Lead me around Leeds
September 4, 2017 1:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to Leeds for the first time next week (American, first time in the UK). What should I know/see/do?

I'm going to the UK next week for the first time. I'm visiting London for a few days before going to Leeds for a conference on Thursday and Friday.

There's a lot of stuff on what to do in London and advice on getting around etc. There's quite a bit less about Leeds. I'll mostly have free time only the evenings, which is going to make it hard to get to museums and such.

I'm staying right in the city center. I love to walk around new cities and try to get a feel for the local culture as much as I can. I enjoy history stuff, beer, good food.

Any advice on Leeds generally or what to see/do or where to eat/drink is much appreciated. Thank you!
posted by Lutoslawski to Travel & Transportation around Leeds, England (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Leeds is a really busy student city with lots of nightlife of various types, although the student population won't be returning for the new semester until just after you're there. There will be lots of great options for eating and drinking in the city centre - lots of chains but also some slightly cooler places. Try the Belgrave Music Hall.

People I know from Leeds often joke that the 'culture' of Leeds is 'just shopping', so I probably wouldn't get too excited about your evenings out, but the city is compact enough to take a nice stroll around on foot and get a feel for the place. It's also unusual for a northern city in that it has some major arts institutions, such as Opera North and Northern Ballet, although you didn't mention artsy stuff and those can be fairly expensive.

If you can manage to get away during the daytimes, the history of local industry is always fascinating in those northern towns where you can still see so much evidence for the Industrial Revolution in the architecture and engineering of the place. Armley Mills was one of the largest woollen mills in the world, and is now a museum.

Personally, my advice is to have a little walk around, find a nice pub, and start studying the local accent, the broadest examples of which are like strange, spiritual throat music.
posted by churlishmeg at 2:16 PM on September 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Good food and good beer? Go hole yourself up in Bundobust for the duration. It's just the best. I mean, seriously, those okra fries are like nothing else.

(also, you're a week early otherwise I'd suggest Thought Bubble comic arts festival, which is the best comic con in the country)
posted by parm at 2:37 PM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're here this weekend coming up, it's the Leeds International Beer Festival in the big, beautiful Town Hall. It's very busy and pretty intense but always a good time. Tickets tend to sell out but you could probably still get in on Sunday.

Twee and Drie, the free water taxis, run until 7pm every night and are a great way to see some of the oldest and most historical parts of Leeds from the water (the time doesn't change until the end of October so it will still be plenty light enough for sightseeing). There's not a whole lot going on at the Leeds Dock end of the journey at night, but it's a nice enough place to walk around for a few minutes before taking the ten minute trip back to the station. Make sure you walk through the Dark Arches when you head back into town after your water taxi trip.

If you like beer, North Bar is the original hip craft beer pub in Leeds, great beer and great atmosphere. If you want something more traditional, Whitelocks is supposedly the oldest pub in Leeds and has a gorgeous old copper bar. There's also The Turk's Head in the same alleyway, also great beer, a bit more modern and minimalist. The entrance to both can be hard to find. If you're standing in front of Marks and Spencer on Briggate, it's to the right, next to the Carphone Warehouse.

Bundobust has more great beer and even better veggie Indian food. Even the most avowed carnivores become obsessed with this place. If you're alone this is a place where you won't feel awkward at all - it's right by the station and I often see lone drinkers and diners getting their fix before catching a train.

If you really prefer meat, Friends of Ham has you covered, and, again, great beer.

I have mentioned a lot of food and drink and not much else - because to be fair, there's not much in the way of sightseeing in Leeds. There are some lovely old buildings mixed with some decidedly un-lovely buildings in the city centre if you want to wander around and look. If you have any interest in Brutalist architecture, and it's a nice evening, I'd take a walk around the Leeds Uni campus - it's pretty epic, and the reflecting pool in front of the Roger Stevens building is a nice place to sit and... reflect.
posted by cilantro at 2:48 PM on September 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I love the Royal Armouries, a fantastic museum dedicated to arms and armour. They have the suit of plate armour made for Henry VIII which locks together so perfectly that NASA used it as a reference for spacesuits. They have this weird horned helmet. They have the Personification of Beer! If you are at all fond of swords, crossbows, armour and cool old guns, head on over. Entry is free.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:18 PM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Take the bus to Haworth to see the Bronte house.
posted by brujita at 4:31 PM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Food things you should do:
Eat a curry. I have a big soft spot for Hansa's Gujarati restaurant, but Bundobust (recommended by cilantro above) looks pretty special.
Eat something from Greggs (like a sausage roll, cheese and onion pasty...)
Get some Seabrooks crisps (I like spring onion flavour).

Music things:
The Brudenell Social Club is great. It's a bit out of the city centre but you can take a bus or a taxi easily enough.
Wharf Chambers is a workers co-op / safe space / members club thing near the centre and it's lovely. I wouldn't recommend it to many people but you're asking on MetaFilter so it's more likely to be up your street.
Cops and Robbers can give you the lowdown on the whole indie / punk / DIY music scene.

The Hyde Park Picture House is amazing. Again, bus or taxi to get there.
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:38 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Which Friday? We could do a mini meetup/pub crawl around Leeds with some folks.

I'd visit the Henry Moore institute (free) and the Armouries (also free) if you have some time. Unfortunately it looks like those close at 5 on both thursday and friday, but if you're coming up wednesday the Henry Moore is open until 8pm.

Bundobust has a very good beer selection and the food is excellent, but it is vegan tapas style curries, so not your traditional curry but all of very good quality but only available in smaller dishes. In terms of food quality I would pick Tharavadu, conveniently located exactly next door to bundobust. There is also the Head of Steam right across the street and tapped kiddy corner to bundobust that also has a great beer selection. If you're looking for more of a traditional pub atmosphere (the ones I've mentioned so far have more of a USA style feel to me) I would head to either Whitelocks or the Scarborough Hotel or the Queen Victoria or Foley's Ale House or The Reliance. All have good beer selection (I keep on adding or's as I'm remembering these places) and also have good food (when food is available). To be honest if you head anywhere vaguely pub-ish it will have a decent beer selection. Leeds (well all of Yorkshire really) has a very vibrant local beer scene with a large number of small breweries. You couldn't physically drink one of every beer brewed within a 20 mile radius of Leeds city centre in a single weekend. I've lived here for 10 years and I still find beers that I've never had that are local to some extent.

If you want to feel horribly English and can get away from the conference at an appropriate time, then I would head to the Tiled Hall cafe in the city museum near the Town hall and have a tea and a slice of cake surrounded by beautifully restored victorian tiles and take a quick whip around the museum for 15 minutes (it is free).

The city centre is quite small and easily walkable. Make sure you wander through a few of the arcades (essentially covered shopping areas) and also hit up Kirkgate market to get some snacks and fresh fruit (again only open during working hours). If you have some more specific recommendiation requirements ie more focused restaurant recommendations/ pub recommendations etcc feel free to memail me.
posted by koolkat at 2:45 AM on September 5, 2017

Go to a rugby match or a cricket match at Headingley
Do the Otley Run
posted by el_presidente at 4:02 AM on September 5, 2017

Leeds United are at home to Burton Albion on Saturday
posted by el_presidente at 4:06 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another pub option for Friday night is the Grove Inn, just a little way south of the city centre, which hosts open-mic style folk nights on a Friday, I believe, if that's your sort of thing.
posted by thoughtless at 6:36 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconing Hyde Park Picture House and/or a mini meetup!

Cottage Road Cinema in Headingley might be worth a visit. It's the oldest cinema in Leeds, and someone comes to the front of the auditorium to sell ice cream before the start of the film!

If you can get some colleagues from the conference to join you, Roxy Ballroom in the city centre has table tennis, beer pong and mini-golf.
posted by quadrant seasons at 10:24 AM on September 5, 2017

Thirding a mini meetup! Everyone's food recommendations are spot on, especially Bundobust (I take all my visitors there), but I'd also add Pizza Fella as a great spot to eat. And a friend of mine wrote this Buzzfeed listicle about great food in Leeds, and several of them are in the city centre. I'm sort of new myself and currently eating my way through the list.
posted by champagneminimalist at 10:39 AM on September 5, 2017

Just wanted to let you know, since they can't be bothered to put up a sign, that Twee and Drie the water taxis are out of service for two weeks starting today while they do some flood prevention work on the river :(
posted by cilantro at 5:31 AM on September 6, 2017

I can probably do a few beers Thursday?
posted by chrispy108 at 3:23 AM on September 9, 2017

Response by poster: Oh man folks, I'm sorry I'm just getting back to you all. The trip was a whirlwind and I ended up not having much time to explore Leeds as the conference was several very packed days.

I did however manage to get to Bundobust, Friends of Ham, and North Bar, all of which were absolutely amazing. I have been dreaming of the bhaji at Bundobust since I returned.

I apologize I didn't get a meet-up together! I will be returning to Leeds (such a lovely city, btw!) in the future and will be better organized then. Thanks everyone!
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:45 PM on September 20, 2017

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