10 reasons to live in Leeds
With a pedestrianised city centre, bags of culture and a sense of humour, Leeds is beloved by young families as a place to live. Our Local editor Kirsty explains the best bits and top tips for life in this urban Yorkshire gem.
1. Thing about the area
Leeds isn't just any northern city, it's an Olympic medal-winning city with a vibrant arts scene surrounded by historic houses and beautiful parks. (It's also the birthplace of Marks & Spencer.)
But the best thing about Leeds is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. London has the White Cube Gallery, we've got the White Cloth, Louis Vuitton sits next to Poundland and the terrace of the rooftop bar at the Hilton shuns views of the majestic town hall, offering instead a view over car parks and Asda HQ as you sip your mojito.
Leeds is warm and welcoming to visitors even when the weather is not. There are world-class attractions and events to entertain both young and old. Why would you want to live anywhere else?
2. Child-friendly café
The Arch Café has all the usual stuff you'd expect: easy access for prams, baby-changing facilities, high chairs and a decent menu for parents and children. But the star attraction is the church grounds in which the café sits, they are gated and create a safe space for children to let off steam, making this the perfect stop off for coffee in the city centre.
3. Child-free night out
If you can't decide whether to catch a film, go out for a drink, or go to a gig on your precious child-free night out, then why not do all three? Sneaky Experience is a Leeds company screening films in unusual locations alongside live performances and a licensed bar.
Sneaky also holds family-friendly film screenings on Sunday afternoons at Outlaws Yacht Club.
4. Outside space
Otley Chevin is a vast space, brilliant for walking, biking and geo-caching. Roundhay Park is majestic with a stunning café overlooking the lake and it's very popular with new mums pushing prams. Golden Acre Park is another fantastic day out in beautiful surroundings. On the edge of a nature reserve, it has ducks to feed, a decent café and is perfect for picnics.
5. Hidden gem
Average semi-detached house price
Average class size for primary schools
UK: 25.9 pupils
It's hard to believe that in the 1960s this magnificent space with its decorative tiles and marble columns was covered by shelves. Originally the reading room for the library, it's a spectacular setting to grab a coffee.
If you want to make even more of your trip into the gallery, the Artspace always has free creative activities suitable for any age.
6. Community venues
Left Bank Leeds is a community arts centre inside the former St Margaret of Antioch church building on Cardigan Road. Work is ongoing to transform the building, but the events they have programmed so far have all been very exciting, so it'll be interesting to see what comes next.
Over in Chapel Allerton, Seven is an arts centre and a hub for films, workshops and family events. There's also a busy café bar to hang out in and soak up the atmosphere.
7. Free visitor attractions
The Royal Armouries Museum is a whopping great space on the edge of the city centre, filled with suits of armour and weapons. If you're worried it might be a bit er, weapony, don't worry it's more Mike The Knight than Call Of Duty.
The Leeds Museum is slap-bang in the centre of town and houses the Leeds tiger. Young children can spend ages here, dressing up as Victorian mill workers, having tea parties in the Toddler Town play area and riding in the lift. (The lift is not an official attraction but try telling that to an excited three year old.)
8. Day out
Nestled across the road from the magnificent Kirkstall Abbey is Abbey House Museum. It has a large car park, is next to a playground, there's a decent café and if you're a Leeds resident you can get a Leeds card and discounted entry. Inside is a whole Victorian cobbled street complete with shops, Sunday school and a warren of rooms for children to explore.
There are several play areas stuffed with toys and dressing up. If it's sunny you can play in the ruins of the abbey, in fact if it's wet you can play in the ruins of the abbey – just put a raincoat on, you're in Yorkshire.
9. Places to live
With the park and Tropical World on its doorstep, Roundhay has long been a popular place to live and now nearby Chapel Allerton is fast becoming an affordable hotspot for families. Home to bustling independent cafés, arts centre Seven and fabulous independent shops like Chirpy, which sells beautiful things and runs crafty workshops and classes, Chapel Allerton is on the up.
Further afield, Calverley and Boston Spa offer a village-y feel with an easy commute, while market towns Wetherby and Otley are surrounded by beautiful countryside for walking, cycling and general outdoor fun.
Mumsnetters' verdict on Chapel Allerton, Moortown and Roundhay:
"All near parks and have a nice small high street. Family areas." lostinindia
"I love this area of Leeds - loads of local shops, bars and parks." Annarose1
10. Places to shop
Leeds City Centre is where it's at. The Victoria Quarter is a beautiful Victorian arcade of ornate carved shop fronts filled with Mulberry handbags and Vivienne Westwood suits, all just two seconds walk from Poundland and Kirkgate market.
For everything in between there's the big shiny new Trinity complex. No city centre trip is complete without a cappuccino from the brilliantly bonkers Gilda at Pasta Romagna. The whole city centre is pedestrianised and perfect for parents pushing prams.
Originally from Bradford, Kirsty spent 12 years living in London battling with the council's automated voice recognition system.
Having previously lived in Leeds as a student she is rediscovering the city as a parent and finding it even more fun without the constant hangover.
She lives with her partner and two small children in LS29 where the council's automated voice recognition system understands her accent completely. When she is not on the phone to the council, she blogs at www.eehbahmum.com.
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