Culture Around Every Corner

Leeds is a city bursting with life and cultural energy, where the whole city is a stage, emerging and exciting, vibrant, and energetic with a vibe you won’t experience anywhere else.  It’s a place where you will find the biggest names taking to the stage alongside undiscovered talent. Where you’re just as likely to find the joy of dance pounding the pavements in carnival dress as you are to find it sweeping across a stage in ballet flats.

Experiencing some the culture in Leeds whether that be street art, museums, country house estates, performances and theatre should be on everyone’s ‘must do’ list on any visit to the city.


The Newest Addition to Leeds’ Cultural Scene

Though many of the celebrated sculptures and buildings in the city centre date from the Victorian period, Leeds’ newest public creation is surely worth a visit. Hibiscus Rising, by Yinka Shonibare, is a collaboration between the David Oluwale Memorial Association, LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture and Leeds City Council which represents a brilliant legacy from Leeds’ Year of Culture.

The striking sculpture is inspired by the hibiscus flower, a plant native to Nigeria. The connection comes from David Oluwale, the British Nigerian and Leeds resident who drowned in the River Aire on 18 April 1969 after being systematically harassed by members of the Leeds City police force. It offers a story of reconciliation, healing and renewal for the city in an area undergoing huge regeneration which will see an arts venue, hotel, restaurants, bars and city centre living.


Historic and World Record holding Theatre

With such deep Victorian heritage, represented in the city’s soaring architecture, it’s no surprise that celebrated and historic theatres represent a real cultural gem. Perhaps the most famous is Leeds Grand Theatre, built in 1878 following an off-the-cuff remark by Prince Albert that Leeds needed a good theatre. And we haven’t looked back since!

Next door to the theatre, you’ll also find the recently restored Howard Assembly Room. The captivating space offers an intimate venue for everything from jazz and cabaret to classical, with a fantastic restaurant and bar on site too.

Just around the corner is the City Varieties Music Hall, a true hidden gem – and a Guinness World Record holder for the nation’s longest running music hall. Everyone from musical acts to standup comedians grace the stage these days, confirming its reputation as a national cultural icon.

And if that isn’t enough to whet your cultural appetite make sure you enjoy a performance from one of the finest and most prolific producing repertory theatres in the UK; the Leeds Playhouse.


Enjoy the magic of opera and dance

Leeds is lucky enough to boast resident national opera and ballet companies, each offering a programme of ground-breaking performances. Opera North’s award winning work spans everything from traditional operatic canon to modern pieces, often collaborating with vibrant organisations like the Phoenix Dance Theatre or South Asian Arts.

Then there’s Northern Ballet, the UK’s foremost narrative ballet company. Their city centre home is the largest centre for dance outside of London, with the biggest rehearsal studio in Europe. You see the magic of dance take to the stage at The Grand Theatre before they tour nationally and internationally.


History & heritage on the doorstep

For history buffs, or just those who enjoy a good walk, Kirkstall Abbey is a must visit. You can walk along the banks of the Leeds Liverpool Canal direct from Leeds city centre to capture the towering mediaeval ruins of one of the most complete examples of a Cistercian abbey to be found in the England. Kirkstall Abbey and the grounds provide a perfect tranquil escape from the city.

The visitor centre offers insight into the life and times of the 12th century monks who once lived at the abbey.  Make sure you take the audio guide tour which takes you on a journey through the abbey ruins. Also look out for regular events, markets and pop-ups which take place throughout the year.

Take time to look up and enjoy the surroundings

Not every visitor to our city takes the time to look… up! But it’s well worth it. If not to witness the striking Victorian architecture, then to take in the equally impressive modern street art. Whether it’s iconic sporting figures, celebrations of nature, diverse cultural connections or historic murals, the street art trail weaves its way around just about everything.

One particular highlight is the awe-inspiring Athena Rising by Nomad Clan, found on the side of Leeds Station, the piece features Leeds’ mascot – the owl. Another recent addition, You&Me, Me&You by Anthony Burrill, might just be Leeds’ most Instagrammed location and captures the spirit of unity at a time when the world can feel divided.


See the big picture… through the city’s visual arts

A passion for the arts runs through the city and not just on the streets. The Henry Moore Institute was formed in Leeds and welcomes visits to its Galleries, Research Library and Archive of Sculptors Papers to experience, study and enjoy sculpture from around the world, whilst just a stone’s throw away Leeds Art Gallery hosts an eclectic collection of both modern and contemporary British art. Encouraging appreciation for the visual arts has flowed through to  the young minds and talents of those at the University of Leeds, which holds The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery.


If Leeds’ cultural highlights sound like the kind of experiences your delegates would love, get in touch or explore Leeds with Conference Leeds here: