What’s it about?
The self-appointed capital of west Yorkshire, the first city to get a Harvey Nichols outside London, Leeds has always been rather up itself.
Once famed as the birthplace of Goth, the city is now the playground of another group of self-obsessed young people: students. With five universities, the only thing that outnumbers the undergraduates are the letting agencies.
Never let slip that there’s another major Northern city just over the Pennines, due west on the M62. Nobody says anything nice about Manchester here. Everybody knows Leeds is infinitely better, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Any good points?
Despite suffering the same high-street troubles as everywhere else, Leeds still has shops in abundance. Stroll the fancy arcades and pay £40 for a bar of soap, £90 for a scented candle and don’t buy anything from the posh girl’s vintage shop, just to spite her.
If you’re on a tighter budget, the Victorian Kirkgate Market offers everything from flowers, fresh produce and exotic foods to the traditional British market staples of big packs of sports socks and weed-smoking paraphernalia.
Take a stroll down the fresh fish aisle and shudder as the dead glassy eyes seem to stare at you. But once you let the pensioners on their mobility scooters past, they’ll stop glaring at you like that.
The city, as well as a Conservatoire and school of contemporary dance, is studded with big museums. The buildings are impressive; the collections are the usual provincial crap.
There’s also a football team, once successful and dirty bastards, now neither. For certain locals, identified by the contrast of their white shirts and glowing red flesh, this is a sore point best not brought up after six pints.
Leeds has plenty of parks, so you’re never far from the terrifying prospect of having to kick a football back to a bunch of cocky teenagers. Check out Roundhay, where locals will point out where Jimmy Savile’s flat used to be.
Green and pleasant Woodhouse Moor is where the students chill. The sun’s obscured by clouds of weed and barbecue smoke, and some twat will put up a tightrope between the trees and start practising their circus skills.
Hang out at…
The rite of passage for students is the Otley Run pub crawl, which involves around 16 pubs at last count. Every weekend, countless stag, hen and birthday parties in fancy dress join them. Residents spend every Saturday asking Super Mario and Elsa from Frozen not to piss in their gardens.
When you tire of paying seven quid for interchangeable IPAs in interchangeable bars, take your life in your hands and get some proper Yorkshire value in the handful of traditional pubs left in the city centre.
At The Three Legs, it always seems to be karaoke night, no matter what day or time it is in the rest of the country. The Angel and The General Elliott are both Sam Smith’s pubs, selling nowt but products from the venerable Tadcaster brewery. It’s like being abroad, in that you’ve got no idea what the fuck you’re ordering or what strength it is.
Where to buy?
If you’re in the market for a one-bedroom shoebox, the city centre is packed with them. But constant new development hasn’t been without problems: the Bridgewater Place tower turned the adjacent street into a wind tunnel. They had to fit baffles to stop pedestrians being blown into traffic.
Students who stay have colonised the leafier parts of Headingley and trendy Chapel Allerton, converging on the suburb of Meanwood in a classic pincer movement. The hipster takeover is so total that if you trip over in Meanwood, you’ll land in a microbrewery or at least Waitrose.
From the streets…
Norman Steele, aged 62, airport shuttle driver: “The best thing about driving over the M62 from Leeds into Lancashire is getting to the top of the Pennines and seeing that it’s pissing down over Manchester again.”
Ryan Whittaker, aged 19, sports science student: “But I didn’t need to go when I left the last pub. And that flowerbed needed some fucking hydration anyway.”