Leicester is the largest city and unitary authority in the English East Midlands. The city is the traditional county town of Leicestershire. The urban area extends beyond the boundaries of the city proper to include the satellite towns of Oadby, Wigston, Braunstone Town, Birstall, Glenfield, Blaby, Thurmaston, Syston and Leicester Forest East.
A number of these towns are in fact closely integrated suburbs of the city itself, especially Glenfield and Braunstone.
The city is close to the M1 motorway, and is on the Midland Main Line from London to Sheffield, Nottingham and Leeds.
The city centre is mainly Victorian with some later developments, which have usually been integrated in smoothly. The heart of the city centre is the Clock Tower, which is at the intersection of five routes into the city - High Street, Churchgate, Belgrave Gate, Humberstone Gate, and Gallowtree Gate. Today, the latter two are pedestrianised, and vehicles are restricted on the others, with the High Street currently being pedestrianised. Leicester City Centre is home to the Haymarket and the Shires (soon to be renamed Highcross Leicester) shopping centres, both of which face the Clock Tower. Leicester Market, Europe's largest covered market, is nearby. The historic core of the city lies slightly to the west, and monuments here include the Castle, the Anglican cathedral of St Martin, the medieval churches of St Mary de Castro and St. Nicholas, the Guildhall and the Jewry Wall.
In 1990, Leicester was designated the UK's first Environment City, and won the European Sustainable City Award in 1996.
Leicester has a large ethnic minority population, mainly from the Indian subcontinent. There are many Hindu mandirs, Sikh gurdwaras and Muslim mosques around the city, mostly converted from existing buildings. The Jain Temple in Leicester is near the city centre (The Jain Centre). The area around Belgrave Road is known as the Golden Mile, and contains many Indian restaurants, jewellery shops, and other shops catering to the large Asian community in the neighbourhood. Many people travel to the area specifically for the restaurants, which serve authentic Indian cuisine. The annual Diwali celebrations are also held here and at the nearby Abbey Park, and are the biggest outside of India. There are also many of Afro-Caribbean descent (mainly from Antigua & Barbuda, Montserrat and Jamaica), the community being centred around Highfields to the south-east of the city centre, and Leicester plays host to the second largest Caribbean Carnival in the UK after Notting Hill.
Leicester is home to two universities, the University of Leicester (Royal Charter 1957) and the De Montfort University, (founded in 1992 from Leicester Polytechnic). It is also home to the National Space Centre, due in part to the University of Leicester being one of the few universities in the UK to specialise in space sciences.