From its memorising built heritage to its cool bars serving into the early hours, our charming city combines the best of old and new.
Let us take you on a tour of York with our top tips for things to do, see and eat. One night is never enough.
Most people arrive to York by train. It’s 20 minutes from Leeds, less than 2 hours from London, and easily served by lines to Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle and other key cities. Take a short stroll along the walls and towards the Minster. You’ll take in the mighty river Ouse en route, spotting the rowers and red boats that grace its waters. It’ll be hard to resist the many coffee shops you’ll pass – we recommend the family-run Spring Espresso on Lendal for your caffeine fix and the Betty’s shop on St Helen’s Square for some delicious sweet treats to go. It’s now time to check-in to The Fort.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to must-see sights on your doorstep. The iconic Minster will be your north star, so if you get lost, look up and it’ll guide you back to The Fort. Nearby are two beautiful parks, Minster Gardens and Museum Gardens. Established in the 1830s by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, the latter is a popular picnic spot and inner-city sanctuary for plant lovers. It used to be home to peacocks and, whilst they’ve since departed, you’ll still find the Yorkshire Museum and 14th century The Hospitium in its grounds. Take in the last of the daylight hours with a G&T on the terrace of the Starr Inn the City and its enviable riverside position.
Did we mention we have two restaurants and bars on-site? Kennedys offers relaxed sit-down dinners, with comfort food for all palates and appetites. Sotano’s, on the other hand, specialises in small plates from the Mediterranean. Dishes such as croquettes, gambas and paella stand out from a menu that changes with the seasons. Paired with a cocktail or two, you’ll soon be ready to explore into the night. The Fort is placed smack bang in the middle of the city’s other best pubs and bars, including House of Trembling Madness, 1331 and Ye Olde Starre Inne.
Treat yourself to a little lie-in and a delicious breakfast. You’ve got a jam-packed itinerary ahead of you. Guests receive a 20% discount on food at Kennedy’s (Sunday to Thursday). Foodies will also love the entire menu at Mannion & Co, the indulgent sweet treats at Brew & Brownie, and the pure, natural eats at Filmore & Union. No need to book in advance. Most of York’s tourist hotspots get busier as the day goes on, so early birds might want to head to the Shambles before the crowds. One of the best-preserved medieval streets in Europe, you’ll find a flurry of Harry Potter shops on the real life Diagon Alley.
York’s snickelways (small footpaths) connect a wealth of independent shopping streets. Source one-of-a-kind gifts at concept store Snowhome on Gillygate; lose yourself in the magical world of The Imaginarium and its rare interior goods; pop along to the Lotte Inch Gallery, Art of Protest Gallery and According to McGee to discover new artists, designers and makers; or top up your wardrobe at Browns and Fenwick. The excellent website Indie York will guide you to the best of the rest. By now you’ve probably built up a bit of appetite: head to Love Cheese for a tasty toastie and a pick-me-up.
Just by walking about you will have soaked up so much of York’s open-air landmarks. These instagram-worthy buildings and piazzas are dotted on every corner and play host to a vast number of festivals throughout the year. Most are free but there’s plenty worth paying for. The newly-redeveloped York Art Gallery has works by LS Lowry and David Hockney sitting alongside cutting-edge installations, while its 1st floor holds one of the most important collections of British studio ceramics in the UK. Across the road York Theatre Royal has an electric mix of matinee shows or there’s the National Railway Museum for the little ones. You can also learn about York’s chocolate past and present at York Cocoa Works.
You haven’t done York if you’ve not embarked on a ghost tour. As the most haunted city in the world, it’s a fun and frightful way to experience ye olde York. When it comes to where to eat, go all out on your last night. Micklegate has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years and boasts a number of great restaurants to choose from, including the acclaimed Skosh. Cave du Cochon or Roots are notable names elsewhere. If you don’t want to break the bank, shipping container park Spark gives local chefs their first premises, where you can pick up a every cuisine imaginable for under £10. Nearby you can party like a local in fine drinking establishments such as The Hop, Fossgate Social, Pavement Vaults and VJs. End the night in style at Sotano - our secret underground drinking den and often the last bar open in York.
All good things must come to an end, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stretch it out as long as possible! Check-out and drop off your luggage with our team to buy yourself a few extra exploring hours.
Cure the hangover with a big breakfast and a famous Kennedy’s Bloody Mary. Should you take advantage of our late check-out offer, we also have a live jazz band perform every Sunday afternoon and arguably the best Sunday roast in town. With your energy levels topped-up and a clearer head, we can’t think of anything better than walking the walls - no visit is complete without it! At 3.4 kilometres long, the beautifully preserved walls are the longest medieval town walls in England. Walking it all will take approximately 1.5-2 hours, but there’s plenty of opportunities to cut it short at one of the main bars or gateways.
Eagle-eyed walkers will also spot the odd coffee shop along the route, including Grays Court and Gatehouse Coffee.
All in all, the perfect way to soak up York’s unrivalled history before a long journey home.
Venture beyond the guidebooks and you’ll find a wealth of free things to do in York - the UK’s favourite city.
With its reputation as the City of Festivals there’s plenty of reasons to keep coming back time and time again.
For a weekend full of winners, good food and great memories.