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Welcome to Leeds


Not very long ago the West Yorkshire city of Leeds was a grim, grey industrial town, which visitors could well describe as the 'dead centre' of England, and not just because of its location. In little more than a decade, however, Leeds has enjoyed an economic boom and its transformation has earned it accolades from all quarters; it is now recognised as one of Europe's most successful cities. Along with this has come a tide of tourism, spurred along recently by a 'UK's favourite city' award from Conde Nast Traveller magazine.

Leeds currently attracts an average 1.4 million sleep-over visitors a year, and 18 million more who come on day trips. The reasons they come to Leeds are many and varied, because this is a city with plenty to offer, from its renowned wild nightspots to its cultural events, and its abundant shopping to its fascinating collection of museums.

For shopaholics Leeds is pure paradise, its retail areas like the Victoria Quarter, Corn Exchange, Headrow Centre and Leeds Shopping Plaza packed with top quality big name stores. With development ongoing, shopping opportunities are continually getting bigger and better. For culture vultures Leeds offers major national and international theatre, dance, opera and music events in a variety of top-class venues, as well as a major art gallery housing an important collection of traditional and contemporary British art.

Among the city's dozens of museums there is the intriguing Thackray, offering a vivid insight into Victorian medical practices; the Amley Mills, housed in an old woollen mill and demonstrating industrial and railway history; and the Royal Armouries, oldest museum in the UK, containing a fascinating collection of ancient weaponry and torture instruments.

Plenty to do and see means there is never a dull moment in Leeds, and at night the action shifts to the hundreds of pubs, bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Some of the live band venues, like The Cockpit, Joseph's Well and The Wardrobe, are internationally renowned; not for nothing is the city recognised as one of the UK's clubbing capitals - Leeds' nightlife is topnotch.

Sharing access to the nearby international airport is the neighbouring historic Yorkshire city of Bradford, also a vibrant, cosmopolitan city offering plenty to amuse and entertain visitors. Bradford has attractions like the National Media Museum with its Imax cinema, and industrial museum, and a splendid art gallery contained in beautiful Lister Park.

These two complementary Yorkshire cities, with their packed calendars of festivals and events, have become the beating heart of England.

Information & Facts


Leeds experiences typical English weather with a mixture of gloriously sunny days and overcast weather. During the summer (May to September) Leeds has plenty of sunshine with mild weather, while winters can be long, damp and cold when snow and frost is not uncommon. Spring is the best time to visit Leeds when the weather tends to be fairly mild from March to May.

English is the official language, though visitors will be astonished by the variety of regional accents.

The currency is the pound (GBP), which is divided into 100 pence. ATMs are available in all towns and Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted; visitors with other cards should check with their credit card companies in advance. Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change and large hotels, however better exchange rates are likely to be found at banks. Travellers cheques are accepted in all areas frequented by tourists; they are best taken in Pounds Sterling to avoid additional charges.

Local time in the United Kingdom is GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

The entertaining Abbey House Museum is contained in the gatehouse of the picturesque ruined Kirkstall Abbey (dating from 1152). Abbey House allows visitors to walk around the streets of 1880s Leeds, while the upstairs section features galleries detailing the history of Kirkstall Abbey and the social history of the area.

The Armley Mills Industrial Museum was a working cloth mill until 1969 when the City Council turned it into an award-winning industrial museum. Exhibits trace the history of textiles, clothing and locomotive manufacture in Yorkshire. Particularly interesting is a section devoted to the 1920s silent movie projectors, operating water wheels and the huge spinning mules that were in use in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the heart of the city, the Leeds Art Gallery offers a feast for art lovers, its collections covering everything from traditional prints, watercolours, paintings and sculpture to weird and wonderful contemporary works. The gallery is renowned for having the best collection of British art outside of London. Adjoining the Gallery is the Henry Moore Institute with the acclaimed sculpture study centre, and programme of sculpture exhibitions.

This fun, living museum contains five themed galleries (covering War, Tournaments, Self-Defence, Hunting and Arms & Armour of the Orient), and is filled with interactive displays, dramatic interpretations, action scenarios and some exciting exhibits. This is more a cross between a theme park and a museum, bringing history alive in many unique ways, from watching gunmakers ply their craft to demonstrations of English traditions like falconry and horsemanship.

There is surely no more interesting day out in Leeds than a visit to the Thackray Museum, which tells the story of medical advances through the ages. A recreated Victorian street, complete with sights, sounds and smells, highlights the lives, ailments and treatment of a bygone era in vivid clarity, and visitors can also step inside the human body in an interactive gallery. The museum was the vision of Paul Thackray, a former director of a medical supplies company, and since its opening in 1997 has become one of Britain's best museums.

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