COMEDIANS used to joke that the only good thing to come out of Leeds was the A65.
But the city is having the last laugh after becoming the only place in Britain among Lonely Planet’s top ten undiscovered, European destinations for tourists.
The list – put together for the Best In Europe 2017 guide – was compiled to highlight must-see sights beyond the traditional attractions of Prague, Paris and the Lake District.
The West Yorkshire city, which has undergone significant urban regeneration over the past decade, comes fifth behind Zagreb in Croatia, Gotland in Sweden, the Galicia region of Spain, and northern Montenegro.
Historically, Leeds was an industrial city, built on woollen mills and iron foundries.
But today it is a thriving, multicultural financial hub second only to London for banking and legal services, with Britain’s fastest rate of private-sector jobs growth.
Famous for its cricket, generations of international stars from Geoffrey Boycott to Joe Root began their careers at the city’s Headingley ground.
Other attractions include the Royal Armouries Museum, which includes a full suit of armour for an elephant, Kirkgate Market, where Marks & Spencer began trading, and Kirkstall Abbey, one of the country’s most complete medieval Cistercian abbeys.
Celebrities to have come out of the city include playwright Alan Bennett, novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford, Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding, artist Damien Hirst, DJ Chris Moyles, actor Peter O’Toole, TV presenter Jeremy Paxman, and chef Marco Pierre White.
The guide praises Leeds for its modern outlook and flourishing cultural scene, with a thriving nightlife and a growing reputation for food and craft beer.
James Smart, Lonely Planet’s UK destinations editor, said: ‘Once defined by its industrial past, Leeds is a confident cultural hub in the North of England.
‘With major events this year including the reopening of Leeds Art Gallery and the 50th anniversary of Leeds Carnival, there’s never been a better time to head to Yorkshire and join the party.’
Zagreb was top of the list for its architecture and cosmopolitan way of life, Gotland is a Baltic island with breathtaking scenery, while Galicia is a hotspot for fine dining and unspoilt beaches.
Mr Smart said: ‘We’ve compiled our hot list of destinations across the continent offering something new, exciting or undiscovered that make them worth exploring.’
The top ten is Zagreb, Gotland, Galicia, northern Montenegro, Leeds, Alentejo in Portugal, northern Germany, Moldova, Paphos in Cyprus, and Le Havre in France.
What the latest must-see city has to shout about:
Royal Armouries Museum: Some 75,000 items include Henry VIII’s armour.
leeds festival: One of Britain’s biggest music events, August 25-27.
The Victoria Quarter and Victoria Gate: Upmarket retail area, with Harvey Nichols and John Lewis.
Leeds Indie Food festival: The annual food fest runs until May 28.
Leeds Carnival: West Indian event next Monday – marking its 50th year.
Emmerdale Village Tour: The outdoor TV set opens on certain dates to let fans see the fictional village.
Roundhay Park: More than 700 acres – among the biggest in Europe.
Corn Exchange: Grade 1 listed, one of Britain’s finest Victorian buildings.
the tetley: Art gallery that retains historic former brewery’s features.
England v West Indies Test, Headingley: From August 25-29.