Leicester

Leicester skyline (and then clockwise from top-left) Jewry Wall, National Space Centre, Leicester War Memorial, Central Leicester, Curve theatre, Leicester Cathedral and Guildhall, Welford Road Stadium, Leicester Market

Leicester is the largest city in the East Midlands region of England, the capital of the traditional county of Leicestershire, with a population of some 330,000 in the city area and nearly 500,000 in the metropolitan area.

Understand

Leicester is one of the oldest English towns, having been founded by the Romans as Ratae Corieltauvorum in 50 CE. Its role as a Saxon town is less certain, but the medieval town walls and street plan retain exactly those of the Romans. It was rarely centre stage through the middle ages, so lacked political impetus nationally. While other such towns acquired cathedrals and grand civic functions, Leicester gradually built up a small scale industrial prosperity based around framework knitting. This used semi-automated, leased machines, operated in peoples own homes, to make stockings. Automation and factory building in the nineteenth century, enabled Leicester to grow in population, land area and prosperity, with both knitwear and machine manufacturing providing the bedrock of its economy. In the 1920s its size and significance was reflected in being granted city status. Presently, it is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United Kingdom. It is also Britain's first environment city. Leicester continued to grow rapidly throughout the 20th century. From the 1960s arrivals from the West Indies and Asians from east Africa and the Indian subcontinent added to that growth and more recently Somalia, west and southern Africa, and Poland have been some of the larger of many different national communities. The two universities also both have very high overseas student intakes, and Leicester now sees itself as a cosmopolitan city with friendly people from all races, backgrounds and cultures creating a culturally diverse city.

Get in

By road

By train

Leicester is on the main London to Leeds rail route operated by East Midlands Trains from St Pancras International station. There are up to four trains to and from the capital every hour. The journey takes up to 1:30h on slower trains. As with all British trains, an open return valid for one month bought on the day of travel is just marginally more expensive than a single ticket. Tickets bough in advance are often significantly cheaper.

Often cheaper, but also significantly longer time-wise travel from London can be done via Nuneaton, Warwickshire, with London Midland trains. In Nuneaton, change for a Stagecoach bus 48 or Arriva bus 158 both going to Leicester directly (very limited service in the evening and at the weekends). A bus station in Nuneaton is ten minutes walk from the railway station, buses to Leicester depart from platform C; the journey takes just over one hour and costs just over £3.00 single (December 2012). Also, there is a train from Nuneaton station to Leicester which costs about £10 single. Tickets specific to the London Midland services are cheapest (London to Nuneaton off-peak return £21.00, December 2012).

Leicester also offers direct rail access to Stansted Airport, East Midlands Airport, Luton Airport, Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby, Peterborough, Cambridge and Birmingham.

Cross country services (Cambridge, Stansted, Nuneaton, Coventry and Birmingham) are operated by Cross Country Trains.

The suburban services to Sileby, Barrow-on-Soar, and Lougborough are operated by East Midlands Trains; and towards Wigston and Narborough - Cross Country Trains.

Leicester station is five minutes walk from the very centre of the city and another five minutes to the coach station (St Margaret).

Train passengers are entitled to discounts for local bus travel in many British cities, also in Leicester (£3.50 for a day ticket, January 2013); student railcards give access to even greater savings. A PlusBus ticket can be purchased simultaneously with the train ticket online or at the station, incl. many vending ticket machines.

By plane

By bus

There are also services operated by local companies which serve the Asian communities in West London (Southall), Bradford, and other areas. These services are not generally well advertised, they may be short-lived, but can be cheap, and get you to out-of-the-way areas.

Get around

See

Do

Sport

Ticket prices shown are those for one adult ticket and are subject to change.

Buy

The city centre of Leicester has a vibrant and friendly atmosphere along with many department stores and a large shopping centre called Highcross (formerly 'The Shires'), off High Street. Shoppers can expect to find the majority of items and services offered within a main city in the UK.

The Haymarket centre has also recently undergone changes and has improved within the last 10 years.

Leicester also has some interesting independent shops around the 'Lanes' area leading from Loseby Lane. The St Martin's area also has interesting small boutiques, delicatessens and specialist shops, although St Martin's Square has several empty units. The Shires has recently undergone a transformation and expansion, changing its name to Highcross. Highcross opened in September 2008 and features many new shops and restaurants including John Lewis, Topman, Next, Hugo Boss, and an Apple store amongst others.

Eat

Leicester is a fantastic place for Indian food. Laguna has existed since the late 70's and operates a traditional tandoor oven, on Narborough Road and the Good Food Guide listed The Rise of the Raj is on Evington Road.

Leicester's large Gujarati community - centred in the Belgrave area - has led to the opening of many excellent Indian vegetarian restaurants in that part of the city. Sharmilee, Sayonara and Phulnath, come highly recommended by local residents. The Chaat House is also a great places for Masala Dosas and other light meals.

The choice of fine restaurants in Leicester is limited and sadly there has been a recent closure of two fine restaurants namely Entropy and The Opera House, however the City is in the grip of major renovation and regeneration which is likely to spur on a greater choice and profusion of fine dining experiences. However excellent food can be had at Watsons Restaurant which is a refined and tasty experience (near the Phoenix Theatre) and The Case near St. Martins, the lunch menu is excellent as are the wait staff, a distinctly French feel is on offer and The Case has the joy of being connected to the delightful Champagne Bar on its ground floor. Dinos on Garrick Walk, Haymarket has an excellent reputation and a very Italianate, exciting menu. A more recent addition with an excellent menu is The Quarter, housed in the former wholesale vegetable market building on Halford Street and close to the Curve theatre, Leicester's new theatre which opened in 2008. This Restaurant/Bar is a beautiful open space with a great menu and superb cocktails!

Some good, mid range restaurants/ bars with menus can be found near the City on Braunstone Gate, the best of these being the ever popular Left Bank, which is cheap, spirited and tasty. Across the road, Mobius is interesting with a lively bar to the ground floor and restaurant upstairs. The Sultan, one of a number of Turkish restaurants along the Narborough Road, has very good value authentic Turkish meals: donor, shewarma, pide and meze.

Mid priced food can also be found easily at decent chains such as Ask, Zizzi, Las Iguanas, La Tasca and three Pizza Express restaurants around the city.

For those with even tighter budgets, Leicester offers a wide array of different takeaways. Leicester takeaways range from Indian food to Italian, American, Turkish, Chinese, Thai and other types of food. Generally, a takeaway meal for two can be purchased between £10 and £15.

Tea rooms and Coffee Shops/Bars abound, most notable are Mrs Bridges on Loseby Lane and Bossa close to the City Gallery, if you want to avoid the usual Starbuck and Costa chains, Fenwicks also houses a pleasant old school style cafe, steeped in the 60's/70's, on its top floor, with excellent food on offer at reasonable prices.

A trend from 2014-15 has been the arrival of Gelato bars, offering a range of non-alcoholic drinks and puddings. Madisons Cafe Bar & Gelateria on London Road, Gelato Village on St Martin's Square, Whipee Gelato and Bru, both on Granby Street, offer daytime and evening opening, as do similar places further out from the centre, such as Narborough Road,

Places in the City Centre:

Drink

With two universities, Leicester boasts a good number of bars, pubs, and clubs offering a wide variety of alcoholic drinking experiences, offering everything from traditional pubs to champagne and vodka bars.

Leicester also has a small number of bars and a nightclub catering for the lesbian/gay communities.

For those that prefer their drink without alcohol there are also a good number of coffee shops in the city centre, but these usually tend to only open during shopping hours.

Sleep

There is no shortage of overnight accommodation in Leicester at almost all budget ranges: the tourist information people can help. There is also available house sitting at Leicester House Sitter

Stay safe

The city is quite safe other than the usual beggars with false stories about being robbed and those drunkards looking for trouble. The inner city areas of St Matthews and Highfields should be avoided at night. New Walk, leading from the city centre up to Victoria Park, is a very attractive footpath during the day, but should not be used after dark due to the presence of prostitutes, drunks and beggars towards the upper end of it. Likewise, Victoria Park should be completely avoided after dark as it is well known for muggings.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, December 29, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.