With ambitions to become a '24-hour European city', Leeds is a great place to spend the day and night. There is a thriving cultural scene and it is the shopping capital of the north. It’s a compact city, with a large pedestrian zone, so you will be able to walk to most points of interest. Find out how to make the most of 24 hours in Leeds with our roundup of the best things to see and do in the city.



Take a short morning walk to see the River Aire that runs along the south of the city centre. You can then catch a water taxi to The Docks to visit the Royal Armouries. Water Taxis pick up from Granary Wharf every 15 minutes and The Royal Armouries is free to visit. It's Britain's national museum of arms and armour with more than 8,500 objects including an armoured elephant, Samurai disembowelling weapons and Henry VIII's horned helmet. Inside you can try the crossbow range for a small fee, and it stages regular displays of jousting, falconry and sword-making outside.

You can get the water taxi back but if you choose to walk you can stop off at The Tetley  – a centre for contemporary art located in the Art Deco headquarters of the former Tetley Brewery.



Head to the city centre next to keep with the free contemporary art theme as Leeds Art Gallery is said to have the best twentieth-century collection outside London. Connected via a bridge is the Henry Moore Institute for impressive sculptures, and on the other side is the Central Library which is in a much-admired Victorian building.

Leeds has 16 free museums and galleries to explore and more listed buildings than any other English city outside of London. You can admire the architecture with the Leeds Owl Trail while hunting for the unofficial owl emblem of the city. Some of the easier owls to find are outside the Civic Hall in Millennium Square and that's close to Leeds City Museum. The striking building has four floors of exhibits ranging from an Egyptian mummy and Roman stones in the 'Ancient Worlds' gallery to impressive stuffed animals in the 'Life on Earth' section. 'The Leeds Story' takes up most of one floor and really brings to life the history of the city.




Briggate is the main shopping street and is one of the oldest streets in Leeds dating back to the thirteenth century. Fans of the High Street should head to Trinity Leeds while if you are after something more high-end, go to Victoria Leeds. Trinity Leeds has over 120 national and international brands including Hollister and Mango, plus restaurants, bars and a cinema. Victoria Leeds combines the Victoria Gate shopping centre full of designer brands such as Ted Baker, Mulberry and Louis Vuitton with the Victoria Quarter arcades. These stunning Victorian arcades are always worth walking through to see the marble floors, wrought iron and glass arches.

Leeds Corn Exchange is a Grade I listed iconic rotunda with over 30 creative independent retailers. It is next to Kirkgate Market which is the largest covered market in Europe. Open since 1857, the market was designed by the celebrated architect Joseph Paxton who was responsible for the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London. The market today sells well-priced fresh meat, fish, fruit, veg and flowers, plus street food to eat now too. There are vintage fairs here on the first Saturday of the month.



Drop your bags off at the hotel and get ready to embrace the evening. After dining at Chez Mal Brasserie, you could enjoy drinks in Chez Mal Bar or head out to the bars on Call Lane.

If you would like to see a show, The Grand Theatre and Opera House Leeds is known as "the Drury Lane of the North". You can see plays and musicals from London's West End, but do beware when booking as the theatre is said to be haunted by the friendly 'Lavender Lady' who visits Box D in the Dress Circle. City Varieties Music Hall has music hall experiences plus comedy nights, music and a fun pantomime in the winter. There's also Leeds Playhouse and the Carriageworks Theatre too.

If you fancy seeing the latest film release, there is an Everyman cinema at Trinity Leeds. Or you could go just outside of the city centre to the lovely Cottage Road Cinema.

Leeds has one of the most vibrant live music scenes in the UK. Not only is Leeds home to the 13,500 capacity First Direct Arena with live music, comedy and more, but you can also enjoy regular gigs at The O2 Academy, The Wardrobe, Brudenell Social Club and Headrow House. Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen offers music, art, film and food on three floors, including the roof terrace. And The Domino Club has live jazz but is a particularly cool venue as you enter through Lord's Barbering in Grand Arcade and head downstairs to a darkened room with candles, dimmed lights and a fantastic atmosphere.




With countless things to do in Leeds, you’ll need to find somewhere to stay. Close to the railway station and the city nightlife, Malmaison Leeds is in the perfect location. This lovely boutique hotel has stunning rooms and suites plus the Chez Mal Brasserie means you don't have to go out for excellent dining. Stop at Chez Mal Bar for a drink and remember there are always cocktail offers available on Fridays.


Written by Laura Porter - Travel writer for Malmaison & Hotel du Vin