Leeds is bursting at the seams with cultural things to do. Whether you love your history with an industrial, ancient or even medical slant, you’ll find it all and more in the city’s eclectic mix of museums. Passion for all things visual? Step out of your Leeds hotel and head straight to one of its cutting-edge art galleries or exhibitions. Then, when your eyes have had as much art as they can handle, it’s time to explore a different side of the city’s culture at one of its heritage-steeped universities. So take a look at our guide and see what high-brow highlights you’ll discover on your culture-packed visit to Leeds.
Culture in Leeds
A raft of top-class galleries puts the city up there with the finest in Europe when it comes to art. But which of Leeds’ many visual spaces should you visit first?
With paintings and sculpture by some of the greatest 20th century British artists, Leeds Art Gallery is a must-see for art lovers. Discover works by everyone from Percy Wyndham Lewis to Henry Moore, explore the Craft Centre and Design Gallery or attend a workshop with a local artist; you’ll find plenty to inspire you. Housed in a Victorian building, 2017 saw an extensive refurbishment of the original Victorian roof and renovation of the Central Court. There’s a Premier Inn hotel near Leeds Art Gallery,
One of the largest sculpture galleries in Europe, the Henry Moore Institute was set up in the city where the famous sculptor was a student. As well as being home to a number of pieces by Moore, the Institute exhibits international historical and contemporary sculpture, including classics and modern masterpieces. With exhibitions changing frequently, there's always plenty to see.
Opening in 2012, the White Cloth Gallery aims to provide a space for established and emerging artists to showcase their work. Over its four rooms you’ll find some of the nation’s most exciting photography on display. Offering workshops, screenings and book signings, as well as a café-bar, this gallery is a great place to see some cutting-edge art or grab a bite to eat.
Supporting local arts and culture in Leeds but also bringing established artists to the city, there’s always lots to see at the The Gallery at 164. You’ll find it in Munro House in the Leeds’ Art Quarter and, since opening in 2011, it has exhibited everything from artists and illustrators to photographers and designers working in all types of media. After you’ve checked out the exhibits, take a break and grab a bite to eat in the gallery’s café.
Nearly 30 million people visit Leeds each year, and a major draw has to be the calibre of museums in the city. From gory medical history to fascinating artefacts from the natural world, exploring them all in one day would be impossible. So why not book into a Leeds hotel and make a weekend of it?
Established in 1819, the Leeds City Museum is housed in the former Mechanics' Institute in the centre of the city. Exhibiting everything from Roman mosaics and Greek tombs to a 3,000-year-old mummy and a Victorian stuffed tiger, you’ll find something interesting around every corner. If you’re visiting with children during the holidays, there’s a range of free clubs and activities to keep the little ones busy.
Home to the national collection, the Royal Armouries Museum near our City Centre (Whitehall Road) hotel has everything from swords and scabbards to helmets and half amour. Across its themed galleries - covering war, tournaments, hunting, and self defence - you’ll find a collection of over 8,500 objects from across the world. Check out the regular events and step back in time with some Medieval jousting and Roman formation drills.
Go on a journey from Victorian medicine to present-day surgery at the gloriously gory Thackray Medical Museum. Explore the collections, attend a lecture or keep the kids busy with eye dissections and disease detective work. The building is supposedly the most haunted building in Leeds so keen ghost hunters should check out the museum’s paranormal investigations.
Dig deep and discover a whole lot of history at the National Coal Mining Museum. Descend 140 metres underground into one of the world’s oldest working mines. Put your hard hat on and follow your former-miner guide down the tunnels to discover how coal mining has changed throughout the centuries - from pit ponies to modern day machinery. There’s a Premier Inn hotel near the National Coal Mining Museum, too.
Explore the manufacturing and engineering history of the city at the Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills. Wander around a Victorian milling room, explore early printing presses or see some 19th century locomotives, there’s lots to keep the whole family busy at this museum. Want to take a break? Head to the working 1920’s cinema and sit back to watch some short films.
Travel back in time with a trip to Abbey House Museum. Located in the gatehouse of the ruined Kirkstall Abbey, this museum explores Leeds’ past and the history of childhood. Wander its ground floor and discover what life was really like in a beautifully recreated Victorian street, complete with a range of shops. Head upstairs to explore toys from years gone by in the Childhood Gallery.
Steeped in history and with a packed cultural calendar, it’s no wonder more and more students choose to study at one of Leeds’ universities.
From politician Baroness Warsi to Hollywood star Chris Pine, the University of Leeds has attracted a wide range of students with a great academic reputation and student life to match. There’s interesting architecture, a buzzing atmosphere and one of the best Student Unions around. Here for an open day or graduation? Why not make a weekend of it, by booking into our hotel near Leeds University?
Once called Leeds Metropolitan University, the 190-year-old Leeds Beckett University is an interesting place, whether you’re here for an open day or to visit a loved one. It’s split into two campuses - one right in the heart of the city and one in the leafy suburb of Headingley, three miles north of the centre. Both have no shortage of cool bars and restaurants right on their doorstep, but whichever campus you find yourself at, there’ll be a Premier Inn near Leeds Beckett University ready to get your visit off to the best possible start.
Head six miles north-west of Leeds city centre and you’ll arrive in Horsforth, home of Leeds Trinity University. A strong employer focus, excellent teaching and great campus make this a popular place to study and if you’re here on an open day, our hotel near Leeds Trinity University makes a great base.
Follow in the footsteps of Barbara Hepworth and Damien Hirst at Leeds College of Art. A creative atmosphere and close-knit student community make this the highest ranked independent art college in the UK.
With great exhibition spaces of all sizes, there’s always an array of exciting events happening in Leeds. Whether you’re a fashionista or a foodie, you’re bound to find one that tickles your fancy.
With up to 2,200 square meters of exhibition space and room for 12,000 guests, the First Direct Arena is the perfect place for all kinds of events. From vegan food festivals to international tattoo conventions, there are no shortage of unique exhibitions happening at the arena throughout the year. Our Leeds Arena hotel is just a walk away, too.
Eighteenth century history combines with state-of-the-art facilities to make Harewood House a great location for plenty of different occasions. Whether it’s an exhibition in the impressive State Rooms or an event in the elegant Gallery, the House has a variety of spaces that are the perfect fit.
A landmark building in the centre of the city, Leeds Town Hall offers fantastic facilities within a grand Victorian setting. From festivals for foodies or film buffs to conventions and talks on all kinds of topics, you’ll find a range of conferences and events happening inside the building’s ornate Victoria Hall.
The Centenary Pavilion at Leeds Football Club is one of the biggest conference centres in the North of England. With a capacity of 1,600, it has hosted major conferences and exhibitions as well as live music, fashion and, of course, sporting events. The venue’s starlit ceiling adds a bit of glamour to any occasion.