Best student bars in Leeds
Check out our picks for the best student bars in Leeds!
Leeds is known all over the country for its lively nightlife and the city’s fun-loving student population know how to have a good time. With a total of three universities bringing in thousands of freshers in each year, Leeds’ student bar scene is vibrant and incredibly diverse, offering everything from homely cheap boozers to retro music joints and swanky cocktail bars. Join as we journey through some of the best student bars in Leeds.
The Arc (£)
Trendy Headingley is full of cool hangouts, but one of the best Headingley student bars is this former cinema complex which was recently given a £1 million makeover. At weekends this vibrant spot is buzzing with a nice mixture of local students and young professionals who love the fun-loving atmosphere, good late night tunes and reasonable drink prices.
Come summer, you can take advantage of the large balcony to work on your tan while you sip on a chilled al fresco pint or two. Or if cocktails are more your thing make sure you check out the beach-themed bar area where you can order tiki drinks. Also on offer are classic cocktails and The Arc’s eccentric Tuck Shop concoctions like the funky Club Tropicana which is topped with a nostalgic WHAM bar. As if that wasn’t enough, all cocktails are two-for-one all day every day of the week!
Other student loan-friendly drinks choices include four for £10 on bottles of Sol and Coors, plus from Sunday to Wednesday you can enjoy £3 pints of Carling or Strongbow and £9.50 bottles of house wine. Sunday nights are especially popular with students thanks to the cheap drinks offers, 50% off food and the weekly Quiz Night which boasts a £100 bar tab as the top prize!
Beer lovers will love the innovative Tap Room where each table comes with its very own beer font with two different beers on tap. Bring your mates and imagine you’re the bartender as you pour your own brews from the comfort of your personal booth. The Arc is also the ideal spot to catch the big game with your mates thanks to the 20 large screens spread across the venue where they show all the major games of the season.
The Dry Dock (£)
For something completely different, check out this quirky bar which is situated on a massive beached boat! The location right next to Leeds Beckett city campus means that this chilled spot is a firm favourite on the Leeds student bar circuit. It’s also the final stop on the legendary Otley Run, a marathon 16-stop pub crawl across the city that is something of a rite of passage for Leeds students!
As well as the natty nautical theme, The Dry Dock is considered one of the best student bars in Leeds thanks to the huge al fresco terrace space which is the largest in the city. It’s the perfect location to kick back with your mates after lectures and enjoy a well-deserved pint or two while you gaze out over the impressive views of Leeds city centre. Below decks there’s a cosy area for when the weather isn’t as cooperative which features a pool table and comfy seating.
While this might all sound very swanky, you can rest assured that the drinks prices at The Dry Dock aren’t going to break the bank. Order five Jagerbombs for a modest £10 or head down on Thursdays to enjoy cocktail pitchers for just £6. Hungry and budget-conscious students flock to The Dry Dock from 5pm on Wednesdays to feast on 25p chicken wings and 25p churros on Tuesdays! They also have a great range of reasonably prices beers and ales, plus a craft beer selection that changes regularly so you’ll always find something new to try.
In case you need to catch up on a little uni work, The Dry Dock also promises free Wi-Fi, a selection of charges in case you’re running out of juice, and the cool staff will even let you print off a couple of pages if you’re really stuck. It’s just another reason why they’re considered one of Leeds’ top student bars!
Wax Bar & Juke Joint (££)
Retro kids will love the vintage vibes at this tiny bar which is tucked away just off The Headrow in Leeds city centre. These guys take their music so seriously that they only ever play vinyl from their own personal collections and there’s even an original 1970s Wurlitzer Jukebox in the corner that punters are welcome to use for free. You’ll also find 80s ghetto blasters repurposed as shelves, lampshades made out of cassette tapes and a huge music library that you can flick through as long as you ask first!
Inside the warm and cosy decor invites you to linger for a while, perhaps while indulging in a little people-watching from the snug window seat looking out on vibrant New Briggate. It’s a great place to indulge in a quiet drink with a couple of mates or a music-loving date. If your parents are in town, it’s also the perfect spot to impress your dad with your good musical taste in old school music.
The tunes vary depending on the bar staff’s mood and who’s hogging the jukebox, so expect classic 50s rock, funk, soul and a dash of reggae thrown in for good measure. On weekends there’s often a DJ on hand to get the party started.
The drinks on offer are mainly focused on reasonably priced bottles of beer which come served in chilled glasses and an ample selection of cocktails which cost between £6.00 and £7.50. Kick back with a “Jamaican Cobbler” made with apricot liqueur and rum or “Rye and Roots” which is based on ginger and rye whiskey. Alternatively, you can ask the friendly staff to whip up your favourite off-menu concoction. There’s also a decent range of wines and spirits on offer if that’s more your thing.
Smokestack has a bit of a reputation as one of Leeds’ best student bars for a wild, no regrets night out. Located on Lower Briggate, the unassuming high street entrance gives way to a small, intimate venue hidden above a restaurant which has the feel of a retro speakeasy and is decorated with retro record covers. Here it’s all about the music and even during the week the regular gig schedule draws a fun mixed crowd of students, young professionals and couples. Smokestack’s weekly Wednesday live music sessions are usually free to enter and offer chilled late night entertainment to keep you going til the weekend.
There’s also a couple of club nights every week when punters are encouraged to let their hair down like no one’s watching and dance the night away. The most famous is the Saturday night Rootdown which has been running for 15 years and is free to enter. Host DJ Chico Malo plays an eclectic mix of electric blues, deep funk, soul, reggae, ska and afro-beat tunes with a healthy dose of classics to get everyone on the floor.
Behind the bar there’s a massive selection of spirits on display which are testament to the extensive cocktail menu. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, the bartenders are also more than happy to concoct something special just for you. There’s also a good choice of reasonably priced bottled beers and wines.
For birthdays and big group gatherings Smokestack makes an ideal private party venue thanks to the large upstairs room with its own bar, dance floor and DJ booth which is available for hire. All you need to do is find a mate who’s a DJ and put together your very own perfect Leeds night out for you and your friends!
The Maven (£££)
This glamorous speakeasy in the centre of town may be a little pricier than Leeds’ typical student bars, but the sophisticated atmosphere and inspired cocktail menu make it the perfect option for an elegant night out with the girls or romantic date. The Maven isn’t the easiest place to find thanks to the access via an unmarked door on Call Lane and a secret staircase, but its strong word-of-mouth reputation has made it a popular late night stop with a predominantly young and chic crowd. The staff encourage you to get in touch if its your first visit so they can give you precise instructions to find the entrance!
Once you do find your way inside, the subdued lighting, smart dark blue walls and comfy leather banquettes immediately create a cosy vibe where you can while away the hours sipping on remarkable libations and putting the world to rights. There’s also another smaller bar next to the DJ booth which pumps out upbeat Motown, rap and R&B tunes on the weekend when the venue fills with some of the city’s coolest cats.
When it comes to ordering drinks, their ample cocktail menu has something for everyone ranging from the classics to their own bespoke creations. Quirky options include “The English Garden” comes served in a teapot, “The Northern Monkey” which is based on the delicious Monkey 47 gin, and the “South Pacific” with passion fruit and vanilla vodka. The The talented bar staff love mixing up new concoctions just for you if you don’t spot anything on the menu that fits the bill! They also have a decent selection of bottled beers and wine behind the bar.
If you fancy putting your own mixology skills to the test, make sure you sign up for one of their popular cocktail masterclasses where you’ll learn to concoct some classic drinks in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.
Strawbs is a favourite Leeds’ student bar thanks to the homely common room vibe, cheap drinks and proximity to both Leeds Beckett and the University of Leeds. This welcoming family-run spot has long been one of the final stops on the legendary Otley Run bar crawl which leads participants to some of Leeds’ most iconic bars.
Named after the classic “Strawberry Fields” song, the decor here falls somewhere between kitsch and homely thanks to the unmissable bright red exterior, enormous garish 3D strawberries and smattering of Beatles portraits on the walls inside. Although the simple furniture is a bit rough-and-ready, the relaxed homespun feel is part of the attraction for the hordes of students drawn by the warm staff, sociable atmosphere and great value drinks offerings.
Budget-friendly options include a choice of 20 different cocktails which cost just £3.99 and boast fun names like “Lippy Lipsmacker”, “The Rise of the Flying Spaghetti Monster”, and “Adios Motherf*cker”. They also do regular 2 for £7 cocktail offers or you can get two Jaeger bombs for £5, while beer drinkers can sample their lager of the week for just £3. The bar is also known for its absinthe collection which starts at £3.99 or £5.50 for a premium absinthe. You can also try their “Bloody Fairy Cocktail” made with absinthe, cranberry juice and tonic water for £5.00.
Drop by on Tuesdays or Thursdays and challenge your mates to a free game of beer pong. Or if you’re a large group, you can hire the bar at the top of the venue without charge for your own private gathering which makes this a popular spot for raucous uni society socials. The ever-helpful owners are also open to hosting acoustic nights if you and your mates fancy showing off your musical talent.
There we go! That rounds up our picks of the best student bars in Leeds. We hope you’ve enjoyed your read, check out some of our other posts to explore the nations favourite student bars in other cities.