I know what you’re thinking: a weekend in Leicester? And you wouldn’t be alone. Even the locals thought it was a bit odd. But I’m in this underdog of a city for two good reasons, and while I’m here I find a whole lot more to make me want to stay.

Weekend in Leicester

Weekend in Leicester

My weekend trip has come about because my boyfriend wants to explore the city’s connections to one of its most famous sons: Arts and Crafts architect and designer Ernest Gimson. It’s also happening because I’ve been a bit obsessed with Richard III since reading Shakespeare’s play of the same name in high school. When the king’s remains—which had been missing for over 500 years—were suddenly discovered under a parking lot in Leicester in 2012 I made a mental note to visit someday.

Clock Tower in Leicester

So now we’re off on our weekend getaway. In just over an hour on the train, we get from London to Leicester and start exploring.

Town Hall in Leicester

And there’s a lot more to explore than I imagined. I had worried that there wouldn’t be enough things to do in Leicester to keep us busy for two days, but we end up having the opposite problem.

Richard III Museum, Leicester

Things to Do in Leicester

We start with Richard III. A new visitor center dedicated to the controversial king opened two years ago. It leads us through the story of his final days in 1485 and the rediscovery of his remains. At the end it takes us to the very spot where his bones were found. Goosebumps.

Richard III Statue, Leicester

Across the square outside lies Leicester Cathedral, where Richard III is now buried. We go in to see his tomb and discover that it’s only one of the amazing works of art housed within the walls.

Richard III Tomb, Leicester

There’s more outside, too. Behind the cathedral is the lovely 14th-century Guildhall. Its half-timbered facade is straight out of a storybook.

Leicester Guildhall

Down the street is a set of full-blown Roman ruins. I’m a huge sucker for Roman history, and seeing the Jewry Wall, one of the tallest surviving pieces of Roman masonry in Britain, is pretty amazing. That’s to say nothing of Saint Nicholas Church next door, which exhibits a fascinating mix of architectural styles dating back centuries.

Saint Nicholas Church, Leicester

But we’re not just here to look at medieval and Roman Leicester. There’s a lot to the city from more recent times. One of the things that delights us about Leicester is that seemingly every street has gorgeous Victorian and Edwardian buildings above the often bland shopfronts. It’s easy to miss them if we don’t look up, but when we lift our eyes it’s like magic.

Town Hall Clock Tower, Leicester

As we absorb everything from the Thomas Cook Building—it was erected to honor the travel entrepreneur—to the Turkey Cafe—it amuses us with its Art Nouveau nod to the Thanksgiving bird—we’re awed by how much beauty there is here.

Turkey Cafe, Leicester

Still looking up, we make our way through the city center to the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery. The museum is under renovation, but usually has an impressive Arts and Crafts collection on display. We see an exhibition and the exhibits that are still open, then go out to explore one of my favorite places in the city: New Walk.

New Walk, Leicester

Established in 1785, this long pedestrianized stretch transports us back in time. Lined by historic buildings on both sides, it’s a lovely place to soak up Leicester’s past.

New Walk, Leicester

Another lovely place is 15 minutes outside the city. Stoneywell house was designed by Ernest Gimson for his brother at the end of the 19th century. A stunning example of Arts and Crafts architecture, it was converted into a museum two years ago.

Stoneywell, Leicestershire

We take a tour of Stoneywell, absorbing the intimate interior and exploring the wild garden landscape outside. It’s the perfect counterbalance to the city, and a great way to end our weekend in Leicester.

Stoneywell, Leicestershire

As we travel back into town to catch our train to London, we can hardly believe how much we’ve found to love about Leicester. In fact, we’ve enjoyed it so much that we can’t help going for a last glimpse of some of our favorite streets and buildings before we leave.

Crescent, Leicester

Once en route to the capital, it doesn’t take us long to start planning our next visit. When the New Walk Museum is fully open again we’re going to head back and take in the collections and a lot more of the city. When we do, we’ll know to leave ourselves plenty of extra time to explore.

Leicester Train Station

Have you been? How would you spend a weekend in Leicester?

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Weekend in Leicester

26 Comments on Lady’s Guide to a Weekend in Leicester

  1. I’m from Leicester and it makes me so happy that you enjoyed my hometown! I was obsessed with Jewry wall museum and the guildhall as a child haha.

    If you come back Abbey Park is a lovely place to go for a walk and it has the old ruins of the abbey King Henry the 8th used to visit and where Cardinal Wolsey died and is buried. Also, out of the city and into the countryside there’s bradgate park which is lovely and has more ruins, rivers and deer just walk around freely.

    Emily x

  2. One of the many cities in the UK that is so overlooked! If you have time to explore the countryside he to Rutland water as it is beautiful!

  3. I love the fact that Richard’s casket was made by his descendant, a woodworker in Canada who had no idea he was related until the people searching for descendants to match DNA found him. And I’ve also heard Bradgate Park is a marvelous and magical place. It once belonged to the Grey family (as in Lady Jane and Elizabeth Woodville’s first husband before she married Richard’s brother Edward IV). Not missing that once I make it to Leicester, hopefully summer next year.

  4. There is also the abbey pumping station museum which houses some interesting facts and exhibits! And depending how you have travelled to leicester – bosworth battlefield in market bosworth!

  5. I am from leicester and all the comments are true … vista brad gate park on the outskirts of the city, a lovely place to walk … vista the house (part ruins) of lady Jane grey … Queen of 9 days! The ruins also see ‘deadly night shade’ growing freely in the ruins. Newtown lindford is full of picture book cottages and lovely pub for lunch or dinner …. if you come by car, go to Foxton locks for a beutiful canal walk, market Harborough, has an historic medieval market building and great for lunches and shopping … Uppingham has great walks, old cafes, fabulous old public school …. venture out to bosworth and walk around the battle of bosworth fields and museum … bring your dog’s or come by motorbike … great roads to ride, Donnington park on the doorstep, great bikers pub ( man within compass in whitwick) also does weekend out door music events in the summer , an active monetary on the doorstep with visitor centre, cafe and tours … leicester is lovely and I only scratched the surface x

  6. It’s good to know there’s more to see than just Richard’s tomb, if I go all the way there! I’m a bit disappointed with the stark looking cut cross in stone, but would love to visit anyway… Did you get to see the 3d printed bones? I read they made a rendition of his skeleton so they could rebury him. If you’re interested in Richard III, I highly suggest reading The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman! It’s a really good book, and sympathetic to Richard, rather than making him evil as Shakespeare did. (Though Shakespeare was working under the Tudors, so we can’t blame him!)

  7. Thanks for the inspiration. My brother lives just outside Leicester in Blaby and whenever I visit I always avoid the city thinking that it’s not very interesting. I Think I’ve only really seen the shopping center!
    Seems that I was wrong.
    Next time I come I will make the effort to have a better look at it.
    Bradgate Park is amazing.

  8. I grew up in Leicester, and attended King Richard III High School. Looking at your interesting site brought back many memories of long ago. Very happy memories, I might add.

    England is heaped in history, and Leicester is no exception. Did you know that the science of DNA was first tested there at the University of Leicester? (Research Sir Alec John Jeffreys/) He had been talking with a police officer friend who was frustrated by a 4 year old unsolved murder mystery, and another similar rape/murder had occurred. Alec Jeffreys and the police department arranged for all men in the small community give DNA samples ~ the results were useless! Then one evening an off duty policeman stopped off at a local pub for a sandwich, He overheard two men at the next table laughing about how one of the men had fooled the police by paying the other man to impersonate the first, and give a second sample using his name. The policeman arrested both men at that point and did new DNA tests. Colin Pitchfork was then identified and convicted of the two murders.

    Just thought you might find this an interesting (more recent) historical event that happened a few years before the discovery of Richard III’s remains.

    Regards, Nicki

  9. I went to school at Alderman Newton’s Grammar School, next door to the cathedral, and walked past the remains of Richard III every school day. It’s bizarre to think of it now.
    We have a visit planned for later this year to see the gardens which are opened for viewing at Willoghby Waterlees, but have so much else planned, such as Stonywell etc. we don’t think a week is long enough.
    But there is always another time, we hope.
    Thanks for the post.

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