York is a beautiful city packed full of history and heritage. It may be small but it’s bustling and there’s plenty to do and see.
We decided to visit York for the weekend to celebrate Harry’s birthday. Having lived so close to it all our lives we thought it was a shame that we’d never explored the city- it’s only an 1 hour 20 minutes away from Manchester and 2.30 hours from Edinburgh.
We have to say, we loved York, a lot! We’d definitely recommend a visit. Whether you go for the weekend or the just a day trip- here’s what we got up to for bit of inspiration.
What We Did:
Walk the City Walls
York is a walled city founded by the ancient Romans. To this day substantial parts of the wall remain which you can walk along in a loop around the city centre. The walls were mainly built in the 13th century and are the longest town walls in England! You’ll get plenty of amazing views along the walk, and it’s a great way to get to see the city.
We did this on Saturday morning and it was a great way to spend a couple of hours. It’s suggested that the walk usually takes around 90 minutes, but we found it took longer as we stopped to take pictures along the way.
We started off at Bootham Bar, the north west gate, but you can start wherever is most convenient. There signs along the way to keep you on track.
If you get the chance we’d recommend a stop off at Gatehouse Coffee– a little coffee shop that occupies one of the ancient Gates, complete with a beautiful roof terrace.
This is definitely a must do when in York and is the perfect way to combine walking, history, photography and site seeing.
The Shambles is a picturesque street in the city centre made up of fifteenth century buildings that lean into the middle of the cobbled street. This is York’s oldest street and is apparently Europe’s best preserved Medieval street- so you can image it’s pretty special!
Today it’s home to a variety of shops and cafes so you can easily spend an hour or so wandering round the Shambles and surrounding areas, taking lots of pictures of course!
We noticed a few Harry Potter shops along the Shambles- apparently it was JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley. We know that it’s claimed that Victoria Street in Edinburgh is also claimed to have inspired Diagon Alley so we’ll stay out of that one…
You can’t visit York and not notice the Minster. This gothic beauty is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and usually dominates your views in York- we got so many different pictures from different angles!
We popped our heads inside to admire the amazing interiors. You have to pay for full entry which admittedly we did not. It’s £10 for an adult ticket and we just felt this was a little steep- so if you’re traveling on a budget then remember that you can still peek inside without buying a ticket! You can also climb up the tower of the Minster for an extra £5 which looks like a lot of fun.
During our visit to York it was really warm weather, so we took to the Minster Gardens to have a sunbathe for an hour or so. The gardens back directly on to the Minster and are the most beautiful place to relax.
Close by the Minster is Treasurer’s House. If you appreciate an amazing garden then you’ve got to stop by! We didn’t go into the House itself but spent 20 minutes admiring the Garden which has won Gold in the Yorkshire in Bloom competition for the past 4 years running!
The House is a Grade 1 listed building which you can take a tour of or explore the at your own pace. It’s the perfect peaceful spot in the city centre and offers excellent views of the Minster.
York Brewery Tour
If you’re into beer like us, we’d recommend going on a tour of the York Brewery. Adult tickets are £8 (£6 for students) and include a 45-minute tour as well as 4 – 1/3 pints of your choice. The tour was really informative, plus it was a lot of fun seeing everything that goes into the brewing process!
Afterwards we headed to Brew York – a newer brewery about 15 minutes’ walk away. Whereas York Brewery is more traditional (though they do have a good selection of beers) Brew York’s a lot more contemporary.
We’d also recommend this place if you’re into beer- they had a really good selection, housed in a cool warehouse where you can see the brewing process taking place. There’s also a little outside space backing onto the River Foss, a lovely spot when the sun’s out.
York is built around the River Ouse, so we thought it would be a shame not to explore the river too!
We boarded at Lendal Bridge and were taken to the north of the city, before turning around and heading to the south. The tour lasts around an hour and was the perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday morning. The guide was super informative, and it was extremely relaxing cruising along the river.
We stopped off at Clifford’s Tower whilst on the city walls walk. It’s the last remaining part of York Castle which you can climb up to get beautiful views over the city. We were expecting a little more information for the £5 ticket price but at least we were greeted with panoramic views of the city.
York is home to some beautiful gardens and Museum Gardens was one of our favourites. We spent a good half an hour walking around and admiring this perfectly kept garden in the sun. It’s also the perfect spot to sit in the sun.
Where we ate
Café No.8 Bistro
We arrived on Friday evening and had booked a table at Café no.8 Bistro. Upon arriving we were shown to our table but noticed there was a really charming garden to the back. So, we asked if we could sit out there. It was a beautiful sunny evening and we were the only ones out there. The garden was full of trees and greenery, the birds were tweeting, and it was so peaceful! it also backed onto the City Walls which was an added bonus.
The items on the menu were set prices, at £15 for mains, £20 for 2 courses or £25 for 3 courses. We went for 2 courses each, both getting a starter and a main. The food was beautiful and great value. We’d have to say our favourite dish was definitely the Chicken Sous Vide with chorizo and risotto- however that got gobbled up before we remembered to take a photo!
Heading to the Shambles Food Market it the perfect shout for lunch. They’ve got loads of stalls serving up different types of food on offer. The first day we went we got a Turksish Lamb kufta wrap which was very average- there was hardly any sauce or salad etc.
The second day we went to the stall with the biggest queues and weren’t disappointed. It was a little African/Middle Eastern/Persian stall called Los Moros. We both got the Persian chicken wrap and it was really delicious.
Roberto’s Authentic Italian Gelato
What do you do when it’s hot? Eat ice cream! We found Roberto’s Authentic Italian Gelato after looking up reviews online for the best ice cream in town and we weren’t disappointed!
Eagle & Child Inn
We mainly ended up here for food because we were already having drinks. Eagle & Child is a pub and the food was good, but a bit hit and miss. Harry got a burger which was good and came with excellent thrice cooked chips. I got a steak pie which was a little disappointing. If you’re a pie fan I wouldn’t choose this item- it was fine but nothing special at all. Overall we’d recommend visiting this place more for drinks as they do have a good selection of beers.
If you’re a coffee fan then heading down Fossgate is a good shout. We sat outside at Spring Espresso as well as The Fossgate Social – both are in the Independent Coffee Guide so you can image they served up top quality coffee!