Is Leeds safe? A tell-all safety guide

Is Leeds safe? My heart sank when I saw the statistics say no. At the start of 2022, Leeds was ranked as the fourth most dangerous city in the UK. Leeds has a bad reputation for violent crime and sexual violence. Of course, it also has an excellent reputation for outgoing nightlife, tons of museums, fun student living, and being a gateway to the Yorkshire Dales. It is entirely understandable why you are weighing it up. So, just how safe is Leeds?

As a local, I’ve never had a scary experience in Leeds. But saying that, I definitely take some precautions. This guide will evaluate safety in Leeds – providing you with everything you need to know before visiting.

Is it safe to visit Leeds?

So, is it safe to visit Leeds? Most people reading this guide will be visitors looking to spend a long weekend or city break in Leeds. The answer is yes, Leeds is safe for visitors.

Those visiting Leeds will stay for shorter periods and probably in the city centre. Since most crime occurs outside of Leeds City Centre, you’ll find the touristy areas very safe, especially during the day. The most hassle you’ll get walking around Trinity Shopping Centre and the main shopping streets will be people approaching you for money. Just be aware of any valuables in your pockets and remain polite, and you won’t have any negative interactions.

At night you can still walk around relatively hassle-free. I would avoid walking down dark, quiet side streets (which is even more the case for solo females). Be aware that drinkers can get rowdy and spill out onto the street, too, so be prepared to de-escalate uncomfortable situations if necessary. However, the bouncers in Leeds are fantastic and are outside every bar, club, and even Mcdonald’s. They are quick to intervene and, since there are nightlife venues on nearly every road in Leeds City Centre, only a shout away if you need assistance. The number of bouncers works quite effectively as a deterrent to trouble.

We’ll look closer at safety in Leeds at night and in the city centre later. You’ll leave with an in-depth knowledge of whether it is safe to visit Leeds – all factors considered. Visitors to Leeds should stay aware of their surroundings and keep their cool. Still, I wouldn’t say you need to worry more than 3/10 (1 being skip around blindfolded and 10 being evacuate immediately). And if you are still feeling unsure you can always book a walking tour.

Is Leeds City Centre safe?

Leeds Corn Exchange in black and white.

As I covered above, Leeds City Centre is safe. During the day, you’ll be surrounded by throngs of shoppers and commuters. At night, you’ll be under the watchful gaze of hundreds of bouncers.

The safety in numbers makes Leeds City Centre as safe as it is. And, anywhere from the train station up to Leeds Town Hall always has plenty of people milling around. Venture out of this area and the city centre territory, and it will get quieter and much less safe, especially at night.

So, with that in mind, what do the statistics say? According to Crime Rate, the most common crimes in Leeds City Centre are drug-related, criminal damage, and antisocial behaviour. While these are considerable crimes, they are commonplace in nightlife areas and tend to be party-fuelled. Don’t worry too much about these. Keep your wits about you, and don’t wade through groups that give off aggressive vibes or participate in drug taking.

There are also reports of violence and sexual assault dotted around the centre. While you can never prevent attacks entirely, there are some hot spots for crime in Leeds City Centre. Give these areas a miss if you are alone at night:

–         Avoid the section of Great George Street outside Leeds General Infirmary, which experienced 58 cases of violence and sexual assault in 2021.

–         Avoid Portland Gate next to the O2 Academy, which experienced 59 violence and sexual assault cases in 2021.

–         Avoid Briggate, which experienced 46 violence and sexual assault cases in 2021.

–         Avoid Vernon Street, which experienced 38 violence and sexual assault cases in 2021.

–         Pay attention to Boar Lane, Duncan Street, and side streets off Call Lane.

In groups, these areas should be safe. But by yourself, it is best to play it safe and avoid the extra risk.

Is Leeds a safe place to live?

Living in Leeds is slightly less safe than visiting Leeds. This is mainly because you will be more at risk of burglary – one of Leeds’ most common crimes (3,732 cases in 2021) after violence and sexual assault (33,738 cases). If you plan to live in Leeds, invest in house security, be that surveillance cameras, shatter-proof windows, or reinforced locks. You can also lessen your risk by researching the best and worst areas in Leeds (more on that later). Of course, house insurance is always a good idea, too, just in case you get unlucky.

However, in general, Leeds is a fun place to live still. The nightlife and party culture are always thriving, whether you head to one of the nightclubs like Space or dress up in fancy dress to complete the Otley Run pub crawl. The city also has its fair share of museums and galleries, like the Royal Armouries and Leeds City Museum. Is Leeds a safe place to live? Yes. Safety is manageable enough to still be able to enjoy yourself. And Leeds is much safer than neighbouring cities like Manchester (you can read more on whether Manchester is safe here).

Is Leeds safe at night?

Granary Wharf at night with a blue illuminated ceiling.

Safety in Leeds is mostly manageable at night. In fact, there are so many amazing things to do in Leeds at night. You’ll be fine if you are in a group and stick to the city centre or a busy student area like Headingley. Just avoid any arguments or heavily intoxicated people.

If you are alone at night, Leeds is much less safe. You can walk around Leeds City Centre at night if you stick to reasonably busy, well-lit main roads. You’ll probably experience a bit of drunken catcalling if you are a girl, so just be prepared for that.

Outside of the city centre, how safe Leeds is at night varies massively depending on your area. For example, a suburb like Beeston, Gipton, or Harehills would be much less safe than an area like Headingley, Pudsey, or Chapel Allerton. Similarly, I wouldn’t recommend wandering around greenspace areas like Hyde Park alone in the early hours.

Luckily, unless you live in Leeds, the only place you’ll probably be wandering around in the night is Leeds City Centre, since this is the heart and soul of Leeds’ nightlife. But I’ve researched the areas you should avoid in Leeds based on the crime rate – just as a little extra food for thought.

What areas to avoid in Leeds

90% of areas in Leeds are completely fine to visit and live in. Is Leeds a dangerous city? Not in my opinion. However, 10% of the city requires a little more care, and if you’d rather be safe than sorry, these are the areas to avoid in Leeds.

– Beeston

– Harehills

– Middleton

– Morley

– Armley

– Seacroft

– Gipton

– Holbeck

– Hunslet

Is Leeds safe for students?

As a whole, Leeds is really safe for students. The student lifestyle naturally involves hanging around in large groups. If you move off campus to a student house, you’ll move to a fun, busy area like Headingley or Hyde Park. Everyone is welcoming towards students, and Leeds is a youthful city for all its old-school pubs and middle-aged football fans. Students will find themselves easily and safely slotting into a Leeds lifestyle. In fact, Leeds is one of the best student cities in the UK.

The main concerns for students in Leeds are burglary and drug-related crimes. Burglary tends to, unfortunately, come with the territory of living in low-cost share houses. Landlords don’t always keep these properties in excellent condition, and with so many people coming and going, it can be easy for someone to forget to lock up one time – especially after a drunken night out. It might be worth finding a sharehouse that allows you to lock your room. Before signing a contract, you should also vet properties (and landlords) carefully.

Drugs-wise it, again, unfortunately, comes with the university territory. But it is important to prioritise your own safety and avoid interactions with people who could be untrustworthy and unsafe. It is equally unwise to meet anyone near (or God forbid at or inside) your house and not ever borrow anything from anyone. If you are living in a sharehouse, while you can’t control other people’s behaviour, it might be worth setting boundaries with flatmates about who can and can’t come to the house.

Is Leeds safe for women?

Kind of. Leeds is great fun for everyone and, in the day, is typically fantastic for women. When evaluating the question of ‘how safe is Leeds’, women do need to take extra precautions at night. There are some places and situations in Leeds that women should avoid alone. Considering the sky-high rate of sexual assault (33,738 cases in 2021), you need to pay close attention to your surroundings and take proactive preventative steps. That sucks, and it shouldn’t be the case, but unfortunately, that is the reality.

The city centre is fantastic in the day and highly safe for women – solo and with friends or a significant other. The majority of suburbs in Leeds are also brilliant and totally safe for women in the day. The main issues crop up in remote places like greenspace, quiet side streets, and after dark.

You’ll be fine navigating your way to the train station or to and from a restaurant in the city center. Just stick to the main roads. I’ve never had any other issues apart from catcalling that stopped as soon as I ignored it. For longer walks outside of the city centre, I’d recommend getting Ubers after dark. It is much safer, especially since the app gives you driver details and the number plate you can send to friends.

I would also recommend investing in safety gadgets for women. When travelling, I always carry a personal alarm and it just creates an extra bit of security.

Is Leeds Festival safe?

A group of people raving at a festival.

Leeds Festival is very safe and one of the best festivals to visit in the UK. You can read my complete guide on what to know about visiting Leeds Festival here. It includes the complete rundown on camping areas and how to pick the best campsite (trust me, you don’t want your tent urinated on).

Aside from light-hearted antisocial behaviour and public indecency, though, Leeds Festival has a safe, friendly atmosphere. The most significant danger is drug taking, and a fair few people have sadly died following taking drugs while partying at the festival – ecstasy, aka MDMA, seems the biggest culprit. That is within your control, though; if you avoid taking drugs, you’ll be 100% safe. If you take something that has a harmful effect on you, you can go to one of the emergency tents for judgement-free emergency healthcare.

To Conclude

Leeds is a fantastic city. I might be biased, but I love the industrial character, nitty-gritty side street pubs, and flamboyant student culture. Leeds is safe enough to enjoy with a sprinkle of vigilance and makes for an exciting place to let your hair down.

Have you visited Leeds before? What are your thoughts on the question “how safe is Leeds”? Drop your opinions in the comments below.

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