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Top five bars in… Leeds, UK

Leeds, in Yorkshire, UK, has transformed itself from a city overrun by students and stag parties into one with exciting craft breweries and top-notch cocktail bars that can please even the most discerning imbibers.

The revitalised Victorian mill district is a potent contemporary symbol of Leeds, one of Great Britain’s most underrated cities. Located just an hour south of the Yorkshire Dales, Leeds has a charm and newly discovered self­-confidence that is infectious.

With understandable pride, Leeds now welcomes ever-­rising numbers of tourists, reaping the rewards of a decade­-and­-a-­half of redevelopment and investment that has transformed the city centre into an exciting vision of 21st-­century urban chic. Friendly and outgoing, the diverse residents of Leeds are committed to rolling up their sleeves and enjoying the city’s burgeoning independent nightlife scene, which has gone from strength to strength in recent times.

Yet for decades, Leeds was dismissed as a one-­trick­-pony, associated with beer, stag parties and little else. Today, though, the city wears the brewing accolade proudly on its sleeve – Yorkshire’s illustrious beer­-making heritage dates back hundreds of years, and Leeds has some of the best microbreweries and craft ­beer bars in the UK.

And they have been joined by a rapidly expanding firmament of exciting cocktail bars, the best of which rival anything London has to offer. Indeed, a rash of investment and an influx of imported talent has transformed Leeds’ once lacklustre upmarket bar scene.

Today, sophisticated wine bars sit cheek by jowl in Leeds’ financial district in Park Row (once a night­time graveyard), while residents can’t keep pace with the number of new lounge and rooftop bars opening in the regional capital. Like all university cities, Leeds caters to a rowdy segment, but there is also plenty of sophistication and craft mixology to tempt a more discerning clientele.

Leeds may lack the renown of Edinburgh or the exquisite architecture of Bath, but that’s no reason not to visit this multifaceted city and experience the very model of a multicultural metropolis.

Click through the following pages to see our top bars in Leeds, UK. 

Northern Monk Refectory

Marshalls Mill, The Old Flax Store, Marshall Street

What is it about the Northern Monk that continues to draw the crowds? Well, the killer selection of excellent, hoppy American­-style IPAs and friendly service probably has something to do with it.

And the owners oversee a rotating kitchen-­residency scheme, which supports local indie food start­ups: great for post­-libation munchies.

Headrow House

Bramleys Yard, The Headrow

Talk about the perfect symbol of Leeds’ post­industrial transformation, this former textile mill is now one of the city’s premier destinations for cocktails.

A substantial makeover has given this historic building a wonderful lease of life – the ground­floor beer hall sells its own pilsner straight from tanks lining one wall, while the upstairs cocktail lounge and roof terrace packs in the crowds in summer.


18 Park Row

Thewlis is a cut above: a chic, stylish venue where bespoke cocktails are expertly curated and delivered to a well-­heeled, sedate crowd. The décor is no less impressive – a classic black­-and­-gold theme is given a lift by the large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Fun yet refined is the aim here.

The Maven

1 Call Lane

So cool it doesn’t even have a sign outside. Maven was transformed by South Africa­-born Claudio Antonino into a pre­Prohibition cocktail lounge boasting the prerequisites of navy blue walls, polished wood floor and leather banquettes.

The bar holds centre stage, stacked to the ceiling with exotic bottles including 47 brands of gin. Try the Elder Lady – a mix of gin and elderflower served in vintage teacups.

The Alchemist

Trinity, Level 1

With a sophisticated but friendly atmosphere, The Alchemist attracts students, couples, suits and just about everyone in between. The cocktails run the gamut from well­-made classics to exciting inventions that are served with a healthy dose of theatre and pizzazz.

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