In many ways, Leeds is a city built for students. Some days, like moving day, this turns the place into a kind of hellscape. Most of the time though, it just means that there are countless things to do on a shoestring budget. I’m going to make use of the wisdom I’ve accumulated over four years here to point you towards some of the best – from the boozy to the bougie.

1. Akmal’s Tandoori Bistro

No education in Leeds is complete without at least one trip to Akmal’s magnificent tandoori bistro, home to the holy trinity of a good Indian restaurant; delicious curry, a bring your own booze policy and a kind hearted if cantankerous host (with a magnificent moustache). As the only building on Hyde Park it’s a difficult one to miss, especially with Akmal’s gaudy neon sign lighting up the surrounding area almost as well as it does the hearts of his customers. We recommend the lentil madras. Coming in at less than a tenner for a great meal, you can’t go wrong, making it one of the best things to do in Leeds on a student budget!

2. Hyde Park Picture House

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Source: LivingNorth

Hyde Park Picture House is as much of a Leeds institution as Beaverworks and boasts at least as impressive a selection of films as the Everyman Cinema but costs a fraction of the price of either, which makes it one of the best things to do in Leeds on a student budget. Situated slap bang in the middle of Hyde Park, this grade two listed building has retained much of its original charm and is the only remaining gaslit cinema in Leeds. It tends to show an eclectic mix of films, ranging from slapstick comedies to moving stories about growing up as a woman in Iran. You can usually see something for a fiver, so it’s within the budget of even the most hard up students.

3. Hyde Park

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Sticking with the theme of activities based on or around Hyde Park, I present you Hyde Park itself. Whether you want to give skateboarding a go (for those that do, check out female Leeds based skating collective Rollin’ With The Girls!), kick a football around or even have a go at tightrope walking, there’s always something happening on Hyde Park. There are few things better than kicking back in the sun with your friends, especially on days like 420 or the upcoming Hyde Park Unity Day, and basking in one of Leeds greatest green spaces.

4. Takeaways

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Source: Crispy’s Facebook

Both you and I know that familiar itch. An itch you feel in your heart, that you feel in your bones. So once you’ve had a few too many pints you pull your phone from your pocket, bleary eyed, and start flicking through it. How else could the night end, if not takeaway? Luckily, Leeds boasts a great selection of affordable outlets – even if they do litter the streets with their leaflets and business cards. Crispy’s has achieved close to cult status for it’s low prices, making it affordable even on a student budget.

5. Water Taxi

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If you’re looking for something a little different to the usual fare, look no further than Leeds water taxi system. Completely free of charge and operated by the local council, these boats will ferry you around the Leeds waterways all day if you’d like. Plus, it’s a great way to reach the famous Royal Armouries!

6. Chunk

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Source: Leeds Independent Life

Chunk defies the laws of Leeds student behaviour, in that it’s just on the edge of a huge student area, very cheap and without a doubt unusual – but barely anybody has heard of it. What began as a flat has been turned into a practice room for bands that regularly hosts gigs. If you’re looking for something a little different from your live music, this is just the place. Be prepared for some of the wildest (and most talented!) bands you’ve never heard of. Gig entry varies, but is often pay as you feel. What’s more, you can take your own booze.

7. Stone Roses Bar

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Source: TripAdviser

No student’s experience would be complete without at least one trip to the infamous Stone Roses Bar. In a city overrun by DJs, Stone Roses Bar is one of the last bastions of the Leeds indie kids. What’s more, at £3 entry for students it’s way within a student budget. Perhaps the greatest feature of this place is that it’s open til 6am, so if you’re fiending for some Arctic Monkeys as the sun goes up you know where to go.

8. Otley

Source: Leeds List

For those looking for some relief from the hustle and bustle of Leeds, or even a breath of fresh air after sampling one of the bring your own booze options on this list, Otley is perfect. Whether you’re interested in the picturesque views, the nature trails or the rock climbing you can do it all for free in Otley. Easily reached by bus for just a couple of quid, there’s no excuse to spend this summer wasting away in front of Stranger Things.

9. The Tetley

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A hangover from Leeds history as a major beer brewing hotspot, The Tetley has been repurposed and turned into an art gallery cum bar. Whilst the drinks are pricey, the art is free. It changes regularly and is always worth the walk down to see it!

10. Alternative Comedy It’s Downstairs (ACID)

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Source: Alternative Comedy It’s Downstairs (ACID) Facebook

Unlike the rest of the entries on this list, ACID has no fixed abode. Taking place in a bunch of different venues, from smokey Hyde Park basements to the illustrious Royal Park pub, this is a night of irreverent comedy that changes every time it is on. Once a month a different collection of comedians you’ve never heard of will take to a stage somewhere, charge a pittance for entry and put on a show you’ll never forget. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for venue information.

11. Aire Street Darkroom

Location: 30 Aire Street, Leeds, LS1 4HT

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Source: Aire Street Darkroom

Set up in 2017, the Aire Street Darkroom is the city’s very own public Darkroom. There are a variety of training courses available which will help you pick up a few darkroom techniques as well as skills on how to use your film camera.

12. Victoria Leeds

Location: 44 Victoria Gate, Vicar Ln, Leeds, LS2 7AU

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Source: Yorkshire Business

Victoria Leeds Shopping Centre is more of a cool attraction than a mundane shopping centre. Stroll under a stunning ornate glass canopy whilst you explore the gorgeous arcade and major high street stores like John Lewis.

13. Paddy Aerial Yoga

Location: Paddy Aerial Yoga, Springfield Commercials Centre, Farnsley, Leeds, LS28 5LY

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Source: Paddy Aerial Yoga Facebook

Paddy Aerial Yoga is not your average yoga class. Aerial Yoga is a fun approach to yoga and is one of the coolest places to go to in Leeds. Instead of using plain, fabricated mats, you can use hammocks which will lift you *slightly* into the air. It is said to help you achieve a deeper muscle release which helps to relax both the body and mind.

14. Lawnswood Cemetery

Location: Otley Road, Adel, Leeds, LS16 6AH

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Okay, I know what your thinking. How on earth can a cemetery be cool? The Lawnswood Cemetery is a Victorian graveyard and is a macabre collection of beautiful tombs and memorials. It was designed by Georgy Carson in 1875 and includes delicate statues and beautifully engraved gravestones.

15. Horned Helmet of Henry VIII

Location: Armouries Dr, Leeds LS10 1LT

cool things to do in Leeds
Source: The Vintage News

History museums are seriously cool places to visit. But there is one specific place (or ornament in this case) that you have to go and see in Leeds. This is the Horned Helmet of Henry VIII. King Henry was famous for the number of wives the lad went through but not so famous for what he wore on his head. Which in itself is strange, considering he had some pretty enigmatic headpieces to choose from. It is also used as the museum’s logo outside.

16. Clip’n’Climb

Location: Unit 3, Tristram Centre, Brown Lane, Holbeck, LS12 6BF

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Source: Clip ‘n’ Climb

The Clip’n’Climb in Tristram Centre is one cool and unique place to visit in Leeds. It is the ultimate climbing centre, that is set to put you and your friends to the ultimate climbing test. Not to mention it has over 30 climbing walls to choose from!

17. Leeds City Varieties

Location: Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, Swan Street, Leeds, LS1 6LW

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Source: Leeds Arts University

At the first glance, Leeds City Varieties looks like every other dark alleyway. However, on closer inspection, it is one of the last remaining Victorian Music Halls in the UK. It is a cool and magnificent place for you and your friends to watch a gig or a stand-up performance.

18. The Ivanhoe Clock

Location: Thornton’s Arcade, Leeds, LS1 6LQ

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Source: Yorkshire Evening Post

The Ivanhoe Clock is a cool place to pay a visit to and is an attraction its own right. It was made by William Potts and Sons, and you can even see characters from Sir Walter Scott’s novels such as Friar Tuck and  Robin Hood.

19. The Mabgate Mural

Location: Mabgate Cafe, 97 Mabgate, Leeds, LS9 7DR

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Source: Janet De Wagt

Tucked away on Mabgate Cafe is a mural that is quite spectacular and is a super cool sight to go and pay a visit to. The cafe used to be a stone cutting mill and was redecorated in 1987 by Surmak Products. The mural includes windows showing each room and what makes it particularly special is that the people in each room are based on their former employees. How touching and cool is that?

20. Leeds Beckett Pocket Gardens

Location: Leeds Beckett Pocket Beds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 3AX

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Source: Leeds List

There’s a public herb garden that is maintained by students that everyone should pay a visit to.  It’s got everything from basil and parsley to wild strawberries and even an apple tree, so you can forage for fresh fruit, herbs and veggies for free!

Last Updated on July 12, 2024