A Saturday evening last year in Leeds. I arrived with my parents, shaking with fear, nervous about my huge move away from home for the first time. As we drove down Otley Road, I got to take in the full vibe of the city and in particular, Headingley. For some, what I was greeted with would be ideal. People in costumes everywhere taking part in the infamous Otley Run. I was shocked that at 3pm, the streets of Leeds were this busy with people drinking, but I quickly realised this is Leeds.
In fact, even going into the centre of Leeds was quite intimidating at first, I wanted to know where everything was and straight away. I hated feeling like a fish out of water, but honestly, I feel like I learnt my way around so quickly. However, that first night on Freshers week, we had no clue of what clubs were good or where to go.
Fortunately, part of my course involved us getting out into the streets and the city, so I was able to spend a lot of my days heading down into the centre. For first year, knowing the centre is essential. Obviously get to know the buses, and if you need it, the train or even the coach station. Uber’s in Leeds are also very reliable and cheap.
The main shopping centre is Trinity, which is a perfect spot for shopping and also food. A lot of Leeds shopping also takes place outside in areas such as Albion Street, Merrion Street and Commercial Street. I was really surprised with the amount of shopping areas Leeds has! The cultural area by Kirkgate Market and the Corn Exchange is a cool area to see and visit too. The Light also has a brilliant cinema, which is so cheap and there is also Turtle Bay and Junkyard Golf in this venue, so definitely check that out.
The University of Leeds is found at the top of the city and is nearby to Leeds Beckett Uni and Leeds Art Uni, so this area is very much where students can be found. Look out for the strangely placed boat, which you’ll find out is a great bar. Moving out from there, you start to come across more student accommodations, these can be found in Woodhouse and then Hyde Park (No, that is not the name of the green field by the uni, it’s the rented student property neighbourhood). Hyde Park Pub is a great pub, particularly first-year based where you can get some cheap drinks, play pool and listen to some awful karaoke.
I am biased but I think as a first year, the area of Headingley, which is where some more uni accommodations are placed, is worth a visit. I’m going to miss visiting the Sainsbury’s at the end of the road, the Nando’s which was a 2-minute walk away, or the charity shops to browse. The pubs in Headingley are such a different vibe to up in the city too, the pub quiz in The Royal Oak is an enjoyable way of bonding with new mates.
Adventurous freshers may want to head out to Kirkstall. It sounds far but it’s really not and there is an entire industrial park with shops, food, a cinema, bowling and bouldering (if you’re interested). Alternatively, head up to Meanwood, Woodhouse Ridge or Kirkstall Abbey to escape the indoors, especially with all the online lectures and extra screen time we’ll be having and enjoy nature. I also want to explore more of Leeds outdoors, because I still feel like I haven’t seen so much of the city. As I have never been down to Liberty Dock, I have never seen the riverside areas either, but I’ve heard they’re lovely. With the clubs shut too, I’ve heard Call Lane has plenty of cool bars catering for different needs and I will definitely be exploring that area more as I did not in first year!
Header image credit: Leeds Star Newspaper