Leeds Cultural Guide - The Essential Guide to Theatre, Museums, Galleries and Culture in Leeds
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The cultural, historical and architectural heritage of Leeds is well represented by a host of museums, theatres, stately homes and art galleries, from the national attractions of the Royal Armouries and the Thackray Medical Museum to the fine mansions of Harewood House, Temple Newsam and Lotherton Hall.
The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
Leeds has a full calendar of events, from an exciting programme of open air public entertainment for all the family - including ‘Opera in the Park’, ‘Party in the Park’ and ‘Classical Fantasia’ - to prestigious work presented by Opera North, Phoenix Dance, the Northern Ballet Theatre and the West Yorkshire Playhouse. The renowned West Yorkshire Playhouse stages more productions than any other theatre outside London.

As well as already being home to four renowned theatres, major national and regional attractions located in Leeds have also recently been joined by The Carriageworks - Leeds' newest theatre and conference venue, and a new £26m state-of-the-art city museum which opened its doors in September 2008.
Museums & Galleries
Abbey House Museum
Recently refurbished museum housing many interesting relics from the history of Leeds, situated near the picturesque ruins of Kirkstall Abbey. Step back in time with its vivid recreation of 19th-century Victorian Leeds.
Armley Mills
Go back in time and experience firsthand what life was like during the Industrial Revolution at Armley Mills, dark satanic mills and all. When things really were grim up North.
Leeds City Art Gallery
Founded in 1888, Leeds City Art Gallery now houses an impressive collection of art dating back to around 1820. The gallery has works from many local artists such as Atkinson Grimshaw, Jacob Kramer, David Hockney and Damien Hirst.
The Henry Moore Institute
The Henry Moore Institute was formerly a group of neglected Victorian merchant's offices and warehouses in the centre of Leeds, which were converted into an award winning art gallery, study/research centre and library. This modernistic gallery can easily be spotted by the huge reclining figure sculpture outside.
Leeds City Museum
Work began in autumn 2005 on an ambitious project to turn Leeds' old Civic Theatre into an exciting new museum for Leeds. The project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Leeds City Council, and Yorkshire Forward transformed the Grade II-listed Civic Institute building off Millennium Square into a state-of-the-art museum. As a lively, friendly and welcoming free visitor attraction, residents and visitors to Leeds alike can explore, enjoy and learn in Leeds City Museum. With interactive and informative displays drawn from the impressive collections of objects and art works owned and cared for by Leeds Museums and Galleries, including the much loved 'Leeds Tiger' and the 'Leeds Mummy', combined with a shop, cafe, education facilities and an auditorium, it promises to be a great day out for all.
Leeds University Gallery
Leeds University's own gallery with a constantly changing programme of exhibitions and events, with free entry.
Millennium Galleries
Located in nearby Sheffield, this is the North's own branch of the Victoria and Albert museum. Wide range of unique works of art and special exhibitions housed within a superb post-modern structure.
The National Media Museum
Take a trip to Bradford to visit this superb museum (formerly known as The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television). Interactive consoles, galleries and multimedia displays make this an engaging and highly enjoyable experience. You can also watch an IMAX film, where the screen is 5 storeys by 7 storeys wide.
Roundhay Park Tropical World
Explore an authentic jungle habitat complete with monkeys, butterflies, creepy crawlies and exotic fish, and take the Amazon trail within the 700 acre grounds of Roundhay Park.
The Royal Armouries
The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds was opened in 1996 as the new home for the national collection of arms and armour. Each of the five themed galleries covering War, Tournament, Self-Defence, Hunting and the arms and armour of the Orient, are chock full of memorabilia. It also boasts world-renowned artefacts such as Henry VIII's tournament armour and the only surviving elephant armour on display anywhere. Visitors can also marvel at live displays of jousting, falconry and different types of hand-to-hand combat.
Harewood House
Situated at the heart of Yorkshire, close to both Harrogate and York, Harewood is an award-winning country house and a great family day out. One of the Treasure Houses of England, the house was built in the 18th century and has art collections to rival the finest in the land in the setting of Yorkshire's most beautiful landscape. There are exhibitions of contemporary art, an award-winning educational department, renowned Bird Garden and over 100 acres of exquisite gardens. As well as being a Grade I listed building, there are numerous other features in the grounds that have been listed. Alongside tours of the house and grounds, visitors can enjoy the Himalayan Garden and its Buddhist stupa, the Harewood Bird Garden with a collection of over 90 species of birds including Humboldt Penguins, an extensive adventure playground and catering facilities. Open to the public most of the year, with special events and themed weekends throughout the seasons, the Leeds Country Way also passes through the Harewood Estate.
Temple Newsam
An excellent Tudor-Jacobean stately home recently reopened following a two-year restoration programme, set in 1200 acres of parkland with a free agricultural museum included.
Thackray Medical Museum
On 24th March 1997 one of Europe's largest medical museums opened in Leeds. The £5 million interactive Thackray Medical Museum looks at medicine through the eyes of ordinary people, showing how improved living conditions and medical advances help us all. Since opening, the museum has been named "UK Museum of the Year", "England's Visitor Attraction of the Year", maintained the Sandford Award for Heritage Education and been shortlisted for "European Museum of the Year".
York City Gallery
One of the best collections of renaissance art in Britain is housed in a wonderfully preserved 19th century building. Well worth a visit.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Spend a day out in the country near Wakefield and view some of the most innovative and interesting sculpture work currently around.
Theatre in Leeds
Leeds City Varieties Music Hall
The City Varieties Music Hall in Leeds is the jewel in the crown of popular live entertainment. Other Halls from the same era still exist but the Varieties is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest continuous running music hall in Great Britain today (where Charlie Chaplin once performed no less). This wonderfully intimate music hall is listed as a Grade II* historic building of extreme rarity. The City Varieties can trace its origins as a music hall back to 1865 when it was known as Thornton's New Music Hall and Fashionable Lounge. This former music hall is now a top venue for comedy, cabaret, musicals, live music, light opera, hypnosis acts and much more.
The Carriageworks Theatre
A new modern, purpose-built theatre located within the Electric Press Development on Millennium Square, which opened in November 2005. The Carriageworks houses an exciting mix of plays, musicals, dance, film, exhibitions, community events and workshops. With two theatres and six rehearsal rooms, this state of the art venue is an important space for local and regional artists of varying backgrounds and abilities, and is a new home for the Leeds Civic Arts Guild, an umbrella organisation of approximately fifteen local amateur performing groups that previously rehearsed and performed at the former Civic Theatre. The Carriageworks is also home to key festivals such as the Leeds International Film Festival and the Breeze International Youth Festival.
The Grand Theatre & Opera House
The Grand hosts many touring productions of West End shows, musical events and is the home of Opera North.
Northern Ballet Theatre
Enjoy a mix of classical ballet and more contemporary works performed by the world renowned NBT. Recent productions include Prokovief's timeless Romeo and Juliet, alongside adaptations of Dracula and Dr Jeckyl & Mr Hyde.
Studio Theatre and Gallery
Leeds Metropolitan University houses the studio. Here you can see a variety of ground-breaking, thought provoking and experimental productions from new talent. The gallery is also well worth a visit.
West Yorkshire Playhouse
According to The Times, 'the finest rep in the country'. The Playhouse has made serious theatre popular, playing host to some of the greats of modern drama including Sir Ian McKellen. Although if you're looking to broaden your horizons further afield, be sure to also check out our London Hotel and Theatre Breaks.
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