Hidden Leeds: 5 places you’ve never heard of (but will wish you had)
Leeds is more than Harvey Nicks and industrial heritage. There’s another side to this cosmopolitan shopping capital – hidden Leeds
1. Relive the glamour of the Victorian music hall
The one for: seeing one of the only surviving music halls as it was way back when
Britain’s Got Talent and shows of its ilk began life in the Victorian music hall. Ornately decorated with plush fabrics and more bling than Mr T, these theatres livened up drab Victorian times.
Singers sang funny songs and bawdy entertainers made the audience blush. And true stars – magicians, actors and suchlike – showed real talent.
Naturally, the massive audiences lapped it up. It became a craze and music halls opened all over the country. Sadly, hardly any have survived intact.
Leeds City Varieties looks pretty much the same as when it opened in 1865. Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini and Buster Keaton have all tread the boards. And you can still go there and see a gig, comedian or show.
2. Take a boat ride down the M62 of yesteryear
The one for: seeing the Leeds of yesteryear, when mills and rivers dominated instead of roads and shops
Long before Leeds became known for designer shopping it was known for making wool.
The city grew fat and rich during the Industrial Revolution, when vast woollen mills and factories with great smoking chimneys that towered into the sky cast their shadow over the city. It was all a bit like an LS Lowry painting.
There were no roads, no motorways. So cotton and wool was transported along canals and rivers before setting sail from Liverpool to the New World.
The Leeds-Liverpool canal and Aire River were the M62 of their day – connecting Hull to Liverpool via Leeds. Step aboard the Kirkstall Flyboat for a cruise along these historic waterways.
3. North African grub in a Yorkshire market
The one for: sumptuous, spicy, street food that’ll make your tastebuds tingle
You can’t miss Café Moor. Its bright, loud decor – all colourful tapestries and psychedelic ceramics – stick out like a sore thumb in the bustling Kirkgate Market. It definitely walks the walk – and the food definitely talks the talk.
The grub is north African/Middle Eastern. Falafel served lots of ways, hummus, plus tagines of lamb and chicken. But why stop there? There’s a chicken pie with Moroccan spices, egg and raisins wrapped in filo pastry. Sliced, marinated chicken served on Arabic bread with zingy, spicy pickles. Please, stop.
It’s all made right before your eyes, with ingredients often sought from the market. Cherished by locals, Café Moor is well worth sniffing out. It’s super cheap too – less than a fiver for a lamb tagine. You can’t complain at that.
4. Sip a pint at Leeds’ original craft beer pub
The one for: a pub that served craft beer long before the cool kids landed
Craft beer is unashamedly hip. It’s the drink of choice for bearded blokes riding fixed-gear bikes in Shoreditch. But the reason it’s so trendy is it tastes so good.
And the guys at North Bar know a thing or two about craft beer. They’ve been serving craft ales and lagers since long before the hipsters came calling – first opening nearly 20 years ago.
It was once named Best Place to Drink in Britain by Observer Food Monthly.
Choose from 16 ever-changing draught ales, and countless bottles. Don’t miss the House Pale from Kirkstall Brewery. It also introduced the UK to Brooklyn Lager on draft and the wheat beer Erdinger.
5. Get lost in the alleyways off Briggate
The one for: unearthing hidden treasures down Leeds’ historic alleyways
Sometimes the best things take a bit of digging out. Follow one of the many historic alleyways snaking off main shopping street Briggate to find some of Leeds’ best-kept secrets.
These narrow walkways hark back to Leeds in its industrial heyday. Unsurprisingly you can find some of the city’s oldest pubs down them.
Duck down Turk’s Head Yard and find Leeds’ oldest boozer – Whitelock’s. It first opened in the 1700s, so it’s technically been serving ale for over 200 years. You’re bound to get a decent pint.