The largest city in the East Midlands and by population the 13th largest city in the UK, Leicester is also one of the oldest and most engaging places to visit in the country.

Despite Geoffrey of Monmouth’s legendary claim that the mythical King Leir founded the city of Leicester (or Kaerlier), the settlement’s recorded history reaches back to the foundation of Ratae Coritanorum in 50 AD by the Romans. Named after the Celtic Corieltauvi tribe, this military settlement grew to become a major trading centre and continued to prosper after the Empire’s collapse.

Indeed, by the end of the Saxon and Viking domination of Britain, Leicester (or Ligeraceaster, ‘town of the Ligor people’, as it was known in the 10th century) was a significant town. Leicester remained prominent during the medieval period, even hosting the first British parliament at Leicester Castle when Simon de Montfort forced Henry III’s hand in 1265. Nevertheless, it was only in 1919 that Leicester regained its city status after 18th century industrialisation brought prosperity and expansion.

Now a beacon of multi-culturalism thanks to immigration in the 20th century, Leicester both celebrates its past and continues to thrive. As such, for culture and entertainment, there are few better places in Britain.


The chief monument to the city’s Roman past is The Jewry Wall. Also containing ruins of the public baths, the Wall dates from c.160 AD and is the second largest piece of surviving civil Roman building in Britain, making it a place of significant historical interest.

Within the city centre, one of the most enchanting pieces of architecture is the Clock Tower. Built in 1868, the Tower acts as a memorial to the four sons of Leicester, including Simon de Montfort, and cannot be missed.

Elsewhere, Leicester Cathedral acts as the major religious building in the city. First recorded in 1086, the Cathedral has since been restored and developed many times and enjoys the pleasure of hosting the tomb of Richard II and the truly beautiful East Window, in memory of those who died during World War II.

Dating from roughly the 15th century, the timber framed Guildhall was once the town hall but now hosts one of the main local museums. In a similar vein, Belgrave Hall, built in 1709 in Queen Anne-style, now acts as a museum specialising in Victorian society. Leicester also contains the City Gallery, a contemporary art gallery stressing local art but also with international exhibitions.

If you’d prefer a picturesque stroll though, try the University’s Harold Martin Botanic Garden in Oadby, which also intermittently provides exhibitions and musical performances.

Leicester is awash with annual festivals, the most important of which being the Summer Sundae Weekender in August, a music festival by the city’s De Montfort Hall which runs on five stages and with past acts like Air, Yo La Tengo and Belle & Sebastian. Also hosted in August is the Leicester Caribbean Carnival.

The city also enjoys considerable prowess in a number of sports. In football, Leicester City FC currently ply their trade in the Championship and play their games at Filbert Way. In rugby union, the Leicester Tigers are one of England’s most successful clubs, playing in the Premiership at Welford Road. In cricket, the newly crowned 2006 Twenty-20 Cup winners Leicestershire County Cricket Club can be seen at their stadium in Grace Road.


Leicester has a number of shopping districts, with the Haymarket Shopping Centre (near the Clock Tower) and The Shires Shopping centre both extremely popular. Moreover, Fosse Park in the Blaby district has the honour of being the largest outdoor shopping centre in the UK.

As well as craft fairs in November and December, Leicester’s Belgrave Road, renowned as Leicester’s 'Golden Mile', is the main area for more unique and exotic goods.

Leicester Market also takes place in the city centre regularly.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Famous for Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Stilton Cheese among other goods, Leicester is packed with places to eat and offers a number of different cuisines. For more traditional English food, try Watson’s on Upper Brown Street but be sure to check out the fabulous Indian and Asian restaurants on Belgrave Road and Melton Road. If you get the opportunity, be sure to try the local wine from the Welland Valley Vineyard as well.

Leicester has a bubbly nightlife, with plenty of bars like Revolution Vodka Bar on the New Walk and Bambu in Welford Road. However, if you want somewhere to dance through the night, try nightclubs like Emporium on Belvoir Road, Mosh in St. Nicholas Place and S.O.H.O. in Halford Street.

Alternatively, you can find theatre at The Phoenix Arts Centre (which also provides art house films), The Haymarket Theatre and The Little Theatre.

Additionally, De Montfort Hall near Victoria Park is a particularly popular venue, providing comedy, music and entertainment (for listings go to www.demontforthall.co.uk).

Tourist Information

Leicester Tourist Information7-9 Every StreetTown Hall SquareLeicesterTel: +44 0906 294 1113info@goleicestershire.com


The nearest international airport to Leicester is Birmingham International Airport, some 45 minutes away from Leicester itself. However, as well as frequent international and domestic connecting flights, there are trains, buses and coaches available to reach the city.

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