Leicester, England, UK
Created | Updated Aug 27, 2006
Leicester is in the centre of England and, inside it, is the furthest point in Britain from the sea - Barrow-upon-Soar. Situated off the M1, it's both far enough South for Northerners to feel that they've reached the South and far enough North for Southerners to think they've reached the North of England - hence the area is called the 'Midlands'.
The city sits in a valley, by the river Soar. Next to the river are the castle gardens, but, despite their name, there is no longer a castle. The ruins of the castle were finally destroyed by the Victorians, who blew the top off the castle mount to construct a bowling green.
The air quality is poor, especially in the summer, as it is located in a depression. From the hills surrounding it, you can even sometimes see a haze over the city centre. The situation has, however, improved significantly in the past decades.
Leicester is a good city for day visits - many of its tourist attractions can be seen in a few hours. It has a lot of history - many important and famous people have passed through it. Most famously, King Richard III went through twice in 1485; once while riding to the battle of Bosworth and once slung over the back of a horse on the way back, after losing.
Approximately 300,000 people live in Leicester and it has all the facilities of a city, from shopping centres to coffee bars. Rent is often cheap. It has small, windy streets full of novelty shops and a huge covered market. Certainly, if you need to live in Leicester for whatever reason, you'll find there's more than enough to keep you occupied.
Interestingly, it has a very multicultural society. The city boasts arguably the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India and a huge Caribbean Carnival every August. It has important religious sites including the Jain Centre, the Masjid Umar mosque on Evington Road, the Guru Nanak Sikh Museum (the UK's first Registered Sikh Museum) and the Shree Jalaram Prarthana Mandal Hindu temple. As befits a city, it also has a cathedral.
For sports fans, Leicester has a football team, Leicester City, and a top-rated rugby team, the Leicester Tigers. There are additionally well-established methods to allow visiting fans to quickly reach the train station and return home.
Sporting heroes originating here include Willie Thorne, who has a snooker hall named in his honour on Charles Street, and Gary Lineker, whose family had a fruit-and-vegetable stand in the market.
Interestingly, Thomas Cook's first organised trip started out from Leicester in 1841. It was to a temperance meeting (a meeting for people who abstain from drinking alcohol).
Musically, the city has developed the likes of Cornershop, Mark Morrison and Showaddywaddy. DeMontfort Hall is a community venue that often holds concerts, gigs and shows, as well as tea dances.
The city has two large universities: the original University of Leicester, with award-winning innovative architecture and, on the other side of town, one of the De Montfort University sites (also found in Bedford and Milton Keynes). During term time, over 10% of Leicester's population is students. Due at least in part to the large numbers of students, there are many bars and the main roads are packed with Indian restaurants.
Leicester is diverse and well-connected, perhaps 'average' but nevertheless improving. It's friendly and worth at least a short visit.