Britain on a Budget: Free Things to do in Leeds

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Want to explore somewhere new on a minimal budget? You’ve come to the right place. The UK is full of historic cities with free museums and galleries, parks and green spaces, cheap eats and much more. Our Britain on a Budget series delves into some of the UK’s best cities and reveals how you can visit them all, without breaking the bank. We’ve already looked at Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle - now, we’re heading to Leeds.

Keep on reading to discover free things to do in Leeds, as well as cheap places to eat and stay during your trip. Take advantage of fantastic prices and travel by train sustainably when you book an Advance Ticket with CrossCountry.

Free things to do in Leeds

  1. Explore the Kirkstall Abbey ruins - This atmospheric 12th-century abbey is one of the most complete Cistercian monasteries in Britain, surrounded by tranquil tree-filled parkland. The River Aire runs right through the grounds, making this iconic landmark even more picturesque. Offering a mix of history and nature close to the heart of the city, the grounds of the Abbey are ideal for a leisurely afternoon stroll.
  2. Saunter along the banks of the canal – Starting from the city centre, you can stroll along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Admire colourful barges, spot local wildlife and if you’re visiting in the summer, stop at one of the green spaces for a picnic along the way.

 

  1. Admire art at the Tetley – One of the most iconic buildings in Leeds, the Tetley is a former brewery offering art lovers three floors of contemporary art. Not only does the gallery offer free admission for its exhibitions, there are also free workshops, activities and occasional open days. Peckish? The Tetley Bar & Kitchen serve a reasonably priced, locally sourced menu, perfectly accompanied by a pint of Tetley's.
  1. Get historic at the Leeds City Museum – Whether you’re interested in ancient Egyptian history or Greek pottery, you’ll find an extensive array of artefacts to discover on the museum’s four floors. One of the highlights not to miss is Nesyamun, also known as the Leeds Mummy, which has been in the museum since 1823.

 

Leeds City Museum is one of the best free things to do in Leeds.

 

  1. Take a stroll through Roundhay Park – If you’re the outdoorsy type, you will appreciate Leeds’ choice of parks, gardens and surrounding countryside.. One of the largest city parks in Europe, Roundhay Park is a lovely choice for a breather from the city, featuring scenic gardens, playgrounds, woodland and even a large lake.
  1. Window shop at the Victoria Arcade – If you’ve got the willpower to avoid shopping, visit the Victoria Quarter to admire the beautiful architecture of these Victorian arcades. The mosaics, stained glass and ornate detailing are just as luxurious as the designer shops that surround them.

 

Window shopping in Leeds’ Victoria Arcade is one of the best free things to do in Leeds.

  1. Check out some street art – Colour Hyde Park is a street art trail around one of the city’s most vibrant suburbs. The University of Leeds commissioned six murals, all inspired by the natural beauty of the area and the diversity of the community. They’re all worth seeking out - from Joy Rooney’s colourful representation of local landmarks, to Fem Sorcell’s beautiful floral mural, inspired by the work of children at Brudenell Primary School.
  1. ‘Pay as you feel’ afternoon tea – If you’re flexible with when you’re visiting, book your trip so you’re in Leeds for any second Wednesday of the month. Left Bank Leeds hosts a pay-as-you-feel afternoon tea, so you can indulge in delicious cake and hot beverages even when you’re feeling the pinch. After your cuppa, wander around the beautiful Grade II listed building or marvel at the incredible art in the Porch Gallery.

 

A pay as you feel afternoon tea is a cheap thing to do in Leeds.

 

  1. The Waterfront Art Trail – Stroll along the river, taking in eight unique works of art along the way. From huge graffiti murals to a recycled bicycle tree and the famous Marshall’s Mill Sheep, you’ll uncover an eclectic array of art as you explore the city’s South Bank. 
  1. Admire sculptures at the Henry Moore Institute - The Henry Moore Institute is an internationally renowned sculpture gallery that attracts some of the most prestigious artists in the world. Their mission is simple – to continue Moore’s legacy by making sculpture part of our everyday lives – and they do it by bringing us an endless procession of art.

Cheap Eats in Leeds

Eating out doesn’t need to be expensive and you can get a great feed in Leeds, without breaking the bank.

  • Senbon Sakura – Head here for a taste of authentic Japanese cuisine. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but they really know what they’re doing in the kitchen – and they don’t charge the earth. 
  • Pizza Fella – Authentic Neapolitan pizzas at pocket pleasing prices. You can get a classic margarita for under £7. Whatever you choose, they’re all handmade using Italian Caputo flour, San Marzano tomatoes and Fior di Latte.
  • Roots and Fruits – Northerners may be known for their love of meat and pastry, but Leeds also has an excellent array of vegetarian restaurants too. Roots and Fruits is a small kitchen serving up the best of veggie treats. Enjoy burritos, falafel, jacket potatoes and lasagne, with prices starting from just under £4. 
  • Pieminister is a cheap eat option in Leeds.
  • Pieminister – Can you really take a trip up north without eating a pie? Pieminister is always there for a cheap feed when you need one. You can enjoy any of their pies for just £6.25 and still get sides like smoky baked beans and mushy peas for an extra £3. 
  • Manjit’s Kitchen – Treat yourself to an array of traditional Punjabi dishes from just £4.95 at Manjit’s Kitchen in Kirkgate Market. If you’re after a heartier feed, you can get a three-curry thali, which gives you all of the day’s different curries in one tray with rice for just £5.95.

Cheap places to stay in Leeds

To make the most of your trip to Leeds, you’ll want to visit for longer than a day. Check out these budget options for a great stay in Leeds.

  • Quebecs – Set in a grand Victorian building in the heart of Leeds, this boutique hotel offers luxurious rooms, elegant lounges and free WiFi. Quebecs is just off City Square, 300 metres from Leeds Station, the perfect location for your weekend away.
  • Leeds Super Luxurious Apartments – If you’re after a little more space, head to Leeds Super Luxurious Apartments. Each unit is fitted with a fully equipped kitchen, a seating area with a sofa, a TV, a washing machine and a private bathroom.
  • ibis Style Leeds City Centre Arena - The ibis is always a great option for a budget break. Situated 0.2 miles from the First Direct Arena in Leeds, ibis Styles Leeds City Centre Arena is very central and features an onsite restaurant and bar and free WiFi.

Want to listen to some tunes on the train to Leeds? Check out our Spotify playlist featuring some of the best Leeds bands.  

With a range of free things to do in Leeds, it is most definitely an option for a budget-conscious traveller. Whenever you would like to visit, remember that you can buy an Advance ticket to Leeds via our Train Tickets app.

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