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The 17 best things to do in Leicester

The best things to do in Leicester include an out-of-this-world planetarium, historical cathedrals and some modern marvels

Written by
Marianne Eloise
&
Kayleigh Watson
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Once largely known for Walkers Crisps and Gary Lineker, Leicester flew very much under the cultural radar until the 2010s. But with the discovery of King Richard III in a city car park in 2012 and the legendary 2016 Premier League win, the East Midlands city is on the map—and with a cultural regeneration, renovated city centre, and tons of great places to go, it’s a legitimate destination.

Whether it's the city's thriving bar and food scene, budding independent arts community or rich heritage for the history or nature lovers, there is something for all preferences. Here are the best places to check out if you’re heading to the area.

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Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in Leicester

What is it? Built in 2001, the National Space Centre is a museum and educational centre full of rockets, exhibitions, galleries, and the UK’s largest planetarium. Apparently, it’s the only museum in the world to house upright space rockets indoors.

Why go? The Space Centre is great for kids, but even if you don’t have any, it’s still a fun day out. You can visit the planetarium, check out real rockets, find out what it’s like to live in space, and enjoy 150 other interactive exhibits. They also put on regular events and film clubs.

What is it? Leicester is famous for its Indian restaurants and shops, and you can find tons of places to buy authentic food, spices, clothing and other goods along the Golden Mile. It’s just a ten-minute walk from the centre on Belgrave Road, which then turns into Melton Road, at the heart of the city’s Asian community.

Why go? As well as being able to buy anything you could possibly need, the Golden Mile is home to great restaurants, like the award-winning Curry Fever. If you’re around in November, the Golden Mile is also host to the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India.

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King Power Stadium

What is it? One for the football fans, the King Power stadium is home to Leicester City Football Club. Located on Filbert Way, the stadium is the twentieth largest in England and sits a little outside the centre.

Why go? There isn’t much to do at the stadium unless there’s a game on, but if you’re a fan, it’s a must-see pilgrimage. You can walk around the ground, take a tour, have your photo taken, visit the gift shop, and try to feel some of the excitement that fans and players felt when they won the Premier League.

Leicester Cathedral

What is it? When ‘The King Under the Car Park’ was discovered in 2012, Leicester had the most positive press it had had in years. Following studies on the remains and a celebration that Benedict Cumberbatch attended, Richard III was buried at Leicester Cathedral, where he remains today.

Why go? Richard III is a huge part of Leicester’s history, and the cathedral itself is a stunning building right near the centre of town. Visiting his burial place won’t take long, but if you’re interested, the visitor centre is nearby and offers a ton of interesting educational resources about the King and the search for him.

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What is it? Leicester is a great place if you like history; in fact, it’s one of the oldest cities in England!

Why go? Known for being the place where King Richard III was slain in the Battle of Bosworth, the city came under the spotlight in 2012 when the king’s remains were unexpectedly located under a car park. Located in the old town, the renovated Alderman Newton’s School building is now home to the King Richard III Visitors Centre where history buffs and novices alike can learn more about the missing monarch through digital reimaginings, artefacts and the forensic science that helped solidify his identity. 

Grand Union Canal

What is it? While Leicester is completely landlocked, it is home to a number of green spaces and waterways. The Grand Union Canal runs from London to Birmingham, cutting straight through Leicester and offering a nice, quiet walkway minutes from the busy city.

Why go? It can get pretty hectic in Leicester centre, and just walking along the canal can feel like you’re somewhere else entirely. If you walk far enough in either direction, you can find yourself at the Space Centre, Abbey Park, or the Aylestone Meadows nature reserve.

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What is it? A 25-minute drive from the city centre, Bradgate Park is a favourite amongst outdoor-loving locals for both its expanse and its proximity.

Why go? Home to free-ranging red and fallow deer herds, the park is a rare opportunity to see the animals in their natural habitat. The ruins of Bradgate House – the childhood home of Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for nine days – are visible to walkers, whilst the eighteenth-century landmark of Old John’s Tower sits on the highest point of the park and is free for all to explore. Pitch up with a picnic if the weather holds out.

Leicester Market

What is it? Right in the centre of town near the clock tower, Leicester Market is the biggest covered outdoor market in Europe and has been exactly where it sits now for 700 years. The area is also home to a Lloyd’s Bar and a statue of the 5th Duke of Rutland.

Why go? For the most authentic Leicester experience, wander around the market on a Saturday afternoon to browse fruit, veg, clothes, and other products at the 270 stalls. The market sells anything you could possibly need, but it’s also just a great place to soak up the vibes.

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What is it? Abbey Park is a mile north of the city centre, but it’s well worth the trip because you’ll feel like you’re somewhere else entirely. Home to Leicester Abbey, the River Soar flows through the park, and you can also find a miniature railway, café, and a boating lake there.

Why go? The park is perfect for a little getaway in the summer either with kids or alone – you can play sports, lounge around, or just cool off with an ice cream. It’s also a great place to visit in the colder months, as the park holds firework celebrations and other events every year.

What is it? Everyone loves a bit of street food, right? Hosted on the last Friday of every month at LCB Depot in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter, the aptly named #LastFriday brings the best of the city’s independent vendors into the venue’s courtyard for an evening of music, art, socialising and good ol’ fashioned grub.

Why go? Whilst the brands pitching up on any given evening tend to be on rotation, visitors can expect to encounter greasy burgers, stonebaked pizza and delicious Greek food. The vegetarians and vegans are always catered for, so see out the working week by grabbing a pew and cracking a bevvie.

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New Walk

11. New Walk

What is it? Leicester’s New Walk area is a pedestrianised walkway that runs out of the city centre to Victoria Park. It’s lined with bars and restaurants and features the New Walk Museum.

Why go? The walk down the path is nice in itself, but it’s worth checking out the museum – it’s entirely free and home to Ancient Egyptian and dinosaur exhibits as well as regular events. If you reach the end you’ll come to Victoria Park (locally known as Vicky) where you can wander, look at war memorials, and check out the famous Caribbean Carnival on the first Saturday of August.

What is it? Perhaps one of the main cultural hubs of the city, the Phoenix is an independent cinema which – like so many arts venues – weathered some hard times when it came to the succession of pandemic lockdowns. Fortunately, it has survived the storm and persists in bringing a wide variety of film and art to Leicester.

Why go? Whilst its programme does cover a selection of blockbusters, it is the persistent support of indie and foreign-language film plus work by emerging filmmakers that makes Phoenix such an important venue. Plus the team even host short courses for film buffs. 

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Firebug

What is it? A long-standing Leicester institution, Firebug is a late-night bar and venue that covers all sorts of needs. A little more laidback than other bars in the area, Firebug serves food, cocktails, and anything else you could want.

Why go? In a studenty area, it’s hard to find somewhere chill that isn’t also stuffy or expensive. Firebug is open until 4am every single night of the week, playing a mix of popular and alternative music and regularly putting on quizzes, film nights, concerts, and other events.

Gate 38

What is it? Leicester is full of bars, so it takes something a little different to stand out. Gate 38 on Belvoir Street is a club with a twist – it’s aircraft-themed, and has seats designed to look like you’re sitting in a plane (complete with tiny windows).

Why go? Gate 38 has quite a young crowd as it’s in the De Montfort University area, but it’s worth nipping in for at least one – the novelty of getting your photo taken while sitting drinking in a fake aeroplane makes it worth the walk.

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University of Leicester botanic garden

What is it? The University of Leicester botanic garden sits just outside the centre, technically in Oadby. However, it remains a must-visit – it contains the Attenborough Arboretum and tons of different plants across acres of garden and glasshouses.

Why go? The botanic garden’s main goal is to underpin scientific research and offer a place for students to learn, but it is also a lovely place to spend a day. Its water features, sculptures, benches and plant life, make it the perfect place for a walk.

The Bottle Garden

What is it? The Bottle Garden opened fairly recently, but it’s already a favourite of locals and visitors. It’s a stunning cocktail bar with table service, located in the bustling St Martin’s Square.

Why go? St Martin’s Square is a lovely area to wander the shops and hang out in, and its latest addition makes it an essential visit. The Bottle Garden has expertly made drinks, cute tables, and tons of plants: it’s a contender for the most Instagrammable spot in Leicester.

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What is it? Tucked away in the middle of Leicester City Centre between two bustling streets sits St. Martin’s Square. One would be forgiven for passing it by, but through its archways sit a delectable range of restaurants, bars and cafés that mean the area is never on the quiet side.

Why go? The titular St. Martin’s Coffee shop is the ideal place to grab a hot one, plus its sourdough or focaccia sandwiches and Biscoff waffles make it a perfect place for brunch. And speaking of brunch, Kai Kitchen is the best place in town for excessive pancakes and eggs royale; its sister brand Pai takes care of dinner with pizza. Finish your day with a cocktail at the Bottle Garden (above).

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