Leicester is the main city in the UK’s county of Leicestershire, located in the East Midlands. Although not a primary tourism hotspot when compared with other more famous UK cities, such as London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, there are still plenty of reasons to add Leicester your travel list.
Beautiful architecture can be found along the busy streets, there are several interesting churches and museums to enjoy, and there are plenty of shops if you fancy a bit of retail therapy. You’ll find a true blend of international cuisines, and the presence of two major universities means that the nightlife is energetic and youthful.
One of the most ethnically-diverse cities in the whole of the UK, Leicester is also one of the country’s oldest cities.
Here are five great things to see and do on a visit to Leicester:
1. Journey into the past at the King Richard III Visitor Centre
The discovery of the remains of King Richard III below an otherwise non-descript Leicester car park has seen interest in the city really explode.
The last English king that was killed in battle, King Richard III died in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth. His remains were thought to have been thrown into a river during the Reformation, but researchers believed that the once-mighty king was actually still buried in the Greyfriars part of the city. Excavations began in 2012, finding the ruins of the historical church of Greyfriars and the skeletal remains of a person with battle wounds. Following extensive investigations, the skeleton was found to be none other than King Richard III.
The new King Richard III Visitor Centre was erected around the excavation site and the uncovered ruins of the medieval Greyfriars Church.
Take a fascinating journey into the past to learn more about the former English monarch, life in England during the time of King Richard III (1400s), changes implemented by the king during his short period of rule (1483 to 1485), fierce battles that raged across medieval England, the battle that ultimately cost the king his life, and more. There are also fantastic interactive displays showing the stages and processes of the excavations, in addition to detailing the extensive DNA testing, carbon dating, and other investigative measures carried out on the remains.
Divided into three sections, called Dynasty, Death, and Discovery, the museum not only teaches more about the former king, but also lets you take a trip into the England of yesteryear and see how different times were in the past.
Admission to the King Richard III Visitor Centre costs 7.95 GBP (approximately 11.40 USD) for adults, and 4.75 GBP (approximately 6.80 USD) for children under the age of 15.
2. Admire the architectural gem of Leicester Cathedral
A church has stood on the spot of Leicester Cathedral for several hundred years, with the first records dating back to the 1080s. A Norman church was built around this time, replacing an older church. The present cathedral building is thought to date back to then, although there have been various alternations and additions over the years, including the soaring spire. Extensive restrains and renovations mean that the building is now largely Gothic in appearance. Previously a grand church, it did not get cathedral status until the 1920s.
A beautiful building inside and out, it features many grand and detailed religious carvings and statues, as well as an ornate window dedicated to people who died during World War I. The high ceilings are impressive, and you can discover the smaller interior chapels dedicated to different saints. The main building is dedicated to Saint Martin. A newer chapel houses the newly-interred remains of King Richard III, buried in the cathedral in 2015.
There is no fee to visit Leicester Cathedral, although donations are gratefully received.
3. See the High Cross and walk across a medieval marketplace
Unlike many other modern English cities, there are very visible remnants from the medieval ages (5th – 15th centuries AD) around Leicester. The medieval city grew within the older remains of the ancient Roman wall, with four imposing gates protecting the area. As you stroll through the narrow streets of what was medieval Leicester today, it is quite easy to imagine what the area must have looked like in the past.
The High Cross stands in an open square, the only reminder of what was once a bustling place of trade in the heart of medieval Leicester. The area was once the local marketplace, with a domed shelter built in the 1500s to protect and shelter merchants. The shelter was later demolished, with a monument now marking its spot.
You might be interested in these Airbnbs!
4. Learn more about the city’s past at the Guildhall
One of the UK’s best-preserved timber-framed buildings, Leicester’s Guildhall has a history that stretches back around 600 years. The oldest part of the building, the Great Hall, was constructed in the late 1300s, with later additions to the structure.
The building has served many purposes, including as a meeting place, as a library, as a court, and as an events venue. Replaced by the Town Hall, the Guildhall is now a museum and gallery.
Exhibits and displays include historic items discovered around Leicester. Admire the craftsmanship in the Great Hall, and pay particular attention to the beautiful paintings above the doors. A set of wooden steps leads up to rooms that were once used to house travelling courtroom judges and for the jury to deliberate cases. The Recorder’s Room has been preserved as it would have been in the past, and the next room often has eye-catching displays of art. Continue into the next room and you can see a collection of old books, carefully housed behind glass panes.
After exploring the upper level, come back to the central courtyard and follow the signs to the cells. Peer inside the small and claustrophobic Victorian cells and try not to be startled by what you see in the gloom!
There is no charge to visit the Guildhall, but donations are welcome.
5. Enjoy modern shopping in a historic city
Whether you’re looking for branded or high street clothing, electrical items, works of art, books, food, or other items, Leicester’s shopping streets are sure to not disappoint.
There are several shopping centres in the city centre, including Highcross Leicester and Haymarket Shopping Centre. The large and dazzling John Lewis store is a modern architectural jewel, with highly-reflective walls shining in the sunlight.
Gallowtree Gate is one of the city’s main shopping streets, and you can often hear the lilting strains from buskers and watch an assortment of street entertainers. Wander through The Lanes and you’ll discover a number of independent outlets, stylish boutiques, tempting delicatessens, and charming cafes. Wander along the Golden Mile and browse in the biggest concentration of vibrant Indian jewellery stores anywhere outside of India.
Other things to see and do around Leicester
Unleash your inner-astronaut with a visit to the National Space Centre and indulge in a little bit of locomotive heritage with a ride on the Great Central Railway. Enjoy the grand architecture of places like the Town Hall, Pare’s Bank, and Hogarths, visit ancient churches, such as St Mary de Castro and St Nicholas, see the remains of the city’s old Roman bath house at the Jewry Wall, and relax in delightful parks such as Abbey Park and Bradgate Park.
With so many excellent things to experience in Leicester, there really is no excuse for not visiting! Book your trip and get ready for an exciting time.
Get Trip101 in your inbox