To borrow a turn of phrase from one of the city’s most iconic shopping destinations, Leeds Corn Exchange, the city is less a nation of shopkeepers, and more a community of modern retail radicals. Because Leeds has always led the way when it comes to shopping, offering a truly unique approach and an energy all of its own. 

When it comes to retail, there are few places that can rival the offer in Leeds; where a world of retail is all within reach within a compact and walkable city centre.  However, amongst the well-known retail giants sit an extensive range of unique and wonderful independent shops and vendors. From handmade craft shops to vintage clothing stores and one-of-a-kind jewellers, here’s a look at some the city’s favourite indie places that bring the city to life. 


Start with spiritual home of British shopping 

If there’s one place that Brits consider iconic, it’s Marks & Spencer. The department store has been a fixture of British life for decades. Since 1884 in fact, when M&S began life as a stall run by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer in… you guessed it… Leeds! 

As well as being home to the M&S Archive, you can also revisit the roots of Marks & Spencer at Kirkgate Market, where a recreation of the original ‘penny bazaar’ stall marks the start of their world-famous journey.  


Boutique shopping in historic arcades 

Leeds’ Victorian architecture is rightly celebrated, from the Town Hall to the Corn Exchange. But some of the most striking examples are historic arcades each with their own original features and unique charm.   

The first was Thornton’s Arcade, opening in 1878, now packed with independents including OK Comics and Welcome Skate Store.   Both The Grand Arcade and Queens Arcade also date from the period and both are characterful places to explore.   Treat yourself to a meal at Roots and Fruits, the vegetarian cafe, or afternoon tea at Just Grand! Vintage Tearoom with over 25 different teas on the menu in The Grand Arcade.  Enter the treasure trove of Aladdin’s Cave over in Queens Arcade is a one-of-a-kind jewellery shop selling unrivalled statement pieces.   

Designer devotees will find their fix in the splendour of Victoria Leeds which dates from 1904 and is home to boutiques and upmarket fashion houses.  Make your experience extra special with the help of their Guest Excellence Service with a selection of personalised services tailored to you, from hands-free shopping to a concierge booking service.  


Explore Leeds’ community of modern retail radicals 

Another iconic venue, Leeds Corn Exchange, offers one of the most unique collections of independently minded traders in the North, from art and homewares at Colours May Vary, to thriving greenery at The Plant Point. 

The building has been a fixture of the Leeds retail scene since 1864, and more recent renovations have helped create one of the most welcoming and inspiring shopping destinations around. The Grade I-listed building is a must-see for its awe-inspiring roof alone. 


Spice things up at Leeds’ fieriest shop 

The Merrion Centre has been a Leeds retail destination for decades, with generations heading down to pick up everything from vinyl records to Leeds United kits. But it’s also home to one of the city’s spiciest traders – The Chilli Shop. 

It’s a sensory experience like no other, offering shoppers the chance to try and buy some of the hottest sauces in the world, from the Trinidad Scorpion to the Carolina Reaper. As featured on TV’s This Morning and Big Zuu’s Big Eats! 


Take to the water for a brew and a browse 

Keen readers love to browse the shelves of second-hand bookshops, and most cities have one or two worth bookmarking. But can anywhere else boast a retailer like Hold Fast Books at Leeds Dock? 

The ‘Dock’ part should be a clue, because Hold Fast is a floating cornucopia of literature, offering the best second-hand books, plus teas and treats, from a barge moored on the Leeds waterfront. Oh, and they sell houseplants too. What could be better? 


Pick up a bespoke bottle (with unbeatable service) 

When it comes to wine and liquor, it can be easy to stick to what you know. But Leeds independent institution, Latitude Wine, have been doing things differently for over 15 years now, building a healthy following in the process. 

Shopping at Latitude offers more than just picking a bottle off a shelf. Their expert staff are always happy to talk through your likes and loves, and to recommend something new to try across any price range. It’s a great place to pick up a unique gift, or to just grab a bottle to share with a friend. 


Find work by designers with a difference 

Anyone can drop into a high street chain and pick up jewellery, homeware or gifts – and that’s much the same in any city. But Leeds has something a whole lot more unique and interesting to offer, and all it takes is a short walk down The Headrow. 

The Craft Centre and Design Gallery takes you on a journey through UK designers and makers, offering beautiful, contemporary pieces on display to spark your creative fires, or just to pick up a special something in a break between conference sessions. 


You’ll find that Leeds is a compact and walkable and all these venues are just a short walk away from each other. Interested in exploring more options for leisure time whilst you organise a conference in Leeds? At Conference Leeds we are here to help: