Leicester (pronounced 'Lester') is a major city in the United Kingdom, and the administrative centre and county town of Leicestershire. For most purposes, Leicester is considered to be in the East Midlands region of England. Leicester is the home of the British National Space Centre (BNSC), Leicester University and De Montfort University (formerly Leicester Polytechnic). Leicester, excluding Birmingham, is the largest city and urban area between Nottingham and London.
The city is home to one of the largest ethnic minority populations in the United Kingdom with a large Asian community, and a wide variety of faiths. Around 40% of the population identify as non-white. In addition to English, 70 languages are spoken in Leicester including Gujarati, Punjabi, Somali, Urdu, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Malayalam and Polish. This diversity of languages is reflected in the public service provision, with libraries, hospital services and schools offering many resources in languages other than English.
Layout and Services
Leicester's city centre is surrounded by its dual carriageway inner ring road. Within this area, building is at a high density. There is a mixture of undercover shopping areas and traditional high streets in the city core. The River Soar passes close to the city centre, providing some relief to the urban environment. The western side of Leicester's centre is dominated by several sections of viaduct which once carried the Great Central Railway. Parts of this formation have been demolished while others have not, leaving sections of arched viaduct standing alone.
In the city centre of Leicester is a pedestrianised shopping area, with two shopping centres: The Shires and Haymarket. Between them stands Leicester's Clock Tower. From the Clock Tower, one can proceed up Haymarket to reach Humberstone Gate which is home to Secular Hall, the home of Leicester Secular Society. In the other direction from the Clock Tower, one finds the market and, via Gallowtree Gate and Horsefair Street, the Town Hall and the public library. Further still, one reaches New Walk, a long, pedestrianised street home to Leicester's city Museum and Art Gallery. In the vicinity are the two main arts venues: De Montfort Hall and the Phoenix Arts Centre. Further round is Leicester Cathedral.
Leicester's roads are laid out on the common (in Britain) radial pattern, with eight main radial roads and two ring roads. The M1 motorway passes the western side of the town on its way from London to Leeds, while the A46 road leaves the M1 and passes the north of the city before turning towards Nottinghamshire.
Leicester is located between Loughborough and Market Harborough on the Midland Main Line railway. East Midlands Trains operate high-speed services to London, Sheffield and Nottingham on this route. As mentioned above, Leicester was formerly served by the Great Central Railway. In 1991, the modern Great Central Railway, a volunteer society of railway enthusiasts, reopened the GCR into the northern fringes of Leicester. This line now offers steam and heritage diesel services to Loughborough. Leicester is also the start of railway branches to the West Coast Main Line at Nuneaton and to the East Coast Main Line at Peterborough. Leicester is the first place north of London where both the West and East Coast Main Lines can be reached in a single train journey.
The main bus and coach station in Leicester is St. Margaret's, although a number of local buses run from Haymarket. The closest international airport to Leicester is East Midlands Airport