Galleries, museums, festivals; there’s a real mix of delights for culture vultures to feast on in this thriving multicultural city.
Culture in Leicester
Leicester has had serious investment in its art galleries in recent years, with a real focus on inclusive spaces for all the family. And did we mention the dinosaurs?
The Attenborough Arts Centre is part of the University of Leicester but this is no ordinary academic art space. Following a £1.5 million expansion project, it’s now the largest contemporary gallery in the city, offering a huge range of events, workshops and family activities. Alongside exhibitions by international and local artists, you’re just as likely to find it hosting regular baby discos and sculpture classes.
Curious about the name? The centre was founded by Richard (later Lord) Attenborough, who grew up in the city and was a keen supporter of the arts in Leicester throughout his life.
Lord Attenborough’s legacy is also evident in another gallery just a 10-minute walk away, near Leicester Train Station. The New Walk Museum and Art Gallery houses Lord and Lady Attenborough’s collection of Picasso ceramics, as well as a renowned selection of German Expressionist works. The museum opened in 1849 and is one of the UK’s oldest. It has been extensively updated in recent years. As well as artworks, it holds excellent collections from Egypt (mummies included) and is a must for families, thanks to its Den Gallery for the under-5s and two of the UK’s best-preserved dinosaurs.
If you fancy snapping up some original art for your walls, then Cank Street Gallery should definitely be on your list. Nestled in the heart of Leicester’s historic Old Town, this independent gem offers an ever-changing array of paintings, prints and sculptures by well-known names and up-and-coming talent. Whitewall Galleries has grown into the UK’s largest national gallery chain for a reason and, if you’re looking for a statement piece, few galleries can match its choice or personal approach.
A city awash with historical importance, Leicester is home to some seriously impressive museums – but it’s the modern day world that takes precedence, as the city hosts the National Space Centre, a couple of miles from our Central (A50) hotel. This is an all-day trip that takes in every facet of the extraterrestrial.
A museum with slightly more gravity, the Attenborough Arts Centrewas opened and named after Lord Attenborough. It was designed to cater to people with disabilities. An all-encompassing space, it hosts a wide spectrum of art and exhibits, and has an excellent café to boot.
And no museum curation would be complete without the New Walk Museum and Gallery, and its diverse range of exhibits that include ancient Egypt, an innovative gallery specifically for children under five and a gallery dedicated to Picasso ceramics. Head to our dedicated Leicester museums page for the full low-down.
Laughter looms large in Leicester’s impressive list of annual events but live music, gay pride and the city’s waterways all play their part in a vibrant cultural stew.
These days it seems like every town and city’s got its own comedy showcase but Leicester Comedy Festival was one of the first to find its funny bone and the annual gag fest is now a much-loved favourite for comics and punters alike. The list of past performers reads like a who’s who of comedy royalty. The festival provides a brilliant opportunity to see big names in intimate settings, as well as a host of acts tipped to be the next big things. The 2017 festival was the biggest yet, with an incredible 800 acts across 62 central venues. All that laughter potential makes Premier Inn Leicester City Centre the perfect place to rest your aching sides.
Comedy is also a big part of the annual Leicester City Festival; a five-day Summer celebration of all the city’s best bits. And when we say ‘all’, we mean it. From cinema and art to music and food, all human life is here. It’s a celebration of Leicester’s proud multicultural heritage and the many ways in which it constantly reinvents itself. More than anything, it’s about the whole city coming together and having a big party! As is The Parade, Leicester Pride’s celebration of the city’s LGBT community, which winds through the streets on its way to a rainbow-coloured fiesta in Victoria Park.
The Leicester Riverside Festival, based around Bede Park and Castle Gardens, in 2017 celebrated 20 years as one of the city’s favourite free festivals. With boat trips, live music, street food stalls and more, it’s a brilliant way to spend a June weekend messing about on the river. Gig lovers should also check out Leicester’s ace Simon Says festival. Started five years ago by the owners of three of Leicester’s best independent venues – The Musician, Firebug and The Donkey – Simon Says features the cream of Leicester’s thriving music scene, alongside headline acts such as The Wonderstuff, British Sea Power and Alabama 3.
Leicester’s a great place to do business too, being the fastest growing economic area outside London. So what better place to hold the Leicester Business Festival? It boasts 154 events across 12 days, covering 13 sectors and drawing over 10,000 attendees keen to sample seminars, presentations and networking events.