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Five must do activities on a Leeds city break

Published date: 31 January 2013 |
Published by: Reporter
Read more articles by Reporter


The UK's largest centre for commerce, legal and financial services outside of London, Leeds is a vibrant northern city located in West Yorkshire and is home to around 800,000 people. Considered globally influential in terms of its impact on international finance, Leeds is a Gamma World City, alongside other prestigious cities to hold the title including Valencia, St. Petersburg and Phoenix. Leeds is host to its own football team, at the famous Elland Road Stadium, which has seen notable musical as well as sporting performances, including music from Queen, U2 and The Happy Mondays. Leeds is also famous for its excellent university and the city lends itself well to student life.
 
There is plenty to do in and around the city, from cultural attractions to a great party scene and from the tranquillity of famous churches to the roar of the Grand Theatre. If you're looking for a city break in Leeds, here are five things you simply must do as part of your trip to this historical city.
 
Royal Armouries
 
The Leeds Royal Armouries is a fantastic museum dedicated to Britain's national collection of arms and armour, split across five themed galleries (named War, Tournament, Oriental, Self Defence and Hunting). There are over 8,500 pieces on display in the museum, which is suitable for kids and grown-ups of all ages.
 
The Royal Armouries also has a number of interactive exhibits, where you can try the weight of a medieval mace or the size of feudal-era armour and get a real feel of what it was like to do battle in ancient times. For kids, there is the Jester's Yard, a play area for under-10s that includes dressing up as knights and princesses of yore, juggling lessons and even classes on how to craft your very own sword to take home.
 
For older kids and adult visitors, why not try the Crossbow Range! Here you can try your skills in the armoury shooting gallery and see how close you come to Robin Hood.
 
Hyde Park Picture House
 
Known as the "cosiest cinema in Leeds", the picture house is a quaint 1914 construction that still has its original gas lighting and Edwardian architectural features. As well as regular screenings, the picture house hosts regular cinematic events, such as their Creatures of the Night specials, which run on Saturday nights at 11pm throughout January, demonstrating classic creature feature films.
 
Other events include weekend family-friendly matinees and "1913", a series of film screenings run in collaboration with the Henry Moore Institute. Regular updates and events are posted to the picture house's website, so for up-to-date information on what's on when you visit, check them out.
 
Thornton's Arcade
 
Opened in May 1878, this stunning architectural construction is now host to some of the best high-end shopping in Leeds, including Harvey Nichols and Marks and Spencer. M&S is particularly well suited to its arcade presence, as the original shop opened only moments away in nearby Kirkgate Market.
 
The arcade itself is three storeys high and features an ornate clock with life-size figures of Friar Tuck and Richard Coeur-de-Lion, who strike the hours and Gurth the Swineherd and Robin Hood, who signal the quarters, all sculpted by Leeds sculptor, John Wormald Appleyard.
 
Built by local entrepreneur, Charles Thornton, the arcade replaced the Old Talbot Inn on Briggate, which at the time was one of the city's oldest pubs. Used for cockfighting in the 17th century, Thornton had the building demolished in order to construct his visionary arcade.
 
Thackray Medical Museum
 
A truly unique treat, the Thackray Medical Museum traces the routes of modern medicine and takes visitors back to Industrial Revolution-era Leeds. Discover if you could survive the living conditions of Leeds in the 19th century, as well as the cures and treatments used at the time by the wealthy and the poor.
 
Enjoy the gruesome thrill of 19th century surgery, stepping back in time through the museum's unique audio-visual display and see the reality of surgical techniques in the 1820s. Using a real-life case study, find out if the patient survives her dreadful ordeal!
 
For less bloody entertainment, visit the museum's "New Frontiers of Surgery" exhibit, which explores how surgery has been transformed through medical revelations including antiseptics and anaesthetics. Tracking the timeline of surgery from the mid-1800s to the present day, this is a fascinating feature that highlights the miracles of modern science.
 
Tropical World
 
Step into the tropics in the heart of Leeds, in one of the UK's most popular tourist gardens. Home to the largest tropical plant collection outside of Kew Gardens, Tropical World also has its very own butterfly house.
 
Uniquely, the gardens also have their own "desert house", a desert-style environment that is home to Leeds' very own meerkats. Also housing canaries, weaver birds and finches, along with a wide variety of plants from the arid areas of South America and Africa, this is a delightful taste of the desert in the heart of Leeds.
 

Located in Roundhay Park, Tropical World is surrounded by more typical British gardens outside. Parking and access to the gardens themselves is free and although there is a small admissions charge to enter Tropical World, it is well worth the minimal expense.

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