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There’s something for everyone in Leeds and Bradford. Two cities with strong industrial pasts, Leeds, in particular, has undergone a transformation in recent years to become one of the most exciting cities in England, and a thriving hub of culture and commerce.

If you’re thinking of making either Leeds or Bradford your home, we’ve got all the information you need to know about living in there, from the best schools in the area to the hotspots for eating and drinking.

History of Leeds & Bradford

Leeds originally started as a small market town in the Middle Ages, and during the 17th and 18th centuries, it became a dominant force in the production and trading of wool, before becoming a major mill town during the Industrial Revolution. In 1770, it handled one-sixth of England’s export trade, and while wool remained an important industry in the city, flax, engineering, iron and printing also became highly significant economies for Leeds.

Today, the city is a thriving hub for banking, retail and the legal sector, driven largely by the city council’s vision for making Leeds the ‘capital of the north’.

As with Leeds, Bradford was an important centre for wool during the Industrial Revolution – in fact, it was known as the wool capital of the world, leading to its nicknames of Woolopolis and Wool City. It was a huge hub for textile manufacturing and led to a boom in investment in the city, which is why there are so many grand Victorian buildings in Bradford, such as the City Hall.

Culture in Leeds & Bradford

There’s plenty for culture vultures to see and do in both cities. Bradford is the first UNESCO City of Film, a title it was awarded for its cinematographic legacy including its historic links to the production and distribution of films, as well as its film museum, the National Science and Media Museum, which is a top tourist attraction.

Bradford is also home to one of the oldest concert halls in Britain still in use today, St George’s Hall, which opened in 1853, and is one of four theatres within the city.

The Times voted Leeds as the number one cultural place to live in Britain, ahead of other contenders including London, thanks to the wealth of culture of all types in the city, including Opera North and the Northern Ballet.

Leeds has long been considered an artistic city, and The Guardian even noted in 1971 that it was “the most influential art school in Europe since the Bauhaus” thanks to its reputation as a leading centre for radical art.

The city is home to Western Europe’s oldest West Indian Carnival, the Leeds West Indian Carnival, which is the UK’s third-largest after Notting Hill and Nottingham Carnivals. It’s also home to the largest film festival in Europe outside of London, the Leeds International Film Festival.

Food and Drink in Leeds & Bradford

Both Bradford and Leeds are multicultural cities, which means they’re both foodie heavens, with plenty of different cuisines on offer.

Every year between 2011 and 2016, Bradford was awarded the prestigious title of “Curry Capital of Britain” – so if you’re a fan of Indian food, you’ll be in for a treat when you move to the city.

From street food to fine dining, you can find something to cater to every appetite in Leeds – and as the fourth-largest student population in the UK, you can guarantee a good night out as well. Both cities have a significant real ale scene and there are lots of microbreweries in the area, perfect for fans of local lagers and beers.

Shopping in Leeds & Bradford

From independent boutiques to high-street names, there’s plenty of shopping opportunities in both cities. Bradford is home to Bombay Stores, the UK’s largest Asian department store, and Saltaire in Shipley is the place to go in Bradford for boutiques, vintage shops and markets, particularly along Victoria Road. You’ll also find lots of independent shops to explore around the North Parade.

There’s a good selection of markets in Bradford, including Oastler Shopping Centre which offers an incredible array of meat, fish and vegetables from all around the world, and Keighley Market Hall, which specialises in jewellery, fashion and homeware.

Over in Leeds, you’ll find over 1000 retail stores in the city centre. Briggate is the main shopping street for high-street brands whilst the Victoria Quarter is the place to go for high-end luxury retailers. The Leeds Kirkgate Market is the largest covered market in Europe with over 800 stalls. There is also an extensive range of indie shops in Leeds selling everything you could possibly want, from vintage clothing to vinyl.

Schools in Leeds & Bradford

Both Leeds and Bradford have several highly-rated schools. In the 2020 Real Schools Guide, the top five schools in Leeds were:

    The Morley Academy
    Allerton High School
    Abbey Grange Church of England Academy
    Roundhay School
    St Mary’s Menston

The guide names the best schools in Bradford as:

    Dixons Trinity Academy
    Dixons Kings Academy
    Feversham Academy
    Bradford Girls’ Grammar School
    Ilkley Grammar School

The guide takes 51 different factors into account, looking not just at GCSE results and Attainment 8 scores, but also things such as Progress 8, pupil-teacher ratios and absence rates.

Transport in Leeds & Bradford

As one of the main hubs of the northern motorway network, Leeds is well connected. The M1 and M62 intersect to its south and the A1 passes to the east. It’s also the starting point of the A62, A63, A64, A65, A647 and A660 roads.

It has the third-busiest train station in the UK outside of London. Trains to London take roughly 3 hours and 9 minutes, trains to York are around 45 minutes, and a train to Edinburgh takes around 3 hours 5 minutes.

Train travel between Bradford and Leeds is frequent and fast – the average journey time is 25 minutes. Leeds Bradford Airport is located 6 miles northeast of Bradford and serves both cities. It’s the home base of economy airline Jet2, and the airport serves many domestic and international locations.

Have a question?

If you need advice for first-time buying in Leeds or Bradford – or if you’re looking for a reliable mortgage broker in West Yorkshire – don’t hesitate to contact us today.

We’re experts on all things mortgage-related (and our services are always 100% free).


9 Park Square East, Leeds, LS1 2LH map

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