Twenty years ago the most exciting thing about Leeds was the opening of Harvey Nichols, and it was just when I was leaving and heading down to London. Looking back, it was the start of an intensive stage of redevelopment that has turned the city from mill town to a 21st Century urban chic destination that includes elegant arcades, indie coffee shops and a wonderful sense of history. Luckily, I’m back living here to witness it all and give you the ultimate guide to life in this exciting city.
Indies in Thorton’s Arcade – In the heart of Leeds and running parallel to Queen’s Arcade is Thornton’s Arcade where you’ll find some lovely independent stores like bookstore and gallery, Village, and Tall Boys Beer Market where you can buy craft beer, artisan breads and specialist coffee. They have a super cool cafe upstairs which has a great rustic-meets-Scandi aesthetic and some full-on hanging plant love.
Historical detailing – Ready for some stunning architecture? Head to one of the main shopping attractions in Leeds, The Victoria Quarter. Built in 1900, it is full of beautiful mosaics, marble and intricate ironwork – perfect for decorative style insta-pics and don’t forget to look up, the view is stunning! In here you’ll find the likes of Harvey Nichols, Space NK, Kiehls, Paul Smith and Jo Malone, and why not pop into Charbonnel et Walker for some chocolate treats?
Olive & Rye – For a pitstop, walk across Briggate and up Queen’s Arcade and you’ll find Olive & Rye, a food lover’s deli store that also serves brunch, lunch and dinner (Friday and Saturday evenings). They have a plentiful supply of locally sourced jams, chutneys, wines, beers and food gifts, all of which can be bought individually or can be made into one of their bespoke hampers built to order.
Colours May Vary – one of my favourite places to visit. Passionate about choosing and selling products that they would buy themselves, you will find graphic art and design books, unusual prints and jewellery, as well as stationery, journals, gifts, wrap and indie magazines. Brands stocked include Studio Arhoj, Egle Zvirblyte and Matthew the Horse. They also hold exhibitions from time to time, so keep an eye out on the website.
North Star coffee – A short walk across the bridge from Colours May Vary will bring you to a part of the city called Leeds Dock. The Royal Armouries museum is here, and you can take a trip on a Dutch water taxi. But if it’s a rest and great coffee you are after in a super stylish environment, then head to fantastic coffee shop North Star. As well as selling delicious freshly baked goodies by Noisette, a progressive micro bakery, there’s also a general store where you can buy the full range of North Roast coffee, Storm Organic loose leaf teas, Earl of East soy candles and numerous other foodie items that are all carefully sourced. Next door to the cafe sits their academy, where they run fabulous Home Barista and Home Brew courses.
Colourful murals – For dramatically colourful & abstract backgrounds for your Instagram photos, look no further than Modes of Expression. These stunning murals are painted by artists Emma Hardaker and Bobbie Rae who formed Modes of Expression – a workshop/studio space located in Bryon Street Mills. You can find their eye-catching walls around Leeds – like the exterior of independent pub The Brunswick. For more info on workshops and courses check out https://www.facebook.com/mediumleeds/
Duke Studios – Visiting Leeds for a weekend and want somewhere cool to hang out and work? Duke Studios is an open space based around a co-working model which has turned into a thriving hub full of creative folk who share, collaborate and socialise together. Named as one of the twelve ‘coolest co-working places in the world’, the design is multicoloured and inspirational. You can hire a desk, book the space for meetings/events or simply pop into the cafe for a cuppa.