14 of the best buildings in Leeds

Leeds is a modern metropolis. With a lively creative scene, a thriving digital sector and rich cultural life on every corner, it's no wonder Leeds consistently ranks as one of the best cities in the world. But let's not forget this place started life as a forested area called Loidis in the 8th century. Growing slowly throughout the medieval and Tudor eras, it came of age as an industrial powerhouse in the 18th century. Over the past 100 years it's flourished as a city of education, business and innovation.

This means that its streets are adorned with the most stunning buildings - each one telling a different story about the city Leeds was and is. If these bricks could talk, we'd never stop listening.

After gathering tips from locals, I've cherry picked the best buildings in Leeds and mapped out a route that will let you see them all in just a few hours. I've also included walking directions, giving you everything you need to explore these architectural delights at your own pace.

The Parkinson Building

The Parkinson Building is one of Leeds' most prominent landmarks - especially when it's lit up blue and purple at night. Opened in 1951 by HRH The Princess Royal, this art-deco construction is part of the University of Leeds and is still used for its original purpose as a library and art gallery.

Broadcasting Tower

Iconic, or an eyesore? This rusty-coloured, Brutalist-inspired structure has divided opinion since it was erected in 2010. However, with its imposing height and unusual design, there's no doubt that Broadcasting Tower is one of the Leeds' most unique buildings, and was once named the Best Tall Building in the World. Today it's owned by Leeds Beckett University and consists of student flats.

County Arcade, Victoria Quarter

While it's technically indoors, the County Arcade is considered one of the best buildings in Leeds for its fancy ironwork, gilded mosaics and stunning stained glass roof. It was built in 1900 by Frank Matcham - the architect who designed the London Palladium. The County Arcade is part of the Victoria Quarter, a high-end shopping arcade consisting of three blocks between Briggate and Vicar Lane.

Corn Exchange

The Corn Exchange has been at the centre of Leeds for more than 150 years. Designed by Cuthbert Brodrick, its impressive iron-crested dome, intricate exterior design and circular structure ensure it's still as well-known and well-loved today as it was when it was built in 1862. A key trading post in the Victorian era, now you'll find a range of cafes, hairdressers and boutique shops adorning its spectacular interior.

44 Call Lane

Tetris comes to mind when you gaze at this five-storey residential building which opened in 2007. Designed by Brewster Bye, the multi-coloured patchwork cladding on 44 Call Lane recalls the dyes used to make clothes - a link to Leeds' textile history.

Waterman's Place

You'll find more Brutalist inspiration at Waterman's Place, next to the Leeds Canal Basin. As part of the recent Granary Wharf regeneration, architects CZWG unveiled this striking brick, wooden and copper clad apartment building in 2009. The award-winning structure follows its own architectural logic, making it one of Leeds' most unusual buildings.

Candle House

The aptly-named Candle House is what I've always imagined the Tower of Babel looking like - tall, cylindrical and imposing. Designed by careyjones, Candle House opened in 2009 - and its copper and red twisting brickwork exterior has cut a dominant figure on the skyline south of the city centre ever since. Today it's home to 160 of the most sought-after apartments in Leeds.

Tower Works

Along with the Corn Exchange, Tower Works is one of the last surviving Victorian buildings in Leeds. Built in 1864 by architect Thomas Shaw, its three Italianate towers were part of a factory that made steel pins. The factory closed in 1981 after 117 years in operation, and the site is to be regenerated as part of a £350m South Bank project to bring the area back to life with a hub of offices, apartments, bars and restaurants.

Temple Works

Legend has it that the Egyptian-inspired Temple Works once had a grass covered roof where sheep used to graze. Why? Because it helped retain humidity so the linen wouldn't dry out at this former flax mill. When it opened in 1840, more than 2,600 textile employees worked in what was at the time the largest single room in the world. It's now in the hands of CEG, a developer involved in the South Bank regeneration.

Quebecs Hotel

As you'll see from the engraving at its entrance, this building first opened its doors in 1891 as the Leeds and County Liberal Club. The Liberal Party dominated the administration of Leeds at the time and this lavish club - complete with extravagant masonry, intricate patterning and a red terrcotta facade - reflected its standing in the city. The decline of the Liberal Party meant it was let out entirely to offices by 1947. It was subsequently bought by the Eton Group and renovated into a luxe hotel, where the likes of Coldplay, Joan Rivers and Russell Brand have stayed.

Bank House

Another Brutalist beauty, Bank House functioned as the Bank of England's regional headquarters when it opened in 1971. Composed of expensive Cornish granite and bronze cladding, and oddly layered as an inverse pyramid, it was originally meant to convey the bank's strength and impenetrability. Today Bank House is an office building, and listed as a site of special interest by Historic England.

Atlas House

Located on the busy corner of King Street and St Paul's Street, Atlas House stands out for its striking white marmo appearance, renaissance design and hulking sculpture of the Greek god Atlas - straining under the weight of the world. Atlas House was built in 1910 as the offices of insurance firm Perkin and Bulmer, and it's now occupied by cocktail chain Dirty Martini.

St Paul's House

I'm lucky enough to work just around the corner from St Paul's House - a centrepiece in Leeds' business district. Featuring a bold, Hispano-Moorish design, one of the key features on St Paul's House is the minarets - usually seen on mosques - on each corner. It was built in 1878 as a warehouse and cloth-cutting works, and extensively renovated in 1976. Today it's let out as office space.

Leeds Town Hall

Last but definitely not least is probably the best building in Leeds - Leeds Town Hall. This iconic Baroque structure is the crowning glory of Cuthbert Brodrick's architectural career. It's just as awe-inspiring today as it was when it was built in 1858, with its giant columns, stone lion statues and opulent entrance doors rendering it magnificent in every sense of the word. The interior is just as fantastic, as you'll see if you ever attend one of its many events - from beer festivals to music concerts.

Next time you're out and about in Leeds, look up. From Italian-inspired icons to Brutalist beauties, this city is full of gems.

If you think I've failed to mention one of Leeds' best buildings, let me know on Twitter.


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