A Mini Guide To York

A Mini Guide To York

Welcome to York

Located in the scenic county of North Yorkshire, York is a top tourist destination and one of the most picturesque historic cities in the UK. Founded by the Romans in AD 71, the city is rich in ancient, medieval, Georgian and Victorian architecture.

It boasts some of the best art galleries and museums in England including National Railway Museum and York Castle Museum.

Along its most renowned medieval street: The Shambles, York also offers foodie spots, unique shops and boutiques.

River cruises as well as guided walking tours are available in the city, including award-winning ghost tours.

Getting to York

You can easily reach York by train in about two hours from London King’s Cross or less than 30 minutes from Leeds.

Check the most convenient route on the National Rail website.

The closest airports to York are Leeds Bradford Airport and Manchester Airport.

Best Time to Visit

The best time of year to visit York is from late June to August when the weather is warm and most suitable for outdoor activities. However, if you prefer to avoid the crowded tourist season or focus on indoor cultural events, you can visit York anytime.

It rains a lot in York throughout the year, so it’s best to check the weather forecast ahead of time.

Things to Do

  • Walk the ancient York City Walls (yorkwalls.org.uk) that encircle the historic city and enjoy splendid views of York’s landmarks. The wall-walk is free and usually opens at 8.00 am and closes at dusk.

  • Discover York Minster (yorkminster.org): one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, which dates back to medieval times. It’s advisable to book your tickets in advance for fast-track access.

  • Visit York Castle Museum (yorkcastlemuseum) to learn about 400 years of the city’s history and to see the meticulously reconstructed Victorian street, Kirkgate. You can check opening times and book your tickets here.

  • Climb to the top of Clifford’s Tower (english-heritage.org.uk): York Castle’s largest remaining building, and soak up the panoramic views of the city from its roof deck. You can check opening times and book your tickets here.

  • Journey back a thousand years into the past and enjoy a multi-sensor ride through the recreated Viking village at Jorvik Viking Centre (jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk). You can check opening times and book your tickets here.

  • Visit the National Railway Museum (railwaymuseum.org.uk) to explore two exhibition halls crammed with iconic locomotives like Stephenson’s Rocket and Mallard and the world’s fastest trains, such as the Japanese Shinkansen. You can check opening times and book your tickets here.

  • Explore Fairfax House (fairfaxhouse.co.uk): one of England’s finest eighteenth-century Georgian houses. Book a guided tour on Fridays to learn more about the fascinating history of the house and its inhabitant Ann Fairfax. You can check opening times and book your tour here.

  • Go on a guided tour at York’s Chocolate Story (yorkschocolatestory.com) to learn how York became the UK’s chocolate capital and to discover the history of chocolate making. You can book your guided tour here.
  • Visit the ruins of the eleventh-century monastery St Mary’s Abbey (yorkmuseumgardens.org.uk), which used to be one of the most prosperous Benedictine monasteries in England. The abbey is located in the York Museum Gardens, which are worth a visit for their impressive botanical collection and diverse wildlife.

Where to Eat

If you’re a foodie, a slice of irresistible cake paired with a cup of expertly blended tea at Betty’s Café Tea Rooms (bettys.co.uk) is an experience you can’t miss while in York. The café, which opened in 1919, offers a wide variety of patisserie, breakfast specialties, and famed afternoon teas.

Head to the award-winning Star Inn The City restaurant (starinnthecity.co.uk) to try one of the most delectable Yorkshire puddings in the UK. Located in the heart of York, the restaurant offers an intimate culinary experience with a view over the River Ouse. Additionally, the menu features carefully sourced Yorkshire produce.

Shambles Food Court (5 Silver Street, York) is a great option for a budget-friendly lunch. Open seven days a week, it offers a wide selection of street food from independent traders, including vegetarian and vegan options. Here, you can find anything: from French artisan crepes to North African cuisine.

Where to Stay

Jorvik House is a charming and cosy Georgian townhouse hotel, which dates to the eighteenth century and overlooks two historic landmarks: the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and St Olaf’s Church.

Located close to York Museum Gardens and within walking distance of York’s major tourist attractions, it offers beautifully designed and spacious rooms uniquely decorated in a Scandi-chic style – a reference to York’s Viking heritage. The hotel offers continental and full English breakfasts. Check it here

Clementine’s Townhouse Hotel, BW Premier Collection is a gorgeous newly opened boutique hotel in a large red-brick Victorian villa. It offers richly decorated rooms, including a luxury suite with a garden.

The hotel is located in a quiet leafy area far away from the hustle and bustle of the city but still within walking distance of York’s major attractions. York Minster is only a 15-minute stroll away. The hotel offers a continental breakfast buffet and full English breakfasts. Check it here.

The Churchill Hotel is an elegant Georgian mansion, which was previously used as a residence for affluent citizens as well as government offices before becoming a hotel in 1984. It houses several historical Winston Churchill-related artefacts.

The hotel offers double, twin and family modern furnished rooms. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, book one of the semi-basement rooms, which have unusual layouts. A cooked-to-order meal, including a full English breakfast, is available on the breakfast menu. Check it here.

Touring in York

Walking is the best way to experience York. For the more daring, e-scooters and e-bikes are also great options for moving around the city (www.tier.app).

The Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York (AVG) offer daily two-hour walking tours for free that cover major tourist attractions. You can find out more on avgyork.co.uk.

If you prefer a self-guided audio tour of York, you can download a VoiceMap app on your smartphone for a small fee.

Themed guided tours, including day and multi-day trips in the county of Yorkshire, can be booked on getyourguide.com.

North York Moors National Park, picturesque moorland villages, bustling seaside towns like Whitby (see my story about Whitby here), and Harry Potter filming locations are just a few of the exciting places to explore in Yorkshire.

Don’t miss a visit to the magnificent Castle Howard and its 18th-century gardens. Located only 15 miles north of York, Castle Howard has featured in several popular TV shows and films such as Bridgerton.


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