One of the oldest English cities dating back at least 2,000 years, Leicester has witnessed the Iron Age, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and the Norman conquest. Today it’s one of the largest cities in the UK, with a diverse and rich history illustrated through many captivating Leicester attractions, from historic buildings to inner city parks and table-topping sports teams.
Take a short walk around the centre of Leicester and you’ll inevitably stumble upon the city’s rich heritage. At its centre is the stunning Leicester Cathedral, with the Guildhall nearby and, a little further afield, the Abbey and the park bordering the River Soar.
Dating back over 1,000 years, Leicester Cathedral has been through several incarnations; first as a Saxon church, then a place of Norman worship before undergoing a Victorian restoration. Now the resting place of King Richard III, who was killed in battle at nearby Bosworth Field, the cathedral is bathed in stunning light thanks to its stained glass windows – the most recent of which is a monument to those who died in WWI. A popular tourist destination, and a free one at that, it’s worth paying attention to the stunning acoustics and taking in the tomb of Richard III, who was reinterred there in 2015.
Just a short walk away is Leicester Guildhall, a Grade I-listed building that was originally built in the 15th century. Used for council meetings, feasts and even as a courtroom, the space is now a museum, taking visitors through the city’s rich history, including a fascinating medieval gallery and recreated Victorian-era police cells. The Guildhall is also an evocative performance stage, hosting live music, poetry events, readings and dances. Oh, and for the easily spooked visitor, it’s reputed to be one of the most haunted places in the UK!
The Abbey of Saint Mary de Pratis – or Leicester Abbey to me and you – was founded in the 12th century and is now a well-preserved set of ruins detailing the original floor plan. History fans will revel in the archaeological excavations, while the gorgeous parklands are worth a visit on their own thanks to the pets corner, play park, outdoor gym, boating lake and carefully manicured gardens. The dog-friendly Peppercorn Café is a great spot for lunch, coffee and a cake or well-deserved ice cream.
With more than a dozen green, open spaces within a one-mile radius of the city centre, Leicester has lots of luscious park life to explore.
Not only does Abbey Park showcase the ruined remains of the 12th century monastery, but it’s also one of the city’s best parks, as pretty as it is well-equipped. With a boating lake in the centre and the River Soar hurrying by on one bank, the park is surrounded by water, giving it picture-postcard views. With a jogging track, adventure playground, miniature railway, bowling green, orienteering course, lavender maze and ping pong tables, it’s easy to come for a short walk and end up staying a whole morning or afternoon. Located a mile from town, there are several on-site car parks and it’s just a 15-minute walk from our Leicester Central (A50) and Leicester City Centre hotels.
Backed onto the University of Leicester and known for its war memorial, Victoria Park is a spacious 69-acre public park hosting outdoor events, such as Leicester Caribbean Carnival, Leicester Pride and a 50,000-capacity homecoming crowd for local heroes Kasabian. The park is a five-minute walk from the train station and has various sports facilities, including tennis courts, basketball pitches, bowling greens and football and cricket pitches. It’s recently added a skatepark and adventure playground to its portfolio.
The largest park in Leicester at 178 acres, Western Park is a blend of meadows, mature woods and hedgerows, as well as more modern facilities like a BMX track, skate ramp and baseball field and a generous allocation of picnic benches. It’s also home to six cricket pitches, five football pitches and six tennis courts, making it one of the city’s favourite sporting destinations. With several car parks – five minutes’ drive from one of our Leicester hotels – and real diversity, the park is popular with dog walkers, runners and nature lovers throughout the year.
Wistow is home to one of the largest maize mazes in the UK; an eight-acre maze made from living maize and sunflowers that you get to sleuth your way around. Using breadcrumbs or just plain old guesswork, there are three miles of paths and 12 quiz boards dotted around the maze themed around Sherlock Holmes. The high-level bridges and towers give stunning views over the surrounding countryside and offer vital clues on how to make it out alive (or at least before closing time). Handily located three miles from our Leicester South (Oadby) hotel, Wistow Maze is also home to a café, garden centre, model village and art gallery, making it a great family day out.
A wide open space bisected by the A46, Castle Hill Country Park takes its name from the medieval Castle Hill earthworks believed to have once been a monastic grange or sheep farm. With little in the way of mod cons, the park is 250 acres of rolling wood and grassland, and recently sprouted a new apple orchard planted on the site of a previous 14th century plantation.
Leicester Arena opened in 2016 as a purpose-built sports and events space that can seat up to 2,400 people.
A highly flexible city centre venue used for conferences, exhibitions, music and comedy events, Leicester Arena can hold up to 3,000 people and is home to the city’s basketball team, the Leicester Riders. With on-site parking, excellent catering facilities and a main space that can be easily divided or extended to fit specific remits, the arena has hosted shows from TV comic John Bishop, as well as basketball World Cup qualifier games.
With a rich sporting pedigree, Leicester boasts world-class stadiums including the historic Welford Road Rugby Stadium and Leicester City’s imposing King Power Stadium. We’ve compiled a dedicated page on the stadiums in Leicester, including how to get to them, what to do and where to celebrate after matches.
There are no fewer than seven Leicester hotels to suit your needs when planning a visit - so you can choose whatever's best for you, whether you're indulging in some retail therapy or treating yourself to a night out.
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