Exploring York for the first time was a great experience, a city full of history and beauty. We packed so much in to a short space of time so if you are looking for a UK city break with lots to offer, then York would be a brilliant choice! It was great to be in a place where you can walk everywhere due to everything in the city centre being so close together. The city also has a vibrant and friendly atmosphere which makes it a lovely place to be in. We visited for a long weekend but you could certainly spend more time here and have plenty to do! This guide features three mains sections: What to Do and Where to Visit, Food and Drink, and Accommodation.
What to Do and Where to Visit
York Minster is one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe. Then first recorded church building on the site was estimated to have been built in 627, although just a wooden structure at this time. The first stone structure was completed in 637.
Guided tours run here from 10am-3pm from Monday-Saturday. You can also pay extra to take a trip up the tower, which is a climb of around 275 steps. I also got a student discount on entrance, and by paying once you receive a ticket which you can use for a whole year, which is a brilliant deal if you are planning on visiting again.
There was so much to see that you could easily spend hours here. We spent a whole morning here but there were still lots of things we could have spent more time looking at. The information provided on the history of the cathedral was also very interesting to read.
The cathedral has more medieval stained glass windows than anywhere else in the country, they really are stunning.
York Minster is a stunning building from the outside as well as the inside, and the detail in its architecture is quite incredible. I would highly recommend this as a must see place when visiting York.
There is a small gift shop attached to York Minster if you are looking to buy any souvenirs from your stay in York. Here is a link to their website if you would like some more information.
The Jorvick Museum
The Jorvik Centre was another great tourist experience. On the site of the Jorvik Centre, between 1976-1981 archaeologists revealed the viking city of Jorvik as it once stood around 1000 years ago. The Jorvik centre stands on the site of the excavation grounds to reconstruct what life was like in 10th century York.
When you first go in, you are taken round in what they call ‘gondolas’ which look like slow moving and low down cable cars. You are then taken round the reconstruction of the city, this includes sight, sounds and even smells. There is also a speaker on the gondola which plays an audio guide throughout about the buildings and people you see as you go along. There is also a screen on the front with pictures and additional information. The recreations are extremely authentic due to the detail in them. There are 22 characters withing the reconstruction, their clothing, speech and facial features is all specifically from research in to Viking-age York to ensure that everything is as accurate as possible. When you’ve finished the ride, there is then the museum including more information and artefacts that were discovered from the 10th century.
It was a bit tricky getting pictures whilst taking in the whole tour but the photo below is the screens in front of you that you can use whilst on the ride. You can also change the language on these if you are visiting from abroad.
You can pre-book tickets which gives you a time slot for your visit and enables you to fast track through the entrance (it was fairly busy we went so this may be advisable). Adult tickets are £12.50 which covers admission for a whole year. Other tickets are also available for families of 4 and 5, concessions, and children.
The Shambles is the iconic narrow street in York with its timber buildings dating back as far as the 13th century. During medieval times the street was used for butcher shops, which is why some of the shops still have meat hooks placed on the front of them. If you’re a Harry Potter fan this will definitely be a must see for you! There were at least three Harry Potter themed stores and many compare the street to Diagon Alley.
Do bear in mind that due to being one of Europe’s most visited streets, The Shambles does get very busy and is very narrow! So if you are looking to get some good photos of it then you might want to go early in the day. Here is a link to The Shambles Trip Advisor page if you are looking more more information or reviews.
It’s also worth just taking the time to wander round the other streets of the city centre, there are some incredibly beautiful old buildings and quirky shops to admire. Every building and street is full of character and has a unique feel to it.
The Original Ghost Walk of York
The ghost walk began at the King’s Arms pub, and runs every night at 8pm. The guide takes you round the city and stops off at various locations to share stories and experiences of people claiming to have seen ghosts there. The man who ran the tour was an absolutely brilliant storyteller and made the tour very interesting. It was also a great way of getting a tour of the city too. It was about an hour in length. You do not have to book, tickets are £5.00 each, children are £4.
Walk The City Walls
The city walls are 3.4km long in total and are the longest medieval walls in England. Walking the whole route would take you around two hours. I would recommend doing even just part of the route if you want to see some great views of York, there is also a great view of York Minster.
Here is a link to a map with the 5 points at which you can enter the walk round the walls.
Food and Drink
The Whippet Inn
We visited this restaurant for mu Uncle’s 50th celebration and it was a fabulous meal, the staff brought out a cake at the end too which was a lovely touch. The waitress was also incredibly helpful and friendly, she really made the meal a brilliant experience. The food was delicious, I would highly recommend this restaurant if you are looking for a nice meal out during your stay in York. We walked from our airbnb in the city centre which took around 20 minutes.
The Old White Swan
The atmosphere of this pub was lovely, a very cosy vibe with fairy lights and rustic decor. It was pretty busy when we went on a Friday evening which added nicely to the friendly atmosphere.
The Three Tuns
We popped in to this old style pub for a quick drink in between exploring the Shambles and the Jorvick Centre. This one is certainly more of a classic and older feeling pub, it was a bit darker inside and is less modern. We actually quite liked this as it fits in with the historical feel that many of the York streets and buildings have. But again this one was very friendly and was a great stop off point for a drink and a seat.
The Golden Fleece
This was another oldy-worldy style pub from the 16th century, said to be one of the most haunted buildings in York! The old style decor and stories you hear of this pub did indeed give it a bit of a spooky feeling. Again, we just stopped off here for a drink whilst exploring the centre of York, a very quirky and interesting place to have a drink or some food.
The York Gin Shop
This was a lovely shop and the staff were also very helpful and welcoming. We bought one of the small bottles of gin which comes in a very unique square shaped bottle.
This was the beautiful house we stayed in for the weekend. It was only a couple of minutes walking distance from the very centre of the city. You could walk to York Minster in about five minutes, it was a brilliant location for our stay.
The house had a beautiful balance of maintaining the character of the 1753 property but also having modern elements which gave it a very fresh and homely feel. There were eight of us staying in the house which is the maximum amount of guests you can have staying here. The house was across three floors, and the rooms were incredibly spacious.
You can see in the photo below that you actually get a stunning view of York Minster from the upstairs window.
I hope this city guide was useful if you are wanting to venture to York any time soon, I hope you have an incredible time if you are. Let me know if you have visited this beautiful city and if there are any other parts of the city that you enjoyed that are not included in this post!
Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,