Leeds is certainly a place on the rise. And although the new shopping centres, offices and flats shooting up are doing wonders for the city. It’s the alternative, creative and independent fundamentals of Leeds that makes me proud to call it my home. So, without further adieu, here is my ultimate guide to the top 6 alternative things to do in Leeds that will help you step off the beaten path and explore the city like a local.


1. Go indie shopping in the Corn Exchange

Leeds is well known for its great shopping scene. But if you’re looking for something a little different from the high street brands of Victoria Gate and Trinity Centre then head over to the Corn Exchange. Inside, you’ll find a fantastic collection of independent shops that skirt around two floors of this impressive building. And really, there’s something to interest everyone here – from old camera and clothing shops to unique gift and jewellery stores.


The details

Location: Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 7BR
Opening times: Monday – Thursday, 10 am – 6 pm | Thursday, 10 am – 9 pm | Friday – Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm | Sunday, 10.30 am – 4.30 pm


Read my full guide to Leeds’ independent shopping here



2. See a gig at Brudenell Social Club

Brudenell Social Club is somewhat of an institution in Leeds’ small music venue scene. This place has no airs and graces about it, but that’s what makes it so great. It’s a non-profit making meeting place for people from all walks of life to come and enjoy good music and cheap drinks of course! The venue has gigs on most evenings, and these are mostly upcoming bands. Though interestingly there’s also been a number of secret performances here by bands like the Kaiser Chiefs too, so you never know what or who you might find.


The details

Location: 33 Queens Road, Leeds, LS6 1NY
Opening times: Sunday – Thursday, 12 pm – 11 pm | Friday – Saturday, 12 pm – 12 am
Cost: Tickets from £10 per person (though some gigs are free)


Brudenell Social Club

3. Sip drinks in an underground speakeasy

One of the most alternative things to do in Leeds is paying a visit to its only underground hidden speakeasy bar, The Domino Club. When I say it’s hidden, I mean it’s hidden – the entrance is only marked a domino sign. You’ll have to first walk through Lord’s Barbering shop in the Grand Arcade, through the door at the back and down some stairs to get there. Keeping true to it’s 1920’s feel, Domino has live jazz bands and artists playing most nights of the week from 9 pm onwards. Just add in a decent spirit and cocktail menu and you’ve got everything you need for a unique evening out.


The details

Location: Grand Arcade (but that’s all the clues you’re getting!)
Opening times: Tuesday – Thursday, 8 pm – 3 pm | Friday – Saturday, 6 pm – 3 am | Sunday, 8 pm – 3 pm | Monday, closed
Cost: £2 entry fee Thursdays, £3 entry fee Fridays & Saturdays



4. Watch a film at one of the UK’s oldest cinemas

Nestled away in the suburb of Far Headingley, Cottage Road Cinema is one of this area’s best-kept secrets. As it’s one of oldest cinemas in the UK and one of the few remaining independent cinemas too, it really is one of the best alternative things to do in Leeds – especially if you’re a film buff. Cottage Road is still traditional in every sense. Think red velvet curtains and seats, balcony and stalls areas and someone who comes to serve ice cream at the front. Yet, this cinema still shows a number of the latest blockbusters in its program alongside a selection of slightly older films.


The details

Location: Cottage Road, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 4DD
Opening times: Open for film times
Cost: Tickets from £5 per person
Reviews: Trip Advisor


Cottage Road Cinema


5. Go to a market in the ruins of an abbey

Set just outside the city centre, the ruins of 12th-century Kirkstall Abbey are impressive enough to warrant a visit alone. But on the last weekend of each month, this ancient landmark comes alive with an outdoor market for local businesses. Selling everything from handmade crafts to artisan food & drink, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon, with the rest of the abbey grounds also free to explore whilst you’re there.


The details

Location: Abbey Road, Kirkstall, Leeds, LS5 3EH
Opening times: The last weekend of the month (March – Nov), 12 pm – 3 pm
Cost: Free
Reviews: Trip Advisor



6. Discover East Street Arts

If you’re looking for alternative things to do in Leeds, then look no further than East Street Arts. It’s a contemporary arts organisation that leads projects all over Leeds, as well as the UK and Europe. Its programme includes temporary art exhibitions that pop up in the centre and suburbs, as well as more permanent residences including studio spaces and an art hostel. Not forgetting their ‘A City Less Grey’ project which has seen a collection of large-scale street art murals created across the centre. They have lots of information and a full list of events on their website, so you can find out what’s on whilst you’re in the city.


East Street Arts


Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the alternative things to do in Leeds. But it should be enough to get you started on exploring this northern English gem. Have fun!


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