External hyper-lapse image at night.


Over 1,600 years of history in a day – Touring Leeds’ architecture

There are more than 3,300 listed buildings in Leeds, boasting everything from Victorian civic wonders to gothic religious monuments. So, it’s no surprise that the city is renowned amongst architecture lovers for its compact, inspirational city centre.

That also makes it the ideal destination for conference delegates looking to explore their passion for stunning and surprising architecture! So we thought we’d do the (historical) maths… and explain how you can rack up a whopping 1,642 years of history in just a single day exploring the sites.


Leeds Corn Exchange

It’s hard to miss, because Leeds’ very own Corn Exchange is one of the city’s most iconic destinations. Designed in 1865 by Cuthbert Broderick (more of his works later), the stunning domed venue is now home to a community of independently minded shops, cafes and retailers. The interior might just be one of Leeds’ most instagrammed locations too.


Kirkgate Market

Right across the road lies Leeds’ famous Kirkgate Market, a retail destination that’s thrived since the Victorian era, and holds the title of the largest covered market in Europe. The market was designed by celebrated architect Joseph Paxton, also responsible for the iconic Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park. It was beneath the market’s vaulted ceilings that Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer opened their ‘Penny Bazaar’ in 1884, later to become British stalwart Marks & Spencer.


Leeds Minster

Just shy of two further decades to add to our total comes via Leeds Minster, the gothic revival church just around the corner from Leeds Corn Exchange. Though there’s been a church on the site for well over a millennia, the current incarnation dates from 1841. It’s illuminated at night by floodlights originally donated by Tetley’s Brewery and at the time was the newest church built in England since St Paul’s Cathedral.


The Queen’s Hotel

A relative newcomer amongst Leeds’ historic architectural peers, The Queen’s Hotel has been welcoming visitors inside its elegant Art Deco walls since 1937, when it was opened by the Princess Royal. The standard of VIP guests hasn’t dropped in the meantime, with Prime Ministers, royalty and even Nelson Mandela taking rooms for the night.


Leeds Cathedral

Leeds Cathedral is just a few minutes’ walk from the doors of the Queens Hotel. The existing iteration was built in 1904, replacing the previous Church of St Anne on the Headrow, which wasn awarded cathedral status in 1878. The interior is as striking as you’d expect, with a beautiful altarpiece by famous Victorian architect Augustus Pugin.


Leeds Central Library and the Tiled Hall Cafe

A stroll down onto the Headrow will take you to the imposing Leeds Central Library, a hub of activity in the city centre since opening in 1884. The building began life as a home to regional administration, accompanied by a free public library. These days, the building houses hundreds of thousands of books, as well as the treasures of Leeds Art Gallery. The Tiled Hall – once a gallery for staff – is now one of the most architecturally exciting places in the north to grab a slice of cake and a cup of tea.


Leeds Town Hall

Perhaps the most talked about example of Victorian civic architecture in a city famous for the genre, Leeds Town Hall is a crowning achievement of architect Cuthbert Broderick. It’s no surprise that Leeds Central Library was constructed right next door, because the Town Hall marks the beating heart of Leeds city life. The landmark steps and columns have been used as inspiration for civic architecture right across Britain in the decades since opening in 1858.


Leeds Civic Hall

The Town Hall wasn’t alone for all that long, with Leeds Civic Hall joining the burgeoning civic quarter in 1933. The project began both as an attempt to provide much needed space for city administration, and as a stimulus for the local economy by employing local workers and suppliers. Look out for the golden owls which adorn the white stone architecture – a mascot of the city.


Leeds’ Shopping Arcades

Here’s where our calculations get a bit hazy, because no architectural tour of the city would be complete without a visit to one or more of our inviting shopping arcades. Not to be missed is Thornton’s Arcade (1878), home to the nation’s longest-running music hall, City Varieties. Then there’s Grand Arcade (1897), with a remarkable glass roof and notable clock. Queens Arcade (1888) is the home to a cherished community of independent shops and eateries, and the Victoria Quarter (1904), where you’ll find everything from boutique perfumeries to Harvey Nichols, has been hosting shoppers for nearly as long. The more you visit, the more years for the taking.


Award-Winning Modern Architecture

It’s not only the famous Victorian architecture and industrial heritage that makes Leeds a standout city for fans of groundbreaking architecture. The recent Leeds Architecture Awards celebrated a host of modern buildings changing the Leeds skyline, all set to become celebrated highlights in the city’s distinctive architectural history.

One astounding example is the Sir William Henry Bragg Building, the largest architectural investment that the University of Leeds has ever made. The centre for scientific research won the award for Best New Building, carefully balancing the University’s distinctive architectural style with clean modern construction.

A special Sustainability Award was also given to 11 & 12 Wellington Place, one of the UK’s most sustainable office buildings, and the first operationally net zero office space outside of London.

Celebrating the awards, Luke Sach, co-president of Leeds Society of Architects, said: “It is an exciting time for Leeds, with a thriving architectural and built environment scene, underpinned by major regeneration and investment in the city.”


Clearly a city thriving architecturally, economically and culturally. So there’s no excuse not to get out there, and step back through over 1,600 years for your day exploring the architectural delights of Leeds!


If Leeds’ architectural highlights sound like the kind of experiences your delegates would love, get in touch or explore Leeds with Conference Leeds here: https://www.conferenceleeds.co.uk/exploreleeds/