When compiling my list of destinations to write about on my blog it made me realise that I’d missed out a crucial place in mind, my home city of York.
Lovingly referred to as the capital of the North for many local folks, York is the perfect stop for anybody visiting the UK and the ideal halfway stop between London and Edinburgh.
York is a walled city drowned in history, known for its beautiful architecture, indie vibe and reigns as one of the greenest cities in Britain. A preserved city which boasts both pride and quirky eclectisism which is loved amongst both local residents and visitors alike.
Yorks richly unique heritage can still be spotted aroud the city today and being a relatively small and walkable, it’s easy to fit in most of the sights and activities this city has to offer.
So here is my local guide on things to see and do in York.
1. Walk the walls
Undoubtedly the first thing you will see when arriving in York are the walls which hug the city. Standing at almost 30 feet tall and 3.4km long, York has the longest stretch of walls still standing than any other city in Britain. Offering spectacular views across the city, these walls have served as one of the main attractions drawing millions of tourists to the city each year.
You can read more about the History of Yorks walls here.
Micklegate bar – Be amazed by the stunning royal gateway which welcomes you to the city.
Monk Bar – The tallest of the four bars in York, standing proudly at over 62 feet tall.
2. Enjoy a picnic at St Mary’s Abbey and York Museum Gardens
Built in 1088 St Mary’s Abbey once stood as one of the most powerful Benedectine Monasteries in England, all that’s left of this grand building today are the impressive ruins as pictured above.
Ruins are which surrounded by 10 acres of beautiful land, York Museum Gardens. The York Museum Garden is a botanic garden situated next to the river Ouse and a popular place for picnics, runners and sun bathers.
It’s the perfect place to relax (and practice your photography skills) whilst admiring the nature and activities around you. Just be mindful of the squirrels.
3. Admire stunning architecture
It is without a doubt that York is best known for it famous York Minster. Standing at 236 feet tall and dominaming the skyline throughout the city. York Minster is one of the biggest of it’s kind and reigns as the second most largest Cathedral in Europe.
This architectural wonder took over 250 years to complete and even to this day reconstructive work is still carried out to maintain and preserve this building. Given the intricacy of the artwork there really is no suprise there.
Over 2 million visitors come to York Minster each year and is one of the most photographed landmarks in the city.
Here’s are a couple of examples of other stunning buildings across the city:
▪ Adventurers Merchant Hall
A fine example of one of the largest medieval halls in Britain still standing today and one of the most important buildings throughout York’s history.
▪ Jones Bootmakers
An example of a classic timber framed Tudor House. One of many you will find scattered throughout the city.
4. Visit the shortest street with the longest name
Cute and quirky, Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate, located at the lower end of the Shambles, is one of the shortest streets with the longest name in York. Measuring only 20 metres in length. Whip-ma-whop-ma once known as Whitnourwhatnourgate from the Middle Ages, was translated to ‘ Neither one thing nor another’ or at least according to the plaque located next to the street sign.
Infact if you look closely you will find many unusual names scattered around York.
5. Enjoy panoramic views from Cliffords Tower
Inside the walls of Cliffords Tower holds a dark notourious past, this iconic structure (including its mound) reaches an impressive 50 feet tall and stands proudly above the rooftops nearby.
Cliffords Tower, also known as York Castle is one of the largest and most well kept pieces of architecture still standing. Originally a timber structure built by William the Conquerer during the 11th Century. If you’re interested to know more I will include an historical snippet here.
It’s unknown where the name ‘Cliffords Tower’ came from but it was originally known as ‘The King’s Tower’ throughout its history.
Nowadays Cliffords Tower offers amazing panoramic views from the very top of the tower over. Views which rival those from York Minster and the walls. Cliffords Tower is also a popular landmark for groups and friends to gather and meet, a useful tip if you ever get lost.
6. Check out the local market
An outdoor market situated in the heart of the city is brimmed with local vendors selling anything and everything from clothing to crafts. You will find artists hand crafting jewellery and leather goods.
York is pretty big when it comes to supporting local independent stalls so do take a look and grab yourself some locally grown organic produce.
Here you will also find food trucks selling a range of world foods including Thai and Mexican cuisine, definitely worth checking out.
7. Quench your thirst at one of many York pubs
York has a vibrant nightlife scene and an local you meet will tell that there are over 365 pubs within the city walls alone. Whether this is true or just an urban myth created by students, that’s a pub per day for a whole year!
Here are just a few of my favourite spots to get you started:
Ye Olde Starre Inne – Enjoy a locally brewed beer at one of Yorks allegedly* oldest pubs in the city, dating back to the mid 17th century.
The Blue Bell – Cosy up by a fire in the smallest pub in York and admire the untouched Edwardian décor.
The Golden Fleece – Get spooked in one of Yorks most famously haunted pubs. Keep an eye out for psychic nights.
The Fox and Roman – Dance along to live music performances and sing along at open mic night. A classic hangout for many students.
Evil Eye Lounge – Relax in bed on one of many floors at Yorks coolest cocktail bars and pay attention to the skilled barmen flipping drinks.
Betty’s Tearooms – Quintessential British tea room serving an array of teas and cakes in an idyllic fancy setting. The perfect place to take a break from hours of exploring.
8. Take a walk down the historic streets
Stonegate – Easily one of the most picturesque streets in the entire city (along with the Shambles) and home to an array of attractive medieval and Tudor builds. Stonegate now houses a fun array of unique boutique shops and plays part to one of the busiest streets (formerly a Roman road) in the city.
The Shambles – If you truly want to step back in time then definitely head to the Shambles. One of the best preserved medieval streets in the world and the inspiration for ‘Diagon Alley’ in the Harry Potter movies. This narrow street is by far one of the most photographed spots in the city and just like Stonegate, houses more quirky shops and small businesses. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, be sure to hit up the Shambles and check out include ‘The Shop that must not be named’ and ‘World of Wizardry’.
9. Enjoy the street music and live street acts in Kings square
York has a vibrant music scene to which local buskers and street performers can be spotted throughout the city. From classical to folk music. Often found outside York Minster, Stonegate and nearby the Viking center. Drop by and show your support.
10. Get spooked on a ghost tour
York is believed to be one of the most haunted cities in England, so why not join a nightly ghost walk or jump onboard the ghost bus tour and explore Yorks spooky past, some of which the most haunted places in York incudes, York Museum, The Golden Fleece pub, The Treasurers House and 35 Stonegate.
Here I’ll include a few sites to get you started;
11. Visit some of many museums in the city with York Pass
From Vikings to Art, military to Chocolate, there is something to suit everybody’s taste.
York Pass – Yorks official sightseeing card offers offering free entry to over 40 York attractions as well as discount vouchers on restaurants and ghost walks.
Here are some museums which may interest you;
To name a few…
12. One for the artists
York Art Gallery
York Art Gallery is a public gallery housing a wide collecation of paintings, watercolours and ceramics dating as far back as 600 years. From 14th Century to Contemporary prints. York Art Gallery holds the works over 1000 paintings and over 5000 studio ceramics which include the works of William Etty, Albert Moore and Bernard Leach to name a few. I will leave a link here if you wish to learn more about the gallery and it’s latest exhibitions.
13. Indie York – Shopping
If unique boutiques in a beautiful setting is your thing then you will be spoiled for choice in York. York prides itself on its uprise of independent and locally run shops throughout the city.
From antiques, to clothes, bookshops and cafe’s, these exclusive shops offer charm and joy to any shopper looking for a unique experience.
Be sure to check out Indie York which provides a detailed list of Yorks independent shops.
14. Attend a festival. They’re on all year round
York is also known as the city of festivals so no matter what time of year you visit there will always be an arrange of fun events and festivals taking place. Below I will include links to some of my personal favourites for each month.
(However there are way more)
▪ January – York Residents Festival
▪ February – The Jorvik Viking Festival
▪ March – York Literature Festival
▪ April – Prosecco and Gin Festival
▪ May – York Farmers market (Local and organic produce)
▪ June – York Festival of Ideas
▪ July – York Proms (Outdoor live music performances)
▪ August – York Walls Festival
▪ September – The York Food and Drink festival
▪ October – The Great York Ghost Search
▪ November – York Christmas lights switch-on
▪ December – St Nicholas Christmas Fair
15. Check out some of my personal recommended food and drink spots
▪ Feast on pancakes at a family run dutch Pancake cafe at Double Dutch Pancake House.
▪ Enjoy a coffee whilst rummaging through classic records at FortyFive Vinyl cafe.
▪ Enjoy some of the best breakfasts and coffee at vibrant French house, the Partisan.
▪ Treat yourself to deliciously handcrafted cakes and treats at Patisserie Valerie.
I really hope you enjoyed this post and that you have been inspired to check out the amazing things that York has to offer. Often overlooked by larger cities such as London and Edinburgh.
York’s charm will be sure to leave a long lasting impression and I hope you enjoy visiting this quaint city as much as I enjoy living here.
Feel free to pitch in anything you think I may have missed (or got anything wrong) and I look forward to connecting with you.
Happy travels. xo