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Bridgewater Place and the Empire State Building
Clare Bell - Flickr/Rebecca Wilson - Flickr

Leeds or New York? You decide

Written by
Jon Howe

New York is one of the most popular travel locations in the world. But what does it really have over Leeds?

Sure, it has monuments like the Statue of Liberty and the architectural wonders of Grand Central Station. But what does the Staten Island Ferry offer that a summer trip on the Leeds Waterfront Taxi doesn’t? And how are the bars in New York’s East Village, Tribeca or Midtown any cooler than The Calls, Granary Wharf or the Northern Quarter?

Well, that's for you to decide as we see how well Leeds stacks up against the Big Apple.


Leeds  Bridge House/Flatiron Building

Jon Howe/Jeffrey Zeldman


The epic grandeur of the Empire State Building, the Rockerfeller Centre and the Chrysler Building are best viewed from across the water in Brooklyn or Queens. Much in the same way the best views of Leeds’ Bridgewater Place and the enduring visage of the white university buildings are best appreciated from the hills of West Leeds or driving in on the M621.

Naturally, I'm sure many worldly-wise travel experts have compared the formidable views from the Sky Lounge and Angelica's rooftop garden to those of the sprawling towers of lower Manhattan.

Leeds even has its own Flatiron Building in the shape of Leeds Bridge House, near the Adelphi. Which, we hasten to add, was built in 1875 – predating New York’s ground-breaking skyscraper by 27 years. So there.


City Varieties/Apollo Theatre

'(p_khoo) - Flickr/The All Nite Images - Flickr

The bewitching and seductive glamour of Broadway is all well and good. Harlem’s Apollo Theatre may have launched Ella Fitzgerald and James Brown. But can they rival the music hall tapestry created by the City Varieties?

Over here, TV show 'The Good Old Days’ launched a thousand glittering careers. Plus, none other than Gary Barlow’s world premiere of ‘Girls’ is coming to the Grand Theatre in November. So you can have The Beatles’ first US appearance at the Ed Sullivan Theatre and we’ll relax with Arthur Askey ‘Back at the old Bull and Bush’.


Leeds’ contribution to the industrial revolution and the architectural heritage of Great Britain is all around us. New York, on the other hand, can only offer Brooklyn Bridge as something of any historical significance that predates the 20th century.

Tourists flock to Leeds to point a camera at Cuthbert Broderick’s most noteworthy designs – the Corn Exchange and the Town Hall – while you would struggle to find any visual aspect to New York’s Times Square that is older than Princess Charlotte. Probably.  

Green Spaces

Roundhay Park/Central Park

Tim Green - Flickr/Mo1229 - Flickr

If we’re comparing man-made escapes from the choking claustrophobia of city life, then New York can offer Central Park, Corona Park (Flushing Meadows), Prospect Park and Battery Park. Leeds created Golden Acre Park in 1932, originally as a privately-run amusement park.

What Leeds will always have over New York, however, is the natural beauty of Roundhay Park and Horsforth Hall Park. Both offer sprawling greenery and wholesome panoramas a world away – rather than just a block away –  from the rat race.


Professional sport in Leeds is pretty straightforward: football at Elland Road, cricket and rugby at Headingley Carnegie, with over a century of history to wade through. You can chuck in the start of the Tour de France and World Triathlon Series too.

New York has American Football teams the Giants and the Jets who share the MetLife Stadium, which technically is in New Jersey, and hence they represent the New York metropolitan area, rather than simply the city.

When it come to Baseball, the Yankees have a new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and the Mets are based in Queens. Boxing is worth a mention too, I suppose, with Madison Square Garden having hosted some of the most epic bouts in history. Even so, Leeds Arena is fighting back, as anyone who witnessed Josh Warrington’s last two bouts would contest. Small acorns and all that...


Royal Armouries/Guggenheim museums

Rawdon Fox - Flickr/echiner1 - Flickr

The Guggenheim Museum is a design classic and the American Museum of Natural History may have featured in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but can they compete with the fascinating narrative told at the Royal Armouries or the Thackray Medical Museum?

Has New York got anything to rival the Henry Moore Institute or a diverse art space such as The Tetley?


Victoria Quarter/Macy's

Michael D Beckwith - Flickr/Brent Hoard - Flickr

Let’s face it, you can fly across the Atlantic for a shopping trip. But all you are likely to afford to come back with is a Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s bag to flaunt in the airport arrivals area; New York’s famous department stores are a financial no-go zone for the vast majority of tourists. Besides, Leeds’ Trinity Centre or Victoria Quarter can offer as much as Saks Fifth Avenue does to the average punter.

So let’s not sell ourselves short and celebrate the best of Leeds, Leeds, Leeds; so good they named it thrice!

Need more evidence that Leeds can trump Manhattan? Take a look at some of the city's finest dining experiences

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