15 reasons why Leeds should be named the European Capital of Culture 2023
Leeds is a winner in so many ways (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock, Getty)

The European Capital of Culture award was created to celebrate the richness and diversity of cultures in cities across Europe.

Previous winners have been selected thanks to their outstanding cultural sites, history and local attractions.

13 reasons Leeds is the best place to live in the UK

The UK is home to many cities that meet the criteria of this prestigious title, and some are currently doing their best to showcase why they should be declared the winner.

However, there is only one current competitor who stands out as the obvious choice and that’s the city of Leeds.

The official Leeds 2023 campaign is showcasing the very best attributes of this fantastic northern city, and here are 15 reasons why Leeds should indeed be named the European Capital of Culture in 2023.

Music

Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs performing at First Direct Arena in Leeds
Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs performing at First Direct Arena in Leeds (Picture: Andrew Benge/Redferns)

Leeds is home to an exceptionally vibrant music scene.

The city has not only produced notable music acts such as the Kaiser Chiefs and the Grammy award-winning Corinne Bailey Rae, but is also home to an array of world-class musical venues and events.

The Leeds music scene appeals to many tastes and this is seen through major events such as the Leeds International Piano Competition, the MOBO Awards, which is returning to Leeds for a second time, and the Leeds Festival.

In addition to mainstream sounds, Leeds has a lively independent music scene, which is actively supported by venues such as The Brudenell Social Club, Wharf Chambers as well as Old Chapel Music Studios and local radio station, East Leeds FM.

Literature

Some of the world’s finest writers, including Keith Waterhouse, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Alan Bennett, originated from the city of Leeds.

It should come as no surprise that Leeds has managed to produce such an esteemed bunch of writers when you consider the great literary facilities on offer, such as The Leeds Library, the Central Library and the many state of the art university libraries.

Art

rtist Damien Hirst poses in front of his artwork entitled 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living' in the Tate Modern art gallery
Damien Hirst grew up in Leeds (Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Leeds is recognised worldwide for its contribution to the art community.

The city has produced some of the world’s most celebrated artists, including Henry Moore and Damien Hirst.

Leeds is also home to spectacular art galleries such as the Leeds Art Gallery and smaller venues such as the UK’s first Art Hostel, led by East Street Arts.

The city of Leeds is viewed as being a leader in art and cultural education – in fact, with prestigious institutions such as the newly renamed Leeds Arts University, the city trains more artists than anywhere in the UK outside of London and is widely recognised as the place where a new generation of artists and cultural producers will emerge.

The city of Leeds also encourages independent artists to showcase their talents at venues such as the Belgrave Music Hall, the Left Bank and the Seven Arts Centre.

Food

The celebration of both local and global cuisine is an integral part of the city’s culture.

Not only is Leeds home to top class eateries such as the Michelin-starred The Man Behind The Curtain and the original Red’s True Barbecue (a chain which has now expanded all around the UK), it’s also known for its ever-expanding street food culture.

The city’s love of grub is regularly celebrated at a variety of food festivals, including Leeds Indie Food and the Leeds Farmers Market.

Drink

Nick 'Peanut' Baines and Ricky Wilson - posed, in bar at football ground wearing Leeds United scarf, drinking pint of beer
(Picture: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

It’s no secret that northerners love a drink or two and Leeds knows exactly how to quench your thirst.

The city is known for its vibrant nightlife with packed nightclubs, bustling bars and a revolutionised pub scene.

Leeds is also home to many local breweries including the Northern Brewing Company, the Northern Monk Brew Co, the Kirkstall Brewery, and of course the iconic Tetley’s Brewery, which opened back in 1822 and lives on today as a contemporary art and learning centre.

If alcohol isn’t to your taste, you can also find a glorious selection of coffee houses and cafes such as Laynes Espresso.

Film

The art of film has a long running and groundbreaking history in Leeds.

Many may be surprised to learn that the first ever moving image recording was carried out by Louis Le Prince in the city – a blue plaque placed in his honour can be found on the Leeds Bridge, which celebrates his pioneering short film ‘Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge’.

Since 1987, Leeds has also hosted the annual Leeds International Film Festival, the largest film festival in England outside London.

Events

Cultural, ethnic and sexual diversity are aspects of Leeds life that are both accepted and celebrated.

There are popular events such as the Transform Festival and the Thought Bubble International Comic Art Convention, both of which are organised by the city and it’s people.

Events in Leeds can attract huge numbers to the city.

For example, the Leeds Pride LGBTQIA+ Festival attracts over 30,000 every year while the oldest West Indian Carnival in Europe, the Leeds West Indian Carnival, appeals to over 50,000 visitors.

Other events the city proudly hosts include the Leeds International Piano Competition and the much loved Leeds Light Night. Many others can be found here.

Architecture

Broadcasting Place, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom, Architect: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, 2010, Broadcasting Place By Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios At Leeds Metropolitan University Corten Steel
Broadcasting Place (Picture: View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images)

One of the Leeds’ best attributes is its visual appeal, which is created by the diverse architecture found within the city.

You can find the very best of old and new when it comes to architecture, with ancient sites such as Kirkstall Abbey and Leeds Town Hall – a building which Prince Albert is said to have described as ‘magnificent’ during its opening in 1858.

A more recent accolade came when Broadcasting Tower was officially named the best tall building in the world by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Education

As of 2017, Leeds is home to a total of four higher education institutions.

These universities not only bring world-class education to the city, but they also bring a diverse and ever-changing student population to Leeds every year.

The University of Leeds consistently ranks as one of the best universities in the UK. Its neighbour, Leeds Beckett, boasts some of the best sporting alumni in the country and the Leeds College of Music, which established Europe’s first jazz qualification, produces some of the best young musicians in the UK.

The university campuses in Leeds are packed full of first class educational facilities, which nurture the future generations of academic, creative and sporting talent.

History

Leeds, originally known as Liodis, is a city with a story that spans back hundreds of years and traces of this rich history remain at a variety of historical landmarks.

In particular, the city was impacted by the cloth trade, the industrial revolution and World War II.

Performing arts

leeds ballet
(Picture: Getty)

Leeds is no stranger to the world of performing arts and many people from around the world choose Leeds as the place to both study and practice their chosen talents.

Leeds is the only city in the UK outside of London to have its own resident opera and ballet companies.

Prestigious institutions such as Opera North, the Northern Ballet and the West Yorkshire Playhouse (the largest regional producing theatre outside London) offer some of the best performing arts opportunities and showcases in the whole of the UK.

Actors, singers and dancers who reside in the city of Leeds are in no shortage of places to display their talents as Leeds is home to some of the best performing arts venues in the world.

Venues

As mentioned earlier, Leeds is a city that hosts a wide range of events.

Legendary theatres such as the Leeds Grand Theatre and Leeds City Varieties, both of which opened in the late 1800s, provide large-scale traditional theatre spaces in the heart of the city.

The state of the art First Direct Arena, which opened in 2013, can host nearly 14,000 spectators for arena shows by some of the world’s biggest music and entertainment acts.

Other venues that help form the historic cultural heart of the city include Kirkgate Market, the Leeds Corn Exchange, Colours May Vary and The Wardrobe.

Museums

LEEDS, UNITED KINGDOM - 2009/07/02: The Royal Armouries is the United Kingdom's National Museum of Arms and Armour. It is the United Kingdom's oldest museum, and one of the oldest museums in the world. (Photo by Olaf Protze/LightRocket via Getty Images)
The Royal Armouries is the United Kingdom’s National Museum of Arms and Armour. It is the United Kingdom’s oldest museum, and one of the oldest museums in the world (Picture Olaf Protze/LightRocket via Getty Images)

History and culture from all around the world is celebrated within the many fine museums located in the region.

The city centre alone is home to the Royal Armouries Museum, the Thackray Medical Museum and the Leeds City Museum.

Leeds is also known for its historic stately homes such as Temple Newsam and Harewood House , both of which offer visitors a peek inside the life of a bygone era.

Sport

Sport is very much a part of the cultural identity of Leeds.

Not only is Leeds home of the ‘mighty whites’ (LUFC) and leading Rugby League team the Leeds Rhinos, but the city has also produced some of the most celebrated Olympians of our time.

Nicola Adams, who made history as the world’s first female boxer to win an Olympic gold medal, and the multiple Olympic medal winning Brownlee brothers are just a couple of examples of the sporting talent Leeds has produced.

Being a spectator also has its benefits as the city is home to several notable sporting venues, including the legendary Elland Road and Headingley Cricket Ground.

The people

A city’s culture is formed through its history, its location and, perhaps most importantly, its people.

Leeds is a place where many different types of people live side by side and the integration of ethnicities and cultures found within the city, in which over 170 different languages can be heard, has helped Leeds develop its own complex and proud culture.

The city of Leeds has always been a place of sanctuary having welcomed migrants and refugees from all around the world. It’s proud of its multiculturalism, which only adds to vibrancy of the city.

MORE: 10 reasons why Leeds is the best place to go to university in the UK

MORE: 9 reasons why the north of England is the best place to study in the UK

MORE: 10 reasons all southerners should visit the north of England