In the second in our series of features with MeetEngland, we’re excited to shine the spotlight on Leicester, a vibrant, diverse and colourful city located in the heart of England, which boasts excellent transport connections, just 66 minutes by train from London St Pancras and within 30 miles of both East Midlands and Birmingham International Airports.
Surrounded by beautiful market towns, famous for Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Stilton cheese and the tranquil and rural beauty of the Leicestershire countryside, the city is also home to world-renowned space research, the National Space Centre, three Universities and has so much to offer meeting and event planners.
What’s more, a new initiative to support the recovery and growth of the City and County’s business tourism market was recently launched. Meet Leicester is a new public private sector partnership of over 50 conference and meetings venues based in and around Leicester and Leicestershire, offering an excellent resource for planners keen to explore this absolute gem of a region. Meet Leicester can provide expert advice on the most suitable venues available for any conference and event organiser looking for a perfect venue for their next event, providing a free and impartial venue finding service and support services.
Check out video from our recent trip to Leicester below, and read our event planners’ guide, showcasing some of the city’s many highlights…
There are plenty of new developments in the city for planners to get excited about. Among the recent openings in Leicester is the Novotel and Adagio Hotel complex which opened in February 2020. The complex comprises a 154-room hotel with executive, junior suites, a presidential suite and a 98-room aparthotel and a meeting and conference space for up to 200 delegates. The hotel complex is situated in Great Central Square opposite Highcross shopping centre and a vibrant leisure and dining area.
Other developments include The Gresham, which has undergone a £17 million refurbishment. The 121-room aparthotel in a Grade II listed Victorian building opened in November 2021. The one- and two-bedroom apartments, located in the city centre, are complemented by a lobby bar, retail, restaurant, high-end fitness suite, workspace and conference room.
Meanwhile the Hotel Brooklyn, the hip brand’s second UK opening, is well underway and will open in the summer 2022, located beside the expanded Welford Road Stadium, home of the famous Leicester Tigers rugby team. The property will feature 183 rooms, The Lair Restaurant and Bar, and American-style diner concept Runyon’s, which will be located within the hotel’s five-floor atrium space. There will also be extensive conferencing and events facilities both in the hotel and inside the stadium.
It’s not only hotels that are investing in Leicestershire – The Everards Brewery has also just opened a fantastic new beer hall at its headquarters on the Everards Meadow site, set in 70 acres of green space, giving groups the chance to eat, drink and shop with brewery tours coming soon.
Hotels and venues
With a diverse portfolio of venues Leicester has conference centres, shiny new city centre contemporary hotels and sporting stadia.
Located in the heart of the historic Cathedral Area in the City, St Martins Conference Centre is a lovely venue with a range of boardroom style rooms and an impressive Grand Hall perfect for banqueting for up to 140 guests. Luxury accommodation of 28 bedrooms, with car parking available is just a two-minute walk away from the conference centre and sits opposite the Cathedral.
The Venue, De Montfort University, just a short walk from the city centre, is a fantastic flexible space for up to 1,000 people theatre style and 500 seated banquet style for dinner. The main events space can be split up into four large individual halls.
Leicester is renowned for its sporting expertise, there is a racecourse, the winning Leicester City Premiership Football Club, the Leicestershire County Cricket Club, and the Tiger’s rugby, all of which have a superb and flexible range of meetings and conference spaces available to hire. There’s even an Elite Athletes Hotel at Imago Venues, which can adjust oxygen levels in some of the bedrooms.
With four venues on one site, Imago Venues is one of the biggest conference spaces in the Midlands, including Burleigh Court with 26 different meeting rooms and accommodation for up to 200 delegates, Holywell Park, a conference centre that offers 12 purpose-built training, meeting and exhibition rooms for up to 280 delegates and The Link hotel has 94 spacious double bedrooms and meeting facilities for up to 200 delegates.
In the tranquil Leicestershire countryside sits Belvoir Castle (main image), which featured in the TV Netflix series The Crown – groups can hire some of the most opulent rooms for exclusive use and private dining. Luxurious country house hotels include Stapleford Park Country House Hotel & Sporting Estate, which is surrounded by 500 acres of stunning parkland and boasts beautiful historic rooms to host a special occasion. With 55 guest rooms, it’s the perfect venue to host a business meeting, away day or corporate event.
Groups looking for an out of this world experience should head to the National Space Centre, available to hire with exclusive use. The UK’s only venue dedicated to the exploration of space, it features the UK’s largest planetarium, with a 42m high rocket tower, galleries and meeting space. Exciting new developments coming to the National Space Centre include the new climate change gallery, the new exciting Tetrastar Port and 4D theatre which will be available for corporate team building towards the end of the year.
The discovery of King Richard III put eyes of the world on Leicester, and the King Richard III Visitor Centre is a totally unique venue, where delegates can meet just minutes away from where the King was found in a car park. At the Visitor Centre, you’ll travel from the battlefield of Bosworth to Richard’s final resting place and discover how traditional archaeology and modern science combined to identify his remains.
Travel back 600 years into Leicester Guildhall, one of the best-preserved timber framed halls in the country, a truly unique historic venue available for a range of private events.
Outside the meeting room, Leicester and the surrounding countryside offer plenty of activities to keep delegates entertained.
If you are looking for open spaces and plenty of fresh air, the National Forest embraces 200 miles of the Midlands and spans across Leicestershire, Derbyshire & Staffordshire. The National Forest Corporate Experiences helps to bring teams together in the natural environment – from high and low ropes courses, survival experiences, canoeing, orienteering, archery, axe-throwing, den-building and shooting practice – there are plenty of options available. Delegates who require a more relaxing experience can try their hand at beekeeping, crafting a greenwood chair, foraging and learning how to cook wild food, tai-chi or forest bathing.
Foodies should head to Melton Mowbray – not only is it the third oldest market town in England but it is also famous for its food and in particularly the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie. Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe (the oldest pie shop in England) & Brockleby’s Pies offer pie making workshops for groups.
The area of Melton is also famous for Stilton Cheese, and cheese tasting experiences are offered at Melton Cheese Board. Or if wine is more your thing, you can arrange a tutored tasting for your group at Rothley Wine Estate, an award-winning artisan winemaking estate.
Belvoir Castle offers a range of group experiences. Explore the beauty and history of the castle and walk in the footsteps of past Dukes and Duchesses on a walking tour or explore the stunning grounds on a tour of the gardens. Complete your day with a visit to Belvoir Brewery for a tour and tutored tasting.
If delegates are looking for a fun activity that requires problem solving skills and logical thinking, head to the National Space Centre, where you can build and launch rockets to the moon, fight off aliens on Mars or devise a space station for the future at the venue’s unique range of group workshops.