The Top 12 Free Things To Do In Leeds
A city that excels in arts, politics, and sports, Leeds is a charming metropolis and the economic center of Yorkshire. It’s the home of several notable brands and best-selling authors, as well as the world’s oldest-running commercial railway. It is packed with charm, history, and culture, making it one of the best places to visit in the United Kingdom.
With so much to offer locals and visitors, it’s easy to think that Leeds is an expensive city to explore. But the truth is, this unofficial Yorkshire capital is an ideal budget-friendly destination. From the gorgeous parks and gardens to major museums, impressive monuments, and art galleries, you won’t run out of free things to do in Leeds.
If you’re traveling on a minimal budget, your trip will never be boring here. Even the best luggage storage solution in Leeds is cost-efficient. It allows you to travel light and with flexibility without hurting your bank account. So if you’re planning to add Leeds to your must-visit cities, here are some free adventures and sights worth adding to your itinerary.
Learn About the Past at Leeds City Museum
Located in the award-winning Millennium Square in Leeds, West Yorkshire, Leeds City Museum will take you to a world of discovery and learning in the city's beating heart. Visitors are welcome to learn about the interesting Leeds history, including its fascinating textile heritage, sporting accolades, and inventions.
Leeds City Museum hosts several temporary and permanent exhibitions featuring the first archaeological finds and changing displays that reflect the lifestyle of ancient people who once lived in the city. The museum has four floors of artifacts and exhibits to see, including Iron Age tools, Egyptian mummies, authentic Roman Objects, ancient Greek riches, pottery, and more.
Family-friendly activities and kid-friendly fun are also available so your little ones can enjoy their visit. To refuel, step into the museum café for some cakes, snacks, and drinks or buy gifts and souvenirs at the shop.
Location: Millennium Square, Leeds, LS2 8BH
Appreciate Sculptures and Art at Henry Moore Institute
Enjoy free exhibitions and admire the beautiful sculptures and art pieces at Henry Moore Institute. It’s part of The Henry Moore Foundation, established in 1977 by the sculptor himself, Henry Moore, to encourage and promote appreciation of the visual arts. It offers an array of programs, including modern, contemporary, and historical exhibits.
As soon as you enter, you’ll be greeted by a warm and friendly staff who will welcome you to experience and enjoy sculptures and masterpieces from around the world. Free guided tours are available to see more of the exhibitions and unique research facilities. There are also changing activities and events to keep children engaged as they visit the Institute and art galleries.
Location: 74 The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AH
Visit Leeds Art Gallery
Another destination for art lovers looking for free things to do in Leeds is its art gallery in Leed City Centre. Leeds Art Gallery boasts one of the best 20th-century British art collections outside London. It features modern and contemporary art, an array of paintings, new media, works on paper, sculpture, and many more.
Go to the lower galleries, and you’ll find works from the early years of the collection, sculpture, and temporary exhibitions. The upper galleries, on the other hand, are in the upper galleries, including several changing displays. For those visiting with kids, head to the Artspace, offering a creative and fun area for the family. The City Art Gallery has activities and art materials, so your younger visitors can play, interact, draw, and build. It is also a short distance from Leeds Central Library if you want to swing by to look for books, journals, or newspapers.
Location: The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AA
Watch Wildlife along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal
You can paddle along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal for a minimal fee. But if you want a free activity, just take a stroll and watch the captivating wildlife! The canal offers about 127 miles of boating, wildlife-watching, walking, and relaxation year-round.
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal was constructed to connect the two cities, Liverpool and Leeds, which were further apart. Today, not only does it serve as a link between the cities, but it also provides a wonderful site for tranquil walks, canoeing, and paddleboarding. It draws in thousands of visitors each year, discovering the traditions and wildlife along the canal corridor.
Explore the Royal Armouries Museum
Stationed at Clarence Dock, a short distance from the Leeds City Centre, the Royal Armouries Museum is an iconic national museum that holds the UK’s national collection of arms and armors. It contains an outstanding collection of more than 75 thousand objects, including an early 14th-century helm, 15th-century gothic armor, and 15th-century field and horse armor.
Discovered treasures in the museum include items from the Wild West, Ottoman Empire, Europe, India, and Japan. Besides the armor, you’ll also see weapons used by warriors through the ages, from early Medieval times to the modern-day era. Live combat demonstrations and interactive history activities are also available for free for the entire family.
Location: Armouries Dr, Leeds LS10 1LT
Tour Kirkstall Abbey
Near Leeds Station, Kirkstall Abbey is one of the famous tourist spots in Leeds. It is one of the country’s best-preserved Cistercian abbeys, with spectacular architecture that has inspired many generations. It is nestled in a tranquil parkland on the banks of the major River Aire, providing a perfect escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Explore the over 860-year-old Abbey and tour some key areas of the historic ruins. You’ll hear stories about the building, its past, and the events that play a crucial role in its history. Although many things have changed since it was founded in 1152, you’ll still marvel at the dramatic architecture. It would probably make you wonder how it felt walking in the majestic rooms and halls of the building before it was destroyed.
Before you leave, don’t forget to stop by the shop to buy bespoke products and gifts. It is across the road from the local Abbey House Museum, so you can plan a day trip with the family. It’s important to note that visiting Kirkstall Abbey is free for all residents, but non-residents will have to pay a minimal fee.
Location: Abbey Rd, Kirkstall, Leeds LS5 3EH
Get Lost in Nature at Roundhay Park
After enjoying the sights of awe-inspiring architecture and impressive buildings, it’s time to soak in the city’s breathtaking natural scenery. If you’re looking for nature-inspired free things to do in Leeds, nothing can beat Roundhay Park. It is the city’s most beautiful park and one of Europe’s largest city parks. Set aside an entire day or two if you want to make the most of your visit, as the park has plenty of exciting adventures waiting for you.
Start by taking a walk through the many walking trails and paths around the 700 acres of parkland, gardens, and woodland. There are also lakes, play areas, tennis courts, and even an annual bonfire and fireworks display at Roundhay Park. Plus, it hosts events and fun activities each year, providing visitors with a perfect place to relax and be entertained. Other facilities include sports pitches, a sports arena, a skateboard park, fishing, and a golf course.
Roundhay Park is approximately three miles North of Leeds City Centre, just off the A58 Wetherby Rd at Oakwood. Some buses will take you to and from the park, so you can come even on public transportation.
Location: Mansion Ln, Roundhay, Leeds LS8 2HH
Window shopping at Leeds Corn Exchange
Just because you’re traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t go to the city’s famous shopping arcade. It is more than just a shopping center in the heart of the old Kirkgate area. It’s a glorious landmark and a representation of the traditions and culture of this dynamic West Yorkshire city.
Completed in 1864, the legendary Leeds Corn Exchange is one the finest Victorian buildings in the United Kingdom. It’s a Grade 1 listed building designed by Cuthbert Brodrick, which holds immense significance as the city’s architectural masterpiece.
Location: Call Ln, Leeds LS1 7BR
Go for a Picnic at Golden Acre Park
One of the finest gems in Leeds, West Yorkshire, is found about six miles North of the central city. Golden Acre Park offers a breathtaking 179 acres of gardens and woodlands surrounding a gorgeous lake. It’s a peaceful area to distress and have a picnic with family and loved ones.
The park looks astounding year-round, but spring or fall is the best time to visit. It comes alive with vibrant colors of nature and wildflowers blooming throughout the area. Watch out for wild birds, squirrels, and rabbits who might want to say hi during your relaxing picnic. If you’re lucky, you might spot the resident deer roaming in the park.
You might be tempted to take a dip in the refreshing lake, but remember that fishing and swimming aren’t allowed. You won’t find a dedicated play area for children, but the park has numerous paths for cycling and walking. You can also play ball games on the grass.
Location: Otley Rd, Bramhope, Leeds LS16 8BQ,
Enjoy a Self-guided Walking Tour at the City Square
Did you arrive early and don’t know where to begin your adventure? Go to Leeds City Square, in the city centre, and start your journey. It’s a paved open area close to the Old Post Office, a Grade II listed building constructed by Sir Henry Tanner in a classical style.
The impressive City Square is a famous meeting spot known for its remarkable statues. These include figures of four prominent people: Dr. Walter Hook, James Watt, John Harrison, and Joseph Priestley. Nearby is one of the city’s most renowned landmarks, the Town Hall, and other free attractions worth visiting. Visiting Leeds won't be complete without visiting the expansive Square, which offers plenty of photo opportunities and activities year-round.
Location: City Square, Leeds, LS1 2HT
Walk Around the Eccup Reservoir
Situated in north Leeds in the Alwoodley suburb, Eccup Reservoir offers an easy, circular walk ideal for families. The route will take you through the magical woodlands and the small Eccup village over a dam and along a local golf course. It is one of the free nature walks you can enjoy in Leeds, with about 72,000 acres of parks and natural beauty.
Although it’s close to the city of Leeds, Eccup reservoir is selected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the overwintering population of birds. Since it’s a nationally essential site for birds, visitors are encouraged to stick to the designated walking paths. As you embrace nature and complete your circular walk, watch out for Red Kites, which were once very rare bird species but saved from extinction in the UK.
Location: Alwoodley, Leeds, LS17 7PL
Follow the Rich Leeds Arts Trail
Who says spectacular artwork can only be found in famous art galleries? In Leeds, you don’t have to enter a traditional art gallery to witness masterpieces from local artists. If you know where to go, you’ll easily spot and experience art in various forms as you wander through the city streets.
Many wonderful places across the city boast striking works of art, including the Mabgate Mural, which has been around since 1988. Located at 16 Call Lane is the popular Cornucopia, which references the Corn Exchange. Now, striking street art is popping up across the city, providing a decorative backdrop for Leeds. They create a growing web of unique pieces depicting the city’s story and community.
So go ahead and discover the rich history of Leeds street art as you follow the arts trail. You’ll find them adding color and life to walkways, walls, and buildings. It’s also a great way to appreciate the talents of the artists who share their creativity with the city.
Explore Leeds for Free!
Before canceling your plans to visit Leeds, thinking it’s an expensive city to spend your holiday in, check out these free and cheap things to do in the city. From visiting major museums, art galleries, and historical landmarks to wandering through its stunning parks and gardens, you’ll be surprised about the many things you can do and places to see without spending a dime.