A weekend Break in York
York is a beautiful historical Northern town in England that is very picturesque. It was the capital of England during Roman times and is famous for it’s castle and Medieval walls. York is also home to one of the most beautiful Gothic Minsters in Europe. It’s a safe city and very accessible, meaning that short breaks in York perfect for solo travellers and couples too.
How to Get to York
You will be most likely to get to York by train and the historical city centre is just around a 15 minute walk from the station. The nearest large airport is Manchester around 1 hour and a half by train. You can also get to York direct from London in just over 2 hours, whereas it’s almost five hours driving, so the train is definitely a good option. There are National Express coaches that run some routes into York – these will be cheaper but take a lot longer and so you would lose time in travel.
How to Spend a Weekend in York
There are some fantastic things to do in York including the historical sights of the city and days out in York and around Yorkshire. In a long weekend in York, you can fit in quite a lot as it’s a very walkable and tourist friendly UK city.
Walking York City Walls and Castle
Wake up early on your first day and head for the York city walls, which will take you around 3 hours to complete and give you excellent views of the Minster. Remember that no dogs are allowed on the York walls and the walls can get quite slippy when wet. You can stop off at both the Minster and the castle (plus the castle museum). You can stop off to eat in some local places for lunch such as the Perky Peacock on Lendal Bridge.
Visiting the York Minster
Make sure that you go inside the Minster – one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals. There is a fee for tourists but it’s free for locals with a York card. Head down into the crypt to see some of the original Norman walls of the Minster exposed. Volunteers lead guided tours, six times daily between the hours of 10am to 3pm – every day except Sunday. If you’re feeling fit and want a good view of the city, you can climb the 230ft high tower to see the views and get a close up look art some of the Gargoyles.
Have Drinks at Evil Eye
At the end of your first day, check out one of the fabulous restaurants for dinner and then grab drinks at one of my favourite bars – Evil Eye on Stonegate, which has a selection of over 30 different Vodkas!
Go Shopping on Stonegate and The Shambles
There are some amazing independent shops in York. You need to head down Stonegate for the Peter Rabbit shop and visit the Shambles. The Shambles is known as the oldest street in Britain – a small cobbled street with overhanging medieval houses. You will certainly want to take some photographs there. Stop off at Monkbar chocatiers to sample some local chocolates.
Have Afternoon Tea at Betty’s
Stop for tea and cake at Betty’s the famous tea shop. The first Betty’s cafe opened in Harrogate in 1919 and the York Betty’s opened in 1937. You might find queues especially on bank holidays and school holidays. I recommend that you book your afternoon tea in advance so that you can skip the line!
Visit Jorvik Viking Centre and the York Museum
For Museums, head to the Jorvik Viking centre for a taste of Viking York in a living Museum. The Jorvik Viking centre is one of the most popular days out in York. It recreates the houses, workshops and backyards of the Viking-Age city of Jorvik as it was almost 1,000 years ago.
Other Museums and Days Out in York
A popular option with the kids is the National Railways Museum in York. It’s free to enter and conveniently located just behind the York train station. If you are looking for a spooky day out, head to York Dungeon where you will be entertained with actors and special effects that recreate York’s past. Still needing more chocolate? Head to York’s Chocolate story to discover the stories behind the greatest names in chocolate with an interactive tour.
Museum Gardens and St Mary’s Abbey
You can also head to Museum Gardens where you will visit the Yorkshire Museum and the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey. Happy squirrels are frequent visitors to Museum Gardens and there are Owl flying shows in the summer months. It’s a great spot for a picnic if the weather is good. You can also take a walk along the river Ouse from Judy Dench walk.
House of Trembling Madness
Head to try some beer at the House of Trembling Madness to finish off your fabulous York weekend! It’s entrance is up some stairs on Stonegate, and this will bring you into a Medieval style pub with a good beer selection.
Weekend breaks in York at Christmas Time
If you can visit York in the months of November and December then you will want to visit York Christmas market with stalls dotted on and around Parliament street. Stock up on festive gifts and decorations and sample the mulled wine. There are also ice sculpture festivals in York – great for those on short breaks in York during November and December. Check the dates on the Visit York website and book your accommodation in advance.
Where to stay in York
My favourite hotel right next to the station is The Grand, right next to the station so easy to get to. The Grand hotel is a 5* Edwardian station building which restaurant and swimming pool. If you are looking for a Boutique hotel with Bistro, I highly recommend Hotel du Vin just outside Micklegate. Their cooked English breakfasts and roast dinners are out of this world and generous portions. If you are on a budget, other options include the Premier Inn and Ibis which are still walkable to the city centre – basic but affordable and clean. For backpackers, I recommend staying at The Fort hostel which is one of the best value places to stay and also has dorm rooms on offer. It’s extremely central positioned right above Kennedy’s bar and so great for nightlife.
Where to eat in York
I love eating at Bennett’s cafe and bistro – they have tables with Minster views that you should book in advance. It’s traditional English and French cuisine with a lovely wine collection and a homely feel. Melton’s on Scarcroft is another excellent restaurant for British cuisine. Want tapas? I recommend Ambiente on Goodramgate.
What if it rains on your Holiday in York?!
The Museums are great for indoor activities when it is raining. There’s also the York Art Gallery which is worth a visit. Other great ideas for what to do in York when it’s raining include afternoon tea and a theatre visit (York Theatre Royal). The whole of the city of York is prone to flooding so be aware of this during heady rains!
Tours in York
There are some amazing historical tours that you can book through Explore York, and these can be tailored to your needs and interests. I’d also totally recommend a ghost walk on the evening if you can fit it in – York is one of the most haunted cities in Britain! Also if you have time, I recommend a boat trip with commentary down the River Ouse.
Further afield in and around Yorkshire
If you are lucky enough to have more time to spend in York, there are some lovely day trips from York around Yorkshire and the coast. If you love Abbeys and Churches, consider visiting Fountains Abbey and Whitby Abbey, which are both doable as a day trip from York. If you enjoy countryside and scenic views, head to the Yorkshire dales for some hiking or the East coast for some coastline walks and sea views. Get Your Guide offers a day Trip to Whitby and The North York Moors that you can book online.
When to Visit York – Summertime vs Christmastime
I love to visit York for a long weekend both in the summer and winter, but Christmas time is my favourite season to visit York. Summertime is perfect for picnics in Museum gardens and walking along the river. Wintertime is great for wrapping up warm and shopping on the markets amongst the historical buildings.
York is a city full of history with an intriguing past, making short breaks in York a popular option for those travelling to England.
Amy Trumpeter (AKA Templeseeker) travels world finding the most amazing temples and historical sites along the way. She has a BA in World Religions and an MA in South Asian studies from the University of Manchester. When she’s not blogging about Europe, Asia and the Middle East you will find her at home in Liverpool with her husband and Blake the Patterdale terrier!
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