Leeds is a city in West Yorkshire, England. It is governed by a metropolitan borough named after the city, which is the second most populous district in the United Kingdom. It is built around the River Aire and is in the eastern foothills of the Pennines.
The city was a small manorial borough in the 13th century and a market town in the 16th century. It expanded by becoming a major production centre, including of carbonated water where it was invented in the 1760s, and trading centre (mainly with wool) for the 17th and 18th centuries. Leeds developed as a mill town during the Industrial Revolution alongside other surrounding villages and towns in the West Riding of Yorkshire. It was also known for its flax industry, iron foundries, engineering and printing, as well as shopping, with several surviving Victorian era arcades, such as Kirkgate Market. City status was awarded in 1893, and a populous urban centre formed in the following century which absorbed surrounding villages and overtook the population of nearby York.
Leeds economy is the most diverse of all the UK’s main employment centres, and has seen the fastest rate of private-sector jobs growth of any UK city and has the highest ratio of private to public sector jobs. Leeds is home to over 109,000 companies generating 5% of England’s total economic output of £60.5 billion, and is also ranked as a gamma world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. Leeds is considered the cultural, financial and commercial heart of the West Yorkshire Urban Area. Leeds is the largest legal and financial centre in the UK, with the financial and insurance services industry worth £13 billion to regional economy.
Leeds is also served by four universities, and has the fourth largest student population in the country and the country’s fourth largest urban economy. The student population has stimulated growth of the nightlife in the city and there are ample facilities for sporting and cultural activities, including classical and popular music festivals, and a varied collection of museums.
Leeds has multiple motorway links such as the M1, M62 and A1(M). The city’s railway station is, alongside Manchester Piccadilly, the busiest of its kind in Northern England. Public transport, rail and road networks in the city and wider region are widespread. It is the county’s largest settlement with a population of 536,280, while the larger City of Leeds district has a population of 812,000 (2021 census). The city is part of the fourth-largest built-up area by population in the United Kingdom, West Yorkshire Built-up Area, with a 2011 census population of 1.7 million.