The 21st-century, urban-chic city of Leeds in northern England shines with a distinct and yet un-overwhelming Yorkshire swagger. It boasts a fabulous drinking-dining scene and revitalized architecture. Leeds is also famous for being one of the friendliest gay cities in England, with LGBTQ people accounting for almost 10% of the city’s population. In fact, Leeds’ gay quarter is even referred to as ‘Freedom Quarter’ and boasts of a vibrant nightlife. For this reason, we saw gay hotels in Leeds thriving and in demand, with an increasing number of LGBTQ travelers eager to explore the city.
What’s more, we found Leeds to be a warm, welcoming, and inclusive city in more ways than just one. Apart from Leeds Pride, the city also hosts and celebrates the LGBTQ+ literature festival, a marvelous annual drag queen competition, and even a queer film festival. And although Leeds’ LGBTQ nightlife scene centered around Lower Briggate is compact, it is incredibly diverse. We can confidently say that our gay cation in England was definitely incomplete without heading to Leeds. Here’s a useful guide to Leeds’ gay scene.
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The gay-friendly Quebecs Hotel looks innately British from the outside, but it feels like a French country-house hotel on the inside. Tucked in the business quarter, its central location was what caught our eye first. What’s more, it sits in a gorgeous Grade II-listed building that’s one of Leeds’ most distinctive terracotta brickwork structures. We were enamored by the remnants of the past, like stained-glass windows, the grand oak staircase, and the wrought-iron gates.
On the inside, we were impressed by the staff right off the bat, as they helped with everything from restaurant reservations to spa appointments. Plus, they’re extremely knowledgeable about local hotspots. However, it was the dining scene here that intrigued us the most. The ground-floor bar and lounge, with great views and inviting seating, was where we’d have cocktails and coffee. Meanwhile, the beautiful Gallery lounge is the place to be for decadent afternoon tes. Finally, the rooftop Conservatory served all meals, including hearty English breakfasts, and offered stupendous views over Leeds rooftops.
Coming to the digs, none of the 44 rooms here are the same, but they all have some of the world’s most comfortable beds ever. Not only are the rooms luxurious and spacious, but also the classic touches like low lighting, French drapes, and walnut wood scream old-school decadence. Moreover, the bathrooms were a real treat, with L’Occitane bath products and mist-free mirrors.
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Novotel Leeds Center
Despite being part of a huge global chain, we loved that the gay-friendly Novotel Leeds Center strived to integrate itself with Leeds and its culture. What’s more, we loved the hotel’s minimalist yet stylish vibe, with white being the prevailing hue. The common spaces feature pops of ritzy colors like purple, oversized plants, and futuristic-looking furniture. However, the ground-floor floor-to-ceiling windows are the winner, stealing the scene with spectacular views of the city.
When we didn’t feel like stepping out, we had two restaurants to choose from to dig into all meals. The chillout area was a great place to catch up with our new friends that we made in the city. Besides the modern gym with floor-to-ceiling views, we loved the steam room and sauna as they took all of our day’s tiredness away. Plus, the open-plan reception even has a children’s corner with video games, toys, and books. The buzziest place, however, is The Soap Factory Cocktail Lounge & Kitchen, which is popular with the LGBTQ set in the city.
We liked the modern décor in Novotel’s rooms and the color palette of minimalist greys, creams, and whites. Apart from standard mod-cons, the higher-level rooms also have wireless speakers, free drink vouchers and bottled water, and slippers and bathrobes. Bathrooms, however, are sleek and stylish throughout the board. Plus, with the River Aire right outside, we’d go on amazing evening walks along it.
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Best location. One of the swankier LGBTQ friendly stays we found in the heart of all gay action is Roomzzz Leeds. It’s located right down the street from amazing gay bars, and it’s also close to River Aire, Granary Wharf, and the train station. We also found Roomzzz ideal for exploring Leeds, as it’s within walking distance from the Central Library, Cathedral, Royal Armouries Museum, Town Hall, and the City Museum. Plus, it’s a stone’s throw from the Old City area of Leeds, another place we wanted to explore.
Despite being an aparthotel, we loved the luxurious suites/studios with fully-equipped kitchens and spacious living rooms. Since we were a group of friends, the spacious digs were perfect for us. Since we wanted our own privacy after delving into Leeds’ fancy gay nightlife, the apartments suited us perfectly. The units are all decked out with plush ostrich-leather headboards, resplendent fabrics, and bespoke walnut-fitted features. Plus, a well-stocked onsite grocery store allowed us to whip up quick meals whenever we fancied. And since we were in no mood to cook breakfasts, the apart-hotel even offered a fine grab-and-go breakfast with fruit juices and hot drinks.
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DoubleTree by Hilton Leeds
Best gay-friendly chain hotel. Nestled on the waterfront in Granary Wharf in Leeds is the Double Tree by Hilton from the LGBTQ-friendly DoubleTree brand. The hotel’s location is enviable for more than one reason. Firstly, Leeds train station is a character-laden stroll through the Victorian-era brick Dark Arches beneath the station. Plus, some of Leeds’ best shopping avenues are less than 10 minutes away. If that wasn’t enough, we loved the 10-minute pleasant walk to the lively Freedom Quarter and its bars and clubs. The best bit? The hotel even has a free water taxi shuttle service thrice every hour to the Leeds Dock down the River Aire. Yes!
On the inside, the DoubleTree by Hilton hardly felt like a chain hotel. If there were a list of the city’s best gay hotels with views, this one would certainly top it. Floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the hotel let the outdoors in and offer sweeping views over Leeds. We were especially impressed by the lively rooftop Sky Lounge and Bar, which boasts great views of the city and West Yorkshire. It was the perfect spot to sip cocktails while watching the sunset. In fact, the day we stayed back at the hotel, we enjoyed a lovely spot of afternoon tea here. Plus, the place also serves wines and spirits all day long here. Apart from a breakout area and gym, Hilton also has a bistro-style restaurant that lays out a nice buffet breakfast.
Coming to the rooms, we were no less delighted. The modern and bright rooms with standard mod-cons and well-designed ensuite bathrooms ensured a pleasant stay. We opted for the King Junior Suite on a higher floor for the space and the great views.
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Leonardo Hotel Leeds
The LGBTQ-friendly Leonardo Hotel Leeds (formerly Jurys Inn) is located on the other side of the River Aire, which was one of the main attractions for us. What’s more, it was still within walking distance from Leeds’ main attractions, the train station, and the Royal Armouries Museum in the other direction. And even though it was on the other side of the River Aire, the gay scene at Lower Briggate was a mere five-minute walk.
Housed in a modern, 10-story structure, the hotel is contemporary to the core with an open-plan layout. The staff was very forthcoming and helpful, especially with travel tips. While there’s a restaurant onsite, the bar with the 24-hour menu is ideal for midnight feasts and untimely hankerings in the room. The small gym is great for quick workouts, and the discounted parking three minutes away was a blessing for us since we’d rented a car too. What’s more, the hotel serves a killer full English breakfast as well as a smattering of à la carte dishes at no extra charge.
The rooms are the main draw at this hotel. Some of the best rooms are the north-facing rooms with River Aire views and the higher-floor ones with cityscape views. Our Executive King room had gorgeous views of the city, and we were also on a higher floor! The brown-and-cream color scheme, modish decor, and contemporary bathroom with bathtub and exclusive toiletries were highlights. It also helps that the beds are extremely comfy. However, the biggest plus point of being an Executive Room guest was that we got a well-stocked, complimentary minibar, free coffee and drink vouchers, and even 10% off on food/drinks.
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Park Plaza Leeds
Since we were interested in exploring Leeds, we couldn’t find a better base than the gay-friendly Park Plaza. Located right at City Square, the modern, highrise Park Plaza was within walking distance of the River Aire, the Gay Quarter, and the Leeds train station. Plus, we were even able to indulge in this great Leeds’ 2-hour Highlights Walking Tour that begins right outside Park Plaza.
The hotel is set in what is one of Leeds’ tallest buildings, a 1960s-built former office block. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the restaurant and bars ensure sweeping, panoramic views of the city. A modern-minimalist color palette of blacks and creams is a great base for neon lighting and color pops. Fitness fanatics will like the fact that there’s a fair-sized gym. The Latin cocktail bar, which also serves a hot buffet breakfast, is great for grabbing a sundowner cocktail.
Of all the rooms at the Park Plaza, we’d recommend the corner Executive rooms, which are not only spacious but have two windows. Standard mod-cons and stylishly simple decor render the rooms very comfortable. Those with the urge to splurge can choose the top-floor suites, which have kitchenette and dining areas, and even a bathtub. The zenith of all luxury at the Park Plaza is the Penthouse Suite which boasts gorgeous views of Leeds, the River Aire, and beyond.
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Almost every English town has a distinct ‘train-station hotel,’ and we really wanted to stay at one. That’s why we chose the LGBTQ-friendly The Queens Hotel, which is Leeds’ version of a train-station hotel. However, this 1937-built hotel is anything but run-of-the-mill. It preserves much of its ’30s heritage in the form of Art Deco motifs in the décor and furnishings.
The restaurant, bar, and lobby have a generally upmarket flair with bright lighting. The ground-floor bar boasts opulent decor and buzzes with people lounging around, including us. The basement restaurant also serves a superb breakfast, apart from a dining menu featuring a bevy of modern British fare. We had the choice of standard/superior rooms and spacious suites, all of which have chic and contemporary Art-Deco style interiors. Moreover, they also have high-end toiletries, a great set of mod cons, and super-comfy mattresses that make for an extremely comfortable stay-in. Since we didn’t mind spending a bit more, we can try the QClub rooms, which have access to an exclusive lounge and even have their own balconies. What’s more, the hotel features good soundproofing, so we didn’t have to sacrifice sleep.
The Queens Hotel is a stone’s throw from some of Leeds’ best attractions, like the Art Gallery, the Trinity Leeds shopping mall, the City Museum, and the Cathedral. Even the gay scene at Lower Briggate is right down the street.
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Most luxurious. Right across from the fabulous LGBTQ-friendly bars of Blayd’s and Bridge in Leeds lies the Malmaison Hotel, one of the best gay-friendly hotels in Leeds. We loved staying at this plush, glamorous hotel, reminiscent of an era gone by, which is evident in the Moulin Rouge-inspired decor. If you’re someone who seeks a blend of old-world British and modern living, the Malmaison is perfect.
Dramatic chandeliers and dimly lit interiors radiated an intimate and private vibe. What’s more, the helpful staff would dole out travel tips, and 24-hour room service and reception had us gushing at the level of service. The onsite brasserie and bar are done up in a charming way and feature excellent happy hours. We particularly loved their Sunday lunch, as well as their afternoon tea. Moreover, breakfast is a hearty affair, complete with coffee and eggs Benedict.
“Staying at the Malmaison was the cherry on top of what was a luxurious and romantic holiday in Leeds!”WOW Travel
The rooms at Malmaison range from cozy double rooms to spacious suites and channel a distinct contemporary and urban-living feel. Huge headboards and exposed lightbulbs made for classy touches. Soft beds, comfy robes, standard mod-cons, and a well-stocked minibar kept the rooms from feeling non-exclusive.
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The Bells – Serviced Apartments
The Bells Serviced Apartments make for a great accommodation for discerning gay travelers looking for style and a wee bit of history at the same time. Housed in a 17th-century building ensconced by trees, the Bells comprise six gorgeously restored apartments. The stained glass windows, Gothic windows, and exposed brick complement the open-plan living and handpicked furnishings. The decor is eclectic, from antique cash registers and statement art to retro phones and mid-century furniture.
The history of the eponymous bells, for which the structure is named, can be found within each apartment. Plus, the rooms themselves have a slew of mod-cons, including soundbars, wall-hung flat-screen TVs, and fully-equipped kitchens. Foot-soothing carpets and huge, snuggle-worthy beds made us feel at home. Since we were a group of four people, we chose the Emmanuel, a gorgeous two-bedroom suite with a balcony and a hot tub too. Heck, it even had exposed brick walls and Gothic windows! However, all apartments feature Victorian-era touches that blend with modern living. Nevertheless, each apartment also boasts its own personality and touches range from a floor-to-ceiling glass wall in one to patios with hot tubs in another. All-in-all, we found the old-world romance we were seeking at The Bells.
Located a street away from River Aire and the Gay Quarter, The Bells also boasts a great and rather convenient location for us. Furthermore, the Leeds train station and most cultural attractions are a short stroll away.
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We were looking for a luxurious, low-key vibe, and that’s exactly what we found at the gay-friendly Dakota Leeds. It sits close to River Aire, the shopping areas, and the Gay Quarter, making it one of the best-located gay-friendly hotels in Leeds for us.
The hotel boasts the same low-key elegance as the eponymous transatlantic aircraft of the 1930s, the Dakota. A pearly-white and glossy-black exterior with tinted windows lent the hotel exclusivity. The interiors are seductive to boot, with black-and-white photographs of Hollywood greats, low lighting, mirrored wall panels, and velvet sofas. What we loved the most is that the staff was enthusiastic and yet unintrusive. Every evening, we’d grab a cocktail at the intimate ground-floor bar. Plus, the hotel even offered us a £5/day pass to a leisure center close by. We love the full Yorkshire breakfast offered at the stylish bar and grill restaurant.
The rooms at the Dakota impressed us with their cocooned luxury vibe, with big mirrors, soft throws, velvet upholstery, and a restrained grey-on-grey palette. Huge TVs, well-designed bathrooms, and framed musical photos adorn the rest of the room.
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Best hostel. We delved headlong into Leeds’ gay scene at the funky, gay-friendly Art Hostel. The hostel lies right down the street from some of Leeds’ best gay bars, including the New Penny. Since it’s designed for younger travelers, it caught our fancy of the LGBTQ set in a heartbeat.
Housed in an 18th-century, four-story brick building, the hostel is outfitted with a 1960s retro theme. We loved the porthole windows, Victorian iron fireplaces, flea-market fittings, and lots of ’60s retro curios that dot the eclectic space. Moreover, the lobby area features a small kitchen stocked with essentials, so we were able to whip up light meals when we were hungry. Plus, the lounge was ideal for striking conversations with fellow travelers. We even did yoga in the brick-lined basement strung with dainty fairy lights. But the best of all was the backyard firepit, which turned into a lively barbeque area during good weather.
The rooms at Art Hostel showcase Leeds’ alternative and industrial heritage and have been designed by various visiting and local artists. What’s more, both dorms and private rooms both are modern and feature fun and quirky decor. With someone at the reception all the time and no curfew, we party monsters could head in any time after a night of revelries. That’s what gets the hostel extra bonus points.
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While all LGBTQ hotels on this list are amazing, we’ve curated a specialized list of hotels below for their best features:
- Best location: Roomzzz Leeds
- Best gay-friendly chain hotel: DoubleTree By Hilton Leeds
- Most luxurious: Malmaison Hotel
- Best hostel: Art Hostel
Just So You Know:
- Leeds’s Pride festival is currently the largest Pride festival to be completely free of charge in the United Kingdom.
- Leeds has many LGBT+-friendly sports classes and clubs.
Get Some Culture in Leeds:
- Leeds Pride: The Pride Parade in Leeds is Yorkshire’s biggest celebration of the life of LGBTQ people. The festival is free to attend and features a host of events centered around and for the LGBTQ set. There are musical acts, rides, a family area, a marketplace, a pop-up DJ booth, and tons of food outlets. Plus, there’s the huge Pride Parade which begins at Millenium Square and ends at Lower Briggate. The 2023 edition will be the 18th-year celebration.
Best Gay Bars / Clubs in Leeds:
- The Viaduct: This is Leeds’ most popular gay bar. It features some of the most exciting and steamy performances in the world.
- Queens Court: This gay bar with fantastic drink deals is a great place for starting your evening revelries in Leeds.
- Fibre: This gay bar has a cool, younger LGBTQ+ crowd and sees parties go on till the wee hours of the morning.
- Blayds Bar: This cheerful place is very popular with the LGBTQ crowd.
- The Bridge: On Friday nights, you’ll see a fabulous free karaoke night happen at this gay club.
- The New Penny: The Penny, as it is locally known, is not just Leeds’ oldest gay pub but is supposedly the oldest gay pub in the whole of the UK.
Best Gay Saunas in Leeds:
- Steam Complex Sauna: After Base shut down, this steamy sauna complex is the most popular gay sauna in Leeds. Located just outside the city center, the sauna hosts amazing events like Big Naked Tuesdays and No Towel Saturdays. Oof!