A World Class Welcome: Leeds
Leeds was the official start city of the grandest ever Grand Départ of the Tour de France back in 2014 and has gone on to host three extremely exciting finishes of the Tour de Yorkshire in 2015, 2018 and 2019; so the city is well versed in hosting world class cycling events.
This thriving, passionate city is filled to the brim with culture and heritage and is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK.
There has long been a desire for Leeds to be ‘the Capital of the North’ and act as a ’24-hour European City’ and the contemporary economy has been shaped to reflect this. This is a city that hasn’t stood still and, despite its size, is compact and accessible meaning that visitors can walk everywhere and experience the culture of the metropolis at its finest.
Yorkshire’s largest city is home to four major theatres, over 16 museums and galleries and is one of the only cities outside of London to have its own opera and ballet companies. The Leeds Grand Theatre dates back to 1878, is home to Opera North and hosts regular productions from Northern Ballet and musicals from London’s West End. Leeds Art Gallery is next door to the Henry Moore Institute where you can experience world-class art and sculpture in the heart of the city.
Visitors will also find an extremely interesting national collection in the city too in the form of The Royal Armouries Museum. This national museum is part of the Royal Armouries family and hosts artillery and armour from across the world through six themed galleries.
The built heritage of the area is one to behold too. Whilst strolling through the city centre, visitors are able to marvel at and enjoy buildings of all shapes, sizes and designs; with Leeds hosting the most listed buildings in any city in the UK outside of London.
Talking of listed buildings, Leeds Town Hall is one of the most iconic examples of Victorian architecture in the UK and was designed by Cuthbert Brodrick after he won a competition to build the town hall back in 1852. It was so highly regarded that Queen Victoria herself opened the town hall in 1858.
Cuthbert Brodrick built another couple of important buildings in the city, in the form of the Leeds Corn Exchange and the Mechanics’ Institute.
The Leeds Corn Exchange is now the home of independent retail and food traders in a creative neighbourhood but when it opened back in 1864, this Grade 1 listed building was exactly as stated, a place for corn traders to exchange their wares.
The Mechanics’ Institute later became the Civic Theatre and now operates as Leeds City Museum. Here visitors will find four floors of interactive and exciting galleries and see the story of the Leeds Mummy. During bombing raids in 1941 two of three mummies were destroyed but Nesyamun’s 3,000-year-old mummy still survives to this day.
Leeds is one of the best places in the UK for shopping and was described by Lonely Planet as ‘the Knightsbridge of the North’. The scene is wonderfully diverse, offering a wonderful juxtaposition between quirky boutiques and high street brands all within walking distance of each other; such is the accessibility of the area.
There are arcades aplenty with Victoria Quarter and Victoria Gate offering premium aspirational ‘theatre to retail’; designed with the Victorian arcades that Leeds is famed for in mind. Trinity Leeds houses all your favourite brands and the historic Kirkgate Market offers more variety still. Yet another Grade 1 listed building, the market is one of the largest covered markets in Europe and is where famous store Marks & Spencer was born; Michael Marks opened his Penny Bazaar here in 1884. The retail chain revisited it roots in 2013 bringing M&S back to where it all started by setting up a new stall.
Sport in the city is a cause for celebration with teams based in the area giving fans plenty to cheer about over the years. Think Leeds United playing in front of a capacity crowd at Elland Road and Leeds Rhinos winning every trophy in domestic rugby league just a few years ago. More recently, the city has played host to the Tour de France, subsequent Tour de Yorkshires and the AJ Bell World Triathlon amongst a heap of other world class events.
There is no doubt that when the world comes to Yorkshire, Leeds will be ready to put on a show.
The UCI Road World Championships take place between 22-29 September and Leeds plays host to the Men Elite Road Race on Sunday 29 September.