IT has not gone unnoticed that the run of good fortune Leicester has enjoyed this year came shortly after Richard III was laid to rest in the city.

Could it be that Leicester City's remarkable Premier League victory, and Mark Selby winning the World Snooker Championship title for the second time this year, are linked to the reburial of the 15th century king's bones?

The city has certainly been on a winning streak - and this appears to have created a tourism boom. Evan Evans, London's largest sightseeing company specialising in city tours, has reported a flood of enquiries about visiting the East Midlands city.

Leicester has a place in my heart because I lived there for several years. Returning for a recent weekend break, I discovered some new attractions among my old haunts.

We stayed at Leicester's Grand Hotel, where Victorian charm meets modern style in the cosmopolitan city centre. With a sweeping staircase, shimmering chandeliers and elegant pillars, the lounge bar retains its traditional splendour, with a funky twist on the colour scheme and artwork.

We arrived too late to dine at Marco Pierre White’s New York Italian restaurant - they stopped serving at 9pm, which seemed early for a city centre hotel on a weekend - but enjoyed a breakfast buffet there the following morning, following a quick workout in the hotel gym. Marco's presence is certainly felt, with large black and white photographs of the chef adorning the restaurant walls.

Our elegant room overlooked Granby Street, which is lively on a Friday night. Living in Leicester in the Nineties, much of my social life was spent in the city's pubs and clubs, but there seems to be a bigger buzz about the place today. With a significant student population, it's quite a party city.

The hotel is a short walk from the newly-regenerated Cultural Quarter, home to hip bars and restaurants and a variety of shops.

One of my favourite places is St Martin's Square, a cluster of independent shops where we browsed through vintage goods and secondhand books, before heading for Richard III's tomb.

The Yorkist king's remains were exhumed from a Leicester car park in 2012 and, controversially, re-buried in the city's Cathedral. Richard’s remains are laid in a lead ossuary in an oak coffin, sealed by a tomb made from Swaledale fossil stone, and the much-maligned monarch's story unfolds in the nearby Richard III Visitor Centre.

Another historic jewel is Leicester's splendid Guildhall, built in 1390. Today it's a performance venue and museum, where visitors can meet 'Crankie Gemmie', a notorious Victorian pick-pocket lurking in the old police cells. I once attended a talk at the Guildhall by the late Leicester writer Sue Townsend, who was seeking ideas from the audience for her latest Adrian Mole book.

Other city attractions include Highcross Shopping Centre, (The Shires when I lived there), the Curve Theatre, Jewry Wall Museum, stepping into the city's Roman history, and the 'Golden Mile' on Belgrave Road, lined with Asian shops and restaurants.

You can't escape Leicester's football success - posters and banners are everywhere - and the King Power Stadium, home to the Foxes, hosts tours and rock concerts.

Leaving the city centre behind, we drove to the National Space Centre, about three miles away. The attraction, also an educational facility and space science research hub, has interactive exhibits, audio-visual displays and simulators exploring space travel, astronomy and the impact of space on Earth.

Following the footsteps of Buzz Aldrin, who has visited the centre, we had fun with exhibits and watched the latest 360degree film, We Are Stars, in the Planetarium. Other new attractions include the Kettering Satellite Group Exhibition, looking at how the group beat the CIA to uncover a secret Russian launch site during the Cold War, and the Tim Peake ISS Launch Experience, exploring the astronaut's mission in space.

Space travel generally leaves me cold, so it says a lot for this place that I found it engaging - even the bits I didn't understand. It's great for children, with an array of hands-on exhibits, including a lunar-landing simulator and the Into Space section, showing how astronauts cope with daily tasks in space; what they eat, how they wash and brush their teeth. There's even a 'space loo'.

Soaring upwards in a glass lift, we climbed the huge Rocket Tower housing three floors of exhibits. Space Race takes visitors through the decades leading to man's first steps on the Moon - on display is a canine high-altitude suit used in sub-orbital research flights from the 1950s to 1961, when the successful return of a mannequin and his crewmate, a dog called Zvezdochka, paved the way for the first manned spaceflight.

My own weekend journey was one I'll remember. One small step for mankind - and one giant leap back to a city of my past.


The Mercure Leicester Grand Hotel is on Granby Street, Leicester. It has 104 bedrooms – rooms from £85. 

Meeting  Event space – 10 rooms with 250 capacity, onsite parking, Marco’s Italian Restaurant and an onsite gymnasium 

The Mercure Leicester Grand Hotel is on Granby Street, Leicester.

Call 0844 815 9012 or visit

For more about the National Space Centre call (0116) 261 0261 or visit

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