Anyone who still thinks it's grim up north should get themselves to Leeds straight away - a new boutique hotel, The New Ellington, has just opened, there's enough shopping to exhaust a WAG, restaurants and bars galore, plus stunning buildings, art and opera to tick the culture boxes.
Starter for 10: Leeds
The funky art deco decor is a tribute to jazz great Duke Ellington, who played the city's music festival in 1958, and there's black and white photos and 20s-style paintings in the downstairs restaurant. With 35 chic minimalist bedrooms and ultra-friendly staff, it's a real gem. Rooms cost from £89, visit www.bespokehotels.com/ellingtonleeds or call 0844 815 9838 to book.
At Granary Wharf, stop for the great view from the 13th floor Sky Lounge bar in the City Inn, while at Clarence Dock, there's the Royal Armouries to enjoy, including an incredible collection of centuries-old armour. The cruise runs between 11am and 3.30pm on weekends until October 31, and will start again next May. Adult tickets cost £3. Go to www.yorkshire.com or call 0845 388 4901 for more information.
There's also regular concerts and events throughout the year, including the chance to have dinner with The Merry Widow cast.
Have a quick stop to refuel at the cafe, with its gorgeous tiled ceiling (and equally good quiche) then next door is more sculpture at the Henry Moore Institute, linked by a walkway. Both museums are free.
Starting in Millennium Square with the gold statues created in 2000, you'll also wander past St Anne's Cathedral, the grand and imposing Town Hall, the old Leeds City Tramways Department – now home to The Malmaison hotel – and Kirkgate Market, the largest indoor market in Europe. With 400 stalls inside, and 200 outside, it's also where Marks and Spencer started life, at Michael Marks' penny bazaar.
For something more laid-back, the intimate Arts Café bar nearby has regular exhibitions of artwork by local artists on the walls and beautifully cooked food.
If you'd rather a glamorous place to see, be seen and choose from over 100 types of bubbly as well as 70 different cocktails, Epernay Champagne bar is hard to beat. Settle back in the courtyard terrace and sip in style. Or for something funkier, the award-winning Sandinista has over 30 types of rum, pages of cocktails and tapas to soak it all up.
Vintage lovers or anyone looking for quirky jewellery should head straight to Bird's Yard on Kirkgate, with several floors of small boutiques to wander through – it's closed on Mondays.
Just around the corner from Leeds College of Music, there's live gigs along with great cocktails and Sunday roasts.
Or get into the Christmas spirit with the Christkindelmarkt on Millennium Square from November 12 to December 19, with over 40 traders from Frankfurt setting up stall, complete with some warming gluhwein and bratwurst as you browse.
And art-lovers should head to the Leeds Art Gallery between November 26 and February 6, 2011 for the Northern Art Prize, with an exhibition of the shortlisted artists.