How Leeds became one of Europe’s ultimate city break destinations

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Moya Crockett
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Say hello to the ultimate city break (no passport necessary).

If you want to know which European travel destinations are hot and which ones are, well, not, you could do worse than look to Lonely Planet. Every year, the legendary guidebook publisher releases a list of the top places to visit in Europe – and usually, its recommended hotspots are hot in every sense of the word.

Winners in recent years include the Dordogne and Seville, established tourist regions in France and Spain where summer temperatures can easily reach 28°C. But, more recently, a city that’s known less for its palm trees and more for its grey skies, nightlife and industrial history has reached the top five.

Leeds was named fifth best place to visit in Europe in Lonely Planet’s Best in Europe 2017 list, beating destinations including Alentejo in Portugal and Paphos in Cyprus.

The travel experts behind the list, which was originally set up to celebrate destinations with “something new, exciting or undiscovered”, cited the West Yorkshire city’s urban regeneration efforts, flourishing cultural scene, incredible nightlife and fantastic restaurants and bars as reasons for its high spot on the list.


Leeds City Square at night. The city in West Yorkshire received a positive ranking from Lonely Planet in part thanks to its thriving nightlife.

“Once defined by its industrial past, Leeds is now a confident, cultural hub in the north of England,” said James Smart, Lonely Planet’s UK destination editor.

Citing the Leeds Art Gallery and the Leeds carnival as must-see events, he added that there’s “never been a better time to head to Yorkshire and join the party.”

Zagreb, the Croatian capital, took the number one spot in the Lonely Planet list (incidentally, last year it was also named as one of the 25 cheapest city break destinations in Europe by Airbnb).

Also ahead of Leeds in the rankings were the Swedish island of Gotland, Galicia in Spain, and northern Montenegro.


Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, was voted the best destination to visit in Europe by Lonely Planet.

However, Leeds bested the likes of Le Havre in France, northern Germany and Moldova.

Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds city council, told the Guardian that the Lonely Planet was “a fabulous endorsement”.

“To see Leeds take its place alongside some of the world’s top travel destinations is testament to the vision and hard work of the many businesses, organisations and attractions who contribute so much to the continued growth of our thriving visitor economy,” she said.

Fancy a trip to Leeds? Scroll down for tips on where to go and what to do, courtesy of Stylist readers and staff.


Stylist reader Sara recommends hitting the shops in Leeds' Victoria Quarter.

“You cannot go wrong for coffee places in Leeds: try Bottega Milanese, Laynes Espresso, Opposite Café and Mrs Atha’s.” Ellenor Griffin, blogger at

“The Belgrave Music Hall is a must, you can grab a slice of the best pizza in town, whilst catching some rays on their roof terrace!” Gemma Ratton, student

The Man Behind the Curtain is a Michelin-starred restaurant on the top floor of a department store (you walk through menswear to get there!) and it specialises in tasting menus of utterly mad, amazing dishes. Think bright red burger buns, mini bags of 'crisps' where you eat everything (packet and all), exploding cupcakes... And all this style is backed up by gastronomic substance; it's truly exquisite food. Expensive, but not that bad compared to its peers. Go, go, go.” Amy Swales, contributing editor at

“My favourite place in Leeds is Thornton’s Arcade. Go there to see the amazing clock and visit awesome independent shops and eateries like Village Bookstore and Tall Boys Beer Market.” Jenny Rae, blogger at

“Visit the Victoria Quarter without a shadow of a doubt! Beautiful architecture, Harvey Nichols and so many gorgeous shops and cafés to browse.” Sara Roebuck, master’s student.

Images: iStock

This article was originally published in 2017.