Say what you like about Leeds - and here in Sheffield saying what you like about Leeds tends to involve the words such as ‘brash’ and ‘soulless’ - but the noisy neighbour has...pizazz.
It just does.
It also has a city centre that’s not been waiting for a stalled development for the past decade. Their council has been getting on and actually, well, developing.
There’s a brand new city centre shopping complex and an arena to add to its already impressive collection of jewels - Leeds Art Gallery, the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Grand Theatre and Kirkgate Market.
It’s enough to impress even the staunchest of Sheffielder. And it’s a great place to spend 24 hours.
That’s what we did when boutique hotel chain Malmaison offered us a slap-bang city centre base to explore the mini metropolis.
As it turned out, just leaving Malmaison was difficult. The room and restaurant are so delightful you could easily wile away 24 hours there. More of which later.
For now, we did eventually tear ourselves away for a look around the all new Trinity shopping centre, an astonishing glass-domed, 1 million square foot, 120 store complex which is not just the only mall to open in Europe this year but which has single-handedly lifted Leeds from seventh to fourth in the UK retail rankings.
It opened in March, and was followed in July by the opening of the new Arena. With a 13,500 capacity it’s slightly smaller than its Sheffield cousin but it has the advantage of being slap bang in the city centre. Bruce Springsteen has already played there. Elton John and Kaiser Chiefs are booked for upcoming gigs. The BBC Sports Personality of the Year will also be held there in December. In short, it has pull.
Not all Leeds attractions were built this year, though. Leeds Art Gallery is a stunning 1888 complex holding one of the country’s finest collections of 20th century art. The City Gallery meanwhile opened in 1819 and tells the story of Leeds from prehistory to modern day with a hugely interesting collection of artefacts and objects. Slightly further afield, the impressive Royal Armouries Museum and stately home Harewood House are both worth a trip.
Leeds is no slouch in the nightlife department either. All tastes are catered for here, from the thriving bars of Call Lane to amazing music venues (The Cockpit is widely regarded as one of the best places in the UK to catch a band) and classy restaurants like the river-side Brasserie Forty 4.
We, however, spent our evening enjoying the refined surroundings of Malmaison’s own Brasserie. Plush leather seating, high ceilings and an open fireplace give the room a feeling of understated luxury - and the food matches it in every way. Particularly recommended is the steak. Mouth watering doesn’t begin to sum it up.
The rooms themselves are equally pleasing coming with super-powered showers, flat screen TVs and sigh-inducing large beds. It provides yet another little piece of...pizazz in this city full of it.
Stay: Malmaison Leeds, in Swingate, LS1, is a gorgeous little 100-room boutique based in the converted offices of what used to be the Leeds City Tramways Office. The Mal Brasserie has a menu featuring favourites and British classics with a twist. Prices depend on room, day, season and package with all information at Mal Maison Leeds
Get There: CrossCountry Trains run hourly between Leeds and Sheffield starting from £10.50 open return. Information at Cross Country Trains
More: Find out all about Leeds attractions, restaurants, nightlife and hotels at Visit Leeds or 0113 242 5242.