Visiting my hometown of Leeds for the first time properly since last summer, so many things are different. With fresh new changes in landscape, it almost feels as if I’m discovering a new city. Growing up, I’ve always had the idea of moving away and never coming back (dramatic, right?), but while I’d still rather live somewhere else, I do look forward to each visit. Every time I return to Leeds, it becomes a game of spot the difference as exciting new ventures begin to pop up around the city, here’s what I found:
Leeds has experienced a sort of regeneration in recent years, with the opening of two shopping centres: Trinity Leeds and Victoria Gate. Call it capitalism or a long overdue renovation of a city’s high street, but I like it! In particular, Trinity has fast become the heart for high street shopping in Leeds, connecting old stores and introducing new. Walking through is like a reversal of the stereotypical movie/TV trope, where flashbacks are warm and rose-tinted whilst the present is gloomy and grey. In contrast to the bright, modernised feel of Trinity, Victoria Gate oozes the cool elegance of the past. Its art deco styled interior feels as if you’re in Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby and you’ll undeniably drop a few pennies here. From Anthropolgie to (my favourite) &OtherStories, my bank account took one for the team and bravely suffered some losses. Location wise, it’s a strange one. Sitting next to Kirkgate Market, it doesn’t feel as integrated to the other city centre shops as Trinity does, becoming more of its own entity. Perhaps it’s just a matter of time, but nevertheless, I do thoroughly enjoy this new addition to Leeds’s shopping scene.
Since catching this video by Thomas Williamson on Facebook and like a baby captivated by bright colours, I knew I had to visit the Hello & Welcome to Leeds Mural (painted by Nathan Evans). Heading out of the new shopping centre, I was surprised to find Kirkgate Market had also been given an upgrade. It was beginning to rain, but I enjoyed stumbling across the street art decorating the area. Aside from the unfortunate lamppost placement (see photo), the vibrancy of the mural was great in combatting the weather’s greyness. Walking further, “Learn From Yesterday, Live For Today, Design For Tomorrow” is the quote emblazoned on the buildings that I used to know as Chinatown. From weekend lunches to wedding receptions, a lot of my childhood memories were made in the Chinese restaurant that was once here. However, it’s nice to see colour in the buildings, having been forgotten about for years.
A weird, collective sense of pride is felt when one recounts the number of famous names that come from Leeds. Focusing on food in particular, Leeds boasts a thriving food scene and it’s on my list to try the restaurant that gave Leeds its first Michelin star one day, (The Man Behind the Curtain). More accessibly, there’s Reds True BBQ (obligatory, visited when it was just a Leeds thing) and this time I finally got to try out Zaap. Getting there at a quiet 12 o’clock, it soon filled up with customers. The food wasn’t a disappointment either, with the Thai Iced Lemon tea taking me back to my summer in Thailand. Deciding where to eat can be quite the challenge – from Trinity Kitchen and it’s rotating roster of street food every 6 weeks to hyped local restaurants, the food culture in Leeds definitely leaves you spoilt for choice.
I’ve never had an answer for the question: “what time period would you like to live in?” and it’s because there’s nothing more exciting than the future. Despite all the uncertainty in the world today, the flourishes of innovation and business in Leeds is inspiring and fills me with positivity. Not only am I looking forward to when I’m next back, but my recent visit has reminded me that actually, Leeds is pretty ok.