There's no shortage of things to do, places to see and spas to relax in when you're in Leeds. It's one of those towns where everything seems to be very compact and you're never too far from the shops, the nightlife or a bite to eat in one of the cosmopolitan eateries in the city.
It's a pretty town in places, with photogenic hotspots like the Town Hall, and the Victoria Quarter, which is a perfect haven for shopaholics too. Culture is well-covered with a fine selection of museums and galleries – choose from the Royal Armouries museum, the Leeds Art Gallery or City Museum, most of which are free to enter, which is great news if you've spent all your money on spa treatments!
Depending on what time of the year you visit Leeds, there's bound to be something on. The city holds festivals at all times of the year, everything from the Leeds Festival, Classical Fantasia or a colourful West Indian carnival.
Leeds Art Gallery, with it's lovely café and Victorian tiled hall, adjoins the Henry Moore Institute and boasts an impressive collection of British 20th century art, which was voted ‘probably the best outside London' by The Times, and the City Museum is a good bet for some downtime in the city too.
Spa Breaks in Leeds
- Another hotel spa with a bit of a spark is the Village Urban Resort Leeds North, with Viva spa being the perfect place to slip away and be pampered. As with all good spas, there's an impressive swimming pool, steam and sauna area to chill out in with a magazine or indeed have a good swim in. And if you squeeze in a quick workout, you can justify skinny latte and a cake in the coffee shop too.
- The Yorkshire Dales are the stuff of spa day dreams, and so is Oulton Hall in Leeds, which gives you a room with a view and a spa to spend your precious me-time in. Highlights of the spa include the beautiful Starry Sky steam room, and five luxurious treatment rooms, each well stocked with ESPA products. If you're a fit bunny you'll also love the split level fitness suite and swimming pool, as well as the perfectly placed whirlpool spa.
- For a real taste of Yorkshire, soap lovers and countryside lovers alike will love the Hollins Hall Hotel Spa, not far from the famous Emmerdale village. Here's another spa that offers Dermalogica treatments, all on offer in the Zest health and Beauty salon, as well as holistic therapies and everything else you'd expect from a top class spa.
- You couldn't get much more picturesque than the Chevin Country Park and Spa in Otley. As the name suggests, the hotel is right near the Chevin Forest. If you like the idea of a cute little log cabin retreat you won't be disappointed. Recently upgraded to offer an even more relaxing relaxation area and two more treatment rooms, the Elemis and Jessica treatments will make you feel great – then you can head to the gym to work out in style.
There's no excuse for going hungry in Leeds, as the city is well served with some of the country's award-winning chefs, cuisines to suit all tastes and budgets and proximity to really good quality fresh local produce.
- One of the longest-established independent restaurants is The Wardrobe, where you'll find delicious locally sourced food on the menu along with a top quality drinks menu and an ever-so-slightly bohemian atmosphere. The menu serves up what it calls Modern British and European dishes and also caters well for vegetarians.
Address: 6 Saint Peter's Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS9 8AH
Tel: 0113 383 8800
- After a hard day shopping, carry on with a meal at Fourth Floor Cafe Harvey Nichols, right in the centre of the store and perfect for a pick me up snack or meal. The view out across the city centre and the shoppers below is entertaining and the menu offers everything from contemporary classic British to healthy salads, snacks, cakes and more.
Address: 111 Briggate, Leeds LS1 6
Tel: 0113 204 8000
- Got a taste for all things Italian? Try the flagship Casa Mia Millennium restaurant in Millennium Square. Split across two floors there's also a charming al-fresco dining area, perfect for savouring a cool glass of Prosecco when the Yorkshire weather allows. It's a lively, cheerful restaurant, loved by families as well as shoppers and people on a night out, which also has a reasonably priced menu.
Address: 6 Millennium Square, Great George Street, Leeds LS2 3AD
Tel: 0845 688 3030
- If you're looking for an Indian meal with spice and a great vegetarian selection, you could try Shabab which is close to the railway station and City Square. It's a restaurant for 'discerning diners' and a touch exotic, featuring authentic dishes which are served up with style and Eastern hospitality. The Shabab has been in Leeds for over 30 years, and while the menu has moved with the times it's still proudly authentic and traditional in its influences.
Address: 2 Eastgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS2 7JL
Tel: 0113 246 8988
- If it's a meal with a view that you fancy, take a trip to Thai Edge where you can make the most of the views over the Millennium Square. Well known for its excellent quality Thai cuisine, this eatery has also made a big mark on the restaurant scene by creating a beautiful dining area to complement the delicious Asian food - and there's always a buzz there.
Address: 7 Calverley Street, Leeds LS1 3DY
Tel: 0113 243 6333
- Another well-loved restaurant that's slap bang right in the middle of the city centre is the oh-so convenient Chino Latino, a funky restaurant with a delicious menu that features the very best in Pan-Asian cuisine. Not just for foodies, there's also a trendy Latin Cocktail Bar, and this award-winning restaurant is another one that commands amazing views over the City Square, through its funky coloured Perspex.
Address: Park Plaza, Boar Lane, Leeds, Yorkshire LS1 5NS
Tel: 0113 380 4080
- Piazza by Anthony incorporates a 118 seat restaurant in the central domed area of the building, which is also surrounded by independently run foodie havens such as The Bakery, Patisserie and Chocolatier, making scrumptious artisan breads, pastries and more, with which they supply the Piazza as well as Anthony's Restaurant. The Champagne bar and impressive wine vault all add to the ambience of a delicious meal.
Address: Corn Exchange, Leeds LS1 7BR
Tel: 0113 247 0995
- Leeds Seventeen restaurant in Alwoodley may be out of the city centre, but don't let that deter you from investigating the food. Winner of the ‘Best Modern English' award in 2010, this lovely family run restaurant proudly sources all its produce locally and has really strong links to the Yorkshire community.
Address: Nursery Lane, Leeds, Yorkshire LS17 7HW
Tel: 0113 266 2594
Leeds nightlife is legendary, and depending on what takes your fancy, you'll find something to entertain you, from a comedy night to a bit of a cabaret, or a sophisticated cocktail night. You might be feeling energetic after your spa visit and feel like dancing - well there's no shortage of bars and clubs to cater for your every whim.
A night on the town in Leeds could take in anything from a real ale session in an old-style pub to a fashionable bar with music to take you into until the early hours. There are live music venues to cover any taste and of course with the O2 Academy you'll never be short of things to do.
- For a real fun-loving party atmosphere, you could try heading to one of the fun bars on Call Lane, where you're bound to find a good deal on dancing and drinks as well. Oporto (recently named Best Night Out in the UK) is really popular and attracts attention from Leeds' local musicians, students and visitors in equal measure.
- Start off by checking out what's on at the O2 Academy on Cookridge Street. Its launch turned the original listed building into an entertainment venue extraordinaire, and it now boasts a theatre style format, complete with a secondary 400 club space, Underground, which likes to offer discerning clubbers in Leeds some of the best specialist club events. It's also used as a pre and post gig area for the main auditorium.
- It used to be the old wardrobe department for what was once the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and now The Wardrobe is a veritable Leeds institution which has been the top live music spot in Leeds for well over ten years. Since it opened as a music venue in 1999, The Wardrobe has evolved into a well-respected and much loved independent venue which has welcomed a real diverse selection of local and international acts, including Amy Winehouse. The absolutely fabulous décor is a complete contrast to a lot of venues, with a nod to fifties' New York industrialism, and there's a street level café bar and restaurant too.
- Quirky local venue Nation of Shopkeepers is a little bit left of centre and a fun place to spend an evening out in Leeds. It brings together a stunning outside courtyard and a capacity of 850 right in the city centre and it's the perfect place to go if you want to catch local artists performing, as well as arts events, record fairs, club nights plus refreshments. The venue is a little bit different, with pretty bunting, flowery wallpaper, murals and cosy looking armchairs, which just adds to the fun!
- The Cockpit is yet another completely independent live music and club venue which has been built underneath the railway arches, adding a bit of an unusual vibe and some distinctive curved ceilings. There's not one but three venues there, as well as a separate bar, and it's a favourite with up and coming new bands, perfect for a visit if you want to spot the next big thing before anyone else does…Also great for a club night or two.
- Moving on to the club scene, for a more decadent vibe, seek out Chilli White where you'll encounter three whole floors of music and drinking that caters for all tastes and promises to be an electric night out. This lively bar is always busy, and you'll find it just behind the Corn Exchange in the centre of Leeds, tempting you in with a long list of special offers, deals, Happy Hours and extensive lists of cocktails, premium spirits and even Champagnes.
- Tiger Tiger really is something for pretty much everyone, featuring a selection of different music styles from the lively Tiger Bar to the laid-back Lounge with its comfy sofas and armchairs. There's also a jazz-centric Red Room and the Moroccan themed Kaz Bar. You can eat and drink at Tiger Tiger, where there's an accompanying a la carte menu, canapé and buffet menus, as well as a handy bar food menu that's perfect for daytime visits.
- If trendy bars and live music don't really float your boat, and all you really want is a good, honest drink, the top spot is North, which is reputed to have the best selection of quality beers in the North of England, and has also won the Observer Food Monthly ‘Best place to drink in the UK' accolade. As if that wasn't enough, this pub of pubs is also the drinking spot of choice for Su Pollard, Sylvester McCoy and some of the now defunct Hearsay...
Have we mentioned before just how much fun a shopaholic can have on a trip to Leeds? The fact that everything's so compact in the fine city does help, and if your feet do get a little sore you can always book in for a pedicure afterwards or simply stop for a bite to eat during your travels.
Boutique shopping is very much the order of the day in Leeds, and there is literally a few minutes' walk in-between the high end, designer stores in the fabulous, elegant Victoria Quarter, and some really great up and coming new independent boutiques in Thornton's Arcade.
Victoria Quarter is quite possibly the most upmarket, designer-oriented shopping centre in the North of England, which has everything a label-loving fashionista would want, male or female. Well established and iconic fashion brands like Ted Baker, Vivienne Westwood and Karen Millen are all on display to tempt you away from your cash, and good quality high street favourites are also represented, from French Connection to Space NK, Hobbs and All Saints and Jigsaw.
The Light, another shopping haven right in the heart of the city is full of great lifestyle brands and of course also the first Harvey Nichols store outside London. If you get bored of spending, there's also entertainment from the cinema, bars and cafes. There's also a top class health club and a four star Radisson SAS hotel.
If you love a good market, you won't be disappointed with Leeds, as along with vintage shops, independent stores and more there's a great tradition of farmers markets, vintage fairs and arts fairs along with the famous Kirkgate Market – the birthplace of Marks and Spencer. Kirkgate can keep you occupied for hours with its hundreds of individual shops – it's also Europe's largest indoor market and there are market-related events taking place all the year round, as well as fun things for kids and specially themed days.
LEEDS'S TOP THREE SPAS
- If a woodland spa just outside the hustle and bustle of Leeds city centre is your kind of thing, try Wood Hall Hotel and Spa near Wetherby. It seems a long way from anywhere and the setting is idyllic, up on a hill, surrounded by 100 acres of countryside. Enough about the outside, the inside of the spa is stunning too, with all you could hope for from a charming hotel spa. The staff will even make you a picnic hamper on a nice day so you can chill out in the spa's Italian Garden.
- If a more urban spa is calling, you can head to The Spirit Health Club in in the Holiday Inn hotel. Don't let the fact it's in a chain hotel put you off, the spa is delightful, with celeb-favourite Dermalogica products on hand to make you feel a million dollars, a steam room and sauna to laze around in, and heated pool - or have a work out in the gym.
- Another perfect little retreat is the Saks Hair and Beauty in Leeds, choc-full of delicious signature treatments, holistic and beauty therapies that perfectly complement the upmarket David Lloyd Club you'll find it in. The bonus is that when you're done chilling out you get to work out in some of Leeds' best fitness facilities.