedicated to the city’s history and the evolving nature of medicine in the UK and Leeds itself.
Kirkstall Abbey is another of those places that is utterly unmissable. A Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument, this ruined Cistercian monastery lies around three miles out from the city centre in nearby Kirkstall.
A £5.5 million renovation programme added a visitor’s centre with interactive exhibits illustrating the evolution of the abbey as well as the lives of the monks. Occasional free guided tours are also available for those who want a greater insight into this beautiful complex. Music and arts fans may also be aware that it is used for huge events; the Kaiser Chiefs and Frankenstein’s Wedding were both cleared to utilise its dramatic nature.
Temple Newsam, on the other hand, is a brilliantly-preserved Tudor-Jacobean house founded in the 1500s. It is home to grounds landscaped by Capability Brown and its wider estate owns the second-largest part of the Forest of Leeds. Fans of country houses will not be satisfied if they miss out on this grandiose offering, though much the same can be said for the stunning Harewood House. Like its aforementioned partner, Brown worked on its delicate gardens though is much more recent; the stately home was completed in the late 1700s. Its imposing architectural presence remains one of the most memorable sights in modern day England.
Meanwhile, families looking for a fun day out will not be let down by Tropical World in the fabulous Roundhay Park. A central sight in one of Europe’s largest city parks, this attraction is a set of glasshouses with the largest collection of tropical plants in the UK outside of the world-famous Kew Gardens. Alongside a butterfly house and aquariums, it also hosts mammals, lizards and other creatures – many of which live freely in the complex. If you want to continue your great trip outdoors following a visit to Roundhay Park, consider the Meanwood Valley Trail – one of the best inner-city hikes in the country.
If you’re looking to put your feet up on a night with a good performance, whether it’s comedy, a play or another outing, head on over to the West Yorkshire Playhouse or the Grand Theatre and Opera House; you’ll certainly not be short of entertainment at either of them.
Of course, don’t overlook the city’s proud sporting heritage; with Leeds United FC at Elland Road, Yorkshire CCC at Headingley and both Leeds Rhinos and Leeds Carnegie at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, there’s plenty of sport to keep you happy.
So, there you have it: Leeds is a place packed full of fun. If you’re in the north, or simply want a change, you won’t feel let down.