Its thriving universities have given Leeds the fourth largest student population in the UK – but it also boasts a bustling city centre, craft beer around every corner, and spectacular countryside on its doorstep. With enough shopping to max out Kanye West’s credit card and Yorkshire’s green, rolling hills just a stone's throw (well, all right, a train ride) away, Leeds is one of the UK’s best and most underrated cities. Here’s why you should think about moving there right now.
1. Keeping Fit Has Never Looked So Good
If the number of requests for fundraising cash on Facebook are anything to go by, people in Leeds don’t seem to do much other than spend their life doing 10k fun runs. If you’ve already done your circuits in Roundhay and are gagging for pastures new, Golden Acre is a smaller, but super idyllic option. Plus, there’s a lake, heather garden, and an arboretum so you can admire the foliage as you push for your PB around the green.
2. There’s Some Serious Eats
If you like big smoky flavours, top-value grilled meats and being a multi-cultural kinda guy, you’ll feel right at home in Leeds. Iranian restaurant Haftsin’s minced lamb skewered kebabs are legendary in the area. Try Bundobust for veggie Indian food – there’s also a craft beer bar with a street food kitchen attached, so Southern hipsters won’t feel out of place. There's also plenty of street food to munch on at Trinity Kitchen, the first shopping centre to have street food stalls in situ. Try small tapas plates at brand new grill The Ox Club, which features meat and fish cooked over wood and charcoal to create small plates that pack a big flavour punch. For spice lovers, Neon Cactus serves up some mouth-blasting Mexican food - their fish tacos are talked about all over town.
3. There’s Even Food that Masquerades as Art
Those who salivated over punky chef Michael O’Hare’s recent debut on Great British Menu will be overjoyed to know they can go and eat his boundary-pushing creations at Michelin starred restaurant The Man Behind the Curtain. This daring venture is leading the field when it comes to innovative, British cookery. Expect to pay £42 for a seven course lunchtime tasting menu - there’s no set menu either. O Hare thrives on creative expression, and this comes through in bucketloads.
4. Indie Shopping Is Alive and Kicking
Leeds plays host to a few pretty spectacular shopping arcades - think gold, gilt, and high domed glass roofs. And it’s not all chains either - the indie clothes scene is very much thriving. Take the Hip Store for example, popular in Leeds for the last quarter of a century, and home to cult streetwear brands like Stussy and Norse Projects. The Corn Exchange is one of Leeds’ destination shopping places. For starters, it’s crazy beautiful inside and out, and it’s the sort of shopping Mecca that you could spend hours loitering in. From contemporary jewellery at the Simcha Gallery, to picking up a slice of the world’s best county at The Great Yorkshire Shop, the Corn Exchange sells everything including high end jewellery and unique clothes.
5. You’re Never Far from a Great Music Venue
Whether you’re boozing in an ex-working men’s club to northern indie in the Brudenell Social Club or swaying to Southern blues at the Smokestack, Leeds has more than its fair share of gig venues. Even without the stalwart Cockpit, which sadly closed its doors last year, there are more than enough places to satisfy your eardrums, from big names at the O2 to deep house at the HiFi Club – not to mention comedy at the Belgrave Music Hall, which also has a roof terrace straight out of Brooklyn.
6. The Great Outdoors Is Within Easy Reach
Just a drive or train ride away is some of the UK’s most beautiful – and potentially thrilling – countryside. Whether you’re into hang-gliding, cycling or even horseriding, there’s definitely a green open space that’ll meet your needs. Try Edale to the south for hikes, and anywhere around Burnsall in the north for hearty pub lunches and a bracing walk.
7. You Can Get Your Film Fix in Style at the Cottage
Screening films since 1912, Cottage Road Cinema is one of the UK’s oldest cinemas – so old you almost expect somebody to wheel out an organ to accompany the films. It was originally a garage, but was fully modernised in 1972, which makes for some pretty startling interior design. Instagram filters at the ready, chaps. As well as the standard box office hits, every six weeks the cinema shows a classic film like Cabaret or The Godfather to keep its historical credentials alive.
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