travel blogger outside Leeds corn exchangeleeds corn exchange: travel guide: 12 hours in Leeds

In the spirit of wanting to make more travel content (and trying to complete my new year goals) a few weeks ago me and Beth decided to visit a UK city we hadn't really been to before, except for the coach station on the way to and from the festival... Leeds! We spent a total of 12 hours in Leeds, and whilst we felt we definitely didn't need that much time to see the city, we did manage to fit a lot in. Here's my travel guide to 12 hours in Leeds.

where to shop in Leeds

When we arrived in Leeds, we were on a mission to find the city's best independent businesses, and maybe get some Christmas shopping in. Whilst on our quest of finding the best places to shop in Leeds, we stumbled across Village, a small bookshop in Thornton's Arcade. Despite only being big enough to fit in a handful of people, we must have spent a good half an hour in this place, browsing the endless magazines and deciding on the best books to take home with us. Here you'll find travel, graphic design, fashion, art, politics, and a bit of everything in between.

Of course, whenever you visit Leeds you have to visit the corn exchange, and here we found quite a few cute shops stocking vintage cameras, cute prints, potted plants, plenty of candles and, of course, Yorkshire tea. Just a few minutes' walk away, we found Kirkgate market, known for being home to the world's first Marks & Spencer. I don't know why this excited me so much, but it did. In the market we also visited a small wool shop, where I picked up some cotton for my mum to use for her etsy shop. Opposite the market, we found the aptly named 'The Hip Store'. Very hip indeed. A menswear shop, sure, but I found a few good t-shirts and skincare pieces to be tempted by. If we could have found a womenswear equivalent, I think Leeds would have really impressed us in the small business stakes. So, a small selection of where to shop in Leeds, but a good selection at that.

store interiors of Village bookshop, thorntons arcade, Leeds
collage of Leeds town hall, inside of Leeds corn exchange, magazines in village bookshop and cocktails in hedonist bar, Leeds

where to eat and drink in Leeds

Before heading to Leeds, I asked you lot on Instagram for the best veggie friendly places to eat and drink in Leeds. I got a fair few recommendations too, but having just 12 hours in Leeds we couldn't visit them all. Some that remain on the list for next time are Bundobust, Headrow House (we nearly did visit, but the menu at the time wasn't the most accommodating and it was a bit too chilly for rooftop cocktails) and Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen. We did actually make it inside to Belgrave Music Hall, and to a scouser, or anyone that's been to Liverpool recently, I can only describe it as the Merchant but bigger, and even busier, which meant we had to leave as we couldn't find a seat. Boo.

Where we did successfully visit though, we liked. First stop for coffee was Layne's Espresso, just around the corner from Leeds train station. Again, it was pretty busy, but the coffee was strong and the service was great, so I would recommend it to anyone visiting Leeds in the future. It isn't as good as Liverpool's Root Coffee though, just saying. 

collage of places to eat and drink in Leeds, including fettle and layne's coffee shops, a shopping arcade and marks and Spencer, kirkgate market

Another coffee shop on our list was Fettle, a little further out from the busy city centre, but still in walking distance. Here I had a hot chocolate and eyed up the next table's toast dishes, damn they looked good, but my croissant was de-lic-ious. It seems every time I do a travel blog recently I review a croissant... Let's keep the tradition going. For lunch, we stopped by East Parade Social, a casual sandwich stop part of Leeds' Avenue HQ space. Pros were there a few veggie options, but cons, it was pretty quiet. In fact, we were the only people in there at 12pm on a Saturday. Hopefully this was a blip.

Lastly on the food front, for tea we settled on trying out some different dishes at Trinity Kitchen. Now, this is a kind of indoor street food market inside but kind of separate from Leeds' Trinity shopping centre. We tried to avoid chains, as one of our favourite things to do when visiting a new city is trying out some independent bars and restaurants, but we genuinely struggled to find something we'd both like in the city centre that wasn't a chain you can find up and down the UK. Trinity Kitchen ended up being a bit of a compromise, but I did enjoy a pizza from the Pizzaluxe stand and Beth recommends The Little Red Food Truck's burgers. If anyone reading has some good independent restaurant recommendations for Leeds, please do leave them in the comments below for everyone to see!

Last but not least, we ended our 12 hours in Leeds in Hedonist, a small neon-lit bar in the city centre. The gin menu was expansive (yes!) but, er, pretty pricey. We only had the one each before heading to the train station to wait around for our train home. There were plenty of other bars nearby, but the majority seemed to be gearing up for Saturday night, whilst we were clad in converse and carrying tote bags, so we stuck to Hedonist. On that note, I have heard Leeds is pretty good for a night out, but I can't really comment on that front.

shopping arcades in Leeds, 12 hours in Leeds travel blog post

where to shoot / Instagrammable places in Leeds

One of the most recommended 'Instagrammable places in Leeds' was the tiled hall cafe, part of Leeds Art Gallery. Thankfully, this beautiful room did not disappoint, with tiles lining the walls and the ceilings, making Instagram backdrops aplenty. The tea was cheap too, so I'd definitely recommend popping in for a snap.

inside of the tiled hall cafe in Leeds art gallery

One of the prettiest places in Leeds in my opinion was in and around the corn exchange. Here I am, grinning away on the steps outside the iconic curved building, which was just as cool inside. We also found a few cute shop fronts in the surrounding streets, so when you're here, get the camera out.

And that's it! My travel guide on how to spend a day in Leeds (or more accurately, 12 hours). Hopefully you can take away some of my recommendations of the best places to eat, drink, shop and shoot in Leeds and enjoy your next city break. Make sure to see my other travel posts whilst you're here, with some more further afield than others - Shanghai and Sri Lanka especially. And if you do pay a visit to Leeds at any point, check out Expedia for the best places to stay.

Good vibes guys ✌🏼

*Affiliate links are included in this post. All opinions are my own.