The Insider Guide to Leicester
Planning to visit or are you a newbie and need the inside line? We’ve pounded the streets, hit up the best places and discovered a whole load of fun for you.
If you’re keen to make the most of this culturally diverse city, but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s get started…
There’s no shortage of places to scoff your face in these parts, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more diverse place to eat. The city’s Golden Mile is heaving with a fantastic range of curry houses, Indian cafes, dessert shops and lots of veggie-friendly places too. The best thing? You can eat a huge feast here for just a few quid. Bonus!
If you’re staying in town, head over to restaurant/bar, Sonrisa. Go for a lazy lunch here, or an evening meal and don’t be surprised if you’re tempted to stay late into the night. Expect small delectables plates inspired by South America, plus the decor is totally Insta-worthy. Giggling Squid serves the best Thai restaurant in the city and a firm Muddy fave – try the Gra Po and you won’t be disappointed!
NineB Restaurant is part of the mahoosive Great Central Square regeneration on the former Great Central Railway station site. Despite the glam decor, the vibe is friendly and very relaxed. Check out our review here. For street food, try Last Friday at the LCB Depot. The monthly pop-up runs every last Friday of the month (obvs!) and you’re guaranteed to have an amazing variety of food. Be prepared to queue or come early to grab the best dishes before they run out; it’s been known to happen!
Restaurant 263 on Highcross Street is a new place that offers fine-dining style tasting menus, think posh without the price tag. Book a table for the weekend and enjoy a blind tasting menu.
For brunch, you can’t beat Kai. It’s one of the most popular joints in the city, so get here early to bag a table. Order a stack of fluffy pancakes and you won’t be disappointed. Topping include berry jam, banana, maple syrup, Red Leicester cheese, bacon and more. Bread and Honey is a cutesy coffee shop on King Street and serves fabulous coffee, homemade soups, cakes and bread from an award-winning craft baker.
Don’t leave without popping into Cocoa Amore where you can design your own ‘build a bar’ or book on to one of their chocolate workshops. Nearby, Gelato Village is run by two Italian friends and they serve real Italian gelato using locally sourced milk, pistachios from Sicily and lemons from the Amalfi Coast. Bellissima! Elsewhere, Mrs Bridge’s Tearoom is in the oldest tea room in Leicester built way back in the 1700s. Scoff homemade cakes, toasties and more while you watch the world go by.
The Gresham Aparthotel is the newest hotel to open in the city and is in one of the most iconic buildings in the city! There’s rooftop terrace, a gym, bar, fitness suite not to mention the 121 apartments and many original features still remain.
If you want to splash some cash, head outta town and book a room at Winstanley House. Rooms here are elegant, spacious and seriously plush and the hotel is surrounded by gorgeous green parkland.
You can easily cover the city in a weekend and there really are some treasures to discover here from the King Richard III Visitor Centre where you can see exhibits on King Richard III’s life, death and grave discovery to The Guildhall – one of the best preserved timber framed halls in the country, dating back 600 years and the oldest building still in use in the city.
A short drive away, the National Space Centre will take you on an adventure through time and space. With six interactive galleries, the UK’s largest planetarium, and the iconic 42m high Rocket Tower, it’s totally out of this world! If you’ve got the kids in tow, they’ll love Leicester Museum and Art Gallery where they can have fun exploring the dinosaur gallery.
Head to Black Iron Social (pic above) in The Gresham for pre-dinner drinks. They serve sophisticated cocktails, sparkling wines and everything in-between. Bottle Garden Bar in St Martin’s Square is a beautiful botanical cocktail bar with a garden theme – think hanging plants, trees and herbs in pots and heaps of faux greenery dotted around. Try their Toblerone Martini; one, and you’ll be hooked! If you’re here with friends, book wine tasting at Black Iron Social or Veeno.
Loseby Lane inthe Old Town has a boutique vibe and is dotted with pretty indie shops including interiors store, Pomponette and Muddy’s award-winning art gallery, Wingates. Then there’s St Martin’s Square just around the corner filled with cool indie shops like Nada, Leicester’s first zero waste, plastic free bulk store, which sells a huge range of sustainable food items. We also love popping into Harriman & Co and picking up pretty and practical homeware and browsing the best-sellers at Fox Books.
Highcross is the main shopping centre and where you’ll find largely high street stores, but you won’t be able to resist shopping in Zara and Jo Malone and you’re always bound to find something in John Lewis. Head slightly further afield into Stoneygate and you’ll find a treasure trove of beauty delights over at Amelia Nour. Inside the shelves are teeming with beautiful vegan, vegetarian and eco-friendly products ranging from Oskia to Tata Harper.
A few doors down is Nest, a gorgeous boutique shop selling an inspirational collection of gifts from jewellery to stationery. While Fosse Park isn’t in the city, it’s worth a visit as it’s a fabulous shopping destination. The new part, Fosse Park West is where you’ll find the second largest Next store in the UK plus, Flannels is filled with great brands including Charlotte Tilbury, YSL, Kenzo, Balenciaga, Hugo Boss and more. After you’ve caned the credit card, head to Isha Patisserie for brunch or Grounded Kitchen for healthy, tasty Korean ‘bowl’ food.
As well as the wonderful sights of the city, it’s totally worth visiting the stunning Bradgate Park. It’s the perfect spot to clear a fuzzy head. Set in 830 acres, the park is steeped in history – from its Norman beginnings as a hunting park to the building of Bradgate House, home of Lady Jane Grey in the early 1500s and beyond. Todays, there’s footpaths, small streams, a kids playground, a small cafe, stone ruins, plus roaming peacocks and wild fallow deer.
Abbey Pumping Station collects and displays the industrial, technological and scientific heritage of Leicester and is right next door to the Space Centre and features four working steam-powered beam engines and exhibits for transport, public health, light and optics, toys and more.
Don’t miss Leicester’s Botanical Gardens. Part of the University of Leicester but often overlooked, highlights include The National Orchid Garden, which boasts the world’s largest orchid display!
Don’t think there’s enough to do in the city with the kids? Think again! Ninja Warrior is based on the ITV show and here, kids can unleash their inner ninja and climb, balance, jump and swing across different obstacles. Tree Top Adventure Golf is a great place for some fun with the whole family – there’s two full 18-hole mini golf courses inside. For some big kid fun, check out Lane 7 – it’s bowling but like you’ve never seen. There’s seven bars, 5 street food vendors, 11 bowling lanes, ping-pong, pool, beer pong, karaoke, shuffleboard, gaming stations and more but, it’s for over 18’s only!
If you prefer something a little more, adventurous, try axe–throwing at Caddyshackers or get locked in a mysterious rooms with only 60 minutes to get out at Escape Leicester. Get your sugar fix at Doughnotts and indulge in crazy-flavoured doughnuts like ‘Thicka than a Snicka.’ Be warned, you may end up leaving with an entire box!
Join the Dead Leicester tours which guide you through medieval streets where you can hear stories and legends of foul beasts and dastardly deeds, of lost souls and fallen kings. During September, Heritage Open Days offers visitors the chance to explore some of the city’s historic places free of charge including Castle Gardens, Belgrave Hall, Abbey Pumping Station and more.
St George’s Festival takes place in spring and features morris dancing, music, crafts and entertainment and over the summer, the city comes alive with a gamut of fantastic events including the infectious reggae and soca beats from the Caribbean Carnival. There’s also outdoor cinema and live dance performances during An Indian Summer and you won’t want to miss Riverside Festival in June; this free two-day waterside festival includes fun on and off the water.
If you’ve got time, book tickets to some great theatre shows over at the city’s Curve theatre. This summer they’ve got some great shows including The Da Vinci Code, Mamma Mia, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Billy Elliot and more.
Found this Insider Guide useful? Check out the brand new Insider Guides to cities and towns from the other Muddy Stilettos editors…