Everything in Leeds, from the old to the new, looks like there is a story behind it. Simply put, Leeds has character.
Aesthetically, the city has a distinct industrial look, especially the streets around the riverfront. A major milltown in the Industrial Revolution, Leeds developed into an urban center then and has continued to grow throughout the 20th century. Nowadays, the weathered brick buildings coupled with its iconic Victorian architecture give the city a gritty and grand feel to accompany the young and vibrant aura that it exudes.
When I told people I had chosen Leeds as a holiday destination, I got many incredulous looks. Why Leeds?
Hmmm... Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure myself.
The only reason I even knew about the city was because I had attended a panel session about the creative scene in the Irish capital. Leeds, along with Detroit, were cited as cities going through renaissances.
Since then, Leeds has been on my radar with flights to Leeds being dirt cheap via Ryanair, I knew I would make it out there soon enough.
As I was already planning a weekend trip to Bristol to check out the Hot Air Balloon festival with my girlfriend, I decided to tack on a weekend in Leeds before my rendezvous with my beloved in southwestern England.
Away, I went!
I was lucky enough to book an Airbnb apartment in Holbeck Urban Village, a quirky new residential/business area in a historically industrial part of town, featuring a handful of notable cafes, restaurants, and pubs.
I arrived on the morning of Friday, 31 July. I had Leeds all to myself for the weekend; my train to Bristol was on Tuesday. Little did I know it wouldn't be enough time to explore this city.
When I travel, the first thing I like to do is walk around the city to get my bearings. I had already done a bit of research and knew of a few spots I wanted to check out.
Pro-tip: Google "Buzzfeed (city you are visiting)" before you go to a city. Often, there will be a post written by a local about "20 alternative things to see in (city you are visiting)" or "15 best brunches you have to try in (city you are visiting)."
On my first day, I walked the whole of the city centre. Mostly, I walked past places of interest and noted them down on my map. Doing this also helped me stumble across a few funky alleyways and a beautiful walk along the river back to my accommodation. However, I did stop by the Leeds Art Gallery, which houses a renowned collection of 20th Century British art, and the adjacent Henry Moore Institute, which houses a sculpture gallery, for a break. Both are well worth the visit.
Afterwards, I ventured over to the Kirkgate Markets - which I had been particularly excited to see - for lunch. I had read about a few of their food stalls online and decided it was as good a place as any for some grub.
The market was massive! I learned, after the fact, that it's the largest covered market in Europe. Besides the astounding architecture of the structure, I enjoyed walking around, indulging in a bout of people watching.
Fun fact: Marks & Spencer started out in 1894 as a penny bazaar in the Kirkgate Markets. I wonder if they sold Percy Pigs back then...
Debating between Middle Eastern or Chinese food, I decided to go for the Chinese place, Maxi's Rotisserie, and return to the Middle Eastern stall, Cafe Moor, sometime that weekend. The roast pork & rice is highly recommended.
It was mid-afternoon by the time I finished exploring the markets. I made my way to Holbeck Village to check-in to the Airbnb apartment. I arrived a bit early so I stopped by a cafe called Out of the Woods for some coffee and read 10:04 by Ben Lerner.
The apartment was the cherry on top. Kate, who lives in the apartment, was kind and welcoming - essential traits of a good host! Tidy and spacious, I knew that double bed was going to feel like sleeping among the clouds after this eventful day.
Later that night, I fell asleep fully aware that this weekend was going to be one big adventure.