When you arrive in the historic heart of Yorkshire, it’s easy to see why so many don’t leave. This is a city that hasn’t stood still. Compact and accessible, you can walk everywhere and experience culture at its best.
Leeds earned its place in Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Europe 2017’ ten travel destinations thanks to its transformation over the past decade, with urban regeneration accompanied by a flourishing cultural scene, a growing food and craft beer reputation and thriving entertainment and nightlife.
Yorkshire’s largest city boasts four major theatres, over 16 museums and galleries and is one of the only cities outside London to have its own opera and ballet companies. The Leeds Grand Theatre dates back to 1878, is home to Opera North and hosts regular productions from Northern Ballet and musicals from London’s West End. The recently refurbished Leeds Art Gallery is next door to the Henry Moore Institute where you can experience world-class art and sculpture in the heart of the city.
The city also boasts the national collection of arms and armour at The Royal Armouries Museum (pictured right) where visitors can explore national collections of artillery from across the world throughout the six themed galleries. The national museum is part of the Royal Armouries family with other sites being the Tower of London and Fort Nelson, Hampshire.
It’s not just a vibrant cultural scene that brings visitors pouring into the city. Leeds boasts a wide and exciting range of shopping. As the third best place to shop outside London, take in Trinity Leeds, the splendid arcades of the Victoria Quarter and the award-winning Victoria Gate which is a premium aspirational ‘theatre to retail’ whose design is based on the Victorian arcades for which Leeds is renowned.
With a flourishing independent food and drink scene, craft breweries, street food, independent bars and restaurants, Leeds rivals any other leading European city. From fine dining Michelin–starred restaurants and afternoon tea to world cuisine, this is a city where you can always try something new.
Leeds made history as it hosted the finish of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire in 2015. The final stage, of then a three-stage race, saw the peloton make its way from Wakefield circulating around Bradford before ending ion the hugely popular finish line at Roundhay Park, Leeds.
The stage was won by Ben Hermans of BMC Racing, who is soon to join Pro-Conti team Israeli Cycling Academy, with the overall race victory going to Lars Petter Nordhaug, then of Team Sky.
The race then visited the borough of Leeds again the following year as Stage Two for both the men’s and women’s race began in Otley. This was an important milestone for the Tour de Yorkshire as it was the first time that the women’s race followed the exact same route as the men’s.
Otley was a particularly memorable start location as the race featured Lizzie Deignan (then Armitstead) who was born in the town and was racing in the Tour for the first time. Although Lizzie didn’t win the 2016 edition, she did so in emphatic style the following year as the race finished in Harrogate.
Better known as Mel B, Melanie Brown was Scary Spice in British pop group, the Spice Girls. As a Spice Girl, the band released three albums and sold more than 40 million copies worldwide with 9 of their singles making it to number one.
The Harehills born, Leeds lady made a career as a soloist after the band split in 2001, her first single “I Want You” made it to number one in the UK charts.
The Brownlee Brothers
The Brownlee brothers make quite the impact on the triathlon circuit and are the first British brothers to finish first and second in an individual event. Alistair Brownlee is the first triathlete to defend his Olympic title after winning gold in London 2012 and Rio 2016. Alistair and younger brother Jonny grew up in Horsforth, just 5 miles outside of the city centre where the gold postbox of Alistair’s sits.
Born in Bristol, Damien Hirst spent his formative years in the city of Leeds attending Allerton Grange High School before studying a foundation diploma at Leeds College of Art.
Internationally renowned, Hirst is famous for his art in which dead animals are preserved, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, compromises of a 14-foot tiger shark contained in a glass cabinet.
Ernest Wiseman OBE
The English comedian, best known by stage name, Ernie Wise was half of comedy duo Morecambe and Wise.
Wiseman was born in Bramley and was the eldest of 5 children. He first came into showbusiness at the age of six, joining his father on stage at working men’s clubs as double act ‘Carson and Kid’. By the age of 12 Ernie was appearing on stage as a solo entertainer where he appeared on stage at The New Pavilion in Morley.
Arguably one of Britain’s most respected political journalists, Jeremy Paxman was born in Leeds and began his career as a roving reporter covering the problems in Northern Ireland at the time.
In 1989, Paxman began presenting ‘Newsnight’, this became his defining job throughout the career he has had, his interviewing abilities became famous as he gave politicians the ‘Paxman treatment’. Also known for giving students a hard time, Paxman presents the academic quiz show, ‘University Challenge’ having hosted the programme since ’94.
Marco Pierre White
Dubbed as the first celebrity chef in the UK, Marco Pierre White was born in Leeds in 1961. He started his career as an apprentice at the Michelin-starred Box Tree restaurant in Ilkley before venturing down to London where he trained under legendary French maestros, Albert and Michel Roux.
White became the youngest chef to win three Michelin stars at 33 with a team of inspiring young chefs such as Gordan Ramsey and Heston Blumenthal.
ICONIC LANDMARKS OF PAST AND PRESENT
Leeds Town Hall
This Grade I listed building is a stunning example of Victorian architecture and was designed by Cuthbert Brodrick after a competition to build the town hall was held back in 1852. Completed in 1858, the town hall was opened by Queen Victoria herself and Brodrick, who was an unknown at the time, came under fire for the time and expense it cost. However, it became an important symbol of the city’s growing influence and a standard bearer for later municipal design.
Completed in 2007, Bridgewater Place, the 32-storey office and residential tower is the tallest building in Yorkshire visible at up to 25 miles from most areas. Nicknamed ‘The Dalek’, thanks to its appearance resembling that of Doctor Who’s infamous enemies, Bridgewater Place is a hive of professional and commercial activity.
Leeds Civic Hall
Leeds Civic Hall was opened in 1933 by King George V and Queen Mary. The building was designed by Mr E Vincent Harris and it was said to cost £360,000 at the time to construct and furnish. On the six Roman Corinthian pillars that surround the hall perches an owl, one of the symbols of Leeds, measuring 2.3m and weighing half a ton.
This centre for contemporary art and learning in a landmark heritage building, was once a former Tetley’s brewery. When the owners Carlsberg-Tetley ceased ale and beer production at the site in 2011, the area underwent a multi-million-pound redevelopment and 2013 saw the Tetley become the arts hub that it is today.
Leeds Liverpool Canal
The Leeds Liverpool Canal is the longest canal in Britain at 127 miles built as a single waterway passing through the Pennine countryside and East Lancashire. The canal linked the east with the west of England when completed in 1816 after 46 years of construction, passing through important limestone and coal mining areas playing an important role throughout the industrial revolution.
Leeds Kirkgate Market
Leeds Kirkgate Market is one of the largest indoor markets in Europe and has been at the heart of Leeds retail since 1857. The market is also the birthplace of one of the UK’s leading retailers Marks & Spencer, starting out as a ‘Penny Bazaar’ in 1884. The retail chain revisited it roots in 2013 bringing M&S back to where it all started by setting up a new stall.
NEARBY BIKE LIBRARIES
Each week in the lead up to the Tour De Yorkshire 2018 route launch, we’re shining the spotlight on some of the fantastic Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries located on or near next year’s race route. This week we’re focusing on Leeds which is where the project started.
Professional cyclist and Team Sky rider David Lopez joined the staff and volunteers at Fearnville Leisure Centre to launch the scheme and show the local school children a thing or two on one of the library's newly reconditioned bikes.
Since then, 47 bike libraries have launched across the county, giving more than 50,000 chances to ride a bike to children and families across Yorkshire.
Launched as a legacy of the Tour De France, it seems only fitting that Leeds, which hosted the spectacular start of the ‘grandest ever Grand Depart', is currently home to ten bike libraries; with a further three opening imminently.
Six of these are run by Leeds City Council in Moor Allerton, the One Stop Centre in Dewsbury Road, One Stop Centre in St George's Road, One Stop Centre in Armley, The Compton Centre and The Reginald Centre, with three more planned for Seacroft, Hawksworth Wood and Bramley.
For further information visit: http://bikelibraries.yorkshire.com/bike-libraries/list
In 2014, the city of Leeds played host to the grandest ever Grand Départ of the Tour de France (pictured right). The race, in its 101st year, began with a ceremonial procession in front of Leeds Town Hall before the 198-strong peloton passed through the streets of Leeds to be met with a warm Royal welcome at Harewood House.
Leeds is also the birthplace of a person that will go down in cycling folklore, Beryl Burton. Burton, who was born in Leeds and then lived in Morley, was a five-time world champion over 3,000 metres, a 13-time national champion and the British best all-rounder champion for an incredible 25 successive years.
It was in 1967 that Beryl’s legend really took off. Pedalling 277.25 miles in 12 hours, Burton overtook here male rival Mike McNamara, despite setting off two whole minutes later, and gave him a liquorice allsort as she flew by. It wasn’t until two years later that a man went faster and no female rider has ever beaten the time she set.
Beryl’s daughter took up her mother’s mantle and went on to win some prestigious titles of her own. In 1975 and 1976 she won the British Women’s national individual pursuit championship and also won the UK women’s national road race championship in 1976; beating her mother by outsprinting her to the title.
In 1982 the pair set a British 10-mile record for women riding a tandem at 21 minutes and 25 seconds.
Born in Hunslet, South Leeds, Florrie Baldwin was the oldest living person living in the United Kingdom and Europe before she died aged 114 years and 38 days. Baldwin had recollection of the Second Boer War, she was married two years after WWI and when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Florrie had been a pensioner for over a decade.
Leeds is home to the longest running authentic Caribbean carnival parade in Europe, the Leeds West Indian Carnival. It started in 1967 and runs every year on August bank holiday, with an attendance of more than 150,000 people lining the streets.
Paul Madeley, former Leeds United player and LUFC legend spent his entire 17-year career at the club. As a player, he won the First Division twice and the FA Cup, however the interesting thing about Madeley is his versatility, he played every position for Leeds apart from goalkeeper.
Temple Works in Holbeck, Leeds is a Grade I listed Victorian former flax mill. The building made history when it was known to be the “largest room in the world” at a staggering two acres. The building also had a grass roof with sheep grazing atop of it. The façade is modelled on the Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt and the building referred to in schools of architecture and engineering all over the world.
Children in Need’s cuddly mascot, Pudsey the Bear was created not far from Leeds, 7 miles from the city centre. In 1985, native Joanna Lane was tasked with revamping the charity logo where she envisaged the idea of incorporating a mascot, naming it was easy – Joanna naturally went back to her roots naming the bear after the town of Pudsey.
The first motion pictures were filmed in Leeds at Oakwood Grange and Leeds Bridge in 1888 by Louis Le Prince. Although Thomas Edison and the Lumiere brothers seem to get all the credit it is said Le Prince, the French inventor, pipped them to the post.
The world-famous fish and chip brand Harry Ramsden’s was founded in Guiseley way back in 1928 in a wooden hut by Ramsden himself. The main restaurant, which was run for years as a Harry Ramsden store once held the Guinness World Record for the largest fish and chip shop in the world, seating 250 people and serving nearly a million customers a year.