It’s not as famous as its fellow northern lights, Manchester or Liverpool, yet Leeds is the fastest growing city in the UK, according to recent Office for National Statistics reports.
It’s located in the heart of picturesque West Yorkshire, some 310 km north-northwest of London. The centre runs along the north bank of the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool canal in a narrow section of the Aire Valley, in the eastern foothills of the Pennines.
Historically a famous wool-trading and production town, Leeds developed thriving printing, chemicals and clothing manufacture works during the industrial revolution and has spawned a number of entrepreneurs. For instance, Thomas Chippendale began making his furniture here, Michael Marks of Marks & Spencer opened his first Penny Bazaar in 1884 and Waddington’s, which makes the board game Monopoly, was founded in Leeds.
Perhaps, one of the biggest surprises about this industrialised city is that more than half of the Leeds district is green belt land. In addition, some of the country’s most spectacular countryside is practically on the doorstep, with the breathtaking Yorkshire Dales national park only 20 miles away.
One little-known fact is that the local word for someone who lives in Leeds is a “Loiner”, although it’s rarely used - or understood.
The city of Leeds is home to 75 nationalities and has a strong youth bias, courtesy of its three universities. According to the Office for National Statistics, the population is 715,404, with the highest proportion of inhabitants - about 58,171 - aged 20-24, followed by 54,945 who are aged 30-34.
The greater Leeds City Region, an economic area with Leeds at its centre, has a population of roughly 2.9 million.
Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial heart of the wider West Yorkshire Urban Area and the Leeds City Region, an economic area with Leeds at its core. In fact, the city is the country's largest centre for business, legal, and financial services outside London and is a telephone banking centre.
Leeds City Council is trying to boost the economy further by putting strategies in place to create a “24-hour European city” and a “capital of the north”.
Increased local affluence has led to an expanding retail sector, including the luxury goods market as evidenced by the fact top-end London store Harvey Nichols chose Leeds for its second site.
Recent reports from the Centre for Cities revealed that Leeds is well-placed to prosper in the next few years, despite the fact neighbouring urban centres, including Doncaster and Barnsley, face a "second-wave recession".
Hospitality job opportunities
The region's tourism industry has weathered the recession, partly because the weak pound persuaded Britons to holiday at home. Tom Vosa, chief economist at Yorkshire Bank, was reported as saying in the Yorkshire Post that Leeds will continue to attract 1.5 million visitors a year.
In the past decade, Leeds has certainly revamped its image and is now home to four- and five-star hotels, such as De Vere’s Oulton Hall, Eton Collection’s boutique Quebecs Hotel and 42 The Calls, Q Hotels’ Queens Hotel plus Malmaison, Radisson SAS, Marriott and apartment hotel Residence Six.
The Leeds Waterfront Strategy has been looking at ways to attract public and private investment into mixed-use schemes that will create 24-hour city by enhancing the riverfront and boosting tourism.
Quick hospitality stats:
- Some 7.9% of the workforce is unemployed
- Some 21.2% of workers are employed in distribution, hotels and restaurants making it the third-biggest employment sector behind public administration, education and health (25.1%); and finance, IT and business (29.2%)
Source: Nomis Official Labour Market Statistics
The traditional northern image of streets lined with terraced houses is true of many parts of the inner city, but there has also been a boom in the construction of modern city centre apartments. Similarly, further out in the suburbs there are many semi-detached homes, so in general there is plenty of housing variety.
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*The Zed-Index! is the average home value in a given area based on current Zoopla.co.uk Estimates.
Travel and commuting
Getting there and away is easy as the road network is extensive and the M62 and M1 motorways link Leeds with other large centres of population. For car-users, Leeds is nearly 200 miles north of London and more than a three-hour drive; Manchester, at 42 miles away is over an hour’s drive; and Birmingham, at nearly 118 miles away is about a two hour drive.
Looking further afield, the city is linked to international destinations through the Leeds Bradford Airport. That said, Manchester International Airport has a larger choice of scheduled and chartered flights and it can be reached via a direct regular train from Leeds station.
Closer to home, buses are the most popular form of public transport in Leeds city centre. By logging on to the Metro’s twitter site, travellers can keep abreast of travel any delays
A Metrocard allows unlimited travel in your chosen zones for either bus or train only – or both – and on a weekly, monthly, quarterly,or annual basis.
- A weekly one-month bus only ticket costs £19.50 rising to £731 annual
- A bus and rail ticket for zones 1-3 is £22 weekly and £830 annual
- A bus and rail ticket for zones 1-5 is £31 weekly and £1,170 annual
There’s also a regular Leeds Freecity and Freetown bus system that connects bus and rail stations with hospitals, colleges, universities, business and leisure venues.
And in addition £250m has been earmarked for a trolley-bus or rapid transit system for Leeds known as NGT (New Generation Transport) to help address congestion.
Culture, tourism and nightlife
There’s a surprising amount to do and see in and around Leeds. The city was arguably put on the map for international tourists in 1996 when the the Royal Armouries Museum, was relocated from the Tower of London to a purpose-built building at Clarence Dock. Visitor numbers have risen steadily from 40,000 in 2000 to 90,000 in 2005.
Sports fans will be in heaven. Leeds is home to Leeds United Football Club and Headingley Stadium, which hosts both cricket games and rugby matches in two separate grounds. It’s also close to Wetherby racecourse and at least 20 golf courses are within a 30-minute drive of the city centre.
As for shopping, Leeds’ transformation from the cloth cap image to twenty-first century chic is underlined by the fact luxury Knightsbridge store Harvey Nichols chose to launch its second store there when it decided to branch out from London. Independent fashion and food retailers can be found at the stylish Corn Exchage. Other major city centre shopping venues include the Merrion Centre and Leeds Shopping Plaza, while the White Rose Centre is on the edge of town.
Eating and drinking
There is a refreshing mix of independent and chain restaurants in Leeds, including The Fourth Floor Café & Bar at Harvey Nichols, Brasserie and Bar at Malmaison, and Brasserie Forty 4 at 44 The Calls Hotel. Notable chefs in the city include:
As with buzzing city, you can find the usual range of sports bars, child-friendly pubs, gastropubs, chic cocktail bars, edgy clubs and real ale pubs in Leeds.
For party-goers, a lot of popular bars and pubs can be found in Woodhouse Lane. Mook in Hirsts Yard styles itself as being funky. Or check out the FAB café, the Eldon and the Dry Dock. Mojo in Merrion Street and the Fruit Cupboard and Norman in Call Lane apparently get very full at weekends and Sela is singled out by www.viewleeds.co.uk as being one of the coolest places to hear jazz.
Quieter pubs can be found out towards Headingly, such as Woodies and the New Inn, while some of the clubs with the best vibe include The Loft (formerly The Northern Light), Hifi Club and Mission.
Cultural activities include:
- Leeds City Art Gallery, which contains some of the UK’s most important 20th century British art outside London
- Outdoor events include Party in the Park, Opera in the Park and Classical Fantasia
- The West Yorkshire Playhouse claims to stage more productions than anywhere outside London
- Museums include the Henry Moore Institute, Abbey House Museum and the Leeds City Museum
- The Northern Ballet Theatre and Phoenix Dance Theatre companies are raising funds to build a new home in Leeds
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