Leeds has hands down one of the best social and party scenes you could want, particularly for students.
Leeds is, among other things, a vibrant university city and I spent a semester studying there at the University of Leeds. Although this post is going to be mostly about the student life in Leeds, the partying and leisure time parts would probably be useful for any visiting party traveller past their student days too. Disclaimer: I am not much for crowded clubs and fancy parties, but I do appreciate a good pub crawl and a fun drunk night out.
First off, University of Leeds has over 320 student clubs and societies for just about everything, from skydiving to chess. During the freshers week I obviously wanted to sign up for everything, but ended up sticking with sporadic DnD sessions as I simply did not have enough time to keep up with everything, especially since I travelled a lot. I did however meet some nice people through random societies and their intro events, which are often open to the public as well.
Secondly, the Otley run. The Otley run is the iconic Leeds pub crawl trail, following the length of the Otley road from Headingly to the city centre and featuring a total of 16 pubs and bars along the way. If that is not enough for you, Leeds also has several clubs with student discounts and all night dance floors. The wonderful thing about the Otley run is that everyone is doing it, all the time and usually in some kind of coordinated outfits. Almost every afternoon I would encounter groups of students or random people just starting out (if you want to make it through all 16 pubs, you need to start extremely early, usually at 4 pm ) and often they would wear costumes. The groups are usually quite welcoming towards random party crashers, especially if you’re wearing a crazy outfit.
I’d seen the mermaid squad, animal onesies, pin up girls of both genders, mostly-naked groups, garbage bag extravaganza, glitter deluxe and practically everything else you can come up with and more. People watching was my favourite activity while walking home from the University and was often the reason I did not take a bus for the 30+ minute walk back to Headingly where I lived. Naturally, I did the Otley run more than once and got the T-shirt to prove it the first time too.
Thirdly, all the events, pubs, cafes, bars and eateries in the vicinity of the University or in the city centre. There was plenty of choice and most options were quite affordable, although maybe not on a daily basis. The University campus alone had several food and event venues meant for students and we made frequent use of the cocktail happy hour. There were multiple events organised by the Leeds Student Union every single day, from parties, concerts and fairs to workshops and dance classes. We used to hang out at the campus Old bar or at the Library. Now, while Leeds University does have more than one impressive library, the Library is a pub next to the University, which used to be, yes, a library. One of my favourite things about Leeds as a city was their ingenious attempts at reusing all available spaces. It was the first place where I’d seen a church for sale and one was even converted to a club (yes, you can go to a rave held in a church).
Which brings us to lastly: all the second hand shops. As I am not one for the current fashions and firmly believe in the value of recycling clothes, I loved the amount of second hand shops in the UK in general, although the largest concentration I’d seen was probably in Leeds and London. On the Otley road alone, there were four second hand boutiques and the Leeds Student Union organised several second hand fairs while I was there. One of them was held in the party church, as you can see in the photos below.
I could go into greater details, but I believe I’ve covered most of the focal points of the Leeds social life. In conclusion, let me just add that our neighbours across the street had a party at least 3 nights per week, with music, wooing and drunk fighting and the police never once showed up, so Leeds truly is a city well used to students and excessive partying.
Cover photo from Freshers week, by: K. Lagrama.