Last weekend I visited the historical and beautiful city of York where I spent the day sight-seeing, visiting the wonderful attractions, tasting local produce and immersing myself in the colourful history of York. York is rich in history, full of charming cobbled streets, exquisite architecture, an array of local attractions including historical buildings, museums, tours and so much more. The city offers so much, it’s hardly surprising to see why it’s such a popular destination and the perfect break for families, couples, and groups alike. The Romans knew York as Eboracum. To the Saxons it was Eoforwick and the Viking invaders called it Jorvik. The city is bursting with character including the marvellous medieval architecture, glorious Georgian town houses and the handsome Victorian railway. The city boasts designer shops, smart restaurants, bars and cafes, a whole range of attractions including museums, walks and tours, river cruises and the amazing sight-seeing bus.
Travelling to York
York is an easily accessible city with many routes whether you are travelling by car, train, bus, ferry or air. I travelled by car and took around one hour to reach the city and parked in the Castle car park which is a central location. There are other car parks available in and around the city. Via train takes you to the handsome Victorian railway upon arrival and interestingly, from London to York takes two hours. More information about travelling to York can be found here. I was visiting York for the day but if you fancy taking a mini break, there are some wonderful and original places to stay. Here are my top picks:
Hotels and B&B’s
- The Judge’s Lodgings – from 1806 this was the official judges residence in York.
- Gray’s Court Hotel – possibly the oldest continuously occupied house in the United Kingdom.
- Judge’s Court – official judge’s residence in York from 1720 to 1806.
- The Golden Fleece – the most haunted pub in York.
- Bar Convent – oldest living convent in England.
- 34a Shambles – stay on York’s oldest shopping street.
- Trembling Madness Luxury Holiday Apartments – the timber framed building is over 650 years old, with remains of a Norman house built in 1180 AD.
- Lendal Tower – stay in a part of the city’s medieval wall defences next to the River Ouse.
- The York Hop Store and Malt House – stay in the old brewery.
The York Pass is an essential item for those visiting York and want to enjoy the attractions the city has to offer. The York Pass gives you free entry to 30 attractions and really encourages you to make the most of your trip. The pass includes a guidebook, one day sight-seeing bus ticket and lots of vouchers to use for discounts in cafes, restaurants, walks and tours and Reel cinema. The York Pass can be ordered online and picked up at the Visitors Center in York. Order your York Pass here.
The largest medieval gothic cathedral in northern Europe, this is religious architecture is on a massive scale at 500 feet in length, 100 feet wide and with a central tower of 200 feet high. The awe-inspiring Minster is defiantly worth a visit to witness how impressive it really is. The cathedral took over 250 years to build and was finally declared complete (and consecrated) in 1472. The Minster contains some of the oldest and finest stained-glass windows with the newly-restored Great East Window, which is the largest single expanse medieval stained glass in the country. The view of the city and beyond can be experienced from the tower as well as the wonderful exhibits of historical artefacts dating back to the Roman age. York’s newest attraction, ‘Revealing York Minster’ in the Undercroft, invites visitors to embark upon a 2,000 year journey through a series of interactive underground chambers.
One of the best-preserved medieval streets in Europe, although none of the original shop fronts have survived, some properties still have the exterior wooden shelves; reminders of when cuts of meat were served from the open windows of the butchers’ shops. The word ‘shambles’ comes from the Middle English word ‘shamel’ and ‘shambil’ which means where meat is butchered and sold. The Old English word ‘shambol’ means a table or counter where items are sold.
The narrow street was made by design to keep meat out of direct sunlight, so narrow at one point, it is said that you are able to shake hands from the highest window with someone in the house across the street. Despite the quaintness of the street where cafes and independent shops are now housed in the historical buildings, my imagination turns to how the street would have once appeared: the sight, aroma and the noisy chaos it would have been. The crowds of people, awash with offal and discarded bones, the outbreaks of the plague that periodically erupted could easily be blamed on these unsanitary conditions.
The Shambles is home to the iconic Saint Margaret Clitherow also known as the ‘Pearl of York.’ The shrine can be viewed at 30-35 The Shambles. More about Saint Margaret Clitherow can be found here.
The medieval tower is the largest remaining part of York Castle. A proud symbol of the power of England’s medieval kings was originally built by William the Conquer. It was twice burnt down but rebuilt by Henry III in the 13th century. The name ‘Clifford’ comes from the grizzly tale of Rodger De Clifford who was executed for treason against Edward II and hanged in chains from the tower walls. The tower provides a rich history and magnificent panoramic views of the city and beyond.
York Castle Museum
The brainchild of John Kirk, who between 1890 and 1920 rescued everyday items he realised were part of a vanishing way of life. The museum boats over 100,000 items on display from military and social history to costumes and the wonderful Victorian ‘street’; all the items on display are authentic and original. My favourite part of the York Castle Museum is the Victorian street, where you can walk along the cobbled street, wander in and out of the shops and chat to the shop keepers. The ambiance is almost spin-tingling as there is a day and night time setting allowing visitors to really experience what Victorian life was like. The distant sounds of a dog barking, footsteps along the cobbled street and chatter really adds to the mood. The museum also has a selection of period rooms depicting what life was like in that era, such as Jacobean, Georgian and Victorian. The newest exhibition allows visitors to view the infamous prison cells of the former prison building, unleashing the tales (sometimes gruesome) of those that were once imprisoned. Find out more here.
An elegant town house dating from the medieval times. Only a short walk away from the York Minster, the Treasurer’s House was the first house ever given to the National Trust complete with a collection. The thirteen-person room building houses one man’s remarkable collection of antiques including, ceramics, furniture, textiles and paintings from a 300-year period. At one time divided into three houses, it was combined into one in the late 1900’s by Frank Green. There is also a great café in the basement! Find out more here.
Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms
The queen of afternoon teas, Betty’s Café Tea Rooms is the go-to place to indulge and experience fine culinary and the elegant ambiance within this quintessentially British institution is something not to be missed. The founder of Betty’s; Frederick Belmont, travelled on the maiden voyage Queen Mary and he was so enthralled by the grandeur and splendour, he commissioned the Queen Mary’s designers and craftsman to turn a dilapidated furniture store into the most exquisite café yet. Betty’s can be located in Saint Helen’s Square. I highly recommend the afternoon tea or if you are just popping in, I would recommend tasting the fat rascals! Find out more here.
Shopping at York
York is abundant with independent and high street shops alike. Wander the cobbled streets and discover designer labels, high street names, independent shops and antique shops. There is something for everyone including, fashion, beauty, home and garden accessories and so much more. Close by is the York Designer Outlet, full of famous fashion labels and popular high street names.
There is so much to do in York but as I was only visiting for the day, time was of the essence and was difficult to fit everything in, however, I would highly recommend visiting if you’re looking for a fun and relaxing break in the UK. I would encourage you to purchase the York Pass as it allows you to visit more of the attractions and at a great saving!
Have you visited York? What was your experience like? Is this a place that is on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments section.