Many will argue that you haven’t truly experienced England until you’ve moved away from London, and the town of York will give you plenty of reasons to get away from the capital city and explore. The rich history and some truly beautiful pieces of architecture combine fabulously with some very nice restaurants, and the place has that quintessentially English vibe that enchants visitors and makes them want to come back again. But since you only have one day in York, you have to plan it well. Or you can just follow this itinerary to explore all the most important sights the town has to offer.
What’s the best time to visit York, England?
As is the case with pretty much all of England, the best time to visit York is probably summer because the temperatures usually don’t go as high as for example in the Mediterranean at that time of year. However, do keep in mind that summer months are quite wet, and rain is fairly common. Because of that May and September also might be good times to visit York – they are relatively warm, but with much less precipitation.
However, you may want to schedule your one day in York in accordance with one of the numerous fun festivals there. The Roman Festival starts in June and celebrates the city’s founding by ancient Romans which means you can find people dressed like Romans everywhere. Jorvik Viking Festival in February is incredibly popular too, and foodies will not want to miss the Food Festival in September, the largest food festival in the UK! Those are just the beginning, though, and you will find something interesting, whenever you come!
A few facts about York
The city started out under the name of Eboracum, as it was founded by ancient Romans in 71 AD. Today, it is one of 51 cities in England with slightly more than 200,000 people and incredibly rich history.
Don’t let the names around here confuse you – what are called bars are actually medieval gates, but the word “gates” in York denotes streets.
York has the longest city walls in England!
Plenty of bars to choose from here if you want to sit down and enjoy a nice drink and the local vibe – despite this being a relatively small city, there are more than 365 bars here, with more than 100 in the city centre. Do some digging before you come here and find the one that appeals to you the most.
The official title of the position of York’s mayor is The Right Honourable Lord Mayor, and this is the only city in England apart from London to bestow that title on the man in charge.
Remember Wars of the Roses? This series of English civil wars in the fifteenth century features the House of Tudor and the House of Lancaster on one side and the House of York on the other. The white rose that symbolized the House of York remains on the flag of Yorkshire to this very day.
One day in York Itinerary
Welcome to York, a city full of incredible history and a place that has played an incredibly important role in so many different periods of English history. There can be no doubt that a day in York is a day well spent as there is plenty to see and experience, but if you need a bit of help planning which places to see, here’s a handy itinerary to point you in the right direction. Enjoy!
Start your day in York with a nice walk
Nothing like a nice walk to start a fantastic day! And what better destination for that than York’s city walls? The largest part of the walls was built during the Medieval period, although there are parts that go back all the way back to Roman times. The view from up there is quite beautiful, and there are many trees next to the walls which really adds to the experience.
Now, you can do the whole tour, but if you have just one day in York, it may be more prudent to explore just a part of the walls since the walls total more than two miles in length. The bit between Monk Bar and Bootham Bar is particularly pretty because of the Minster looming in the background. Oh, and the entrance is free.
Marvel at the York Minster
Once you’re done with the city walls, you don’t have to go far – the magnificent York Minster is right in front of you! This is one of the symbols of York and a true architectural masterpiece that dates back to the 13th century.
The highlights of the visit include the exceptionally beautiful stained-glass windows, the Treasury which houses numerous fascinating artifacts, and the Central Tower which can be climbed for a spectacular view. Be warned – there are 275 steps here! Keep in mind that this cathedral dedicated to St. Peter is only open till 3 PM, so do come and visit it in the morning.
Don’t let the name fool you – Shambles is an incredibly charming part of York and a place that is a must in any itinerary. Numerous shops, restaurants, cafes and other places of that kind are wherever you look, but what makes this place especially interesting is the fact that it dates from the 14th century, and you can still see hooks on the walls from the time when butchers had their stalls here.
It’s a perfect place to sit down for a drink, pick up a souvenir or even sit down for lunch, but those with a bit of adventurous spirit will absolutely love it because there are so many tiny streets (known as Snickleways) just waiting to be discovered. Try to find Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Gate if you can – it’s the shortest street in York!
Find a place for lunch
There are plenty of great places for lunch in York, and sitting down for a meal in the heart of this beautiful city is bound to be memorable. Ye Olde Starre Inne is certainly a place to consider because this is the oldest pub in York and offers excellent traditional British dishes. Incredibly, a part of the place dates back all the way to the 16th century!
Apart from that, Little Italy comes very highly recommended, Wine Stories is a great Greek restaurant, Rustique is an excellent choice for French cuisine, and Turtle Bay York offers Caribbean dishes. And that’s just the beginning – you won’t be hungry in this town for very long, that’s for sure!
Head to the National Railway Museum
Trains have played a huge role in York’s history, and you can learn all about that and so much more if you visit the National Railway Museum. Just cross River Ouse to the other side and you’ll quickly find it.
If there is a train lovers’ paradise, this has to be it – everything from locomotives from the early 19th century to Japanese bullet trains is here, and there are plenty of other very interesting things to do. You can, for example, see how Victorian railway stations used to work, climb closer to the ceiling of the museum and look at the trains from above, see the carriages that belonged to Queen Elizabeth and much more.
This short piece of text is not enough to show how awesome this place is, but trust me – well worth a place in your York itinerary.
Climb up to Clifford’s Tower
Go back across the river again and head slightly south. You will see a lone tower rising up above the city. That’s Clifford’s Tower, a building dating back to 1068, although back then it was a wooden construction – it got the current look in the 13th century. Interestingly (and horrifyingly), the tower was used to showcase the heads of executed people.
In any case, the view from up here is spectacular, and the place was recently polished up, so the climb will really be worth the effort.
Enjoy an evening cruise
After a long day in York, you certainly deserve some relaxation, so treat yourself to a sunset cruise along the River Ouse. It takes about an hour and allows you to get to know the city in a whole new way. Some spectacular photo-ops will present themselves along the way, and the boat taking you should be serving snacks and drinks. No doubt, this is a great way to catch your breath a bit after an itinerary like this, plus you will get to take some pictures that will last you a lifetime.
Plan a fun evening
To wrap things up, there are plenty of interesting choices in York. If you’d like to continue the romance after the cruise with your significant other, I would suggest heading to Delrio’s Restaurant for dinner. This Italian restaurant offers a very intimate atmosphere in a beautiful cellar, so the mood should be perfect.
If that’s not your cup of tea, you can visit some of the bars and pubs, and there are plenty of those to choose from – House of Trembling Madness is an excellent bar that promises a lot and delivers on those promises, BrewDog offers Scottish beers, and Pairing Wine Bar is a great choice for wine enthusiasts.
You can also go on a ghost tour, see a play in Theatre Royal which was built in 1744, or go clubbing if you have the energy (Popworld and Flares are fine choices for that). In short, you’re gonna have a great time and finish off this one day in York in style!
Where to stay in York?
The Grand, York
City Centre, Station Rise, York, YO1 6HT
Luxurious accommodation in York is best epitomized by The Grand, an amazing five-star hotel right in the city centre. The most important feature is the incredible spa with a big pool, hot tub, sauna, and steam room. The rooms are impeccable and come with Molton Brown toiletries among other things, and the hotel’s restaurant and bar will offer plenty of excellent dishes and drinks. Oh, there’s also a fitness centre, too. In short, this is exactly what a five-star accommodation should look like. You’ll love it!
The Churchill Hotel
65 Bootham, York, YO30 7DQ
Now, this is a beauty! Located in a Georgian mansion from 1827, The Churchill Hotel exudes class and elegance, befitting a hotel named after Britain’s most famous prime minister. The interior is exquisite, with many items related to Winston Churchill himself decorating the walls. The hotel is in a quiet neighborhood, although quite close to York’s centre, plus there is a wonderful beer garden to enjoy, too. Add to that excellent food and comfortable rooms, and this place becomes a real winner!
The Queens Hotel
City Centre, Queens Staith Road, Skeldergate, York, YO1 6DH
The Queens Hotel boasts an excellent location, right in the middle of it all, so from here you will be able to easily experience York to the fullest. Bars, restaurants and numerous important sights are within walking distance, but this is just one of the advantages. The value you get here for your money is excellent, with very comfortable rooms that come with a selection of complimentary toiletries. The food is served in a very relaxed restaurant, the bar is great, and the staff working here are exceptionally kind.
Astor York Hostel
124 Holgate Road, York, YO24 4BB
For those of you looking for a hostel, Astor York Hostel is an excellent choice. First of all, it is located in a beautiful Victorian building, close to the city centre, so the location is as good as it gets. On top of that, however, there’s a nice bar you can enjoy, two very big dining rooms, and a comfortable lounge. Everything is very clean, the rooms will meet all your expectations and more, plus the hostel organizes movie nights. You can’t go wrong with this one!
Day trips from York
Yorkshire boasts some of the most beautiful sceneries in the country, so it would really be a shame to miss out on a day trip from York if you have an opportunity to set one up. Quaint villages and lovely castles, all far away from the city bustle – this is a perfect opportunity to get to see the romantic side of England. Here’s what to consider.
Yorkshire Dales is a picturesque part of England, with green rolling hills and quaint little towns scattered around where you really get to enjoy a very special vibe. There’s also a national park here, so nature lovers will surely be happy, Bolton Castle is also one of the highlights around here, and this is generally a trip that always leaves you wanting more. Organized tours are also available.
If you want to explore other English cities, Leeds is a great choice because it’s less than an hour away by car. Spending one day in Leeds means enjoying some wonderful architecture, museums, galleries and excellent restaurants at very reasonable prices. This is a student city, after all. Undoubtedly, a great choice for a day trip.
There is also the option of spending one day in Manchester as your day trip from York. While it does take about two hours to get there, visiting this city is so worth it – it is a modern vibrant metropolis with amazingly beautiful libraries, a fascinating town hall, and excellent museums. There are plenty of great shopping venues too, and football fans are sure to love checking out the homes of two illustrious clubs: Manchester United and Manchester City.
A day trip to Whitby will not only allow you to see an incredible national park called North York Moors, but you will also get to know an exceptionally charming coastal town that has a lot to offer. Many will call this the home of fish’n’chips, and Whitby Abbey is famous for serving as an inspiration to Bram Stoker to create Dracula. And that’s just the beginning – Whitby guarantees a wonderful day out!
Extra tips for visiting York
– Always keep English weather in mind – expect rain and pack accordingly
– York is a relatively small city, especially its centre, so you can easily explore everything on foot. Feel free to leave your car at your accommodation or skip renting one out entirely. You can do just fine without it.
– A good thing to keep in mind, since again, this is England, that they use G sockets here. Think ahead if you want your phone charged and ready for taking pictures.
– York does not have an airport. If you’re thinking of flying in, the closest airport is in Leeds, which is not too bad. From there, it will take you an hour or an hour and a half to reach York city center.
– York City Pass will allow you to see many attractions at a lower price
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.