Leeds has had a long, fulfilling history. It is traced back to the 5th century during the Kingdom of Elmet, which was covered by the Loidis forest. The name eventually evolved into the title we know today and was first mentioned as such in the 1086 Domesday Book.
The city has always thrived on commerce. In medieval times it was an agricultural village and during the Tudor period it became a merchant town when it began to mass produce wool goods. By the time the Industrial Revolution came round, almost half of all of England’s exports passed through Leeds. The Revolution only enhanced the industries with new inventions and techniques like the railway system, spinning machine, steam engines, gears, textiles, chemicals, leathers, and pottery. Leeds was so far ahead of the game they even saw the world’s first auto pilot traffic lights at Park Row and Bond Street in 1928.
During the 20th century the city took a social and economic turn when it became a center of learning at the introduction of the University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University, and Leeds Trinity and All Saints. Though World War II brought decline to many European cities, Leeds prevailed due to its new academic hub.
Today the city has many fantastic events that have been going on for years like the Christmas Market, West Indian Carnival, Leeds Festival, and Leeds Shopping Week. Such events have given Leeds a leg up in the world of tourism and it has been named one of the best visits in England (London aside) time and time again. It is also strong into athletics with many fine teams playing here like Yorkshire Country Cricket Club, Leeds Rhinos Rugby League, and the Leeds Carnegie Rugby Union Football Club. The city is also big into media and has dozens of notable magazines, newspapers, radio and TV stations like Leeds University Union, The Leeds Guide magazine, BBC Radio Leeds, Yorkshire Radio, BBC Television and ITV. Leeds is also continually renovating their cultural venues such as the Royal Armouries (renovated in 1996), the Leeds Art Gallery (renovated in 2007) and the new Leeds City Museum will be making its way to the former Mechanics Institute in 2008.
Like most of England, Leeds sees a good amount of rain throughout the year, very little sunshine during the winter, and slowly rising temps in the summer. Temperatures range from about 10°C (50°F) in January to about 20°C (68°F) in July.
The best time to see Leeds is when the weather is just right from about May – September. During these times there are many fun events like the free Party in the Park, Leeds Mela in Roundhay Park, Leeds International Film Festival in autumn, the Kirkstall Festival in July, the Leeds Festival in Brahman Park in August, and Leeds Shopping Week which happens generally in mid-summer.
Though it is quite cold, there is also plenty to celebrate during Christmas time here so December is another ideal month to see Leeds. Prices are more affordable and the beautiful Leeds German Christmas Market and The Ice Cube skating rink open in Millennium Square. The Leeds Christmas Light Switch On, which also comes complete with a renowned band and funfair, is one of the largest in Europe.
By Train: The Leeds City Train Station sees nearly 100,000 visitors each day. It is one of the fastest and most connected railways in the UK. It also provides access to nearly any city in the UK too. One can make it to Leeds from London’s Kings Cross in just two hours.
By Air: The Leeds Bradford International Airport is growing at a rapid pass. It has many local links and international flights to nearly 65 destinations. There is also the budget Jet2.com airline that operates out of LBIA that offers 26 direct flights to many European destinations for a low cost.
By Car: Leeds is well connected on the motorway. Try the A1 and M1 from the north and south or the M62 from east and west.
By Bus: Buses operated by companies like Arriva and First run from the Leeds City Bus Station near Kirkgate market. It ships out nearly 100 buses each hour.
Board: The freecitybus is the best way to get around Leeds. It runs from 6:30am – 7:30pm Monday – Saturday from both the Leeds Train and Bus stations to the business and shopping districts, the General Infirmary, Universities, and Park Lane College. As the name implies, this is a free service.
Fly: From walkit.com walkers can generate a map that gives the best pedestrian route from point A to point B in Leeds. The city encourages walking because it helps eliminate street congestion, fumes, and is also a good way to keep fit.
Drive: Leeds is a one way road system. The city has plenty of signage to help you around and lots of parking. Black and white taxies are also available and can be hailed along the streets or reserved in advance.