The Best Things To Do in Leicester
Updated: Oct 1
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission from the discount codes used or when a link/ad is clicked. All purchases made will come at no extra cost to you, and I only include products and services that I have personally used and would recommend.
Leicester is a bustling city in the East Midlands, with that rare perfect blend of history, culture, and interesting attractions to visit. With a history dating back over 2000 years, Leicester is one of the oldest cities in England, so you can bet that there are plenty of unique things to do in Leicester to keep you busy for at least a couple of days. Like many visitors to Leicester, the big draw for me was the recent discovery of King Richard III's remains, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were many more attractions in Leicester to visit which gave me a further appreciation for the city.
Leicester is also a thriving university city, so if you're not overly interested in learning about the city's history day in and day out, there are plenty of modern things to do in Leicester, which includes a very popular nightlife scene and some fantastic restaurants too. If you have enough time in your schedule, I would recommend going on a couple of day trips from Leicester because there are some fantastic historical attractions in Leicestershire that are well worth driving to.
Things To Do in Leicester
Regardless of what your main interests are, you'll undoubtedly find a lot of great things to do in Leicester. If this isn't your first time visiting my blog, you'll know by now that I love visiting historical attractions, so for the purpose of this guide to Leicester that's what I'll be focusing on.
King Richard III Statue
You can't plan a trip to Leicester without adding at least one attraction to your itinerary that has to do with King Richard III. If you're visiting Leicester on a budget, there are plenty of sites you can stop at that are either free or relatively cheap to visit. This bronze statue of King Richard III, for example, stands proudly outside of Leicester Cathedral and is completely free to access. It's very easy to locate if you're heading to the King Richard III Visitor Centre too.
King Richard III Visitor Centre
Across the road from the bronze statue is the King Richard III Visitor Centre, which is one of the most popular attractions in Leicester. It's a fantastic interactive exhibition where you can learn about Richard III's background story, his claim to the throne, and how the last Plantagenet king of England ended up being discovered under a parking lot. They've also created a glass floor over the exact spot where the king's remains were found during the excavation, which is incredible to see in person. Entry costs £9.25 per adult, and since it's one of the best places to visit in Leicester you won't want to miss it!
Looking for free things to do in Leicester? This may surprise you, but Leicester Cathedral is completely free to enter. You can of course give a donation at the door if you want to though. The site of the cathedral dates back over 900 years, but it wasn't until 1927 that it was given cathedral status. Since 2015 the cathedral has been the final resting place of Richard III, and you can see his tomb on display at the far end of the cathedral. Make sure you double check the opening times before planning your visit!
Sitting just next to Leicester Cathedral is the Leicester Guildhall. It was built in 1390 for use as a meeting place and banquet hall, and is the oldest building still in use in the city today. It's also considered to be the most haunted building in Leicester, and may have played host to a performance by Shakespeare himself in the Tudor period. It's certainly a very historical attraction in Leicester to visit so don't forget to stop by as you make your way through Leicester's old town!
Leicester's Old Town
One of my favourite things to do in Leicester was to walk around its old town. Some of the streets are for pedestrians only which is ideal for taking photos - especially if you get up at sunrise like I did. You'll find plenty of unique restaurants in Leicester in this part of the city, as well as numerous shops and some of the city's main attractions as well. Our hotel was located right in the heart of the old town which was perfect!
Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower
As you make your way through the streets of Leicester's city centre, you'll probably come across this unique clock tower. The Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower is one of the city's most iconic landmarks and for decades has stood as a popular meeting place for people. It was originally built in 1868 on the site of a former hay and straw market, with the purpose of helping with traffic congestion. It's an interesting thing to see in Leicester and is worth making a stop at.
St Nicholas Church
St Nicholas Church is one of the many churches in Leicester that you can visit, but it's the oldest place of worship in the city which makes it one of my favourites. Parts of the church date back over 1100 years, and there is even evidence of some Roman architecture on the site as well. Just behind the church sits the Jewry Wall, which is a Roman wall dating to the 2nd century AD, and is one of the largest surviving Roman structures in the country. It was sadly closed for renovations during my trip, but I hear that it's a must-see in Leicester.
St George's Cultural Quarter
Another area of Leicester's city centre that you should explore if you have time is St George's Cultural Quarter. In Victorian times this area was filled with textile factories and shoemaker shops, but today these factory buildings have been turned into a thriving centre for the arts, and one or two fantastic cafes as well. Exploring this area on foot is one of the many fun things to do in Leicester and is something that's unique to the city.
If you're looking for more tranquil places in Leicester to visit, I would recommend taking a walk along New Walk. The walkway is a rare example of a Georgian pedestrian promenade that dates back to 1785, and is lined with elegant houses and some picture perfect cafes and restaurants too. This street has always been at the core of life in the city, and was even used in Roman times by soldiers. New Walk is about 1 mile long from start to finish and walking along it is one of the best free things to do in Leicester - especially if you have nice weather!
If museums are your thing, you can find the Leicester Museum & Art Gallery sitting along New Walk, which is completely free to go inside. The museum hosts a number of unique exhibitions and events throughout the year, and is a popular place to visit with the kids in Leicester as well. It was opened to the public in 1849, making it one of the first public museums in the whole of the UK. The museum has everything from dinosaurs to a permanent Egyptology exhibition in it, with other exhibitions coming and going throughout the year. Visiting this museums is the perfect thing to do in Leicester when it's raining!
The Magazine is a very impressive 15th century gateway which would have granted entry to the religious area of the city known as The Newarke. During the reign of Elizabeth I, the gateway was used to imprison Catholics, but it wasn't until the English Civil War in the 17th century that it gained its current name. It's a very interesting thing to see in Leicester and is close to other important landmarks in the city too.
Something that you really do need to appreciate as you walk around Leicester is its street art. Many of them are very Instagrammable spots in Leicester and are well worth taking photos of. This one is called Newarke Street and is located next to The Magazine. It pays homage to the former owner of Leicester City Football Club who died under tragic circumstances, but played a huge role in the recent success of the club. You can follow this street art guide to find more of these unique locations in Leicester.
Not far from The Magazine is a very important historical spot in Leicester that's often overlooked by tourists. The Turret Gateway (Prince Rupert's Gateway) was built in the early 15th century and would have been the main gateway from The Newarke into the castle. A plaque on the wall reads that this was also the gateway that Richard III's body passed under after his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth. The Turret Gateway was one of my favourite things to see in Leicester, and the historic area around it is beautiful to walk around too. You can find the Newarke Houses Museum just around the corner from the gateway too.
The original construction of Leicester Castle dates to around 1070, and it would have formed part of the medieval town defences. Today all that remains is the original mound from the motte and bailey castle, part of the castle walls, and the the great hall which sits behind the 17th century brickwork you see in this photo. It may not look like a castle by today's standards, but this area played an important role in the development of Leicester, and is worth visiting.
St Mary de Castro Church
St Mary de Castro Church sits opposite Leicester Castle, and in fact looks a lot more medieval than the current castle does. The church was originally founded in 1107 as a place of worship within the castle complex, and was where Henry VI was knighted in 1426. It's also said to be the location of the marriage of Geoffrey Chaucer (the author of the Canterbury Tales) to his second wife. It's one of the more unique places to go in Leicester if you enjoy learning about history.
If you want to escape the city for a bit, I would recommend visiting Abbey Park. As well as having a great selection of activities to do with the family in it, Abbey Park is also home to a couple of interesting historical sites. The remains of Leicester Abbey can still be seen within the grounds of the park, which at one time was one of the wealthiest abbeys in the country. It was destroyed in the early 16th century and the gatehouse was later turned into a mansion. You can still see the remains of Cavendish House next to the abbey ruins. Visiting the park wasn't high on my list of things to do in Leicester, but I