Museums in Leeds: Top 10 Museums In Leeds City Centre

Head ducked from the wind, shoulders hunched, I pace along Headrow as the rain falls. Leeds is the sort of city that comes into its own with a beer garden and festival-friendly weather. The city centre, while compact, turns extroverted along with its residents between late spring and early autumn. This rain isn’t fantastic. Luckily, what is on offer in wet weather is a lesser-visited collection of museums in Leeds.

These Leeds museums are dotted around the city centre and its outskirts, and some offer free entry – perfect for finding free things to do in Leeds. The Royal Armouries Museum, Thwaite Windmill, and the Leeds Discovery Centre (better suited to those finding things to do in Leeds with toddlers). As a passionate Leeds local, I’m excited to show you Leeds’ rainy day potential and cutting-edge museum scene. Let’s take a look at the city’s top 10 museums.

1. Royal Armouries Museum

Opening times: 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Sunday, outside of school holidays

Highlights: War history and weaponry exhibits

Address: Armouries Drive, Leeds, LS10 1LT

Price: Free

Think Game of Thrones and endless spears. The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds is a capsule of weaponry and war history. The museum has everything from crossbow exhibits to real-life sword-fighting displays. The armour displays are spectacular, too; an elephant is donned in ancient armour in one exhibition hall. If you are interested in war history, the Royal Armouries Museum is an unrivalled attraction in Leeds. You can easily spend 2-3 hours, and it is one of the best free things to do in Leeds regarding value for money.

You can walk to the Royal Armouries Museum or catch the water taxi for a couple of quid from Leeds Train Station’s south exit. I’d recommend the latter. The water taxi takes you through the historic Docks area with beautiful converted red-brick mills flanking your passage. It is a scenic and budget-friendly addition to your museum experience. 

While this museum in Leeds is definitely more tailored towards things to do in Leeds for young adults, it is relatively child friendly. Nothing entirely unsuitable for young children, but they may find it a little dry and challenging attention-span-wise. If you want to really appreciate the experience, it is probably one to leave the kids at home for when visiting.

2. Leeds City Museum

Opening times: 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Friday, 11 am to 5 pm weekends

Highlights: Natural history and archaeology 

Address: Millenium Square, Leeds, LS2 8BH

Price: Free

Museums are a special category when it comes to free things to do in Leeds. And Leeds City Museum is a top free museum in Leeds to visit, especially if you are interested in natural history or archaeology. The museum sits on the outskirts of the iconic Millenium Square in an imposing stone building weathered black over the years – somewhat of an exhibit itself. Over 800,000 ‘animals, vegetables and minerals’ are displayed in its halls. Plus, a designated section to the ‘Leeds Story’ on the second floor and an archaeology section that houses the 3000-year-old Egyptian mummy Nesyamun. Leeds City Museum is a bit of a pick-and-mix experience. Slightly eclectic, it is loveably diverse and a brilliant museum in Leeds to spend an hour or two.

You can walk to Leeds City Museum directly from the train station in 10 minutes. Super simple to incorporate into a Leeds itinerary, I can personally account for this museum’s laidback and lowkey nature, having visited solo and in a couple. If you are looking for things to do in Leeds city centre for couples, Leeds City Museum has plenty of conversation starters. It also has the perfect non-stuffy atmosphere to boost your confidence sightseeing solo.

3. Leeds Discovery Centre

Opening times: Appointment only

Highlights: Natural history and exclusive behind-the-scenes collections

Address: Carlisle Road, Leeds, LS10 1LB

Price: Free

Leeds Discovery Centre is the city’s archives collection and essentially the most exclusive museum in Leeds. You’ll need to email to arrange a visit. However, once that is organised, you’ll get a free tour of over 1 million different artefacts. Leeds Discovery Centre has its own conservation centre and research facility. Still, for the most part, it acts as an object store for all the major museums and galleries in the city. This means you get to see all the fascinating exhibits that don’t fit in the public museums in Leeds – a sneaky behind-the-scenes insight. Expect everything from stuffed zebras and skeletons to prehistoric axes, antique patchwork, and cameras. It truly is one of the most exclusive and immersive museums in Leeds.

This museum is around a mile from Leeds Train Station (a 20-minute walk) and is one of the furthest museums from Leeds city centre. It is worth the trip, though, and you’ll walk through the beautiful Docks District with the opportunity to detour along the scenic White Rose Path, which hugs the River Aire. Otherwise, grab an Uber or catch the 29 or PR3 bus.

4. MathsCity

Opening times: 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Sunday

Highlights: Science and kid-centric exhibits

Address: Upper Floor, Trinity Shopping Centre, Leeds, LS21 5AT

Price: £6.50 per adult, £4.50 per child, and free for under 3s

MathCity is the place to be if you want kid-friendly museums in Leeds. The museum is everything maths should be if it wants to pique children’s attention. There’s a giant bubble, lasers, and constant puzzles – each age appropriate to different children’s levels and ideal for kids to explore semi-independently with adults engaged in their learning. The museum is the UK’s first-ever National Mathematics Discovery Centre and hopes to pioneer new levels of understanding of math’s importance in everyday life. Expect colour and chaos. 

Not only is this one of the best things to do with kids in Leeds, but it is also one of the best things to do in Leeds with toddlers. Aside from the fact toddlers go free, you can also relax knowing that toddler volume and tears are all accepted in MathCity. It is a low-pressure environment for anxious mums and super-engaging for even the youngest visitors. Plenty of tactile, sensory exhibits are age-appropriate for toddlers with a bit of guidance. So when searching for things to do in Leeds with toddlers, add MathCity to your to-do list.

5. Leeds Art Gallery

Opening times: 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Saturday, 11 am to 3 pm Sundays

Highlights: 20th-century art and regular workshops

Address: The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AA

Price: Free

Believe it or not, Leeds Art Gallery is another of the best free things to do in Leeds. And this beautiful museum in Leeds has a spectacular collection of 20th-century artwork – well worth visiting rain or shine, not just as an attraction to escape grizzly weather. The Victorian building is full of multiple floors of exhibitions, including Victorian artwork, sculptures, and regular rotating temporary exhibits. You can spend over an hour wandering between exhibition halls and floors. And that’s without booking into a workshop experience. 

The Leeds Art Gallery is just a 10-minute walk from Leeds Train Station and accessible on foot. It is one of the most fun things to do in Leeds for young adults, especially with their regular Youth Collective workshops for people aged 14-21. However, it is also one of the most romantic things to do in Leeds for couples – so I’ll leave your invite list up to you.

6. Leeds University Library Galleries

Opening times: 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Saturday

Highlights: Topical exhibits and a mix of international and local history

Address: Parkinson Building, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9JT

Price: Free

Leeds University Library Galleries is a collection of galleries within the library, including The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery. To experience that academic aesthetic, you can beat a visit to these museums in Leeds city centre. And both galleries are free for visitors – regardless of whether you are a student or a general public member. Current exhibits include ‘Becoming the Brontes and ‘Shifting Borders: A Journey to the Centre of our World (s)’. Leeds University Library Galleries is perfect for topical exhibitions and challenging your worldview.

Reaching Leeds University Library Galleries is just a 20-minute walk from the Leeds Train Station. You’ll walk up through the central shopping district just north of the city centre. We’d suggest stopping at the Dry Dock Leeds on your way – a cool boat run aground on a grassy verge by Leeds Beckett. Or the grungy garage of the Fenton just a bit further along. Combine either of these pubs with a visit to the Leeds University Library Galleries, and you have one of the best things to do in Leeds for young adults.

7. Abbey House Museum

Opening times:10 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Sunday and 12 pm to 5 pm on Saturdays

Highlights: Immersive insights into 19th-century Leeds and a family-friendly atmosphere

Address: Abbey Walk, Abbey Road, Kirkstall, Leeds, LS5 3EH

Price: £6.50 for adults and £3.15 for under 18s

Creatively speaking, the Abbey House Museum is the best museum in Leeds. This museum is like a little time capsule back to the 19th-century lives of earlier Leeds residents. You can visit an inn, houses, and different shops – all recreated to the ultimate Victorian likeness, even down to Victorian-style lampposts and cobbled streets. It is beautifully nostalgic. There’s everything from Victorian toys to heating systems and social class differences.

Abbey House Museum is a little further from the museums in Leeds city centre. This museum is near Kirkstall Abbey (a great attraction to combine with the museum and learn more about local history). So, you can catch the train to Kirkstall Forge or Headingley, walking approximately 20 minutes from both.

8. Thwaite Watermill

Opening times: Weekends only in term time, 12 pm until 4 pm

Highlights: Beautiful location on an island in the River Aire

Address: Thwaite Lane, Leeds, LS10 1RP

Price: £5.50 for adults and £3.00 for children

Thwaite Watermill is stunning – set on its own island in the River Aire in Stourton, a 20-minute bus road southeast of the city centre. The old-mill building was once a massive part of the community and local industry. Mill workers lived entirely self-sufficiently on the island and in the Georgian Grade II listed Thwaite House. But now, it is a beautiful, much-loved heritage site, preserving its history. You can tour the old living spaces and see the water mill, even catching live engineer demonstrations. And in case you need more persuading, there are hiking trails around its grounds and the canal.

Thwaite Watermill is one of the most beautifully located museums in Leeds. It is one of the best things to do with kids in Leeds or as a group of adults. And for an extra special experience, we’d suggest looking into the canal tours available at Skipton. You can hire canal boats and explore all the canal systems leading to Leeds. The mill industry and water systems around Leeds are fascinating. Thwaite Watermill provides an excellent introduction for you to seek further knowledge.

9. Thackray Museum of Medicine

Opening times: 10 am to 5 pm daily

Highlights: Highly interactive introduction to the history of medicine 

Address: 141 Beckett Street, Harehills, Leeds, LS9 7LN

Price: £11.95 for adults, £8.95 for under 16s, free for under 5s

Harehills isn’t somewhere the average tourist strays in Leeds, and this isn’t one of the museums in Leeds city centre. But if you fancy getting off the beaten track and away from that damning magnet of Trinity Shopping Centre, Thackray Museum of Medicine offers a fascinating history collection. The captivating museum tells a thorough story of medicine – from (somewhat sketchy) Victorian operating theatres to the latest medicinal developments. The museum even has a recreated 70s sexual health clinic and gruesome operation recreations to grimace at and watch through your fingers. You don’t need an interest in medicine to enjoy this fabulous museum in Leeds. Just a taste for entertainment.

Walking to Thackray Museum of Medicine is a mission from Leeds Train Station, taking 40 minutes. Instead, you can grab a 10-minute Uber from Leeds Train Station to reach Thackray Museum of Medicine. Alternatively, catch one of many buses that drop you almost exactly outside – the 16, 49, 50, 50A, 42, 12, 13, and 13A are all excellent options.

10. Yorkshire Cricket Museum

Opening times: Match days only

Highlights: Exclusive entry and passionate display of memorabilia

Address: Yorkshire Cricket Ground, St Michael’s Lane, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 3BU

Price: Free with a match-day ticket

This is a special museum in Leeds for your list and a must for avid cricket fans. Keep in mind that this is one of our most exclusive options. If you want to visit most straightforwardly, buy a match-day ticket and coincide your visit to the Yorkshire Cricket Museum with watching a game. The museum only opens on matchdays but – in a nice twist – offers free entry to any match-day ticket holders. The interactive museum is suitably decorated in Leeds’ blue and yellow colours. It has engaging exhibitions on top players and history-changing cricket events and records. There are videos, tons of fun facts, and loads of awards and memorabilia. For cricket fans, the Yorkshire Cricket Museum is the crème de la crème. 

The Yorkshire Cricket Museum is best reached by train from Leeds city centre since it is located in Headingley, a student-dense neighbourhood in the city’s northwest. You can catch the train directly from Leeds Train Station to Headingley, walking the remaining 10 minutes. Or catch the 19 or 19A bus, which drops you almost outside. 

To Conclude: Museums in Leeds

Any museum in Leeds is worth your salt. Leeds has a strong art culture, and its industrial mill history is never difficult to find an immersive exhibit on. Leeds is also incredibly walkable. Most of these museums in Leeds City Centre are just a 15-minute walk or less from Leeds Train Station. Museum hopping is a top-tier Leeds activity, a breeze logistically and inspiration culturally.

Apart from all these museums in Leeds, the city has some brilliant night-time activities. And it is just on the doorstep of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It has easy connections to Bradford, voted the City of Culture 2025 and home to tons of things to do. Before your visit, check out our guide on staying safe in Leeds. I hope you have a wonderful experience in my beautiful home city.


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