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An Expat's Guide to Living in Leeds, UK

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Looking for a great city in the UK that's not London? Although living in London is a great choice for some, others looking for a calmer pace of life yet still in a vibrant city will love living in Leeds.

In this guide, I’ll let you know why Leeds is a great city to live in. I moved to Leeds from Spain, my home country, and instantly fell in love with it.

Leeds is located in Northern England, just an hour from Manchester. Despite being smaller than London, it’s still within the top ten biggest cities in the UK and it has a population of over 800,000 people. There are plenty of great cities in the UK, but for me, Leeds has felt like home.

Leeds has plenty of things to offer, but at the same time, if you love exploring new cities and cute small towns, it's surrounded by other beautiful cities you must see.

Let's dive right into what it's really like living in Leeds as a foreigner.

Short on time? Here’s the cheat sheet: 

💭Dream of living in the UK but not sold on London? Leeds is a more affordable but still cosmopolitan city to consider.

🏠The best neighborhoods to live in are Leeds City Centre, Headingley, Meanwood, and Hensforth.

🛏️Start off by booking somewhere centrally located and easy to get around, like the Vassali House in the city centre until you find your long-term stay.

📚Many foreigners move here as students to study at the university but it’s also possible to move here for a job, just know the visa process is more strict now than it was before Brexit.

☂️Although Leeds can have dark, cold, and rainy winters,

☀️It can offer a higher quality of life at a lower cost of living than other cities in the UK.

Cost of Living in Leeds

A rooftop view of a red setting sun over the city of Leeds, UK
A beautiful red sunset to end another great day in Leeds

Leeds is a more affordable city than London and other cities in the UK. However, there are still ways you can save even more money.


Shared accommodation can be a good option if you’re on a budget, and you’ll meet other people at the same time. You can find shared accommodation for as low as £325/month with bills (electricity, water, etc.) included outside the city centre.

Prices increase as you look for accommodation in the city centre and the average is £727.

When you’re looking for an apartment or house to rent, consider other things such as transport, supermarkets, and distance from work as this will make your routine easier.

Generally, Leeds is well-connected and public transport is frequent, but I’d consider staying somewhere near a bus/train stop so you don’t need to walk for a long time when it gets dark early during the winter.

Also, some of the things that landlords usually ask as part of the rent agreement are:

  • A guarantor (especially if you’re not working)
  • Address history
  • Reference from previous residence and from previous employment

If you don’t have a job and don't know anybody in the UK, you can sometimes choose a family member as your guarantor. This is exactly what I did when I moved.


You can save a lot by knowing where to buy food in Leeds. Aldi and Lidl are the cheapest supermarkets, but if you care about food brands, you’ll find more options in Asda, which is still a cheap option.

For fresher vegetables and fruits, you must go to Leeds Market in the city centre. You’ll get a good value for money.

Generally, you can spend between £120-200/month, depending on your diet and food choices, for 1 person.


The most used bus company is First Buses. They have different prices depending on the ticket you choose (daily, weekly, monthly). If you need to use it almost every day, get a monthly ticket to save money.

Want to save even more on public transport? I recommend you:

  • Download the First buses app on your phone. Tickets are cheaper when you buy them online. You can save a couple of pounds. 
  • If you’re going to be a student, look for student tickets as you’ll pay a considerably reduced price, sometimes up to 50% off!
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Best Neighborhoods to Live in Leeds

Regardless of the area you choose to live, spend some free time in the beautiful gardens

Some of the best and safest areas to live in Leeds are Leeds City centre, Headingley, Meanwood, and Horsforth.

By the way, you'll notice the places I recommend below that you rent to get a feel for each neighborhood are on Vrbo, not Airbnb. Personally, I like Vrbo because you're able to cashback on each stay that you can then use on your next trip. Whereas with Airbnb, there are no rewards for users. But if you still prefer that platform, most rentals are on both Airbnb and Vrbo.

Leeds City Centre

From all of these top recommendations, my favorite is Leeds City Centre, especially if you're able to live by the picturesque riverside and near the market.

Living in the city centre means having plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops at your fingertips. Life here will be incredibly convenient and unless you work elsewhere, the time you spend on public transport will be minimal.

Since there's so much going on in the city centre, there will be plenty to do and ways to make friends in this welcoming city. On the cons, since there is so much to do, it can be noisy living here.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Leeds City Centre is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Penthouse Apartment: Stay in a premium location while you get to know Leeds at this 1-bedroom apartment with a large balcony.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Vassali House: Enjoy more space, brighter natural lighting, and plenty of character at this centrally located duplex.
  • Luxury Stay: Family-Friendly Apartment: Moving to Leeds with your family? This city centre apartment comfortably sleeps 6. 


For me, Headingley is a close 2nd as it's very convenient if you’re going to study at university. Headingley is where most students, young professionals, and even families choose to live in Leeds. It's a friendly and vibrant neighborhood that most fall in love with.

Since the area is best for students, the turnover in housing and apartments can be high, which makes house hunting easier as there are usually plenty of vacancies to choose from.

Headingley is just a few short miles outside of the city centre so although this neighborhood offers a little bit of everything, for anything you're missing you're just a quick bus ride away to the heart of Leeds.

📍Kist Accommodates is a stunning home to stay in while you get to know Headingley and see if it’s the best neighborhood for you.


Meanwood is a more residential neighborhood than the above 2 options but still offers all of life's daily conveniences. In general, it's a very liveable area and large, green Meanwood Park right at it, it's ideal for those that prefer green spaces to city streets.

You'll be a little bit farther away from the heart of the city in Meanwood but there are bus routes to get you there and to the train station.

📍This cheerful cottage will really give you an authentic sense of living in Northern England while you test of out if Meanwood is the area you should live in. 


Want to be close to the airport for weekend getaways? The suburb of Horsforth is a great option for you. This area is also best known for families moving to Leeds since the schools in the area are highly sought after.

There are a lot of green spaces here for nice walks in nature but if you want to get into Leeds proper, it's only a short train ride away.

In general, the cost of living here might be higher than other parts of the city.

📍Get fantastic bang for your buck at at this 1-bedroom apartment in Horsforth to scope out if this is the neighborhood for you. 

Areas to Avoid Living

Areas like Beeston, Chapel Town, Hunslet, and Harehills are much cheaper than the areas mentioned above but they aren’t as safe to live in so I’d personally avoid them.

Job Hunting

A front view of the beautiful Leeds City Market
The best place in the city to buy fresh produce

One of the easiest ways to find a job in Leeds is to go online and apply from websites like Reed, Indeed, CV-Library and Linkedin

If you’re a student, I would highly recommend you join the student hub because they advertise job opportunities (part-time, full-time, and short-term jobs) in the university hall and online. The student hub will also help you write or improve your CV. 

I remember joining the student hub and receiving an email to work two days in the “Freshers Week” guiding new students and parents to the university facilities. It was a great opportunity and they paid me well.

While living in Leeds, I have never had problems finding a job. I personally think it’s easy to find a job in the hospitality sector when you are new to the city. As time passes, you can look for other opportunities if you wish, as you’ll have references and, believe me, in this city really value references from previous employers.

However, if you feel very confident with the language and profession you want, go for it! 

Visa Requirements

When I moved to Leeds in 2016, I didn’t need a visa or any legal document to live in the UK as a European citizen. Since I don’t have any experience with visas and I don’t know much about it, I recommend going to the official immigration page to see what kinds of visas you can get to move here.

Since I moved to the UK before Brexit, I wasn't as affected by this change in rules that people trying to move to Leeds now will be.

Fun Things to Do in Leeds

A view of the Victoria Quarter Arcade, a shopping centre in Leeds with very colonial architecture
Shopping in Victoria Quarter Arcade is a must

Leeds is a cosmopolitan city and there are plenty of activities to do in the city as well as its surroundings.

If I could describe Leeds in three words, I would say friendly, multicultural and creative. And for 3 more, I'd say it’s the perfect place for nature lovers, shopaholics and foodies.

Shopping in Leeds

Although Leeds has two main shopping centers (Leeds Trinity and Victoria Leeds), the shopping options are endless, from independent shops to local to high-end street stores.

Shopping in Leeds is amazing as everywhere is close and the city center is quite compact.

Eating Out

What happens with shopping also happens with cafes and restaurants. You’ll find cute and independent cafes to enjoy a delicious brunch produced with local ingredients as well as restaurants from different cuisines (Indian, Chinese, Italian…).

‍The pub culture in the UK is very famous and you can find plenty of pubs and bars in Leeds, especially in Call Lane, known as the best place to go out. If you’re up for a sophisticated cocktail experience, then go to Angelica in Trinity Leeds.

Go Sightseeing

At the same time, you’ll also find must-see attractions like:

  • Leeds City Museum
  • Royal Armouries
  • Leeds Art Gallery
  • Leeds City Market

But that’s not all, one of my favorite things about living in Leeds is the nature and country houses. Roundhay Park, Kirkstall Abbey, and Golden Acre Park are some of the parks you can’t miss.

In terms of country houses, you need to add to your list Harewood House and Temple Newsam.

Day Trips

You'll also enjoy being able to visit neighboring cities in the UK. Leeds is very well-connected so you can easily visit major cities like York, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, and many other smaller towns in North England in between.

From the Leeds Railway Station, taking a day trip is quick, easy, and affordable. Alternatively you can easily get National Express coaches to other main cities. While you'll find plenty to see and do within Leeds itself, I recommend you spend a weekend a month exploring nearby areas either as a day trip or overnight getaway.

However, if you fancy traveling abroad, you have Leeds Bradford Airport that is connected to many European destinations or Manchester Airport for a bigger variety of international destinations.  

What I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Leeds

the gardens from an old castle in Northern England with purple blooms out front
Harewood House, another of my favorite spots in Leeds

Before moving to Leeds, there's a few things I wish I knew. To help save you the hassle, confusion, and the settling in time, take these tips to heart!

The Winters Are Cold & Rainy

Get yourself a waterproof jacket, as well as plenty of warm winter clothes. Winter can be cold, especially if you are used to living somewhere warm, so be ready to put layers on. At the same time, Leeds can sometimes be very windy and when it rains you will get wet.

Prepare Yourself for the Local Accent

If English isn’t your first language and you learnt the “Standard” British English in school, be aware that Leeds and Yorkshire (the county) has a special accent, so don’t be surprised if you don’t understand certain words or even sentences.

As time passes you’ll learn words like hey up (hi/hello), dinner (it’s actually lunch for them), brew (a cup of tea), lass (girl), etc. and you’ll get used to the accent.

Join In on Activities

It gets dark very early in winter (around 3:30-4:00 pm) so I highly recommend joining something after uni or work to get you entertained and socialized with others. However, as the time changes to British Summer Time (BST), be ready for long days as the sunrise is earlier than 6 am. 

Take Advantage of the Support Programs

You get a lot of support as a university student. If you ever struggle with homesickness, finding a job, managing your finances, you’ll find plenty of support from the university. At the same time, uni life was one of the best times for me as there are plenty of activities and events to meet new people. 

Go to Language Exchanges

When you’re new and you don’t know anyone, going to language exchanges can help you meet lovely people that are likely in the same position as you. Also, you’ll learn a bit about other languages and cultures as well as make friends.

Practicing English on Mondly is a great way to gain confidence and improve your vocabulary but practicing in-person will push you harder (helping you learn faster) and can introduce you to new friends.

Will You Try Living in Leeds?

Living in Leeds has helped me meet amazing people from other countries, learn about the British and Yorkshire culture, and has opened my eyes to a world outside of my hometown. If you’re a city girl, you’ll love living in Leeds.

With so much to do and a far more affordable cost of living than other major UK cities, Leeds is a fantastic choice for students, young professionals, and those dreaming of life in the UK.

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