When I tell people in my home country that I moved to the UK, they always ask me “how’s life in London?”, and I awkwardly need to explain to them I don’t live in London, and I live somewhere near Manchester because the reality is many people have no idea where Leeds is.
If you’re trying to make a decision on where to move, and you’re thinking about Leeds, then you’re in the right place.
In this blog, I’m going to tell you all the things you must know about the city, what is like living in Leeds as an expat, and tips from my personal experience.
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A Guide for Living in Leeds as an Expat
Cost of living in Leeds
Leeds is an affordable city, but it doesn’t mean that everything is cheap. After all, the UK isn’t a cheap country to move to, so depending on the country you come from, your perception of the cost of living in Leeds may be different.
If you’re moving from a Mediterranean country, like me, then you’ll soon realise that the UK isn’t cheap.
The average monthly cost for an apartment in the city centre – is 735.00 £
The average monthly cost for an apartment outside the city centre is 540.00 £
61.00 £ for a monthly bus ticket
Between £150 and £200 a month per two people
12.00 £ per person
Pros and cons of living in Leeds
Pros of living in Leeds
It is a multicultural city
One of the best things about Leeds is that the city is very diverse. Despite being smaller than London, you still find that multicultural atmosphere that any expat loves.
Leeds is home to over 170 nationalities (Polish, Romanian, Indian, etc.) which makes it a great place to not only learn about British culture but other cultures too.
As an expat, living in a multicultural city makes things easier – especially the feeling of being accepted and welcomed and the chance to make friends from all over the world.
My time in Leeds wouldn’t be the same without all the friendships I’ve made with people from other countries.
There are plenty of green spaces
If nature is important to you, then you’ll be happy to know that Leeds has many green spaces, not only in the city centre but in the surroundings too.
You can easily disconnect from the city atmosphere by visiting its central parks, and canal or getting a bus and exploring the incredible Roundhay Park – the best park in Leeds.
In addition to these city parks, you can also visit nearby country houses such as Harewood House and Temple Newsam which are among the most popular in the area.
These country houses also host events that you can’t miss out on. For example, Harewood House is beautifully decorated during Christmas, which makes it a special place to visit.
It is a budget-friendly city
As I mentioned previously, Leeds is a budget-friendly city in comparison with London.
In Leeds, you can find all sorts of accommodation that suit your budget. If you want to live in the city centre, you’ll pay a higher rent, however, if living in the city centre isn’t a priority for you, then other neighbourhoods – not necessarily far from Leeds- have reasonable prices.
Supermarket prices can be similar to other cities in the UK, however, you can always go to Leeds City Market and buy high-quality and cheaper products. The market includes ingredients such as spices that you may not find in supermarkets.
On top of these, there are many budget-friendly and free activities to do in Leeds – from visiting the museums and parks to taking a boat ride.
The good variety of restaurants and cafes
Foodies, coffee and tea lovers will be surprised by the number of restaurants and cafes you’ll find in Leeds.
Whether you fancy Thai, Italian or Lebanese, you’ll find a restaurant or takeaway to have these cuisines. But not only does Leeds have international restaurants, but great British pub food and fine dining.
One of my favourite places to eat is Trinity Kitchen, located in Trinity Leeds shopping centre in the city centre. This is the sort of place you want to visit if you’re planning to eat out with a group of friends.
In Trinity Kitchen, you’ll find street food stalls that serve anything from noodles to Mexican burritos and kebabs. They often change some of these food stalls. So it makes it a cool place to go, and it’s perfect for those on a budget too.
📌 Related blog post: 12 Best Cafes and Places for Brunch in Leeds
Well-connected with other cities
Leeds is well-connected with other cities and towns, not only in Yorkshire or Northern England but with London and central England too.
This is an important thing to consider if you don’t drive, or you prefer to use public transport. In the city centre, you’ll find the train and coach station from where you can travel to many national destinations.
Leeds has also its own airport, Leeds-Bradford airport, which is about 27 minutes car drive or 40 minutes bus drive.
The university options
I moved to Leeds because I wanted to study abroad for my Master’s Degree. Leeds is such a great city to study in because of the student atmosphere, the reputable universities and student support.
The nightlife in Leeds is really good because you can find all sorts of pubs and clubs. Leeds’ most famous street for a night out is Call Lane.
Cons of living in Leeds
The weather in the UK is extremely unpredictable during spring and summer, and it’s often rainy and cold during the winter.
There isn’t much difference between London and Leeds weather. Leeds is slightly colder and gets a little less sun, but you won’t even notice the difference across the UK.
If you come from a warm country, be ready to buy good jumpers, gloves, hats, coats, and of course, a good umbrella because Leeds can be very windy.
And when I mean windy, I can’t remember how many umbrellas have been broken by the strong wind.
Something that I still struggle with is the dark and long winters. There is not much sunlight, it rains and it gets dark as soon as it’s 3:30 pm. This is a big culture shock, and it’s probably one of the reasons why many expats from some European countries go back to their countries.
As an example, I am from Southern Spain where it gets dark around 6:30 pm. That means I have 3 hours less of light and sun in the UK.
If you love winter, being cosy in your living room and sipping hot chocolate, then you’ll love living in Leeds or the UK.
The airport is small
It’s great that Leeds has an airport, but the downside is that Leeds Bradford Airport is a very small airport which means there are fewer flight routes.
Having said so, it has recently opened a few more routes to other countries. However, the flights may not be regular to your desired destination.
If you want to travel from Leeds to long-haul destinations, and even many European destinations, you’ll probably have to travel to Manchester Airport, which is about 1 hour from Leeds by train.
There is no coast
Are you a sea lover? Well, then Leeds may not be the city for you. There is no coast and the closest beach is about 1 hour and a half.
Many locals travel to coastal towns or abroad during the summer holidays, and therefore, you won’t see the city as busy as it’s in September when schools and university start.
The lack of events
When you compare Leeds with London or Edinburgh, you realise that there aren’t as many leisure activities and events as in Leeds. I am not saying there aren’t at all, but you can’t compare big cities with smaller ones like Leeds.
At the same time, Leeds doesn’t have as many attractions either – apart from the couple of museums you find in the city centre.
Living in Leeds as a student
Leeds is one of the best university cities in England. This is because the city has over three universities that offer a good number of courses across different subjects – Tourism, Translation, IT, Teaching, etc.
All these universities have amazing campuses and host many events for students – from the popular freshers week to language exchanges and sports clubs. In addition to this, you get many discounts as a student which help you save money when you move to the city.
There is plenty of student accommodation in Leeds, and you can find anything from an expensive modern studio on the university campus to an affordable single room in a shared house.
If you’re on a budget, I highly recommend looking for shared accommodation. There are plenty of them, but the best and cheaper shared houses tend to be taken early in the year, so don’t look for accommodation at the last minute.
Best neighbourhoods in Leeds for expats
If you’re wondering what are the best places to live in Leeds, here are my top 3 options for you:
Headingley is a popular neighbourhood for students as it’s close to university campuses such as Leeds Beckett. But it’s also a great area for expats and young adults as it has everything you need – supermarkets, independent restaurants and shops, bars, etc.
Burley is a good neighbourhood for those who are on a budget, and this is why it attracts students, expats and even families.
The good thing about living in this neighbourhood is the fact that you aren’t far from the city centre and you have supermarkets, unique restaurants, a cinema and lovely green spaces such as the beautiful Kirkstall Abbey.
If you want to stay as close to the city centre as possible, Leeds Waterfront is the place to live in Leeds for you. Although its location is a great advantage, especially if you don’t have a car, be prepared to pay a higher rent than in other areas of Leeds.
What I love the most about Leeds Waterfront is that despite being super close to the city centre, it’s a very tranquil area.
📌 Related blog: The Ultimate Leeds Accommodation Guide
Yorkshire words you must know
Whether you’re an English native speaker or not, you’ll realise that the accent in Leeds is a bit different from other areas in the UK.
The Yorkshire accent is included in the 10 most difficult British accents list, so don’t worry if you can’t understand everything someone tells you. I’ve been in that position before and it does take time to adapt to the accent!
The best way to improve your understanding as quickly as possible is, of course, to talk to the locals.
In addition to the accent, you’ll also hear words you’ll never hear in other parts of the UK. Here are some common expressions or words you must know:
- Aye – yes
- Brew – a cup of tea
- Dinner – lunch (yes, this is a very confusing one!)
- Butty – sandwich
- Lass – girl
- Lad – boy
- Nowt – nothing
- Faffing – wasting time
Traditional food in Leeds
Leeds doesn’t have traditional dishes itself, but the region of Yorkshire has, and of course, you’ll find these products or dishes in Leeds.
If you have any questions or want any advice on living in Leeds, reach me on my email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram. I’m always happy to help.
P.S. Do you know any friend who’s moving to Leeds? Share the blog with them 🙂
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Frequently asked questions about life in Leeds
Is Leeds a good place to live?
Yes, Leeds is a welcoming and vibrant city. There are many good things about living in Leeds: the numerous green spaces, the variety of restaurants and independent cafes, the student life, the cost of living, etc.
Is it expensive to live in Leeds?
It all depends on where you want to live in Leeds – city centre, outskirts, apartment, house, etc. If you compare London or Oxford with Leeds, then Leeds is much cheaper than these two cities.
Which is the best area to live in Leeds?
Some of the best areas to live in Leeds are Headingley, Leeds Waterfront and Roundhay.