Whether you’re new to the city or a returning student, we’ve put together a guide to our favourite places, as a short cut to discovering some of the best that Leicester has to offer. We’ve missed loads, of course, but we hope this gets you started…
Leicester’s largest purpose built venue is DeMontfort Hall which hosts internationally known acts like Goldfrapp, Imelda May and Texas. Student discount is available on a show to show basis, with one of the best offers being £5 tickets to Philharmonia Orchestra shows if a bit of classical music is your vibe. The O2 Academy (within Leicester University’s Students Union) offers an array of rooms of different capacities and hosts shows from the likes of Milburn, Newton Faulkner and The Twang.
Just opened on the edge of the city is brand new venue Dryden Street Social which already has shows from Superfood, Temperance Movement and Bo Ningen announced. We’re anticipating exciting things. On Braunstone Gate, 2Funky Music Café is great for more of an urban sound, with Aba Shanti-I gracing it’s stage this summer.
Leicester has a wealth of smaller venues across the city centre, including The Cookie, Firebug, The Shed & The Soundhouse, all of which offer a mix of local acts and rising talent most nights of the week. If you’re in to your folk, blues, jazz, soul, roots or americana then check out The Musician on the edge of the Cultural Quarter and The Donkey up on Welford Road.
If you’re starting a band or need some practice space there is a wealth in the city including Still Ill off Narborough road, and Pirate Studios close to The Highcross. Stayfree rehearsal rooms on Frog Island offer 10% student discount.
February sees Leicester Comedy Festival take over the city for two weeks, with hundreds of shows from established acts, household names and new talent. It’s surprisingly easy to let it pass you by, but throw yourself in to the fray and soak up as much of this unique event as possible – you only get it in Leicester so make the most of it!
Again De Montfort Hall tops out the city’s comedy venue offering with shows from the likes of Jimmy Carr, Russell Brand, Greg Davies and more household names performing throughout the year. Many of the city’s smaller venues also offer comedy year round, especially in July and August as Edinburgh Fringe preview shows see big names hitting the city to try out new material – notably The Y Theatre, The Cookie, Firebug and The Little Theatre.
Leicester Fridge is a collective of comedy creators that was created to promote local comedy at The Comedy Festival but works year round with various nights across the city, and is always worth keeping an eye on.
The city also has regular comedy nights, including many which are free or pay what you want. Club Smashing (second Thursday of every month. Pay what you want), Proper Funny (Last Saturday every month. Pay what you want) and The Same Faces: Improv (First Saturday every month, £5 advance £7 OTD) all take place at The Criterion. Manhattan 34 hosts Comedy and Cocktails (First Tuesday every month, pay what you want) which does exactly what it says on the tin. The Shed has a new night Laugh A Minute (second Friday every month, £5 advance £7 OTD) and The Western has The Same Faces: Uncle Armando (third Monday September-December £8/£6 concession)
Leicester is home to the architecturally ground-breaking Curve Theatre. They offer big discounts for students to their shows if you’re under 26, and cheap tickets can be found for open rehearsals. At The Little Theatre students are eligible for reduced entry to Leicester Drama Society plays, and a limited number of £5 ‘day tickets’ for under 26’s.
Just off Narborough Road above The Western pub is Upstairs at the Western – a tiny pub theatre with big ambitions. They offer concessions to young people 21 years and under – usually £2 off the standard ticket price.
The cities, oldest theatre – The Y – hosts theatre year round, including the innovative 14:48 weekends which see 14 plays created over 48 hours by sleep deprived directors, writers, actors and musicians.
Leicester’s independent cinema and arts centre, Phoenix, shows a range of blockbusters and lesser known gems as well as cult cinema classics and offers £6 tickets for under 25s. They screen a ‘mystery film’ every Friday for just £4. There are also Showcase and Odeon cinemas in the city centre.
ART & PERFORMANCE
Need a place to work on art work off campus? Check out 2 Queens and StudionAme, both located next door to the Cultural Quarter. Meet the fun and arty folk of Leicester with busy private views and a free beer. 2 Queens have discounted rates on studio space for students/recent grads too, offering 50% off associate membership for current students and 10% off studio space in your first year after graduating.
LCB Depot is the creative “hub” of Leicester, nestled in the Cultural Quarter. It’s a great meeting place with free creative co-working spaces. If you want to get involved with a huge variety of the city run festivals you can do worse than signing up to Leicester Arts Festivals. From the Comedy Festival, to Diwali and Journeys Festival International, this is the place to enhance your arts CV and have a great time doing it.
New Walk is home to Soft Touch Arts – A unique arts organisation in the city that gives young people employment skills and opportunities. Soft Touch hosts the sMASHing pop up cafe every Thursday with great food and drink all under a fiver if you need to scrape that student loan a little further.
Attenborough Arts Centre, on the Leicester University campus provides lots of opportunities to see artistic development in its brilliance and, sometimes wonderful awkwardness! Very reasonable priced and a chance to see the next comedy, theatre or dancing stars of the city.
One of the city’s best performance poetry and spoken word nights, Find the Right Words at Upstairs at the Western offer reduced entry for under 21s.
The city centre is home to a wealth of independent coffee shops as well as all the usual chains. Check out St Martins (in St Martins Square), 200 Degrees on Market Street, The Coffee Counter on Bowing Green Street, Bru on Granby Street and Almeida on Guildhall Lane.
Out of the city centre and Queens Road is home to another little cluster of coffee shops including Coffee Ethic (which offers charging points if you need somewhere to work) and Northern Cobbler. On the other side of town Braunstone Gate has 96 Degrees, if you’re looking for an escape closer to De Montfort Uni.
Kai is a brilliant little café tucked in St Martins Square offering Buddha bowls and some great veggie and vegan options. They offer 10% off for students. Fingerprints & Salvador Deli are staples of Clarendon Park lunches, and both offer various hot and cold options. Phoenix & Curve in the Cultural Quarter both have great cafés, with the former being a favourite for remote working during the day. The Lanes – which stretches from St Martins Square through to High Street – is full of brilliant little cafés, including Mrs Bridges Tearoom (we recommend this one for taking the parents) and Leicester quick lunch staple, Croques. Both are great for breakfasts, as is Café Two Ten on Narborough Road, and Jones’s on Queens Road. Arguably the best cooked breakfast for the money is still at Firebug, and is served all day.
Little Tokyo on Braunstone gate is a hidden gem for Japanese food, and Grounded Kitchen on Queens Road is a fresh take on the ‘buddha bowl’ trend with some spicy veggie and vegan options as well.
Leicester can easily give Manchester and Birmingham a run for their money in the Curry Capital of the UK stakes. There are so many good options, but Nawaaz on London Road has become a real Great Central favourite with the option to bring your own booze and complimentary starters on occasion. The Curry House opposite is another solid offering, and if you prefer south indian cuisine try Kayal on Granby Street and for the best veggie and vegan options try Shivali close to the bottom of New Walk and Mitthas on Narborough Road.
For Pizza, new to the city is Oscar & Rosies which serves slices, 14”ers and meter long monsters. They also offer unlimited buffets, ideal for society nights, for £15 per head (minimum of 10 people). Now well established at the bottom of New Walk is Peter Pizzaria. If you can get past the slightly forced Meme-based marketing in their windows they have amazing pizza and some unusual (but excellent) flavour combinations. The Exchange in the cultural quarter serves pizza throughout the week, but on Mondays you can toss a coin to get yours free. Up on Queens Road you’ll find Don Leone and Halcyon offer different takes of pizza – the former a long time Clarendon Park resident and the latter opening it’s doors earlier this year.
Crafty has long been the king of burgers in Leicester. Operating out of St Martins Coffee Shop on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, make sure you book ahead.
Meatcure is another great indie local burger chain sat at the back of the Highcross. They offer 25% off with an NUS card or 20% off with a regular student card. Boneyard on Granby Street offers mostly meat based meals with a fusion of different flavours. Check out their flatbread wraps, or ‘snatches’ (yeah, we know, sorry) which are incredible. They offer 20% NUS discount, and pop in between 4 & 7 or from 10 until they close for two-for-one cocktails.
We’re yet to try it, but Boo on London Road looks to offer a great selection of burgers if you’re at the Leicester Uni end of town, or if you’re in the cultural quarter we can’t recommend the beef and veggie Gray’s in the LCB Depot enough. Cured is another great purveyor of meaty goodness and is making a welcome return to new premises at The Cookie.
For the ethically conscious eater, try the World Peace Café on Guildhall Lane in the Buddhist centre for cheap and meat free lunches. The Good Earth off Granby Street and Currant Affairs both cater for vegans, as does Shivali if you fancy vegan Indian food.
Lastly but not leastly, the last Friday of each month sees a tonne of street food stalls show up at LCB Depot for Canteen.
The Cookie, as well as hosting much of the best music and comedy to come through the city is also home to The Attic cocktail bar. The Cookie offers 10% student discount, and 15% if you happen to work at another bar.
The Globe is Leicester’s oldest pub, tucked in the lanes and full of character. Tuesdays see them offer 2 for 1 burgers and on Wednesdays you can grab a Free pint with a pie. Their Happy Hour runs from 5 until 7 Monday to Friday.
The Orange Tree Group are an east midlands independent bar chain with The Orange Tree on the High Street, The Lansdowne on London Road and Basement close to the bottom of New Walk. At The Lansdowne you’ll find 20% off mains on mondays, a free drink with a main meal on Tuesdays and free dessert with a main meal on Wednesdays. They also offer two-for-one cocktails throughout the week. At The Orange Tree you’ll find Nachos to share and two cuba libres for £10, and on Tuesdays selected cocktails are £4.
Firebug is a long time staple of Leicester’s nightlife and it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up there towards the end of an evening as it closes at 4 most nights. That said, it’s open almost all day as well, and their Firebug card will get you happy hour prices all the time – £3 cocktails on society nights, £1 shots, 1/3 off food for students, and half price food if you’re a member of an affiliated society.
Between the chain pubs in the city centre you’ll find The Queen of Bradgate who offer 10% off all drinks, 50% off all food Monday – Friday and even 10% off ping pong sessions. Yes. Ping Pong. Opposite you’ll find Bruxelles – a Belgian themed bar with a good selection of beers that has student offers on Tuesdays.
While it might be a bit contrived for some, Leicester’s Après Ski bar (for when you’ve had enough of the slopes) is Après Lounge. On Mondays they offer 50% off cocktails and £1 off beers. On Thursdays buy two large glasses of wine and you’ll get the rest of the bottle for free, or on Fridays get unlimited prosecco for £15 8-10pm. Their ski boot cocktails (yes really) are just £15 on Saturdays from 7 to 9pm. And last, but not least, on Wednesdays you can get a free cheese fondue with any two alcoholic drinks. SWISS. Cosy Club, round the corner from High Street does a smashing breakfast, good coffee, and is a slightly more, erm, cosy, night out.
Manhattan 34 and 33 Cank Street (surprisingly unrelated aside from numerically) are classy cocktail bars, ideal for dates and loan days. The former also offers live music and comedy and the latter has some of the strangest cocktails we’ve seen. Veeno, in the lanes close to 33 Cank Street, is a family run wine bar that produces their own red and whites from their Sicilian vineyards, cutting the import costs and making it the cheapest and best wine bar in Leicester!
Needing some zen in your life? Check out Indy Attic for the best yoga in the city. Above Indy Hairdressers, meet Carlton and the Sansa Yoga team for some thorough relaxation and a full body workout. £10 – post yoga chocolate and mint tea included!