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One of England's biggest and brightest cities, full to the brim with culture and entertainment

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Leeds might not be a traditional destination on a tourist's itinerary, but a trip here is a trip to one of England's biggest and brightest cities, full to the brim with culture and entertainment. Statistics show that this is both the UK's fastest-growing city, and its second-biggest centre for finance and business, after London.
Leeds' current evolution includes the construction of many new buildings, which seem to be springing up on a weekly basis. Despite this, the city is still home to some of the North's greatest pieces of Victorian architecture. One of the brightest feathers in Leeds' cap is its Town Hall, which was opened in the 1850s by Her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria. It was the tallest building in the city for over a century. The hall houses several offices for the local council, as well as a performance space that hosts regular classical and orchestral concerts.

Entrance Hall Ceiling in Leeds Town Hall
Photo Rev Stan
Another of Leeds' showpieces is its upmarket shopping area, the Victoria Quarter. It consists of several covered arcades, which are stuffed full of breathtaking sights. There's the mosaic flooring, the stylish shop fronts, and the stained glass roof, which is the largest piece of stained glass in the UK. The area is home to some of the most well-known fashion brands in the world, such as Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood, and Paul Smith. There is also a huge Harvey Nichols department store, which famously moved here in 1996, causing the area to be nicknamed "the Knightsbridge of the North".

Victoria Quarter
Photo Paul Stevenson
Elsewhere, chain shops are in abundance, as they are in any British city. But by exploring just a little, you'll find more than a few places where Leeds stands out. The Thornton's and Queen's shopping arcades are home to independent shops and boutiques. The Corn Exchange, which was recently refurbished, is one of city's most recognisable buildings. There is a large restaurant, as well as several fashion and accessory shops.

The Corn Exchange
Photo Steve Cadman

Inside the Corn Exchange
Photo Southern_Comfort
The Corn Exchange isn't the only Leeds landmark that has enjoyed a recent refurbishment. The City Museum, which dates back to 1819, re-opened its doors in 2008 after a complete transformation. Other popular museums include the Henry Moore Institute, an art gallery which focuses on sculpture, and the Royal Armouries, which displays anything sharp and pointy for the purpose of harming enemies!

Royal Armouries
Photo Alun Salt
As well as museums, Leeds hosts a range of cultural attractions that never seem to want for variation or quantity. There are plenty of theatres, such as the West Yorkshire Playhouse, which is the UK's largest outside Stratford or London. There is an annual film festival, which regularly features international premiers. There are also plenty of live music venues, from the huge O2 Academy, to the cosy Brudenell Social Club. Every year, Leeds Festival takes place just outside the city, drawing in tens of thousands of music fans.

Parkinson Building, Leeds University
Photo Tim Green aka atoach
Leeds' vibrant atmosphere is helped by its young people. Thanks to its two huge universities, there are over 100,000 students, which works out at over 10% of the population! Even the city's skyline is being taken over, as Leeds is home to the tallest student residential building in the world. It's no wonder, then, that the city's nightlife is renowned throughout the north. This is one of those places where the streets are just as busy at night as they are during the day.
Visitor Information
Royal Armouries is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Entry is FREE. Armouries Drive, Leeds, LS10 1LT. Tel: 01132 201 999

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