The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds houses a major part of the national collection of arms and armor, and displays over 8,500 objects throughout its five themed galleries. The remarkable displays are reason enough to visit this exciting museum. You’ll marvel at the recreation of an Englishman riding a massive elephant and a full-on snow battle. I particularly love the more modern exhibit that showcases some fictional items, like the guns from James Bond films. Outside in the summer months, guests get to experience some of the armor in action with live jousting.
Part of the charm of Leeds is that its city center is super-compact. One thing you’ll notice right away is that this city is built around shopping. Named the best shopping destination in the UK by the Rough Guide to Britain, Leeds City Centre has over 1,000 shops. But it’s the diversity of places to shop (both high-end and vintage) that makes it exciting. With businesses housed in beautiful arcades and listed buildings, you’ll find luxury brands at Victoria Quarter’s arcades. It’s also home to Europe’s largest stained glass window and more than 75 designer brands, including Vivienne Westwood, Louis Vuitton, Ted Baker, and The Kooples. Leeds’ Harvey Nichols, the first outside of London, also calls the Victoria Quarter home.
The historic Kirkgate Market is one of the largest covered markets with over 400 stalls inside and a further 200 outside. While browsing the stalls, keep an eye out for the Marks & Spencer stall, it’s their first one ever. On the first and third Sunday of every month, it plays host to the Farmers and Craft Market that features fresh, organic produce and all the craft supplies you’ll ever need.
Home to a wide range of choice independent retailers and tasty eateries, the Corn Exchange also regularly hosts vintage markets and record fairs. Under the stunning domed roof of Leeds Corn Exchange, you’ll find a large number of independent stores ranging from Northern Acoustics, and Mad Elizabeth Vintage to Village Bookstore. With vintage, craft, record and food fairs taking place regularly, there is always something new to discover.
While Leeds is lined with traditional pub fare and market-fresh food stalls, I dine at talk-of-the-town Issho (Victoria Gate 3rd Floor Rooftop, George St, Leeds. Tel: 44-113-426-5000. www.issho-restaurant.com), which means ‘together’ in Japanese. This gorgeous restaurant in Victoria Gate serves Japanese dishes and is home to a rooftop bar and terrace. Fresh seafood is key to the delicious sushi, according to the restaurant’s manager who brings me plate after plate of expertly prepared dishes. But I seriously fall for their grilled plates (robata), including the duck breast and miso black cod.
Before heading out for the night, I return to my hotel, the Malmaison Leeds. (1 Swinegate, Leeds. Tel: +44-113-426-0047. www.malmaison.com) where I am lucky enough to get one of their specialty suites. Mine, the Surrealist Suite, is yellow and black, where bizarre statues (monkeys holding light bulbs and a giant yellow hippo) turn the room into a work of art that’s campy and over-the-top fun.