The city of the here and now: This year’s main attractions in Leeds

Date Posted: 22/01/2015

As one of Britain’s fastest growing cities, Leeds is an innovative metropolis with an eye for the contemporary. Presenting an array of opportunities for lovers of food, art, history and theatre, Leeds is the place for those who wish to dive into something new in 2015.

Avenues for art

Leeds Art Gallery

Those with a passion for modern art will look forward to the return of British Art Show 8. Internationally acclaimed, it's potentially the biggest touring exhibition of contemporary art in the UK, showcasing the best work of both emerging and established artists, and will open at Leeds Art Gallery this October.  

At the heart of Leeds’ cultural quarter, this gallery is renowned for displaying only contemporary work for its visitors’ consumption.  Along with free admission and café and shop facilities on site, the gallery presents an ideal destination for those who wish to discover new art.

The Thought Bubble ComicCon

Held this November in a number of venues across Leeds city, The Thought Bubble ComicCon explores new and innovative art, displaying comics and graphic novels as a cultural art form. 

The convention, celebrating sequential art in all its forms, is regarded to be the biggest of its kind in the UK, and hosts an array of material, from superheroes to smaller, independent press comics. 

Providing free admission for children, and with industry goliaths Marvel and Disney in attendance and exhibiting, this year’s Thought Bubble offers an exciting creative avenue to discover and explore.  

History heroes

The Royal Armouries Museum

Drawing on its success from the recent photographic exhibition They That are Left, a ten-year project photographing war veterans each Remembrance Sunday, from 2002 to 2012, The Royal Armouries Museum, as the UK’s national museum of arms, armour and artillery, offers visitors insight and exploration into a history of modern and ancient warfare.

Only a short distance from central Leeds, the Royal Armouries Museum offers its visitors free admission, and provides over 8,500 objects on display throughout five galleries: War, Tournament, Oriental, Self-defence, and Hunting.

Boasting a collection of arms, armour and artillery dating from antiquity to the present day, the museum’s collections include the royal armours of Tudor and Stuart kings and arms and armour of the English Civil Wars - in addition to a gallery filled with over 70,000 paintings, and a library hosting over 30,000 military manuals and records.

Harewood House

Between April and November Harewood House will display some rare World War I memorabilia with royal connections, in their exhibition: A Gift from the Whole Nation.

The exhibition contains over 70 examples of gift boxes that were sent out by HRH Princess Mary, each one a small thank you present commemorating the efforts of those on the war front. Over two million gifts were sent out over the course of the war to be delivered to soldiers and nursing staff.

Positioned within over 100 acres of land in the Yorkshire countryside, this stately 18th century manor is one of the Treasure Houses of England. With art collections that include Renaissance masterpieces and garden, shop and café facilities available on site, Harewood offers special discounted rates to group of 15 or more.

Food for thought

Food and Drink Festival

Leeds annual food and drink festival will return from 22nd May to the 7th June.  

The food festival will see an abundance of culinary specials, from themed or one-off products and menus, to displays, special offers and recipes on offer for attendees and events will include live cookery demonstrations from local chefs, traditional real ales and fresh produce, cocktails bars and classes and baking courses, to signature dishes from some of Yorkshire’s finest restaurants.  

Embodying the spirit of this lively city which prides itself on offering sophisticated dining, this festival will bring together local businesses, residents and visitors in a two-week celebration of the city and the region’s finest food and drink. 

International Beer Festival

Celebrated over four consecutive days, from the 4th to the 7th of September, the Leeds International Beer Festival is an annual event hosted in the heart of the city centre.

The festival celebrates craft beers produced through the UK and overseas. Along with hundreds of beers and ciders from the UK, USA, Sweden and Germany, the festival also includes a variety of street food, live music across two stages and beer-related activities stationed across the heart of the city centre.

Theatre experiences

Leeds is home to a number of theatres, including Leeds Grand Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, City Varieties and even its own opera house, Opera North, and ballet company, Northern Ballet. Each host extensive programmes throughout the year. 

Voted the best new arena in the world at the 2014 Stadium Business Awards, Leeds also hosts the new first direct Arena, which seats over 13,000 people.

With a full and diverse schedule, this year’s performances will include a variety of performances and acts, from famous musicians such as the Kaiser Chiefs, to comedians like Michael McIntyre. 

Carnivals and festivals

Leeds West Indian Carnival is Europe’s longest running authentic Caribbean carnival parade. Began originally in the 1960’s to cure one man’s homesickness, the festival has since become an annual event.  Now, on the last Monday of every August, Yorkshire is transformed by a blend of exotic costumes, reggae-style music, and Caribbean food and entertainment.

The carnival winds its way through the streets of Leeds, presenting the very best of West-Indian carnival culture to locals and visitors to the city.

For those interested in a family day out without the fanfare but with all the fun, there is also the Waterfront Festival. 

Held at Leeds dock during the last weekend of June, the event hosts a range of activities that stretch along the length of the waterfront, including Dragonboat racing, archery, live music, food stalls and an abundance of arts and crafts activities.

For further information on the events listed, group travel organisers can visit

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