This multicultural and historic English city in the Midlands provides diverse food and experiences that make it a perfect weekend city break. The city is all walkable and the Old Town is accessible from the train station within a 15 minute walk. The Churches in Leicester are full of history and one of the highlights includes Leicester Cathedral, Richard III burial site. Stay for at least a weekend to fully appreciate Leicester, but it is possible to see Leicester in a day if you are pushed for time.
When you arrive in Leicester, you will probably come by train, in which case you should walk down Granby Street towards the Heymarket Memorial Clock Tower – a historical site and good landmark for navigating your bearings.
From the clock tower, head West and your will come to the Cathedral. Leicester is small and easily walkable, with things well signposted. From the Cathedral, you can explore the historical centre of Leicester which lies in the South-West near De Montford University.
The most famous attraction of Leicester is, of course, Leicester Cathedral where Richard III is buried. The Cathedral is Church of England (High Church) and welcomes visitors. It’s free to enter, and you will be greeted by a priest or Church representative who will give you a laminated card that talks you through the history of the Cathedral. Remember that it is a place of worship and it’s important to treat Churches with respect.
When you enter, look up from the middle of the nave to see the excellent example of a medieval hammer beam roof which has been restored several times over the centuries. The carved angels carry shields, each depicting an aspect of the crucifixion. In the Sanctuary, you will find the Cathedra – the seat of the Bishop.
King Richard III Tomb
The most noteable aspect of the Leicester Cathedral is the Tomb of Richard III. It will have a Church representative with it at all times to ensure that the tomb is kept safe and also to answer any questions that you might have. The tomb is in the equivalent position in Greyfriars Church, where Richard was originally buried in 1485. His remains were discovered in 2012 and Richard III was re-buried at the Cathedral. The tomb itself is made from Swaledale fossil stone from North Yorkshire. His coat of arms and symbol of the boar are found on the tomb, along with his motto in Old French – loyaulte me lie – Loyalty binds me. In the glass case is a copy of the ‘book of hours’ – a copy of Richard’s personal prayer book. Simple yet effective and of utmost historical importance, Richard III tomb is well worth a visit.
Also of note in the Cathedral regarding Richard III is the ‘Pall and Crown’. The Pall created by Jacquie Binns and covered the coffin at his re-interment (reburial). The Medieval crown replica consists of semi-precious stones and gold leaf.
Also make sure to visit the Richard III statue at the front of the Cathedral.
Other Chapels of Interest in Leicester Cathedral
Medieval Chapel – During the Middle Ages, members of the local guild of Corpus Christi worshipped here.
St Dunstan’s Chapel – Dedicated to St Dunstan, a medieval craftsman and monk at Glastonbury Abbey. He became the patron Saint of craftsmen, silversmiths, bell ringers and organists.
Chapel of Christ the King – A newly constructed chapel with a magnificent East window depicting Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. It was intalled in 1920 in honour of those who died in the Great War (WW1).
St Katharine’s Chapel – Dedicated to St Katharine, who was tortured on a wheel of spikes because of her Christian beliefs. She is shown in the centre of the East window. Women used to come to this chapel if they were pregnant, to pray for safe delivery. The chapel contains the Richard III window (second window in the video below).
St George’s Chapel – In Medieval times a life-sized statue of St George, the patron Saint of England resided here. It was wheeled through the streets on Whit Sunday in a celebration known as the ‘wheeling of the George!’
If you haven’t yet had your fill on Richard III history, head to the Richard III visitors centre just opposite the Cathedral. You can get 2-4-1 entry if you show an English Heritage membership card.
Looking for somewhere good to eat near the Cathedral? I recommend the Buddhist centre. It’s nearby, very friendly and has some lovely healthy home cooked lunch options. You can grab a main for around £7.00. I went for the goats cheese tart with salad and a green tea!
Leicester Guild Hall
While you are visiting the Cathedral, take a quick visit next door for the Guildhall. Built in 1390, the Guildhall was a building of importance during the time of Richard III. It was the meeting place for the guild of Corpus Christie – a group of influential businessmen founded in 1343. By 1563 it had become the Town Hall of Leicester. The Leicester Guild Hall narrowly escaped demolition in 1876 and is now open to the public.
From here, you will be able to walk around the Churches in Leicester that were part of the Medieval town, which lay within the old Roman walls. The Medieval town walls followed along what are now Soar Lane, Sanvey Gate, Church Gate, Gallowtree Gate, Horsefair Street and Bath Lane. Four fortress like gates provided entrances to the Old Town – North Gate, East Gate, South Gate and West Gate.
Continuing with the Richard III Theme, one of the most famous religious buildings in Leicester is Greyfriars. This is the friary where Richard III’s body was discovered in 2012. As we know, his body was re-buried in the Cathedral.
Other Churches in Leicester
All of these Churches in Leicester outlined below are walkable within the Old Town. There are many more Churches in Leicester beyond this area, not to mention a diverse array of other religious buildings including the Jain Centre, Sikh temple and three Hindu temples.
St Mary de Castro
St Mary de Castro is a beautiful Grade I listed building located in the Bailey of the Old Leicester Castle. Explore the castle gardens while you are there – it’s a beautiful area to walk around.
All Saints Church
Another Grade I listed building, All Saints Church is now actually redundant and no longer has a congregation. It’s worth visiting for the historical exterior. It’s architectural styles combine Norman and English gothic.
St Nicholas Church
St Nicholas Church has an active parish and is the oldest of the Churches in Leicester. History of this Church spans back to around 800AD.
Church of Mary of the Annunciation
The Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded in 1353 by Henry the first Duke of Lancaster. He was one of King Edward III’s most trusted captains in the early phases of the Hundred Years’ War (https://www.storyofleicester.info/faith-belief/church-of-the-annunciation/).
Other Recommendations in Leicester
Leicester is great for shopping, history and eating out. If you are a vegetarian, visit ‘Herb‘ for a veggie curry. If you are looking for somewhere to relax near the station, stop by at Leicester Coffee for a hot drink and cake with Tommo the dog!
Leicester also has board game cafes and escape rooms to keep you entertained, as well as a number of bars around the cultural quarter.
If you are enjoying the Church architecture of England, you might also like to read about the best English Cathedral cities that you must visit!
There are also some fantastic day trips from Leicester that you might like to consider. Enjoy!