The vibrant, cosmopolitan city of Leeds couldn’t be better located if you love exploring! It’s temptingly close to fascinating cities, perched at the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales, and not too far away from the coast, so, if you want some inspiration for awesome days out from Leeds, there is plenty to choose from. I lived in this great city for almost 3 years, so I’ve taken a lot of day trips from Leeds – I know which are worthwhile and which not to recommend too.
These 12 great day trips from Leeds will give you a little taste of what you can discover in and around Yorkshire. Most of the days out from Leeds here are less than a 90-minute bus or train journey from the city, so you can be confident you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your day out and you’ll be using sustainable transport too.
Brilliant City Days Out From Leeds
Leeds is perfectly located for exploring, with excellent public transport connections across the UK. It’s also close to awesome cities which make for great days out! Here are my favourites:
The medieval city of York is the ultimate day out from Leeds for you! Recently voted the #1 city to visit in the UK, there are so many things to do in York to keep you busy on a day out or even for a full weekend trip.
One of the best things to do in York is to visit the iconic York Minster – York’s splendid gothic cathedral – to marvel at the famous 15th century Rose Window, and to climb the 275 narrow steps in the tower for the ultimate city view.
The narrow, winding Shambles is considered the best-preserved medieval street in the world, plus it’s said to be J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books! Expect to see higgledy-piggledy buildings, treasure-trove book shops, quirky eateries, plus a shop where you can park your broomstick outside while you browse!
Delve into York’s Viking past at the Jorvik Viking Centre while the National Railway Museum, right next to the railway station, is chock-full with the history of rail travel. If you’re lucky, you might also see the famous Flying Scotsman.
Before you head back to Leeds, pop into one of York’s fabulous, individual pubs for a drink or two. Some of the most interesting include The Golden Fleece (the oldest pub in York), The House of the Trembling Madness and The Evil Eye!
York is just a 30-minute direct train journey away from Leeds, making it perfect for an easy day out.
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If you fancy extending your day trip from Leeds for a weekend, the atmospheric and luxurious Judge’s Lodging is right in the middle of the city and a fabulous place to stay.
The 9th biggest city in the UK, Sheffield is just 45-minutes from Leeds by train, making it perfect for easy days out from Leeds. Perfectly positioned on the doorstep of the UK’s largest national park – the Peak District – Sheffield is a buzzing, friendly city with plenty to see and do.
The city has an amazing 13 woodland and garden parks, plus public gardens including The Sheffield Winter Garden, The Botanical Garden, and the Peace Gardens where you can take a relaxing stroll.
Sheffield’s premier destination for art, craft and design is the Millennium Gallery. There’s also the Graves Gallery with works by Cezanne, Turner, and Damien Hirst, while Weston Park shares the story of Sheffield from prehistory to the present day. You can also visit the National Emergency Services Museum and discover Sheffield’s industrial past at Kelham Island Museum.
Sheffield is an outstanding city to shop in, with the Devonshire Quarter offering an eclectic mix of boutiques and cafes, while the Eccleshall Road is a thriving stretch of shops, cafes and restaurants moments away from the Botanic Gardens. You might also want to visit Sheffield’s Antiques Quarter which is chock-a-block with welcoming tea rooms, retro finds and quirky independent shops, or hop on a tram to the vast Meadowhall Shopping Centre – one of the biggest in the UK.
The Crucible Theatre is world-famous for its long-standing connection with snooker championships, while Sheffield’s City Hall plays host to regular concerts and the splendid 12th century Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul is one of Sheffield’s most beautiful buildings.
If you decide to extend your stay in Sheffield, treat yourself with a stay at the Scandi-chic Brocco on the Park Boutique Hotel.
While Manchester, the UK’s second-largest city, has a rich and varied industrial heritage, it’s also bursting with independent art hubs and repurposed old buildings that teem with life. Just 60 minutes away from Leeds by train., Manchester is an ideal place to visit on day trips from Leeds.
One of the highlights of a trip from Leeds to Manchester is the chance to explore three historic libraries. Chetham’s Library is the oldest free public reference library in the English-speaking world, Manchester Central Library with its incredible first floor domed Whispering Gallery, and the breath-taking John Radcliffe Library which has a collection of rare books from five millennia and the most incredible Hogwarts-like architecture!
If you prefer to explore great museums, take your pick from the Science and Industry Museum, the Manchester Museum where you can meet Stan the fossilised Tyrannosaurus Rex and more than 20 Egyptian mummies, the People’s History Museum (the national museum of democracy), the Greater Manchester Police Museum where you can visit the old cells, charging room and magistrate’s court, and the Manchester Jewish Museum which tells the story of Jewish migration and settlement in the city.
The 600-year-old Manchester Cathedral in the Medieval Quarter is fascinating to explore, and the Manchester Art Gallery has over 25,000 objects of fine art, decorative art, and costume to discover.
End your trip from Leeds with a mooch around the buzzing Northern Quarter, to browse the independent stores, cafes and bars, or treat yourself to cocktails in one of the city’s rooftop bars. The most beautiful? The Ivy is simply gorgeous!
Manchester is a fabulous city – you’ll only scratch the surface with your day trips from Leeds, but it’s so accessible, you can always visit again! If you want to experience more of Manchester than you can squeeze into a day trip, the grand Edwardian Midland Hotel is hard to beat. It has a fabulous tearoom too for an incredible afternoon tea.
There are so many things to do in Bradford that it would be a mistake not to recommend this historic city as one of the best days out from Leeds – especially as it’s only 25 minutes from Leeds by train. You can discover Bradford’s pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution at the Bradford Industrial Museum and discover what 19th century policing was like in the Bradford Police Museum. The fabulous National Science and Media Museum is free to visit while you can step back in time at Bolling Hall to the English Civil War.
If you love art, visit the stunning Cartwright Hall with its art gallery and ever-changing art exhibitions, including one celebrating the work of Bradford born artist David Hockney. Just one mile from central Bradford, Cartwright Hall is located in the vast Lister Park that has botanical gardens, a lake and Mughal water gardens to stroll around.
Bradford Cathedral is a 500-year old beauty, with early stained glass by William Morris, while the massive Bradford City Hall is worth visiting to see every single king and queen of England sculpted into the walls!
Recognised for years as the curry capital of Britain, Bradford has over 200 authentic curry houses to choose from. My absolute favourite is Mumtaz. For the perfect evening treat, take in a show at Bradford’s beautiful Alhambra Theatre.
Fancy staying over after your meal or the theatre? Booking.com has a great selection of up-market apartments and boutique hotels in Bradford to choose from if you’re keen to stretch your day trip from Leeds a bit further. Check prices and availability here.
Scenic Yorkshire Towns for Day Trips from Leeds
If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, you’ll love these ideas for day trips from Leeds to charming towns that simply ooze character.
Impossibly picturesque Knaresborough is instantly recognisable for its soaring Victorian Viaduct that carries trains between Harrogate and York across the River Nidd. What;s even better is this day trip from Leeds will only take you 40-minutes by train.
From the station, wander the tangled maze of medieval streets and stone staircases, down to the riverside or take in the splendid view from the medieval Knaresborough Castle. Look out for the crows with the Yorkshire accent here!
The quaint historic marketplace in the centre of town is full of picturesque Georgian buildings, with plenty of independent cafes to pop into for delicious home-cooked food and a brew. Look out for the cute trompe l’oeil Knaresbrough Windows too – all painted by local artists!
Don’t miss Mother Shipton’s Cave and the Petrifying Well – reputed to be the oldest tourist attraction in the UK! Mother Shipton is said to have been a mysterious soothsayer who made astonishing prophecies.
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The elegant Victorian town of Harrogate is a mere 40-minute direct train journey away from Leeds, making it the perfect destination for easy day trips from Leeds and for, longer stays.
Book a treatment at the stunning original Turkish Baths and explore Royal Pump Rooms to discover Harrogate’s origin as a spa town. Explore the independent boutiques and antique shops in the upmarket Montpellier Quarter, then wander through the glorious Grade II listed Valley Gardens or visit the incredible Royal Horticultural Society garden at Harlow Carr. If you love art, drop into the Mercer Art Gallery to browse.
You can’t visit Harrogate without taking afternoon tea at Betty’s Tea Room, but save room for dinner, as Harrogate is full of quality places to dine, including the Ivy, the beautiful William and Victoria on stylish Cold Bath Road,
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Make a weekend of your trip with a stay at the White Hart Inn, just 300 yards from the Turkish Baths, and dine in the atmospheric Fat Badger pub!
Stunning Saltaire Village near Bradford is just a 45-minute direct train journey away from Leeds, making it perfect for an easy day out.
Saltaire was founded by the Victorian textile magnate and philanthropist Sir Titus Salt, who built Salts Mill and the surrounding village to house and support his workers. Now preserved as a model village, Saltaire was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, and it’s a lovely place to visit for days out from Leeds.
Within the village, you’ll want to explore the world-class art displayed at Salts Mill with its huge collections of David Hockney art, then admire the splendid architecture of the Victoria Hall. Don’t forget to check out the massive stone lions sculpted by Thomas Milnes of London that guard the entrance to the Victoria Hall. Local legend has it that the lions were originally designed to sit at the foot of Nelson’s Column in London’s Trafalgar Square and that the lions visit the River Aire after dark for a drink!
One unmissable experience is the Shipley Glen Tramway – a unique tramway that was built in 1895 and operates narrow-gauge cable-hauled trams. The short quarter-mile journey takes you through scenic woodland, up to the Shipley Glen country park.
Saltaire is a fantastic place to get out and explore the great outdoors. Wandering the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, with its canalside buildings that are reminiscent of the Speicherstadt in Hamburg is a firm favourite of photographers, while Roberts Park, with its restored Victorian bandstand, is a good place for a scenic riverside stroll.
A regular fixture in lists of the best places to live in the UK, Skipton is a picture-perfect town in rural North Yorkshire, just 45 minutes by train from Leeds.
The biggest attraction in the town is the 900-year-old Skipton Castle – one of the most complete and best-preserved fortified castles in England. Standing proudly at the top of Skipton’s bustling High Street, the castle survived a three-year siege during the English Civil War, before being captured and “slighted” (on the orders of Oliver Cromwell). Skipton Castle Woods is perfect too for a stroll down to the Springs Branch Canal.
Bustling Skipton Market dates back to medieval times and is a great place to browse. The ever-changing independent stalls line the cobbled high street – you’ll find local food, crafts, plants and clothes here.
Lovers of quirky literary memorabilia will love the Craven Museum, as it houses one of only four Shakespeare first folios in the world! You might also like to see the old waterwheel at High Corn Mill, which dates back to the 14th century.
Don’t miss: Taking a boat trip on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which runs through the centre of the town is one of the best things to do in Skipton. After your trip, stop at Bizzie Lizzie’s for the most fabulous fish and chips before your journey back to Leeds, or check into Herriots Hotel for the finest Yorkshire hospitality.
Cultural Day Trips from Leeds
While Leeds is packed with cultural gems, the countryside around the city is blessed with exciting attractions to tempt you out of the city.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens (+ Ripon)
Visiting Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal Water Gardens is worth every minute of the 1 hour 45-minute train and bus journey from Leeds. This UNESCO World Heritage site includes the ruins of the largest Cistercian monastery in the United Kingdom, splendid Georgian formal water gardens, and a medieval deer park.
Your day trip from Leeds to Fountains Abbey will take you through the city of Ripon, where you’ll change buses, so you may want to explore this ancient city too.
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You can reach pretty little Haworth by train and “BronteBus” in 1 hour and 20 minutes from Leeds, making it perfect for an easy day out. Most famous as the home of the Bronte Sisters, you’ll want to visit the Bronte Parsonnage and Museum, the church where the Bronte family worshipped – and where most of them are buried – St Michael and All Angels is very atmospheric.
The village of Haworth is very scenic too, with plenty of inviting coffee shops, restaurants and independent shops to broswe too.
One of Britain’s most beautiful stately homes, Harewood House is a real treat to visit, whether you want to see the impressive State Rooms, the Art Collection, or the fabulous Kitchens and Servants Quarters.
After a tour of the house, Afternoon Tea on the Terrace is a very pleasant way to enjoy the view before exploring the Parterre, The Deer Park, the incredible Kitchen Gardens, and so much more.
Read my complete guide to visiting Harewood House here.
How to get to Harewood House
Harewood is just a 45-minute direct bus journey away from Leeds, making it one of the easiest day trips from Leeds.
Visiting Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales is one of the best day trips from Leeds, and one of the most scenic.
While it’s a 75-minute direct bus journey from Leeds, the journey is through beautiful Yorkshire countryside and it feels like such a treat!
You’ll certainly want to explore the Priory Church and the ruins of the 12th century Augustinian Priory, in its stunning riverside setting, but there’s plenty more to explore, including the Aqueduct – a turreted bridge over the River Wharfe, and the ruined hunting lodge – Barden Tower.
Cross the river on the 60 Stepping Stones and explore the Valley of Desolation and Simon’s Seat, but take great care near the Strid as it’s reputed to be the most dangerous stretch of river in the world!
The biggest problem when trying to choose the best day trips from Leeds to visit is narrowing down your choices.
Do you want an easily accessible city location, where you can also make the most of a city break, or would you prefer an off-the-beaten-path location? Are you keen to explore the history of the location or is visiting movie locations more your thing? All of these are possible with these day trips from Leeds.