Just over five years ago, I told friends and colleagues I was relocating ‘oop North’ to Leeds in West Yorkshire. It was a big surprise and one cheeky soul quipped “you’ll fit in and be OK if you lose the posh accent and get few tattoos”. I’m not sure the good folks at Visit Leeds would be thrilled to hear this, but I’m having the last laugh, as the City of Leeds is modern, diverse and packed to the brim with culture. If you know where to look, it’s easy to find and photograph the most Instagrammable places in Leeds!
Leeds has something for everyone. There are impressive historical buildings and a revitalised canal area, thriving indoor and outdoor markets, plus legendary nightlife and restaurants to suit every palette and budget. Then there’s all the craft beer and one of the UK’s most renowned universities!
Leeds is a stunning city to get out and photograph for your Instagram feed.
Despite being the largest legal and financial centre in the UK (after London), Leeds is only 20 miles away from the Yorkshire Dales National Park, so there’s some pretty awesome scenery too. It won’t surprise you to learn that Leeds was voted into fifth place on the Lonely Planet’s ‘Best In Europe 2017’ list.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE PLACES IN LEEDS
As the commercial centre of the Yorkshire woollen industry, Leeds has a rich and proud industrial heritage; however, it was Victorian architects who transformed the city. Much of this incredible Victorian architecture remains today, including municipal buildings, museums, shopping arcades and more. It’s all very Instagrammable too!
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Armley Mills was once the largest woollen mill in the world. The Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills contains exhibits dating back to the 18th century and tells the rich history of manufacturing in Leeds. It’s a great place for capturing stark architectural and industrial photos to showcase in your Instagram feed.
While the Dark Arches sound like a forbidding location in a J.K Rowling or J.R.R Tolkein tale, this hidden underground area is home to an awesome multi-colour light show.
Tucked away beneath Leeds train station, these Victorian brick arches house underground waterways carrying the River Aire, through Leeds.
The lights shine 24 hours a day, but the best time to capture them is after dark. Head for Dark Neville Street and prepare for the incredible sound of the river thundering and churning its way through the narrow channels, as you enjoy the ever-changing colours in the light display.
World’s apart from Armley Mills is the shopping haven of the Victoria Quarter (Victoria Gate, Queen Victoria Street, Cross Arcade and County Arcade).
Victoria Gate, with its flagship John Lewis store, was named the world’s best shopping centre at the MIPIM Awards in 2017. It’s a must-see and not just for the high-quality shops and boutiques! Everywhere you look offers new and exciting views – don’t forget to look up at the geometric ceiling.
County and Cross Arcades
The refurbished County Arcade and Cross arcades are the largest and most elaborate arcadeS in Leeds. Begun in 1900 and enhanced in the 1990s with the addition of a glass roof supported by cast-iron arches, this sumptuous warren of shops was formerly medieval yards, Georgian shambles, and slaughterhouses.
Today, County Arcade is one of the most beautiful parts of the city, with intricate marble tiled floors, immaculate shops, and the most jaw-dropping ceilings.
County Arcade is one of the most popular Leeds locations on Instagram because it’s so beautiful.
Leeds Town Hall
The Town Hall in Leeds is a massive Victorian building that’s very popular for concerts and weddings. The steps leading up to the entrance are rather magnificent, and there’s a massive clock tower, which was added when civic leaders demanded that the architect make the town hall even grander.
Inside the building, the concert hall has an enormous, ornate pipe organ the Phantom of the Opera would be proud of! It dwarfs everything else in sight, but it sounds divine! It’s a favourite haunt for lovers of spell-binding classical music concerts. Even if you’re not a music fan, this is a wonderful place to photograph.
A short walk from the Victoria Quarter brings you to the unmissable Corn Exchange. This circular Victorian building, with its impressive domed ceiling, was completed in 1864. Today, the building is one of only three corn exchanges in England still operating as a centre of trade.
Pop into the Great Yorkshire Shop for fun gift ideas, including the Yorkshire to English book!
The beautiful setting and the sweeping staircases are very popular Instagram photoshoot locations, and you might need to be patient to get your perfect photo.
Home to the most magnificent collection of arms and armour from across the world, the Royal Armouries Museum is only a short walk from Leeds City centre, at Leeds Dock. The exhibitions showcase arms and armour through time and are spread out over five floors of stunning displays. Don’t forget to look up in the Hall of Steel!
When you exit Leeds central train station, City Square is almost directly opposite you. Eight nymphs holding lamps surround the square, which is dominated by a ginormous statue of Edward, the Black Prince on horseback. It’s a very picturesque and Instagrammable welcome to Leeds!
MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE MARKETS
Leeds Kirkgate Market
The biggest covered market in Europe, Leeds Kirkgate Market is packed with over 800 stalls and steeped in history; it’s a must-see for any visitor. This market was also the place where British favourite Marks & Spencer opened their first stall (a penny bazaar) which you can still visit today.
Constructed in 1822 and still thriving today, thIS market features wonderful decorative touches, like red ironwork dragons and beautifully maintained, independent stalls. The best way to see and photograph Leeds Kirkgate Market is to book onto one of the free Leeds City Market Heritage tours, which run on the second Saturday each month it’s the only way to take photographs from the balcony!
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LEEDS MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE FOOD & DRINK DESTINATIONS
Leeds is packed with thoroughly Instagrammable places all over the city where you can eat, drink and be merry. Here are just a few favourites (the tip of the iceberg).
This Japanese restaurant and rooftop bar located in Victoria Gate offers Japanese inspired cocktails (#amazing) and exquisitely presented food. Issho is definitely THE place in Leeds to turn yourself into an Instagram food photographing nerd!
The Ivy Leeds
Located in a historic, listed building on Vicar Lane, The luxurious Ivy Victoria Quarter is situated within the Victoria Quarter arcade. Open seven days a week, the restaurant offers breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, light snacks and dinner, as well as astonishingly good cocktails (we had a few – for research purposes, of course).
Every part of The Ivy is thoroughly Instagrammable, from the two terraces and beautiful bar, to the restaurant and possibly the prettiest loos I’ve ever seen!
Ambiente in the trendy riverside area of The Calls is the place to go for tapas in Leeds. Lively, vibrant and fun, with knowledgeable staff and a delicious menu. I recommend the sea bream (Dorada de Cadiz), the dessert sharing platter and the extensive wine list.
Every table is beautiful, but the ultimate choice for atmospheric photos is to book a riverside table.
Temple Coffee & Donuts
This little café is one of the most Instagrammable places in Leeds with incredible interiors, cool signage and a fabulous hot pink wall! The star of the show though is the food – glorious, glossy doughnuts in every colour of the rainbow – if you love photographing food and coffee you will be in your seventh heaven at Temple Coffee & Donuts.
Leeds City Art Gallery
Who would have thought that a municipal cafe could be such a stunner? The former reading room in Leeds Central Library nestles beneath a beautifully restored barrel-vaulted mosaic ceiling, like an ugly duckling beneath the most beautiful sky.
The best cafe in town for my money – it’s also one of the best places in Leeds to capture awesome photos for your Instagram feed. There are selfie backdrops here to die for!
Opera North at Leeds Grand Theatre
City Varieties Music Hall
For a change of tone, Leeds’ ornate mid 19th century City Varieties Music Hall is a true Victorian gem. This restored music hall in Leeds was the home of British TV’s family favourite show The Good Old Days for 30 years from 1953-1983.
The rather special theatre, run by volunteers, is renowned as the UK’s best venue for comedy! Tucked away down a quaint cobbled street right in the city centre, the City Varieties is one of my favourite spots in Leeds for dark, atmospheric photos.
Leeds Water Taxi
A very cheap way to get around Leeds (only £1 a trip!) is to take the Water Taxi to Leeds Dock from Granary Wharf (behind the train station). The two boats, Twee and Drie, run every 20 minutes.
The Leeds Water Taxi offers a different perspective of this great city for your Instagram photos.
Some of the most Instagrammable places in Leeds are rather quirky and surprising. Here are my favourites:
Leeds Little Free Library
Leeds Little Free Library was introduced in 2017, with a mission to spread the love of books and reading throughout the city. You’ll find more than 40 brightly-decorated and highly Instagrammable library boxes around Leeds!
Time Ball Buildings
Look up and dodge the buses to get a good picture of the two Victorian clocks on the Time Ball Buildings. My favourite part of these buildings is the clock bearing the legend ‘Tempus Fugit’ (time flies), which includes a winged figure of Old Father Time.
Rainbow of Hope
Leeds Owl Trail
The Leeds coat of arms features three owls and the owl has become the unofficial symbol of the city. Download a map of the Leeds Owl Trail here to help plan the best shots for your Instagram feed. You’ll find owls in surprising places throughout the city!
GLORIOUS GREEN SPACES
It’s worth travelling just North of Leeds to find one of the most magnificent country houses in England. Harewood House is a delight, with so much to see in the house and the extensive gardens, whatever the season. It was also the location for the Downton Abbey movie!
Pro Tip: Head for the Himalayan Garden to find the most adorable, Instagrammable bridge and stepping stones!
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Now you’ve seen the most Instagrammable places in Leeds, are you ready to plan a visit?
Best Places to Stay in Leeds
- Luxury: Radisson Blu, 42 The Calls, The Bells Serviced Apartments
- Mid-Budget: The Queen’s Hotel, Park Plaza
- Budget: The Art Hostel is a fun, quirky option
How to Get to Leeds
- Leeds is connected by train to cities across the UK. There are direct trains from London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, York and Sheffield.
- National Express and Megabus also connect Leeds to many UK cities.
- Leeds Bradford International Airport offers direct flights to Leeds from 75 cities across the UK and Europe.
I love this city and I can’t recommend a visit highly enough. Let me know in the comments if you’ve been to photograph the most Instagrammable places in Leeds! What did you love best?
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