Leeds – Short Stay Guide

Often called the unofficial capital of Yorkshire, Leeds is a beautifully compact city.  Its size makes it possible to get a real flavour of what this diverse city has to offer.  Even on a short stay, there is an abundance of things to do and places to see in Leeds. 

Leeds is a city at the heart of the action, bursting with life and cultural energy.  A vibrant creative community, with an award-winning national theatre and dance companies.  It is a world-class shopping centre and boasts a thriving independent food scene you are unlikely to find elsewhere.

The Leeds City Museum

Get to know the city with a guided walk. Marvel at the stunning architecture, street art and galleries. Take in a spectacular show, there’s something for all ages!

Discover the best independent pubs, restaurants and more.  Taste the best produce that Yorkshire has to offer and learn the importance of eating and drinking local. 

Getting There

Leeds is easily reached by rail, road, and air.  Travel by train and arrive in the heart of Leeds from London King’s Cross less than two and half hours later with LNER.  Leeds station is one of the busiest in the country, and services bring in visitors from inbound arrivals at hubs the likes of London Heathrow and Manchester airports.

The city’s accessible position on the UK motorway network makes reaching Leeds by road so simple.  Situated in the heart of the UK, it is 194 miles from London and 219 from Edinburgh. Cities such as York, Sheffield, Hull and Manchester are close by. The M621 runs close to the city, providing direct access to the M1 and M62 and the A1 accessible to the North of the city centre. Leeds is within comfortable driving times of most regions in the UK. To make a trip to Leeds even more convenient, three Park & Ride sites are currently operational. They allow you to travel by car, park for free and complete your journey into the city centre by bus.

Leeds City Market building

Leeds is within easy travelling distance of four international airports.  Three of them are Manchester, Humberside and Robin Hood Doncaster/Sheffield.  The fourth is Leeds Bradford. Land there, then walk through the arrivals gate to find you just 8 miles from the city centre. Hop onto a regular A1 shuttle bus or jump into a taxi, and 30 minutes later, you can check in into your hotel.

Staying Overnight

We stayed overnight in the Park Plaza Hotel operated by Radisson.  Staffed with helpful smiling employees its strong points are, a good location, good service, and an above average breakfast.  Sadly, it is let down by an over enthusiastic adherence to power saving policies that shut down heating in winter meaning you are constantly cold.  Housekeeping leaves a lot to be desired and the carpets deserve to meet up with someone proficient at steam cleaning. 

Perhaps The Queens, a more traditional looking hotel, located across the road would have been a better choice for us!


A renowned retail destination, Leeds is where big brands meet Victorian arcades.  Just about every big brand is represented here and the city even boats its own Harvey Nichols.  The Victorians knew a thing or two when they built these arcades. They are after all, the forerunner of todays shopping mall.  You will not want to miss a visit Grand Arcade.  Make sure not to miss the 105-year old animated Potts Clock inside it. Also walk through Queen’s Arcade, Victoria Quarter and Thornton’s Arcade.  Wander through them and discover local shops full of handmade treasures. Do not forget to look up, the ceilings are often quite stunning in their design and artwork.

County Arcade in Leeds

For a slightly different approach to retail therapy, pay a visit to the Corn Exchange.  Here a historic centre of commerce, has been reimagined for a new century.  Fuelled by independence, it is home not to just shopkeepers, but creatives, collectors, cooks, and craftspeople.  Here a collection of vendors do things their own way, serving a community of customers who prefer the personal touch.  This living landmark of Leeds is a beacon of creativity shining against the mainstream. They have been doing things differently here for decades.  And you can almost feel the eccentricity ingrained into the Victorian stonework. 


When you are done shopping, explore the waterfront.  Leeds is on the River Aire and is a Junction of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal.   Begin at Granary Wharf.  Take the yellow water taxi to Leeds Dock.   Once there you will want to wander around the waterfront, admiring the moored boats, before visiting the Royal Armouries.  Here you will find a family friendly exhibition of arms and armour from across the world.

Beside the Leeds to Liverpool Canal

If armour isn’t your thing, or you fancy another museum afterwards, try the Thackray Museum of Medicine. It is just a 25 minute bus ride away from the centre.   There you an intriguing insight into the history of medicine. Truly interactive, it allows you to stroll through Victorian Leeds, watch operations take place in a 19th century operating theatre and much more.

For culture lovers, Leeds Art Gallery is full of modern and contemporary British art, and is home to one of the largest collections of 20th century British art in the UK. The gallery is filled with light and is worth visiting for the beautiful glass ceiling alone.  This was restored a few years ago. Make sure to stop off for tea and cake in the beautiful Tiled Hall Café on the ground floor whilst you’re there!


The Indian Food scene is buzzing in Leeds.  Here you can discover the wonderful flavours of India tasting dishes from all over the continent.  Our taste buds did not know what hit them when we ate at Tharavadu, just a two-minute walk away from our hotel.  Here Indian cuisine from Kerala is served in a modern venue with floor-to-ceiling windows and polished wood floors.  For us it was, without any doubt, the best Indian restaurant we have eaten in outside of India. 

A complete change to the normal curry house offerings in towns across England.  Chefs here were born and raised in Kerala.  They have years of experience in this traditional way of cooking.  We ate two different fish curry dishes served with lemon rice and were instantly mentally transported back to times when we visited the Backwaters of Kerala.

Little wonder that Tharavadu entered in to the top 10 restaurants in Leeds within its first week of opening and is still regularly voted the No.1 Indian Restaurant in Leeds. 

Christmas Time

If you need an excuse to visit Leeds, then use their Christmas Market as a good one.  Different from the offerings of many other cities, Leeds Christmas Market is spread out across town.  At first sight this is disconcerting, but as you wander around the city it all begins to make sense.  The market runs for four weeks before Christmas.  It enables shoppers to combine visits to the major stores of Leeds with visits to wooden chalets to buy Christmas gifts, decorations, and trivia. 

Open all day into early evening, it is spread across the city in clusters giving visitors the excuse and good reason to wander all over town.  In the late afternoon and early evening, the smell of hot chocolate and mulled wine pervades.  There are squeals of delight from children ice skating, riding fun fair rides and toasting marshmallows. All in all, it enhances a visit to Leeds, and it is one of the many reasons why we know we will be back in Leeds very soon.

Visit to Leeds Christmas market
Categorised as Road & Rail