I swapped cities for 27 hours & ended up in Leicester

25 February, 2018

One of the things that I was excited about in 2018 is the fact that this year I'm part of a long-term partnership with ibis hotels to discover more of the UK. Last year, I spent most of my holidays overseas and I wasn't really taking advantage of the beautiful destinations we have right here on this tiny little island. Whilst I'd say I'm now fairly well-travelled when it comes to Europe, when it comes to the UK... well, embarrassingly I hardly ever travel north of London! I'm such a typical and horrible southerner - I know, I know!

Staying down south isn't something I've done intentionally - in fact, I'm desperate to visit Liverpool, Manchester & basically ANYWHERE in Scotland - but seeing more of the UK just hasn't been much of a priority for me until now. Luckily, ibis have come to the rescue and are aiding me in my education of this beautiful little country outside of my obnoxious London bubble. So, for my first adventure outside of the capital with ibis hotels this year, I was asked to city swap with fellow blogger, Emmie from Carpe Diem Emmie, who resides in the East Midlands city of Leicester.

I'll be quite frank with you here; I've never, ever wanted to visit Leicester in my entire life. Never have I thought to myself, "Gosh, I really must book a trip to Leicester - I've heard so many good things". In fact, I don't think I've heard anyone say anything to me nor have I read anything across any travel blogs prompting me to spend a weekend in Leicester. I realise that I'm totally starting to sound like southern snob again but Leicester had just never been on my travel bucket list, which is exactly why I was so excited to visit. Whilst I may not be making complete sense here, the idea of visiting somewhere I'd never considered meant I could approach the city with a completely fresh perspective, entirely uninfluenced by my constant scrolling through social media and other travel blogs.

Leicester is usually just over an hour by train from London (unfortunately for us it was railway work weekend so it took us over 2 and a 1/2 hours each way *sob*) and we stayed at the ibis Leicester City hotel, which is just a 5-minute walk from Leicester train station. Whilst ibis hotels are always modest, I've noticed how they seem to be developing their own unique style from hotel to hotel across different cities. When I walked into the lobby of the Leicester hotel, I knew I was in an ibis hotel but it boasted it's own unique character compared to the other ibis hotels I've stayed in.

We checked into our room as soon as we arrived, ditched our bags and wandered back downstairs for a light lunch in the lobby; tomato soup & bread for me and a mozzarella & tomato panini for James with two cups of coffee, obviously. I cannot sing the praises of the staff at the hotel enough as everyone was so, so welcoming and friendly throughout our stay that weekend. I was actually a little sad to leave on the Sunday as everyone there had made us feel so at home as soon as we stepped through the doors.

After lunch, we took a stroll down to Gelato Village near St. Martin's Square, which was about a 15-minute walk from our hotel. Emmie had insisted on our itinerary that we should stop there to enjoy a scoop or two of their gelato there so we very happily obliged. Luckily, they had not one, but three different vegan options on the menu so I took no time in choosing the dark chocolate sorbetto and James opted for the blood orange sorbetto (again, also vegan). Despite being a sorbetto, the dark chocolate option was surprisingly just as creamy as a gelato despite using no milk whatsoever - 10/10 would recommend if you ever find yourself in Leicester!

Because two scoops of gelato are always better than one!

After scoffing our sorbettos in record time, we headed on over to the Newarke Houses museum, where we would begin our pre-booked activity of the day, which was a comedy tour of Leicester. Now, I forgot to mention previously but throughout February, Leicester welcomes its very own comedy festival with gigs taking place all across the city, whether it be in bars, in cafes, in the streets or pretty much anywhere! It only seemed fitting that we should do a quick tour of Leicester's comedy history. I'll be honest, I had no idea that Leicester was so deep-rooted in comedy, theatre and the arts before my trip there so it was fascinating to discover venues on each corner of the city and the stories behind them.

After our tour, we headed back to the hotel to lay down for a couple of hours - I wish I was joking but at 27 years young old, we were exhausted from the travel and needed to regain some energy before the night ahead! Our itinerary had suggested that we visit Crafty Burger for dinner but after having a look at the menu, I noticed that there was just the one vegan option. Whilst one option is certainly better than none, the lentil burger just wasn't really appealing to me, so after a quick search on HappyCow, we decided to head to The Orange Tree, which boasts an extensive vegan pub grub style menu.

A vegan feast at The Orange Tree.

After filling our stomaches with as much seitan and tempeh as we could handle, we finished up our beers and headed over to BrewDog for our first comedy show of the night as part of Leicester's Comedy Festival, which was 'Dream Big (Within Reason)' with Chris Washington. After that, we hit up the late night Jarred Christmas & Hobbit show at Firebug just down the road. I don't really tend to attend stand-up comedy shows that often but that evening was actually a barrel of laughs and made a change from just having a pretty standard beer in a pretty standard pub.

Afterwards, we made our way back giddily to our ibis hotel, which was just a 10 - 15 minute stroll away from the town centre and easy to navigate - even after a few beers! As per tradition, we stuck on the hotel TV to watch some trash telly and drifted off to sleep in our incredibly comfortable ibis Sweet Bed (which you can actually buy here).

The next morning, our alarm woke us up around 8am after a peaceful night's slumber without any disturbances. Although we were feeling a little sluggish, the excitement of a hotel breakfast had us hopping out of bed within a couple of minutes and pulling some clothes on before heading downstairs. I've never been one of those people that showers before the hotel breakfast so if you catch me in at the hotel buffet, I'll definitely have just pulled clothes on from the day before because for me, breakfast comes before anything else in my hotel morning routine.

I've had ibis hotel breakfasts plenty of times before but this was my first time as a vegan, so I wasn't too sure if there would be much choice for me. Then again, give me a mountain of hash browns, plus baked beans and I will be as happy as Larry (totally off topic: has anyone else wondered what happened to make Larry so damn happy?). However, despite there being no veggie meat alternative options available, the hotel staff offered to cook us vegan sausages to add to our plates, which was an added bonus!

Filling up on our ibis hotel breakfast, obviously.

With our train back to London booked for 3pm, we had a few hours to waste away in Leicester without much of a plan. Instead of researching too much into what to do, we decided to do what we do best when city tripping; we walked, and walked, and walked some more. The day before we skimmed past Leicester Castle before our walking tour so we headed back to the castle gardens to learn a little bit more about our surroundings. Whilst the castle structure itself is no longer there, you can still walk through the gateway and make your way up to the top of the motte to secure a better view of the Great Hall and the neighbouring De Montfort University.

St. Martin's Square & Leicester Lanes are the most picturesque parts of the town centre

Unfortunately the weather wasn't really on our side that weekend in Leicester (despite the weather be bloomin' glorious in London for once that weekend - typical!) so we headed back to Leicester's Lanes, which is full of boutique shops, cafes and bars. Within moments of spotting it, I found myself inside vintage shop, The Vintage Scene, where I left with a pretty swell vintage Pink Floyd tee. Located just opposite from The Vintage Scene is Pink Pigeon Vintage, which offers £15 per kilo of vintage clothes upstairs! Strangely, we found all of the other vintage stores in the area to be closed on a Sunday, which was pretty gutting as I was hoping to scope them all out.

All shopped out, we decided to grab a quick oat milk latte from St. Martin's Coffee Roasters, which also happens to be the home of the previous mentioned Crafty Burger in the evenings! St. Martin's was buzzing with locals enjoying their Sunday afternoon brunch and we almost didn't find a table. Luckily, we managed to find one tucked right at the back upstairs so we nabbed that to rest our weary legs from the past couple of days. Whilst the brunch menu was tempting, we resisted and decided to explore a little more of Leicester's vegan options before we headed back to London.

Stopping off at St. Martin's Coffee Roasters for an oat milk latte.

Unfortunately on Sundays, half of Leicester seems to close, including most of the top vegan food stops, including The Good Earth Restaurant and the World Peace Cafe in the Buddhist Centre. With limited options, we headed to the Stonebaked Pizza Co. restaurant, located within the Highcross Shopping Centre. I won't lie; I wasn't expecting much from the outside of the restaurant but they promised vegan cheese on their pizzas so we decided to give it a shot.

The Stonebaked Pizza Co. is a pizza restaurant like no other; it works in a similar way to Subway. You can quite literally build your own pizza from the base up as you work your way along their toppings bar and a 12" pizza with unlimited toppings costs just £8.99. Considering that I wasn't expecting much initially, the pizza was actually delicious and exactly what we needed for a lunch time pitstop before heading back to London.

Feeling fulfilled with our past 27 or so hours in Leicester, we headed back to the ibis hotel to pick up our luggage, have one final coffee in the hotel lobby and say goodbye to the staff who looked after us so well over the course of the weekend.

Leicester was so much more than I initially expected. It's a city that thrives on its own home-grown arts and culture scene, beautiful street art painting the architecture of the city, more independent & quirky bars than I've ever seen within such a small radius (seriously, there are SO many *nice* bars & pubs!), well-preserved medieval historical sites, inviting boutique shops within the winding & charming lanes, a decent amount of vegan options and a certain charm that draws you in, even when the weather is grim. My only peeve was the fact that so much was closed on a Sunday but then maybe I'm just spoilt with London opening hours.

So, if like me before my trip, you've never heard anyone telling you that you need to book a trip to Leicester, hear me out: YOU NEED TO BOOK A TRIP TO LEICESTER. It's such a wonderful surprise to discover just how charming it is!

Pin this post:


Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with ibis hotels but all words are my own.


  1. This looks like an amazing break! I'm a West Country girl so I haven't explored much up north either but I would love to. Also ibis is actually the best hotel in my opinion - so affordable but nice quality too. The best ibis is in Edinburgh!


  2. I think I'm with you in that it is never a place I would have thought to plan a trip to - but good to know you found some good things to do and places to eat. How funky does the hotel look too?! :)

  3. I love the idea of doing a city swap how cool. It sounds like you had a lovely time in Leicester even if it wasn't somewhere you would originally thought of going (I have to admit I wouldn't have thought of it either). The hotel looks so cosy as well.

  4. It sounds like you had a good time overall (other than the overlong trip!) And that your city swap was educational! I've been to Leicester once before but you've pointed out a lot I didn't realize and now feel I should revisit :)

  5. Wow what an amazing idea! The long trip sounds a bit painful but it sounds like an adventure! I've never been to Leicester!

  6. Never been to Leicester although it was once on my list of uni towns to consider (in the end I went to Swansea). You've brought the place to life nicely for us. And no, I never shower before a hotel breakfast either! Nothing gets in between me and a hotel breakfast!

  7. i gennnnnnnnnnnuinely want to go to leicester now?!

  8. The idea of a city swap sounds wonderful and it certainly looks like you had a great time in Leicester, despite the travel delays. I love the style of the rooms and lobby area at the hotel, totally up my street! xx

  9. This sounds like a totally fun way to explore other cities. I'd totally be up for this!!!


© Leigh Travers 2012. Powered by Blogger.