It’s only January but Christmas feels like months ago. Everyone’s feeling poorer and the weather is getting you down. Boost your spirits and don’t spend a single penny by visiting one of these great Leeds attractions – all for free!
Leeds Art Gallery
Leeds Art Gallery has been described as having ‘probably the best collection of twentieth century British art outside London’ and has been recognised for its national importance. This fantastic gallery features works by JMW Turner, Paula Rego, Rembrandt, Francis Bacon and William Holman Hunt in its permanent collection. The ever-changing exhibition programme is equally as inspiring, with recent evens showing works by Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry and David Hockney.
Leeds Central Library
Leeds Central Library is attached to Leeds Art Gallery, so why not visit both? Best entered through the Tiled Hall to see the incredible Victorian decor, the library is a display of architectural brilliance. There are quiet study areas, free internet access and books on almost every topic, as well as occasional lunchtime expert talks on Fridays and one-off performances and workshops with local groups.
Leeds City Museum
Only reopened in 2008 after a 40 year hiatus, Leeds City Museum is a great place to learn about the history of the city and wider region. The displays include Nesyamun the ‘Leeds mummy’, a Roman floor mosaic and plenty of Victorian taxidermy, including the Leeds Tiger.
Henry Moore Institute
Named after the famous Leeds sculptor, this imposing building is actually an education centre comprising four galleries of installation art and sculpture from around the world. It’s an amazing immersion into some incredible art, staffed by extremely knowledgeable people who are only too happy to impart some of their wisdom.
M&S Company Archive
M&S first started as a tiny stall in Kirkgate Market. This Company Archive museum charts the rise of the company through nostalgic displays of clothes, homeware and food. You can sometimes catch a free event at the museum, usually a talk about the collection and swing dancing lessons.
Visit the Royal Armouries and be transported back to a time of horse-back jousting contests, which you can actually watch during their medieval weekends. The Armouries also hosts 70,000 arms, artillery and chainmail dating back to before the Romans in some cases.
The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery
Based in the University’s Parkinson building, this gallery is named after two local cultural philanthropists. There is a regularly changing exhibition programme featuring illustration, printing, painting, textile art and ceramics. But perhaps the biggest draw is the free workshops that are sometimes led by the artists themselves.
The Tetley is worth a visit for its stunning art deco architecture alone. Since its opening in 2013 it has become home to a fantastic display of contemporary art exhibitions, screenings, talks and fairs. Its restaurant and bar also offer a variety of hearty food and real ale.