York is a city packed with history and though it may be small, it’s still a mighty spot to visit in North Yorkshire. This ultimate wander-round city has more attractions per square mile than any other UK city. And you history-buffs will become giddy just hearing about the 2000 years of history that York is built from.
If you’re big on museums and art galleries (or tell people you are to seem more cultured), you could spend days upon days exploring Yorks many galleries and museums.
Now, first things first, you've got to get to York before you can enjoy your lovely little weekend away. Luckily, York is well-connected and easy to get to from most parts of the country.
Check out our top advice on getting travel for a weekend in York.
Direct trains run from London King’s Cross to York’s central station (and it only takes 2-hours, winner). If you’re travelling from Manchester, trains to York can take less than an hour and a half (they’re pretty frequent too, leaving every 15/20-minutes). Oh, and if you’re up in Scotland, trains from Edinburgh to York take around 2.5-hours.
National Express carries multiple direct services to York - you’re in luck if travelling from London, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Sheffield or Leeds. Don't worry if you're not though, there are plenty of other routes that'll get you to York in no time.
York is handily located pretty much halfway between London and Edinburgh, meaning it’s in comfortable travel distance of many UK cities. The city also has six Park & Ride points – which allows you to travel to York by car, park for free (in a secure car park) and complete your journey to the city centre by bus. Click here for more info.
Some rough distance estimates:
- London: 3h 50m / 210 miles
- Edinburgh: 4h 12m / 210 miles
- Manchester: 1h 34m / 73 miles
- Cardiff: 4h 23m / 250 miles
- Glasgow: 3h 56m / 211 miles
- Nottingham: 1h 45m / 87 miles
- Bristol: 3h 53m / 223 miles
- Liverpool: 2h 01m / 102 miles
- Birmingham: 2h 26m / 134 miles
- Museum Gardens
- York Minster
- City Walls
- Ghost Walking Tour
- The Shambles
- York Dungeon Tickets
- Clifford’s Tower
- Boat Trip
- JORVIK Viking Centre
We’d recommend using your first day in York as the perfect opportunity to explore by foot and see some of the iconic sights. Starting out with the Museum Gardens, a lovely patch of green (which is free to visit, winner) containing the ruins of St Leonard’s Hospital and St Mary’s Abbey. If you fancy visiting the Yorkshire Museum (the home of rare birds, fossils and archaeological treasures), you can pay the small entrance fee and spend some time exploring.
Now, this one is practically compulsory. The York Minster, also known as Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, is an icon of the city – it was built back in the 7th century, so it’s not hard to see why it’s part of the furniture. Though this attraction is on the pricier side (approx. £16 per adult and an extra £12 per person to visit the viewing tower), it’s one of the spots we’d prioritise visiting. If you’re keen on historical buildings, you’ll just love the Astronomical Clock, the crypt and the stunning glass windows of the Chapter House.
After a morning of exploring, walk a quick 3-minutes and settle in for a cosy pub lunch at The Guy Fawkes Inn – confused why his name is popping up when he tried to explode the Houses of Parliament in London? Well, Guy Fawkes was born ‘n’ bred in York – more specifically, the building the restaurant is in. Crazy, right?
The A La Carte Menu has plenty of dishes suited to the whole fam, with pub classics like Fish & Chips and the Guy Fawkes Famous Steak Pie, but they also have unique dishes like the Sea Bass Tacos and Sweet Potato Massaman Curry. If you’re not in the mood for a big lunch, they also have a great sandwich menu with prices from £8-10.
We’ve mentioned time and time again about York’s history, but we’re gonna mention it again (soz, not soz). Walking the city walls (yes, the city has walls you can walk on top on), is a great * free * thing to do on a weekend in York. Now, you don’t have to walk the entirety of the walls (which is around 2-miles) but exploring sections of the walls will give you some amazing bird’s eye views of the city.
Ghost Walking Tour
We’ve heard that York is the UK’s most haunted city – yes, apparently, it’s more haunted than the streets of Whitechapel? Who’d have thought it.
There’s no shortage of walking tours of York with a spooky theme but our favourites has got to be The Original Ghost Walk of York - they’ve been at it since 1973, so they properly know what they’re doing. A lot of the time you don’t need to book too, which is handy for last minute Larrys (looking at you, there). Just meet outside the King’s Arms pub (£7.50 for adults and £5 for children) and prepare for a night of spooky stories at thrilling adventures.
For us, a weekend in York wouldn't be the same without a ghost tour of the city - trust us, we promise you won't regret visiting.
Head to Cresci Pizzeria for dinnner for some super-authentic (and of course delicious) Italian food. The whole family will love this joint for it's amazing pizzas - our favourite has to be the Calabrese (fair warning, it's toppped with 'Nduja, so be prepared for a kick). Prices are affordable, with starters costing just £4.50 and mains ranging from £8 to £13 - it's perfect spot to tuck in after a day of touring the city.
Are you a history-buff in search of your next historic hit? Check out our top historical days out.
If you’re in search of a cutesy brunch spot, look no further than Partisan Café. This independent restaurant (and arts space) is based right in the city centre and serves up the best breakfasts in town. Tuck into the likes of Shakshuka, French Toast and Huevos Divorciados (as well as a variety of vegetarian and vegan options). FYI you’ll probably want to book in-advance if you plan on visiting at the weekend, it can get pretty busy!
You don’t wanna miss out on visiting this iconic street – which is said to have inspired JK Rowling’s Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. Wander round the cutesy alley and have a nosey at the selection of shops (many of which have a wizard theme). This part of York is extra-special during winter months, it really looks like something out of a cheesy Hallmark movie. If you wanna make the most of your weekend in York, we reckon you simply must visit the Shambles.
Make the 7-minute walk from the Shambles to the hyper-real York Dungeon and find yourself immersed in York’s gruesome past. A team of suited and booted (and extremely convincing) actors will take you on a journey through time, meeting York legends like Guy Fawkes, the York Minster and Isabella Billington (the infamous witch). Best suited for those over 8-years-old, York Dungeon is an immersive experience so the lights are low, and it can feel very real – keep this in mind for kiddos. Get your York Dungeon tickets here!
P.S They also have other locations across the UK too - get your Edinburgh Dungeon tickets, London Dungeon tickets and Blackpool Dungeon tickets.
Grab some fresh air after the spooks of York Dungeon at Clifford’s Tower. The 13th-century castle is now managed by English Heritage and entrance is pretty cheap considering the epic views of York you’ll get from the top. This one is definiterly on our must-see list for a weekend in York. Clifford's Tower is part of English Heritage, you can save 15% on an annual English Heritage membership to enjoy unlimited access to hundreds of historic places!
After a heavy morning of walking, you’ll probably be a bit peckish – and that’s where York’s plethora of cafes and coffeeshops will come in handy. One of our top choices is 200 Degrees Coffee on Low Petergate. Serving up freshly prepared sandwiches, salads and sweet treats, the café also serves up wonderful coffee made by expert baristas.
Luckily, VisitYork have put together a big ol’ list of their favourite coffee shops, find the list here.
If the weathers on your side, head out on a boat trip to make the most of it. Set off onto the River Ouse and see the sights from the comfort of a slow-cruising boat – most rides last around 45-minutes with live commentary from the captain. One of our favourites has got to be the City Cruises York – Sightseeing Cruise.
York is a city of many museums, so you won’t be short of choice and we’re sure you’ll find something to your liking. For us, a weekend in York wouldn’t be the same without a trip to the JORVIK Viking Centre – a hub for fun learning about the lives of the Vikings. Be sure to check if there’s any special exhibitions or interesting workshops on too – they'll make a visit to the centre even more special.
If Vikings ain’t your thing, why not check out the National Railway Museum, York Army Museum or add a sweet twist to the afternoon with a visit to York’s Chocolate Story.
Do you just love a historic building? Luckily, we've got in the inside scoop on the best historical places to visit in the UK.
Where to stay
Best Budget Hotel:
Based a little out of the historic city centre, Elmbank Hotel is stunning spot that costs around £100 per night – but looks far more luxury.
If you’re in the mood to splash a bit more cash on your hotel stay, look no further than Gray's Court Hotel. Rooms cost around £300 per night depending on the season, but it’s well worth it to make the most of your trip to York.
If you’d rather stay in your own little haven for your York stay, check out these cute and cosy Sykes Cottages in the North York Moors.
Still, exploring the city but need somewhere to store your luggage? Handily, York has loads of spots to drop your luggage. Lockers are available at the National Railway Museum and at the Left Luggage office (located by the Europcar Office on Queen Street). Another great option offering low prices for all-day storage is YorBag, which you’ll find on High Petergate.
Already planning your next city break? Well, these top UK foodie cities need to be added to the list.
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