This post outlines some of the highlights of my recent visit to Leicester. Like any major city, there are some fun things to see and do. Honestly, though, if I could give you just one tip for a trip to Leicester, it would be this: Don’t bother, choose somewhere else.
That may seem harsh, but it’s fair. As British cities go, Leicester isn’t the friendliest, the atmosphere is somewhat intimidating and it’s not a particularly pretty place. It strikes me as an old industrial town without a whole lot else going on; a city full of chippers and pound shops.
After two or three bad experiences over the course of the weekend, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, and no desire to ever come back. There were several incidents with taxi drivers who were rude, drove badly, didn’t speak English, didn’t know where they were going and/or brought us to the wrong place, as well as a rowdy and intimidating crowd at our hotel that spoiled an evening. They’re small things on their own, but they left me with a bad impression of they city.
Of course, we made the best of it, and still had loads of laughs over the weekend. I promised you some highlights, and I shan’t let you down. If you do happen to find yourself in Leicester for a weekend, here are some of the best things to see and do:
1. Visit the National Space Centre
I never would have guessed Leicester would be to the fore of British space exploration – but it is! The University of Leicester has been at the centre of Britain’s space programme since the field of research began, and in 2001, the National Space Centre was opened to educate the public on what happens beyond our little planet. It’s very engaging and interactive, and would be ideal for children.
The planetarium is awe-inspiring, with the entire history of our universe broken down dramatically, but in a way that it is very easy to understand. There’s a scale model of the International Space Station, a Mars Rover (the robot used to explore Mars) you can try to control, a simulated journey as an astronaut and much more. Entry is £14 for adults, which seems very reasonable.
2. Have a flutter at Leicester Race Course
The whole reason for our trip to Leicester was to go to the races, and I have to say this aspect of the weekend was lots of fun (and not just because I walked away up £80). The sun shone and we got properly dressed up for the occasion. We chose a £27 package, which included seating in the premium stand, three drinks and a £5 food voucher. This was excellent value, but despite the sun, it was a bit chilly, and we slightly regretted not choosing the £50 package which would have given us seating indoors, and included a three-course meal and table service for placing bets. Check out the photos on my Facebook page.
3. Chill at St. Martin’s Tea and Coffee Merchants
St Martin’s is one of the nicer areas we came across in Leicester, and this quirky café was an off-the-beaten-path haven on a sleepy Sunday morning. This place is everything an independent café should be – the tea was fantastic and the staff were friendly, book shelves in the corner are stocked with reading material and board games, and the walls are decorated by framed paintings from a local artist. The hardwood floor is beautiful, and the mismatched furniture and comfy old couches give the place a bit of a hipster vibe. I could easily imagine myself whiling away afternoons playing scrabble here. Skip Costa and the other chains in favour of this spot!
4. See some sport
If there’s one thing Leicester seems to do well – it’s sport. In addition to the races, this weekend saw Leicester City FC thrash Swansea with a 4-0 win, while the Leicester rugby team lost their match to Racing Metro 92. Given Leicester City FC’s unprecedented strong season, it’s a good time to see a game. Excitingly, we met the Racing Metro team at East Midlands Airport, where I managed to snap a photo with former All Black rugby legend and world-renowned number 10 Dan Carter.
If getting some sport in is a priority for you on a weekend away, book for a weekend when a home game for either team is on.
5. Cap it off with a cocktail
There are plenty of decent bars to be found in central Leicester. Revolution offers dozens of different flavours of shots, as well as their famous Pornstar Martini (pictured). Marz is home to a classy cocktail bar on the ground floor, and a low-ceilinged underground dance floor downstairs. The Terrace is extremely popular; it was almost impossible to move downstairs but a bit more relaxed upstairs. It would have been nice to find a decent traditional English pub – after a chilly day at the races some of our group were lusting after open fires and hot whiskies, but we didn’t find any this time around (though I’m sure they exist in Leicester!)
So there you have it. There are worthwhile things to see and do in the city, but I won’t be back in a hurry. A solitary weekend isn’t usually enough to get the full picture – am I being unfair to Leicester? Or is just not a tourist spot?
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
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