Despite its name, unfortunately Leeds Castle is not found in the city of Leeds, much to the disappointment of many a baffled tourist. Nonetheless, there is plenty of beautiful and historic architecture to enjoy as you wander the streets of this northern city. Whether your have taste for traditional or an eye for the modern, a simple stroll through the city centre can transport your through the architectural ages.
A perfect place to start your tour is at the 19th century Leeds Grand Theatre on New Briggate. This grand Romanesque building designed by James Watson is sure to catch your eye from the outside, but to truly appreciate its beauty be sure to take a peek into the theatre itself. The Scottish baronial and Romanesque façade stands in contrast to the intricate, ornamental interior with its unmistakable Gothic touch.
Continuing down New Briggate to Vicar Lane, you’ll come across an area appropriately known as the Victoria Quarter. The development that makes up the Victoria Quarter was constructed around 1900 and designed by the respected theatre architect Frank Matcham, who might be best known for the London Palladium. Have a wander into the County Arcade and you’ll quickly be transported back to the stylish splendor of the Victorian period. Take a moment to pause and admire the beautiful mosaics and marble that enhance the airy interior.
Nearby you’ll find Leeds Kirkgate Market, another fine example of grand Victorian architecture. With 800 stalls it is considered to be the largest covered market in Europe, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each week. It began its life as an open-air market in 1822, however after the covered sections had been constructed, Kirkgate Market became the founding location of the Penny Bazaar that was to become the first Marks & Spencer.
As you continue on past Kirkgate Market, you’re only a five-minute walk from the breathtaking Leeds Corn Exchange. Built in 1864 by architect Cuthbert Broderick, it stands as another stunning monument to Victorian architecture. Its unique circular design makes it one of Leeds most oft-photographed buildings. Interestingly, Leeds Corn Exchange is one of only three remaining operational Corn Exchanges in Britain.
By now you may have had your fill of Victorian architecture. If so, wander a bit further down Lower Briggate where you’ll find Lambert’s Yard, the oldest surviving building in Leed’s city centre. Perhaps not much to look at these days, this small, slightly ramshackle building dates back to the late 16th or early 17th century. If instead your tastes are a bit more modern, cross the river and follow it west along to Bridgewater Place. Fittingly nicknamed the Dalek, this futuristic skyscraper designed by Aedas Architects is the tallest building in Leeds at 361 feet.
A worthwhile fifteen-minute stroll back north over the river will take you past the rail station and into Millennium Square where you’ll find the Leeds Civic Hall. Architect E. Vincent Harris had the honour of designing the hall, having submitted the strongest entry to the associated competition. Construction took place between 1931 and 1933, providing valuable work the unemployed during the depression. As a balance between Victorian grandeur and modern design, the area surrounding Millennium Square is the perfect place to wrap up your architectural tour.
And if you’re looking for somewhere to stay near Leeds, consider the Holiday Inn Leeds-Wakefield hotel, which offers a convenient, great value base to explore Leeds and the surrounding area.
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