Get away for London’s hectic high streets for a spot of Christmas shopping and a dose of culture in Leeds.
Dubbed the ‘Knightsbridge Of The North’, Leeds is the perfect city break if you’re looking to head out of London to combine culture and festive shopping.
With a five-mile network of boutique stores, independent shops and major stores, you’ll be able to find a wonderful array of quirky gifts and brand names.
But it’s not all about giving. Also renowned for its huge student community, Leeds is also a major party town – with the city centre coming alive in the evenings. Despite its transformation into a shopping mecca, Leeds has managed to retain its character.
It’s got a cityscape of canals and commodious warehouses – relics of its industrial heritage – that urban planners are eyeing up to make it one of the fastest-growing cities in the UK. But since the purpose of your trip is to fritter away your hard-earned cash on fancy new threads and Christmas presents, head to the city centre to source some bargains.
There are a range of Christmas markets taking place this year. Head to Christkindelmarkt for speciality German delicacies and an authentic Bierkeller experience as well as unusual presents.
Kirkgate is Europe’s largest indoor market with more than 500 stalls. Here you can feast on a range of seasonal foods or commission a bespoke outfit for your Christmas party.
Shop til you drop
The Victoria Quarter sets the bar high. The jewel in Leeds’ retail crown incorporates Harvey Nichols and 75 other pricey premium brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Mulberry and Louis Vuitton and they’re all conveniently housed in a beautiful historic Grade II-listed building.
If vintage fashion is your thing, until November 28, the Corn Exchange – which is based in one of Britain’s finest Victorian buildings – is hosting a huge pop-up shop with some renowned brands inside.
Or, if you’re looking to impress someone with a gift with a difference this year, OK Comics, Bon Bons chocolatiers, Yum Yum Beads and Mr Chimp are well worth a hunt in Thornton’s and Queen’s Arcades.
Head to Kirkstall Abbey and Abbey House Museum where both venues will host craft fairs selling a range of arty presents. There’s also outdoor carol concerts taking place, so wrap up warm and enjoy a cup or two of mulled wine.
Take a break
If you fancy a break from shopping, take a wander over to The Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park. OK, so it might be for kids, but there aren’t many better ways of spending your time than getting lost in a snowflake maze or seeing the mystical creatures who live in the enchanted wood. If you’re feeling active, there’s also an eco ice rink.
Snowboard or ski
Snow junkies can also get their fix in Leeds – at SnowZone in Castleford, where you can snowboard, ski or enjoy sledging sessions. Have a whiz on the ice slide – but only if you’re feeling brave.
WHEN TO GO: Anytime you want to escape London’s swollen population. Each year the city puts on a ‘Leeds Loves Shopping’ promotion which includes fashion shows, trend workshops and special food menus.
GETTING THERE: East Coast trains run regular services from King’s Cross Station.
GETTING AROUND: Walk! It’s an extremely feet-friendly city.
GOING OUT: Leeds has some of the best nightlife in the UK. The Sky Lounge, in Particular, 13 floors high, can’t be surpassed for lush cocktails and great views. They even provide blankets on the terrace. A pint will set you back about £3.30.
ACCOMMODATION: The New Ellington Hotel is the place to rest your weary feet in chic surrounds. The rooms are a real dash of luxury, but the best bit is the bar, with its New Orleans-inspired velvet chairs and bewildering array of gins and cocktails. Rates start from £155 for a superior double and from £200 for a junior suite.
SEE: leedslovesshopping.com, eastcoast.co.uk, visitleeds.co.uk, yorkshire.com, bespokehotels.com.
– Rebecca Kent