Forget the guide books and stereotypes… Jordan Sims presents 25 things you won’t know about Leeds unless you’ve spent some time there.
It houses this
Readers alien to Leeds, gaze upon the most unlikely shopping centre sculpture known to man. If you’ve ever wanted to indulge in some retail therapy under the gaze of a giant horse, this jaw-dropping 15 metre high, two-tonne monstrosity – towering over shoppers in the Trinity Centre – will let you do just that (website).
It boasts the world’s best-hidden pub
Hiding stealthily in plain site in the city centre, like the pub equivalent of Predator, The Angel is often a surprise to even the most long-standing Leeds dweller. A sort of optical illusion obscures a hidden passage to its front door, resulting in a Narnia-like sense of wonder once you stumble across it. Inside you’ll find several cosy hubs, extremely cheap drinks, and some of the wackiest regulars ever to roam the streets, including one man who pretends to be Irish for some reason. You’re always in for a treat when you strike up a conversation at the bar. How many more of these mischievous taverns lurk in the shadows?
There’s more to the night scene than meets the eye
With the Leeds night-life being as renowned as it is, the super-clubs are always tempting. But if you want a quieter atmosphere, try out Milo. It’s pretty much a lively broom cupboard with a few bottles of rum – and you can’t go wrong with that (website).
There’s every type of food imaginable
All the ethnic diversity of the Earth is crushed into jaunty caravan-shaped stalls at the Trinity Kitchen. There maybe a slight risk of a dodgy belly with the burritos, but it’s probably worth the prolonged loo excursion (website).
Catwoman would love it
As well as being a student haven, filled to the brim with needless house parties and some of the most eccentric attires you’ll ever see, the fine neighbourhood of Burley Park is packed with stray cats – and is just a short train ride away from the city centre. If you’re a person of the feline persuasion, and a little crazy, why not go pick one up today! Nobody’s sure where they all come from. There must be a breeding compound nearby.
Comedy is never ending here
In St.Peters Square stands the legendary House of Fun comedy club. The drinks cost a month’s rent, but when you’re paying £6 to see the likes of Hal Cruttenden and Keith Farnan you’ve got to splash out a little. Come on – nobody likes a cheapskate (website).
You can visit a gothic wonder
Kirkstall Abbey, or more accurately the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, is a great place to visit. If you enjoy architecture or re-enacting Lord of the Rings scenes, this historical site is well worth a look. Plus, in the Winter it makes for a great snowball fight arena (website).
You can play giant chess
More often than not, when the sun doth shine, giant chess is played regularly just outside the town hall. Problem is, it’s a lot harder to cheat when the pieces are three feet high.
You can have a drink on a land-locked ship
Let me explain: that’s a boat, in the centre of Leeds, on land, that is also a bar. Dry Dock is a regular destination for many people, on most nights. Armed with a nifty jukebox and £1 pints on Tuesdays, it’s a great pre-drinking place on a night out. They also do a cracking burger and chips. Did you ever think you’d eat a burger on a shipwrecked boat? I didn’t think so… (website)
You can hang out with a former drug smuggler
Howard Marks, aka Mr. Nice and former international drug smuggler, is heavily involved with Azucar Bar in Leeds. The legendary writer lives just a minute away from the venue, and he definitely has a tale or two to tell should you bump into him (website).
You can fight a Balrog
Gandalf’s sword (Glamdring, for all you know-it-alls reading this and thinking I didn’t know my stuff) is now housed in the Royal Armouries. The exhibition ‘Swords of Middle Earth’ was launched in December to celebrate the release of Peter Jackson’s latest masterpiece The Hobbit. It holds four noticeable weapons from the Tolkien universe. They should rent them out. Imagine strolling into work with Aragorn’s sword on your back, and declaring you are now the king of Gondor (website).
You can watch zombie films with Paddy and Marlon from Emmerdale
This is going to sound strange, but bear with me. Emmerdale‘s Domonic Brunt and Mark Charnock have taken it upon themselves to declare their obsession for undead based cinema by creating the Leeds Zombie Film festival, which takes place every year in Headingley. Admit it, that’s pretty cool (website).
You can go-kart seven days a week
At Pole Position Indoor Karting, the fun never stops. In a stroke of entrepreneurial genius the go-karting chain keeps its doors open every day to ensure maximum profit. So if you ever get the urge to whizz round a bend at 20mph on a Sunday, this is the perfect place (website).
You can have an emotional night for free
If you’re one for, as my friend once so eloquently put it: “Emotions and crap”, then the Sandbar in Horsforth holds a monthly open mic night. Readings range from poetry to comedy sketches, so there’s something there for everyone (website).
The Bavarians essentially run the place
Leeds’ famous Bierkeller is always worth a visit. You may never have been to a Bavarian-themed bar before, but listen up: there’s roaring sing-alongs, a cracking atmosphere, and you get served colossal glasses of beer by girls in fraulein dresses (website).
It houses an Egyptian temple… of sorts
Temple Works in Leeds is a former flax mill – and almost identical to The Temple of Horus in Egypt. At the time of its construction, it was the biggest single room in the world, but there is an even weirder element to this building. When constructed, grass covered the roof, and sheep would roam around happily. Imagine coming in to Leeds to see a bunch of sheep strolling around on top of an Egyptian temple. Oh the good old days…
Keith Lemon is a regular
Keep an eye out for Keith Lemon. Or Leigh Francis, depending on how well up you are on celebrities. The fun-loving Celebrity Juice icon is Leeds born and bred, and I have seen him around the city on no fewer than three occasions. Stand about with a picture of Holly Willoughby: I’m sure he’ll turn up eventually.
The corn exchange is where all the cool kids hang out
The city’s corn exchange serves the more eccentric consumers, as it houses the most unique and individual stores in the city. For the best bargains or even just a new browsing experience, it’s the only place to go (website).
American foodies are in seventh-heaven
As well as being home to some of the best burger joints in the UK, Leeds also plays host to the legend of a food bar that is Steakz and Shakez. It does pretty much what it says on the tin. If you want a steak, or a shake, or a steak flavoured shake, I’m sure this place will suit you just fine (website).
It has its very own Cinema Paradiso
The Hyde Park picture house is a real hidden gem of this dear city. This vintage cinema screens films new and old at just £1 a pop for children (on Saturdays at 12). It marks its centenary this year, and is the only gas-lit cinema in the UK fact fans. (website).
Comic Book lovers are well catered for
Despite what the name suggests, OK Comics is far from simply “OK”. With a wide and formidable selection of cartoon-y goodness, the award-winning store is your one-stop shop for top notch superhero reading (website).
It’s not all Shakespeare
The West Yorkshire Playhouse is an esteemed regional theatre of some renown – but it’s not all Hamlet and MacBeth. The Playhouse features a huge spread of entertainment from ballet to pantomime, and is currently showcasing a play written by and starring Denise Van Outen (website).
Italy has nothing on Leeds
For those in the know, The Old Ball in Horsforth does the best pizza in the world. Literally, in the world. Only a five-minute drive from the city centre, not only does this amazing pub offer the best thin crust you’ll ever eat, but there’s also a 2 for 1 deal on (website).
Top Tapas is a speciality
If you’re in Leeds and craving tapas, crave no more. Viva La Cuba on Kirkstall Road serves up the best tapas this side of Mexico City. I mean, the place looks like something out of a Clint Eastwood film, but a bit of character doesn’t go amiss in this city (website).
It has a ready-made setting for a slasher movie
Is it a graveyard? Is it some kind of knife factory? No, it’s a toy museum. The nearby Ilkley Toy Museum includes exhibits such as 1930s German teddy bears and a doll who is apparently called ‘Miss. Barwick’. I mean, it’s literally like something from a drunken nightmare. Miss. Barwick? Why would you name a doll that? It’s so creepy! I’ll put my bottom dollar on it being haunted by the ghost of a child who lost her favourite toy, or something to that effect.
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