"Many modern cities claim to have something for everyone, but Leeds is one of the few that truly delivers its promise."
With more than 700,000 proud residents and more listed buildings than any English city outside London, Leeds is widely considered to be one of northern England's true gems. Many modern cities claim to have something for everyone, but Leeds is one of the few that truly delivers its promise. Its down-to-earth, approachable manner also means there's plenty to please every visitor.
For a city whose industrial heritage is firmly rooted in the production of wool and cloth (not to mention being the birthplace of British high street stalwart M&S), it is really no surprise that Leeds has developed into something of a retail mecca.
Cited as the Knightsbridge of the North, the city's Victoria Quarter is home to fabulous designer names, including the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Mulberry, as well as
the prestigious Harvey Nichols department store. It's not all high end, though - the beauty of Leeds' shopping is its sheer diversity.
High street names jostle alongside a profusion of vintage shops and independent boutiques, meaning you'll seldom come away empty-handed. If it's retro you're after, check out Blue Rinse Vintage on Call Lane for a treasure trove of finds, Paper Scissor Stone (New York Street) for quirky design pieces, or On The Wall (Boar Lane) for a huge range of original prints and iconic posters.
The Clarence Dock area to the south-east of the city centre has also undergone a huge transformation in recent years. It's now a sleek, modern leisure complex that incorporates retail outlets, restaurants and bars, all servicing a lively mix of students, residents and visitors alike.
Synonymous with music, Leeds has long been associated as a hot spot for British talent, and has produced the likes of The Pigeon Detectives, Corinne Bailey Rae, Kaiser Chiefs and The Music in recent years.
There is a thriving scene in the city, with a huge variety of gigs and club nights, although a prevalence of indie and rock is inevitable, thanks to the city's annual music festival which takes place on the August bank holiday weekend. Drawing fans from across the globe, the festival has placed Leeds firmly on the music map and means that the city can boast world-class gig exclusives year on year - well worth a trip in themselves.
Like its music, food is taken very seriously in Leeds - thanks in part to enterprising local hero Anthony Flinn. Together with his family, the creative chef has been credited with revolutionising the Leeds foodie scene, with a standalone gourmet restaurant, patisserie and shop-based eatery.
Their latest venture, Piazza by Anthony, has taken over the entire bottom floor of the city's stunning Corn Exchange (previously home to casual market stalls). This amazing space has been transformed into a restaurant surrounded by scrumptious delis - everything from tasty cheese and bread to a chocolatier - which are all well worth perusing after your lunchtime fill.
All rest and plays
Although its food credentials are relatively new, Leeds' cultural qualifications are legion and long-standing. Not only is the city home to Opera North, the hugely successful northern division of the English National Opera; it also boasts the West Yorkshire Playhouse, one of England's most prolific repertory theatres. Comprising two theatre spaces - the Quarry and Courtyard - the playhouse produces numerous in-house performances each year, many of which then transfer to London's West End. Recent successes include Lenny Henry's critically-acclaimed portrayal of William Shakespeare's Othello.
Art is also abundant in choice and variety. The Leeds City Art Gallery hosts modern exhibitions, as well as its own enviable collections, and the adjacent Henry Moore Institute showcases the best of contemporary and historical international sculpture.
After all the shopping, culture and eating, you'll need somewhere to flop. If you're looking for comfort and style, head to Leeds' newest hotel, the City Inn based on Granary Wharf, just a stone's throw from the train station. Incorporating chic modern design and top-end technology (there's an iMac computer in each room which also doubles as a TV), it's remarkably convenient for the city centre.
The hotel also has a popular bar on its 13th floor called the Sky Lounge, which boasts amazing views of the cityscape and a fantastic cocktail selection to boot - the perfect reward after a busy day in this lively city.
With new hotels popping up and a full to bursting line-up for this year's festival and theatre programmes, why not make a date to catch Leeds in action this summer?
0113 242 5242
VISITING LEEDS ON BUSINESS? WHY NOT MAKE...
A DAY OF IT
Make the most of your lunch break by nipping to one of the many free attractions the city has to offer - the City Art Gallery, Leeds Museum, the Royal Armouries or the Henry Moore Institute; whichever you choose, it's sure to brighten up your lunch hour.
A NIGHT OF IT
Only the second of its branches outside London, Gaucho Leeds is an Argentinian steak house which knows what it's doing: cow hide seats, glitzy chandeliers and the most mouth-watering steaks this side of the equator. Choose your cut from the board presented by your waiter, and specify your cooking preference and the size of your steak. Then wait for the good stuff to arrive - a luxurious end to a hard day's work!
A WEEKEND OF IT
Check out a performance at Opera North or the West Yorkshire Playhouse - or see who's playing at the O2 Academy. Leeds also has a huge sporting heritage, so between cricket, rugby and football, you're sure to find a good reason to turn a quick business trip into a leisurely weekend break.