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Photograph: Stevie Campbell

The 12 best pubs in Leeds

Whether you’re after some damn tasty food or a cracking pint of ale, take a look at our pick of the best pubs in Leeds

Written by
Mark O'Donnell
Jenessa Williams

Sure, the atmosphere in bars and restaurants is nice enough, but when you’re spending a relaxing time in Yorkshire, you just can’t beat the down-to-earth cosiness of a good old-fashioned pub. Whether you fancy grabbing a Sunday roast, watching the football, doing a quiz or eavesdropping on the local gossip, Leeds pub culture is alive and thriving – striving to innovate without doing away with the no-nonsense spirit of a public house. 

Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly spot or a darts-throwing, sticky-floored temple to ale, there are plenty of options in Leeds city centre (and its surrounding suburbs) to keep you well fed and watered. Here are some of the very best pubs in Leeds.

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Amazing Leeds pubs

In fine weather, there is surely no better Sunday than a walk through the Meanwood Valley trail to the Beck & Call. Dogs are welcome, as are children; there’s a great area out front where they can run off steam, and various programmed events throughout the year such as bingo, board games and craft nights which give the venue a warm, community feel. For cool parents who still don’t want to abandon their personality to the title of ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, the Beck & Call is a masterclass in family-friendly branding that still feels trend-led.

If you like live music (especially roc), the Duck & Drake will feel like a good place to sink a pint or two. With bands playing nearly every night of the week, its staff take clear pride in their historical and cultural resonance, happy to tell stories about the many artists and creative folk who have passed across the threshold. It’s a little scruffy around the edges, but for old-school pub lovers, that’s a big part of its charm.

  • Music

No matter how many once-dingy bars get refurbished and grungy areas become gentrified, there will always be those who prefer to sequester themselves into the comforting and shabby embrace of a scuzzy boozer. With its cheap pints, live music and friendly welcome, The Fenton is one of the last establishments around the city centre not to have succumbed to the lure of the gastro-pub makeover, and has instead retained its rock ‘n’ roll attitude and favour among students for many years.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Pubs

Despite Leeds having undergone something of a foodie/craft beer revolution in the past couple of years, the Adelphi pub near Brewery Wharf has remained consistently popular. It falls squarely into the ‘proper pub with proper beer’ category, with its cosy Victorian architecture and interior, and many snug rooms with seating branching off from its narrow atrium. As well as the normal range of lagers, there are an impressive 17 speciality draught beers and ciders available at any one time, as well as six real ales. Food-wise, the Adelphi specialises in traditional pub meals, where the focus is very much on getting the basics right.


Built in 1802 as a watering hole for local engineers and factory workers, it is no overstatement to say that The Cross Keys played a pretty important part in Leeds’s industrial revolution. These days, it’s a pretty smart place, with a locally sourced food menu and good range of craft beers, tap ales, belgian bottles and even champagne. If you’re looking for a nice spot to eat a doorstop sandwich while catching up on the crossword, this gastropub is a happy fit.

Out in the cosmopolitan suburb of Chapel Allerton, The Mustard Pot is the sort of place you might pre-book to celebrate an occasion just as readily as you would to grab a quick pint. The bar is well stocked, decor is tasteful and staff are diligent and friendly, but the real jewel in The Mustard Pot’s crown is the food; hearty pub grub which feels refined yet crowd-pleasing. If you think you’ve got room for the fish pie, onion rings and the sticky toffee pudding on top of your casque ales, maybe try sharing the desert instead; the portions here are pretty generous.

  • Comedy

A key calling point on the legendary ‘Otley Run’ pub crawl route, The Library on the corner of Woodhouse Moor has been a student haunt for years, combining the tried-and-tested formula of cheap drinks, lots of seating, occasional bands and the quintessential jukebox for loading up throwback tunes. There’s plenty of food to try out, which promises to remedy all manner of ills, from hangovers to long-haul dissertation slogs, with the standard burgers, chips and hot dogs substantial enough to slay the sudden carb cravings of varsity life.

With humble beginnings in the rural Lake District, Handsome has recently reopened up a spot on a prestigious corner opposite the University of Leeds. It’s normally fairly quiet on a weekday evening, making it a nice and unimposing place to stop off and sample their range of brews (try the ‘Piranha Larger’ for a moreish blend of vienna malt and noble hops). Like any self-respecting pub, the crisp offering is also strong, as are the range of canned beers to take away. 

  • Bars and pubs

Don’t let the mock-Tudor exterior convince you otherwise – the Hyde Park is dirt cheap and frequented by either skaters from the park opposite or Otley Run students dressed as superheroes, Disney characters or the ‘Breaking Bad’ duo. Right at the heart of its studenty namesake, the welcoming establishment caters to the community’s needs, whether it’s a Tinder date, an icebreaker for new housemates, a post-exams slap-up lunch or a birthday-party launchpad before hitting the nightclubs in town. There’s loads of seating indoors and out, as well as a pool table and large sports screens.

Though it may be stretching the word ‘pub’ to its hipster extreme, there is no denying that Leeds has done a fine job of cashing in on the open-brewery trend, making a drinking occasion out of what might otherwise be thought of as a closed-off factory. The old Tetley building (now a great arts and food venue) and Kirkstall Brewery serve as local blueprints, but Springwell offers perhaps the best pub-like atmosphere, with expansive outdoor seating and plenty of gluten-free and alcohol free beers from North Brewing Co. This certainly ain’t your grandfather's pub.

  • Bars and pubs

God knows how this solid metal boat got plonked down by a ring road overpass, but the Dock is the natural first port (sorry) of call when it comes to spending a night out in Yorkshire’s largest city. Unashamedly unclassy with week-long drink deals on varsity favourites such as Jägerbombs and Strongbow, the hull gets pretty packed on term-time weeknights and weekends. As well as retro diner-style booth seating, there is a handy top deck smoking area where you can bellow a tipsy cry of ‘Merrion Centre ahoy!’ while slugging down snakebite.

  • Bars and pubs

Old-man boozers can make the average 20-something or student feel uneasy, but when they have gig listings as strong as the Fox & Newt’s, it’s hard to stay away. Near the university and within spitting distance of one of the city’s largest blocks of student accommodation, Fox & Newt hosts a surprisingly eclectic clientele. What’s more, a recent conversion has seen the unused upper floor transformed into a fully equipped live music and comedy venue, solidifying its future.

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