The new home of Channel 4 and a burgeoning start-up scene, Leeds is a great place to visit and do business.
Urban growth in Leeds is among the strongest in the country and Channel 4’s recent decision to set up a new national HQ there suggests this West Yorkshire city, once renowned for a booming woollen cloth industry, is becoming a Northern Powerhouse.
With a £57m Leeds City College campus on the way, plus a growing population of young professionals, strong innovative business hubs, and a plethora of tech start-ups, Leeds is moving towards a knowledge-based economy faster than any other region in the UK.
In recent decades, the population of Leeds city centre has increased at seven times the rate of London’s, alongside a 34 per cent rise in employment, according to the Centre for Cities report released earlier this year.
But while businesses are waking up to the fact the North is a centre of positive change, the booming regional economy – which has expanded by 40 percent since 2007 – is not the only reason Leeds should be on your radar. It’s also one of the few places in the country you can experience a bustling urban hub and picturesque rural landscapes.
Over two-thirds of the Leeds district is comprised of open space, public parks, gardens and green belt land, and the city centre is less than 20 miles from the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
There are at least 10 game-changing developments already underway in Leeds at present. The string of new development and regeneration projects include a revamp of the renowned theatre Leeds Playhouse – the first since it relocated to its current site in 1990. Meanwhile, Emerald Headingley Stadium is undertaking one of its largest redevelopments in its 128-year history.
Set to reopen its doors in 2020, the former hub for commerce First White Cloth Hall is currently being transformed into a modern city landmark. Work on the £2 million restoration project is finally underway after years of neglect.
Building work has also started on a new £57m Leeds City College campus local councillors say is the “missing piece of the jigsaw” in the city’s cultural quarter. The 11-storey Quarry Hill development will become a new hub for digital and creative arts and health and social sciences, and is likely to open in time for the 2019/2020 academic year.
Leeds has an abundance of excellent city centre hotels, including renowned brands such as Doubletree by Hilton, Marriott and Malmaison, as well as boutique hotels including 42 The Calls, The New Ellington and Quebecs, plus the Village Hotel Leeds North – and South.
In addition to its 7,000 existing hotel rooms there are more hotel developments in the pipeline, with a view to supplying a further 3,265 rooms in the city.
Dakota Hotels unveiled their first UK property and its newest boutique venture in May last year, featuring 84 luxurious bedrooms, a stylish cocktail bar with terrace, plus a brassiere-style restaurant.
Recent figures show the city welcomed more than 29 million day and night visitors in 2017, worth in the region of £1.75bn to the local economy.
Leeds and West Yorkshire is located at the crossroads of the M62 and the M1, with the A1/M1 link making it simple to reach by road from anywhere in the UK. Frequent direct trains carry visitors from London to Leeds in just over two hours with Virgin Trains East Coast, with services running at least every half an hour. Cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Hull and York also offer direct train services links to Leeds with TransPennine Express.
One of the fastest growing regional airports in Britain, Leeds Bradford Airport lies some eight miles from Leeds city centre Visitors can now fly direct to LBA on scheduled flights from over 75 destinations across 25 countries.
Leeds also has a compact, walkable city centre so it’s easy to enjoy all the city has to offer on foot.
Innovative event space
Among the most sought-after innovative event spaces in Leeds are the Tetley, New Craven Hall (an industrial, urban luxury space, combining its unique industrial heritage and stunning architecture), and the iconic Royal Armouries.
Situated in the centre of Leeds, the First Direct arena is a world-class venue with both luxury and versatile function rooms. The city’s Championship football club, Leeds United, also caters for a range of events, sell-out concerts and private one-to-one business meeting spaces at Elland Road Stadium. Meanwhile, outside the city, Thorpe Park Leeds is an established business park over 275 acres.
Although only one restaurant in the city holds a Michelin star – The Man Behind The Curtain, featuring an 11-course tasting menu with everything from pork rinds to oysters – several restaurants in and around Leeds are included in the Michelin Guides, and the city has the second highest supply of branded casual dining restaurants outside of London.
A meat-lover’s heaven, the fine-dining rooftop oasis Crafthouse is accessible from within the Trinity shopping centre or via a lift from Boar Lane. Executive Chef Lee Murdoch has been known to hunt his own game and prepares meat and fish in a Josper Oven – a chargrilling machine cooking locally-sourced produce at a 480 degree heat.
The Ivy Victoria Quarter opened in September 2018, and the eclectic décor and speciality cocktails alone – including a Salted Caramel Espresso Martini – should see this swish new address remain a favourite on future visits to West Yorkshire.
Arts and culture
Opera, ballet, art… you name it, Leeds is a cultural hub for them all. The city plays home to Northern Ballet, one of the UK’s leading and widest touring ballet companies in the country, plus the Phoenix Dance Theatre, which is the UK’s longest standing contemporary dance company outside of London.
Royal Armouries Museum is located a short distance from the city centre at Leeds Dock and hosts Britain’s national collection of arms and armour, a world-renowned collection of over 75,000 objects.
Leeds Industrial Museum contains exhibits raging from the 18th century to the present day and tells the history of manufacturing in Leeds, covering textiles, clothing, printing and engineering.