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2010-07-21 09:17:16

An Alternative Guide to Living in Leeds, UK

Moving to a new city can be tough, and even tougher if you go at it alone. Even after the hassle of transporting your belongings, unpacking and making your house into a home, there’s still an entire city to explore and make your own. The following consists of my own experience within the city of Leeds, focusing on how to avoid the more popular and commercial areas in the city that more often than not tend to be the most dull. Had I read this upon my arrival I would have saved a few months of mediocrity!

Disclaimer: I am not an elitist, and this guide is purely constructed as a means of finding lesser known establishments within Leeds, not to belittle or cause offence to those who avoid them.


So you’ve just finished unpacking that mountain of boxes, and now you’re understandably hungry. Not to worry – Leeds has literally hundreds of eateries that cater to all tastes.

The obvious: McDonalds, Greggs, Yates, Wetherspoons

The not so obvious: Dare Cafe, Roots & Fruits, Spice Quarter, Barakas, The Clock Cafe

Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong with grabbing a bite to eat in your nearest chain pub or Maccy D’s, there’s so much more on offer if you’re willing to go out and look for it. After all, if you wanted to survive on sausage rolls and pasties all the time then you may as well have stayed in your hometown, right?

Situated in the heart of Headingley, Dare Cafe is an independently owned cafe open 9am til 10pm most days, and offers great food and drink for very reasonable prices. There’s two for one on all main meals until 6pm, and the full English breakfasts are to die for - fried and served in the same plate!

If you’re lucky enough to have a flat in Leeds city centre then you’ll find a huge selection of cuisine at the renowned Spice Quarter located at Millennium Square. Offering a choice of Chinese, Italian, Thai and Indian, it’s hard not to satisfy your taste buds with so much variety!

Other great places to eat include vegetarian and vegan cafe Roots & Fruits, as well as Moroccan themed buffet/sheesha bar Barakas – the perfect Bohemian chill out spot right in the centre of Hyde Park!

Live Music

A lot of hugely successful bands will grace one of the many stages throughout Leeds, which is great. It benefits the venues, the city’s popularity and, more importantly, the fans. However, what most people don’t realize is that there are gigs being played at least five times a week in Leeds, allowing new up and coming bands to showcase their talents and build a loyal fan base.

The obvious: O2 Academy, Cockpit

The not so obvious: Carpe Diem, Royal Park Cellars, Brudenell Social Club

Again situated near Millennium Square, Carpe Diem offers very reasonably priced food and drink as well as live music at least three times a week. Entry doesn’t cost a thing, allowing you to hear the cream of rising Leeds talent for free!

An unlikely gem of a venue comes in the form of Brudenell Social Club. Whilst nothing much to look at from the outside, this gentleman’s club turned hip music venue lies in the midst of Hyde Park, playing host to a very quirky and alternative music experience. Whilst a fair amount of large acts have graced its bunting-laden stage, the Brudenell regularly features nights of mainly unheard of bands from Leeds and afar. Featuring a great layout and friendly locals, the place makes for a great atmosphere.


One of the great things about big cities is the amount of independent shops that are opened with the chance of becoming very successful, giving residents and visitors a much wider selection when it comes to shopping for clothes and such.

The obvious: Primark, Topshop, H&M

The not so obvious: Blue Rinse, Pop Boutique, Upstaged Vintage

Obviously, this is entirely dependent on fashion sense. Whilst places like Topshop and Primark are indeed cheap, there can be no harm in abandoning the idea of funding the sweatshop industry and going for something a bit more unique.

Places like Blue Rinse and Pop Boutique (both situated in the town centre) offer a range of both quirky and formal clothing as well as accessories, gifts and other items you may not find in the big high street stores.

If you’re ready to splurge some cash on some designer brands that you might struggle to find elsewhere, then Leeds’ infamous Victoria Quarter is for you. Host to such designers as Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood, you’ll find plenty to spend that hard-earned cash on.

Going Out

Whether you’re looking for a quiet drink or a full on night out you’d rather forget about the next day, Leeds is fully equipped to give anyone a fantastic night out regardless of taste.

The obvious: Oceana, Tiger Tiger, Gatecrasher

The not so obvious: Wire, Mint, Fab Cafe, HiFi

Due to its high student population, Leeds is host to a huge variety of nightclubs and bars.

As with shopping, where you go is all purely dependent on personal preference. If you prefer the glitz and glamour of RnB filled ‘super clubs’ like Gatecrasher and the enormous Oceana, then you’ll have a great time there. If, however, you’re looking for somewhere a bit more exclusive to Leeds, then you won’t have to go far.

Anyone who enjoys a good Indie night will want to get themselves down to Wire or the infamous Cockpit, which is also home to weekly Metal and Punk nights (see Rio’s also if this is your forte).

Electro, Drum & Bass and Dubstep is also amassing a huge following in Leeds, so places like Mint, Wire and the West Indian Centre in Chapeltown (home of the infamous Subdub) are starting to take in huge crowds. Any fans of Breakbeat/Techno/House will be right at home at Wire also (so yeah, Wire plays everything).

HiFi, located in the city centre, remains one of the city’s classier and friendlier venues. Playing the likes of Motown, Soul and Funk on a regular basis, it’s hard not to have a good time in this award winning club.

So there you have it! I sincerely hope that any like-minded people looking for Leeds finest will utilize this guide to find their feet in this wonderful city and start having the best time they can!

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