Guide to York

Guide To York

The northern city of York lies in England’s largest county, Yorkshire. And in this guide to York, you will find everything you need to plan your trip.

I have traveled all over the world but choose to make York my home. I never get bored of my beautiful city and after fifteen years, I still have things on my ‘York to do list’!

York is just two hours from London by rail and three hours from Edinburgh so the city can easily be visited as a day trip by train from these locations.

But there are so many fantastic things to do and see in York that you will want to stay longer as soon as you have arrived.

York is centrally placed for trips further afield to explore all that the county of Yorkshire has to offer – from the stunning landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales to the rugged Yorkshire Moors and the dramatic, windswept North Yorkshire coast.

Top 10 things to do in york

  1. York Minster
  2. Clifford’s Tower
  3. Barley Hall
  4. York City Center
  5. The Shambles
  6. York’s City Walls
  7. The Yorkshire Museum
  8. Mansion House
  9. York Castle Museum
  10. Jorvik Viking Centre

Click for other UK guides

UK  Placeholder
UK
Guide To York

Top 10 Things to do In York

1.York Minster

York Minster is an Anglican cathedral lying in the heart of York city centre. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and contains more stained glass than any other cathedral in England. York Minster’s ornate Great East Window is the largest expanse of stained glass anywhere in the world.

Free daily tours provide visitors with the history and stories of this ornate building. Visitors can handle historic artefacts in the Undercroft Museum, see the seat of the Bishops of Yorkshire in the decorated Chapter House, explore the eerie Crypt and climb the 275 steps of the Minster’s central tower for a fantastic view of the city.

2.Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s Tower is the circular remains of a Norman keep built on an artificial hill right in the city center.

Visitors can learn how the keep was built and used in the Norman era and climb up to the top of the open round tower for a 360-degree view of York.

3.Barley Hall

Barley Hall is a restored medieval townhouse which, until recently, was hidden under the facade of a modern building.

This beautiful timber frame building has recreated medieval rooms offering visitors a glimpse into what life was like in medieval York.

4.York City Center

York city center is a maze of pedestrianized streets, cobbled lanes, and hidden snickets (alleyways).

It is packed with independent shops and bars housed in an interesting mix of Tudor, Georgian and Victorian-era buildings.

Wander the stone flags of Stonegate, visit the bars on Swinegate, and the cozy boutiques of Fossgate.

See if you can find York’s shortest street with a long name – Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate.

5. The Shambles

The Shambles is a short, cobbled shopping street in the center of York.

It is famous for its medieval-era buildings which are lopsided, tightly packed together with overhanging first floors.

The Shambles was once the location for York’s butchers’ shops and when you stroll The Shambles today, you can still see the medieval era window ledges where the meat was displayed as well as the dangling rusty hooks used for hanging meat.

6. York’s City Walls

Escape the bustle of the city center with a walk on York’s medieval city walls which are the longest city walls in England.

Visitors can access the free to enter walls at one of the four majestic medieval gateways, known in York as ‘bars.’

Walk the walls, glimpse hidden from view scenes of York life, see historical artifacts such as the portcullis in Monk Bar or the barbican and archer’s arrow slits at Walmgate Bar.

A full circuit of the walls will take around two hours but the most scenic section is from Monk Bar to Bootham Bar which winds around the back of York Minster.

7. The Yorkshire Museum

The Yorkshire Museum is the best place to go to learn about York’s Roman past through interactive, engaging exhibits.

The museum also houses an excellent dinosaur exhibition about North Yorkshire’s Jurassic coastline.

Spend time in the Museum Gardens surrounding The Yorkshire Museum.

The attractive gardens are home to the Roman remains (the Multiangular Tower), the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, and a tiny 19th Century observatory.

8. Mansion House

The grand Mansion House is the home of the current Lord Mayor of York.

Visitors can view recreated bedrooms, dining rooms, and drawing rooms from the Georgian era plus a full working kitchen in the basement.

Learn about cooking and food in the Georgian era by watching the live cooking demonstrations which are held daily in this historic kitchen.

9.York Castle Museum

York Castle Museum tells the history of the city of York and its residents.

The museum is famous for its life-size recreation of a Victorian street where visitors can wander into the shops, schoolroom, and police station to meet the people who ‘live’ there to learn about life in Victorian York.

You can also see what used to be York’s prison and learn about crime and punishment in Victorian York from the tales of the real-life prisoners who lived in these cells.

10. Jorvik Viking Centre

The Jorvik Viking Centre will complete your tour of York through the ages as it is where you will learn about the Viking history of York.

Viking artifacts continue to be found in York today and there is a week-long, rousing annual Viking Festival hosted every February.

This small but very popular museum houses artifacts found on this very site. The highlight of the museum is a ‘cab ride’ through a recreated Viking village.

Guide To York

Food to try in York

York is packed with independent restaurants and cafes to suit all budgets and tastes ranging from the indulgent ‘The Ivy’ on central St. Helen’s Square to a traditional British fish and chip takeaway from Papa’s on Parliament Street.

York is overflowing with pubs; it is said that wherever you stand in York you can see a pub.

Visitors should take advantage of this and enjoy a traditional pub roast dinner accompanied with a savory Yorkshire Pudding. For a pub dinner with a great view of York Minster, try the pretty beer garden of The Lamb and Lion pub on High Petergate.

Or visit any of York’s budget-friendly bakeries, grab a sandwich and a drink and enjoy an alfresco picnic in the gorgeous Museum Gardens or Dean’s Park behind York Minster.

For a cup of Yorkshire Tea, visit Betty’s Tea rooms where you will be served tea and cake on bone china crockery by bow-tied waiters. The 100-year-old tea room also has a bakery section for takeaway bread and cakes. You won’t be able to resist a large Fat Rascal – a scone type cake made from cherries and almonds.

Solo travelers should visit the original House of Trembling Madness on Stonegate.

This medieval ale house is not visible from the street and can be found above the beer shop of the same name.

The pub serves delicious food alongside a selection of craft beers. Food is served to long communal benches and tables which are not pre-bookable; solo travelers will instantly be drawn into conversation.

York Money Saving Tips

York is a great city to visit on a budget.

Several attractions are free and, as the city is compact and easily walkable, you do not need to take additional transport or taxis for your sightseeing.

There are a number of tourist cards available to purchase though I would recommend price comparing attractions, with consideration to your time frame, to see if these passes are good value for money for you and your stay in York.

If you are planning a long action-packed sightseeing day or weekend trip, consider the York City Pass at £45 or £65 for two days.

This pass includes entry to over 50 York attractions (including York Minster) as well as a 24-hour bus sightseeing ticket plus a pizza or pasta meal from a restaurant in York city centre.

Guide To York

Packing Advice For York

The most important item to pack for a visit to York is comfortable walking shoes.

You will be doing a lot of walking around my beautiful city and flip flops or sandals are not comfortable on cobbled lanes and do not grip well on smooth, stone steps.

Check out Claire’s UK packing list here.

Where to Stay in York

The best area to stay is inside the city walls or as close to the walls as possible.

As most of the city’s attractions are inside the city walls, this will limit the amount of walking you will need to do.

Blossom Street and Micklegate offer several budget friendly accommodation options and are just a five-minute walk from York rail station.

Safestay York is a large, modern hostel located in an opulent Georgian era house on the cobbles of Micklegate.

Or, for something different, opposite Micklegate Bar is the Bar Convent. This is one of the oldest convents in England and it offers affordable rooms with breakfast to visitors to York.

An unbeatable city centre location is the budget friendly private and dorm rooms at The Fort York, above the popular Kennedys bar and restaurant.

Mid-range travellers could head to the Judges Lodgings or the Dean’s Court hotel, directly opposite York Minster.

For those looking for a luxury stay, there is the imposing The Principal Hotel adjacent to York railway station with great views of the city walls.

Or the five-star Grand Hotel tucked just inside the city walls and within easy reach of all the York attractions.

Alternatively there are lots of beautiful Airbnbs in York so that’s also worth considering if you want somewhere you can cook for yourself. 

Getting Around in York

The nearest airport to York is Leeds Bradford International Airport, a one-hour drive from the centre of York.

You can catch a bus and train from the airport travelling via Leeds or Harrogate.

The easiest way to travel to York is by rail.

York railway station is opposite the city walls and just a ten-minute walk from York Minster and the city center.

York is a compact city and most of the city center is pedestrianized. Unless you stay far outside the city center, you will not need buses or taxis during your stay in York.

Guide To York

York Safety Advice

York is a safe city as long as the usual safety precautions are observed. Avoid the city centre’s riverside paths late at night or after a few drinks; the drop into the River Ouse is unfenced and fatalities have occurred. Use a licensed taxi cab from one of the several, marked taxi ranks dotted around the city centre. Make sure any taxi you enter has its company logo and phone number clearly displayed on the side of the vehicle.

The Best Time To Visit York

York is a fantastic destination to visit at any time of the year.

The long northern summer evenings are ideal for busy days spent sightseeing or enjoying the city’s riverfront bars and restaurants.

At Christmas, York gets into the festive spirit with city-wide lights and the popular six week long St Nicholas Fair.

However, I think York is spectacular in Spring when daffodils blanket the slopes of the city walls and the hill of Clifford’s Tower shortly followed by vivid pink cherry blossoms.

Author Bio

Guide To York
Having lived in York for 15 years, and after running a successful family travel blog for several years, I decided to showcase the very best of my home city in the new Best in York Guide. My blog highlights the best things to do in York, offers ideas for itineraries, day trips, hidden gems, free attractions, as well as advice on places to stay and eat. The blog is packed with useful tips for visitors that only a local would know (where the free toilets are found)! I can also be found on Facebook.

What to Read in The United Kingdom

Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist is a great companion on your trip to the UK. You can get it before your trip to help you plan out all of the best places to go. It’s a go to bucket list of the not to miss places to visit in the UK.

It’s full of beautiful photography and it goes much further than just the typical tourist traps and includes everything from coastal walks, music festivals, and hidden away pubs you must visit. 

If you are interested in learning more about the upper echelons of the British aristocracy then this book abut the life of Anne Glenconner is a great read.

She has long been at the center of the royal circle as a life long friend of the Queen and her sister. Her father was the Earl of Leicester and controlled one of the largest estates  in England. 

Sadly Anne turned out to be “the greatest disappointment” to her father and she was unable to inherit his great estate and instead make her own way in the world while surviving the vipers of court life! And interesting read to see how the ‘other half’ live.

The UK that you will see today is a product of the post WWII industrial revolution.

Nineteenth-century Britain experienced an unprecedented series of changes in the wake of the war. Cities grew fast and revolutions in transports, communication, science, and the way people lived happened in quick succession. 

Added to these changes was a growing skepticism of religion, a questioning of power resulting in political and social unrest.

In spite if these turbulent times Britain remained strong on a global level which saw it quickly rise as a global leader… this was of course before Brexit!

If you are looking for a light read to accompany yo on your UK vacation then Bridget Jones’s Diary is the perfect literary companion. Even if you have watched the movie, the book is soooo much better.

Us brits are legit obsessed with manners to a fault. Seriously we love nothing more that throwing as many please and thank you’s in to a sentence as we can make fit. And don’t even get me started with our obsession with apologizing for EVERYTHING! 

But our obsession doesn’t just stop there, there is so much more to British etiquette most of which will confuse the hell out of visitors from foreign lands. 

In this book you will get an illuminating insight in to all of the social rules we are governed by, from never putting your elbows on the table to holding open doors. But this book goes deeper and shines a light on where this crazy obsession with good manners comes from. Its a interesting and quirky must read.

Looking for a novel to sink your teeth into on those long cross country train journeys in the UK. White Teeth is it.

Set against London’ s racial and cultural tapestry, venturing across the former empire and into the past as it barrels toward the future, White Teeth revels in the ecstatic hodgepodge of modern life, flirting with disaster, confounding expectations, and embracing the comedy of daily existence.

Check out My travel books

The Solo Girls Guide to Traveling Without Fear

The solo girls guide to becoming a digital nomad