The last ten years have seen Leeds transformed from degenerated and deserted industrial wastelands into a vibrant scene for city living, working, shopping and nightlife.
It is this radical and continuing transformation that has earned the city the accolade of being named, by travel website Lonely Planet, one of Europe’s top destinations for travellers this summer.
Leeds is the only place in the UK to feature in the top ten list, released today, and sits alongside places such as Zagreb in Croatia, Montenegro, Gotland in Sweden and Spain’s Galicia.
The city has been handpicked by travel experts who took into account its transformation over the past decade looking at urban regeneration, the flourishing cultural scene, growing food and craft beer reputation and thriving entertainment and nightlife.
Lonely Planet’s UK Destination Editor, James Smart, said: “Once defined by its industrial past, Leeds is now a confident, cultural hub in the North of England. With major events this year including the reopening of Leeds Art Gallery and the 50th anniversary of Leeds Carnival, there’s never been a better time to head to Yorkshire and join the party.”
Other factors that have seen Leeds totally transform its image from a grim northern city to a contender for European Capital of Culture are the opening of two major shopping and retail centres, Victoria Gate and Trinity, in the last four years, the evolving business and financial district at Bridgewater Place, the arrival of Opera North, one of Europe’s leading art organisations, and an emerging food and drink scene which has seen a 12 per cent increase in independent restaurants in just three years.
Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “This is a fabulous endorsement for Leeds and to be recognised as one of the top places in Europe people want to visit, enjoy and explore is something that as a city, we can all be incredibly proud of.
“To see Leeds take its place alongside some of the world’s top travel destinations is testament to the vision and hard work of the many businesses, organisations and attractions who contribute so much to the continued growth of our thriving visitor economy.
“It’s particularly encouraging to see the quality of our city’s impressive cultural, leisure and nightlife scenes acknowledged and I hope this recognition means we will soon be welcoming even more visitors from across Europe and beyond to experience everything Leeds has to offer.”
And, the resurgence of Leeds shows no sign of slowing down as more festivals and attractions continue to grow. In the space of the next few weeks Leeds will stage the Waterfront Festival, Made in Leeds music takeover at Thwaites Mill and the Yorkshire Food and Drink Show rolls up.
Dan Logan from Eyes Brewing, the country’s first wheat brewery, grew up in Leeds and said 20 years ago it was “not a nice place” but is now excited that his children will grow up here.
He said: “When I was 12 it was not a great place, it was grotty but a lot of these places, like Call Lane are now the cool places. Before no-one was proud of the city but everybody is proud to be from Leeds. I have got two kids and I am excited for them to be able to grow up in a place like Leeds. It has really grown and it is not slowing down.”