I hail from a region in the UK called Yorkshire, about an hour’s drive from Leeds. Although I know Leeds well, I know an Expater who knows it even better. For the next in my Expater city guides series, I got the lowdown on life in Leeds by fellow blogger and Expater Cristina. Cristina was born in Spain and is now living in Leeds.
Here she shares everything about living in Leeds as a student, the pros and cons of Leeds life, where to live, the cost of living and everything else in between…
I was in my early 20s when I decided to move to the UK. I had always loved English as a language and I had visited the UK before, so it was a good place to move.
My passion for the English language made me want to study abroad. I did my degree in Translation and Interpreting in Málaga and then decided to study my Masters abroad.
I chose Leeds because I had visited the city before and I liked how easy it was to move around. In addition to this, Leeds was the most affordable option. It has been five years since I moved abroad, and I still can’t believe how fast time has passed. I never thought I would stay here so long!
Is Leeds a good place to live?
Leeds is a good place to live, especially for students. As I said before, I moved to study abroad and I am so happy I did.
As it’s home to five universities, you will always see many students around, not only from Leeds but from the UK and abroad, as well as many student events.
Another good thing about Leeds is the fact that you can find everything in the city centre. Leeds city centre isn’t big, but that makes things easier if you don’t drive. Everything is within a walking distance and, if not, it’s well connected by public transport.
Although Leeds is in the top 10 biggest cities in the UK, it doesn’t feel like you are in a big city like London, where you definitely experience traffic all the time. If you are looking for something less overwhelming than a major city, Leeds is a great place to consider.
How much does it cost to live in Leeds?
The cost of living is very subjective, but you can find a two-bedroom apartment close to the city centre for £750-800 GBP per month. If you’re moving by yourself, the cheapest option is to move to a shared accommodation where you pay around £300-350 GBP per month (sometimes even with bills included!)
Where is the best place to live in Leeds?
From all the different areas I’ve lived in Leeds, my favourites are Headingley and Leeds city centre. Headingley is a pretty area with green spaces, but great pubs and restaurants. It’s quieter than the city centre yet easily accessible.
Leeds city centre is the most convenient place to be, especially if you don’t have a car. You are just minutes from the bus and train station if you plan to travel.
In addition to this, next to the city centre there are beautiful areas like Leeds Dock where you can enjoy the canal views and plenty of restaurant options if you are a foodie.
What are the pros and cons of living in Leeds?
The main pros of living in Leeds are multiculturality, very affordable rent (as well as cheaper prices than other big cities in the UK), great connection to other small towns and cities and a good variety of restaurants and bars.
The city has a bad reputation for being ugly, dirty and grey, although I personally feel there are lots of green spaces. It’s true that the city centre is built up and not pretty per se, but there are some beautiful parks close by.
Compared to many places in Spain, I feel there are better career opportunities and wages are higher.
The cons of living in Leeds are weather (it often rains), fewer flight routes and darker winters. Leeds Bradford is a small airport with no train connection. However Manchester Airport isn’t far away and it offers many more flights, especially during the winter months.
I also think the Spanish lifestyle is more relaxed than in the UK. In Spain I feel like people really disconnect from work after work and people socialise more outdoors.
I have tried to adapt to the weather during these five years but haven’t succeeded yet. I am always cold (even in the summer) and I wear many layers, so yes, if someone sees me on the street they will guess I am not British! How do people wear t-shirts when it’s 14 degrees?!
Do you feel safe in Leeds?
Not always. Walking in the city centre or in most areas in Leeds during the day, it’s absolutely fine. However, I do not always feel safe walking at night or as it gets dark.
I would avoid walking home late, especially if you need to go through parks or lesser frequented streets.
From experience, I can say that taking an Uber or registered taxi (never an unlicensed mini cab!) is better than walking alone.
Tell me about living in Leeds as a student
From experience, life in Leeds as a student is great. There are five universities in the Leeds, offering a good range of courses.
University life is more independent than in Spain, but at the same time you have support from the university and there are always student events where you can meet new people. Universities offer free advice to students on jobs, studying abroad, accommodation, how to manage your finances, counselling and much more.
If you want to meet people, you just need to look at the student union website where you will find information about any clubs and events happening soon.
Leeds is definitely a student-friendly city and you will always find great offers for restaurants, clubs and shopping.
What about the nightlife in Leeds?
Nightlife in Leeds is good too and there are plenty of places to go to enjoy a cocktail and all sorts of music – Spanish, R&B, etc. If you plan a night out, you definitely need to go to Call Lane, the most popular street with a good variety of bars and clubs. I have never been into clubbing, but Revolucion de Cuba would my first choice. The atmosphere is great and I love the music.
When it comes to restaurants and bars, Leeds has many good restaurants, bars and little independent cafes. No matter what type of cuisine (Lebanese, Chinese, Thai, etc.) you like, you’ll find a restaurant in Leeds where they serve it.
At the same time, you will find anything from street food to fine dining, so it’s perfect for everyone’s budget. If you are looking for some quick but delicious to eat, Trinity Kitchen inside Leeds Trinity shopping centre is your best option. You can choose from many food stalls that serve Mexican, Thai, American food and much more.
If you are after a more gourmet experience, I would recommend Fettle. An independent cafe and restaurant that serves delicious meals made with local products.
Is it easy to find a job in Leeds?
I think finding a job depends on your previous work experience or studies. However, when I moved to Leeds, I found it easy to work in the hospitality sector (restaurants, pubs, etc.) It’s also worthwhile joining local expat Facebook groups – that’s how I found my first student job.
Brexit changed how things work though. Now, I think having a job lined up before moving over is a wise move.
What about transport?
Although Leeds is considered a big city, the city centre is not very big. Everything is close, so it is easy to walk around and you don’t need to have a car. Having a car can be expensive, especially if you plan to live in the city centre where parking spaces are quite pricey.
You can easily rely on public transport. There are frequent buses that go to most areas in Leeds and good train routes take you to many locations across the UK.
In addition to this, you can always use a taxi. Uber is always a good option, and Amber taxis are great too, plus they offer more affordable rides.
What advice do you have for anyone considering moving to Leeds?
If you plan to move to Leeds, I highly recommend having a look at accommodation as soon as possible – especially if you’re a student because affordable and good accommodation will be taken early. You can have a look for accommodations on Rightmove and Zoopla.
Good areas to live are Leeds Waterfront near the city centre, Headingley, Meanwood, Roundhay and some areas to avoid are Chapel Town, Beeston, Harehills and Belle Isle.
What is your take on Leeds culture?
Leeds people are friendly and they’re open to meeting other people from other countries. However, I’ve always found it difficult to establish a good friendship with a local. Although they have been nice to me, I feel they don’t open up to you as easily as in other cultures.
However I made many friends through language exchanges; they helped me meet new people and talk to other expats. I find that people from abroad are more likely to open up as they are in the same boat as you.
Something that shocked me when I arrived was the fact of unknown people calling me “love”. I had no idea this was something normal until a couple of months later!
For more on life in Leeds and beyond, follow Cristina at My Little World Of Travelling