It might be known for its student population, but the ever-evolving city of Leeds also caters to rather more discerning tastes. From high-end shopping in the Victoria Quarter to sophisticated evenings spent at the Grand Theatre and Opera House, here’s how to sidestep the students. Having preserved its Victorian heritage while shaking off the shadows of heavy industry, Leeds has emerged as one of Britain's fastest growing cities. It’s constantly developing, with urban planners launching a 100-year project to transform its South Bank in 2017. With over 60,000 students living there, Leeds can certainly be classed as an university city, but the West Yorkshire destination is about so much more than freshers’ week and Jägerbombs.
Shopping capital of the north
There’s a reason that Leeds is nicknamed the ‘Knightsbridge of the North’ – partly because of its Harvey Nichols shop, but also because of the luxurious brands housed in the Grade II listed Victoria Quarter. Designer stores such as Vivienne Westwood, Mulberry and Paul Smith draw customers from around the world. The stunning buildings were designed over a century ago by the theatrical architect Frank Matcham, and the centre is home to England’s largest stained glass window.
The nearby Kirkgate Market is one of Europe’s largest indoor trading spaces, and is the place to go for hard-to-find ingredients. Stop by the Polish delicatessen, which brings in fresh produce from Poland weekly, and sells crunchy sauerkraut and crisp salads as well as stacking its shelves with traditional stews and moreish cheeses. You’ll also find Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food, which provides comprehensive cooking courses using fresh produce from the market, and a weekly Asian bazaar, where you can talk spices with the local traders or pick up a beautifully woven silk saree.
Elevating the tone at the Grand Theatre and Opera House
The building is among Leeds' most iconic, blending Romanesque and Scottish Baronial aesthetics, and is just a six-minute walk from our Radisson Blu Hotel, Leeds City Centre. It was constructed in 1878 in an effort to counter the popularity of the city’s music halls, which society’s upper echelons believed lowered the tone of Leeds' entertainment scene. The venue now plays host to all manner of stage performances, with stand-up shows by popular comedians like Dara Ó Briain and Milton Jones alternating with classic productions including The King’s Speech and The Sound of Music.
Embracing the beer drinking culture
Leeds has a well-earned reputation for its real ale and craft beers – the city accommodated Tetley’s brewery for nearly two centuries, after all. Head over to Whitelock's to relax at the end of a busy day; dating back to 1715, it’s Leeds’ oldest pub. The venue was once described by poet Sir John Betjeman as 'the very heart of Leeds', and has retained its sense of history with the dark wooden interior, cast iron fireplace and original marble-topped bar. Whitelock's serve beautifully cooked, traditional dishes like meaty Yorkshire black pudding with a sharp apple and cider purée, and braised ox tail with creamy mash. You could also try a pint of Leeds Best bitter at The Midnight Bell, Leeds Brewery's flagship establishment. The pub has one of the city’s best beer gardens, and even the biggest of appetites will be satisfied by its Leeds pale ale battered haddock with twice-cooked chips.
Art Deco Space
Ever imagined you could stay in an originally refurbished art deco building? At the Radisson Blu Hotel, Leeds City Centre, you can experience an ultra modern, yet artistically intricate holiday in comfortable rooms that offer high-speed WiFi and keeps you close to the city's Light shopping district and entertainment area. If you're looking to relax and unwind, make sure to spend an evening at the FireLake Grill House Cocktail Bar where you can sink into snug arm chairs while sipping on a fresh cocktail.