As anyone who takes delight in picking up the free Evening Standard and accompanying ES magazine (myself included) can tell you, they do a great feature called ‘My London’, whereby a particular celebrity details what makes them tick in The Big Smoke. As of tomorrow, I’ll be a graduate of the University of Leeds – and that’s where this adaptation of the aforementioned ES magazine feature comes in: a collection of recommendations, anecdotes and things to eat, see and do in the city I called home for ¾ of my degree – Leeds.
Home is was…?
A terraced house on the edge of campus; an easy five minute walk (if that) to lectures and the university’s sustainable garden, where we (mostly Laurence) picked 1kg of gooseberries to take home for my dad. For a substantial part of the year, though, the Brotherton Library became my second home.
Best place for coffee and cake?
La Bottega Milanese, an independent Italian-style coffeehouse in The Light; there’s another branch at 2 Bond Court, a stone’s throw from the train station. The tiramisu is delicious – and this comes from someone who doesn’t even like coffee. Plus, for holders of the Socialight card (free to obtain), there’s a 10% discount.
What advice would you give to a tourist?
If you plan on visiting neighbouring towns, and aren’t in a rush, then the bus can save you a lot of money. The FirstDay Family & Friends ticket (available weekends and bank holidays only) costs only £5 and is valid for up to five people across First bus services in West Yorkshire. There’s no better time to venture out to Roundhay, Ilkley and beyond!
Leeds’ best asset?
The fact that there was always something going on – or something free being handed out! Millennium Square (in front of the Civic Hall) hosts dozens of events throughout the year – from the festive Christkindelmarkt and food-tastic Yorkshire Food and Drink Festival to open-air screenings of films and even a beach, which will serve as a Team GB Fanzone for the 2016 Rio Olympics. One of the strangest, but most captivating, events which I stumbled upon during my time at Leeds was Annea Lockwood’s ‘Piano Burning’ performance.
Best place for a cityscape?
Short of going all out on a private helicopter ride, SkyLounge at the DoubleTree by Hilton offers the best panoramic views of the city. The alcoholic drinks are a little pricey, but if you want to save a few pounds the soft drinks were reasonable. If you fancy soaking up the view in the afternoon instead then be sure to check out their afternoon tea offers.
Most memorable meal?
Leeds has a buzzing foodie scene, so this is a tough one. In the city centre, Friends of Ham is ideal for sharing platters whilst Arts Café does a great take on the classic Ploughman’s lunch. Nation of Shopkeepers, just off Millennium Square, is the best place for burgers – especially on Tuesdays, when it’s 2-4-1. Outside the city centre, Ecco Pizza in Headingley offers authentic Neapolitan pizza, made to order in wood-fired ovens. The selection there is incredible, and as they do take-away you could quite easily eat your way round the world from the comfort of your own armchair.
Best way to get from A to B?
Leeds has a compact city centre, so walking is best. Unless you’re a confident cyclist, I wouldn’t recommend taking to the cycle lanes – it’s every man for himself, and cyclists often come a cropper at busy junctions. If you’re heading outside the city, let the train (or bus) take the strain: the one-way system in Leeds is worth avoiding, and public transport in the area is efficient and reasonably-priced.
Favourite Leeds discovery?
Pickards Tea Room, a pop-up café owned by one of the local letting agents just across the road from the University of Leeds’ Parkinson Building; full credit to Elle and Hannah for introducing me to it. It became a regular haunt for the three of us, and their baguette sandwiches are unbeatable; my favourite was the Mature Cheddar and Balsamic Onions, for £2.20. No plastic accepted here; cash only.
Best cultural spot?
The Royal Armouries – a fantastic museum showcasing the national collection of arms and armour. When I was studying a module in medieval French literature in my second year, we spent an afternoon there trying on the armour and jousting with the swords!
Best day trip from Leeds?
Yorkshire has so many picturesque towns and villages, so it’s difficult to narrow it down. If you’d like to experience some outstanding scenery, a trip to the Yorkshire Dales is hard to beat. If you fancy whiling away a few hours in a cultural hotspot, try York or Harrogate. For a taste of quintessential England, head to Knaresborough. If you’re undecided, the quaint spa town of Ilkley blends superb scenery with a vibrant, independent shopping scene.