A time capsule to the medieval era, York is magical beyond words. Cobblestone streets, medieval pubs set in timbered buildings and the gigantic York Minster are all enveloped by the 13th-century walls (which you are free to roam). York is one of Great Britain's truly wonderful cities and a must visit destination on your UK adventure. York's pubs are legendary and has a thriving food and drink scene. You'll fall in love the city and will plan your return as soon as you leave.
York's currency is the British Pound (£). £1 = €1.19 / $1.30 (as of 2022).
Top 5 things to see
York's most famous streets, the Shambles is synonymous with the city's medieval past. It's one of the best preserved medieval streets in the world; a maze of tight alleyways, cobblestones and overhanging buildings. Many of the buildings date back to the 14th and 15th century, when they used to be butchers. In fact, the term "Shambles" translated to open-air slaughter-house.
And yes, the Shambles was indeed the inspiration for Dragon Alley in Harry Potter. There may even be dedicated Harry Potter shops on the street - you'll have to explore that for yourself!
York Minster is one of the most striking Gothic cathedrals in England, and one of the largest in north Europe. A church has been on the grounds since 627, but what you see today was started in 1215, when the archbishop demanded a cathedral to rival Canterbury's in the south.
You can even walk the 275 claustrophobic steps to the roof for magical views of York and beyond.
Tickets cost £12.50 for adults and free for children 0-16 years old.
York Museum Gardens
Away from the cobblestones is York Museum Gardens, a haven of pretty paths and archaeological treasures, including Roman ruins. The Hospitium (pictured below) is located down a winding path; built in the 1300s, the Listed building was originally a guest house for visitors to the nearby St Mary's Abbey.
York's Medieval Walls
Unlike many of Britain's medieval cities, York's walls are well preserved. Largely medieval, after the Danes occupied the city in 867, you can still see remnants of the old walls from the Roman era, dating back to 71 AD.
The walls are free to walk on and provide sweeping views of the Minster and some areas of the city. They are bisected by the River Ouse, so you won't be able to do one full circle, but rather in stages. An early morning walk on a clear and crisp day with a coffee is a fun - and free - activity and a means to explore the city from a different angle.
Jorvik Viking Centre
Interactive exhibits depicting Viking settlements after excavations were unearthed in the 1970s makes for a great activity for kids. Ride a monorail and see the 9th-century old city of Jorvik (Viking for "York").
Tickets cost £11/£8 adults/children. We'd recommend booking in advance.
Where to eat and drink
Despite its size, York has no shortage of excellent cafes, pubs and restaurants. Whether you're in the mood for something classic and traditional, or a trendy craft beer spot - York has you covered.
The Hairy Fig is a pretty Italian cafe on Fossgate. The coffee is seriously good and its reasonably priced menu ranges from stylish charcuterie boards to homemade scotch eggs.
1331 on Grape Lane is a candlelit bar in the evening, and an open and airy cafes in the evening. It has plenty of outside space, including its own courtyard with heaters. The blueberry pancakes are a favourite amongst locals; their cooked breakfasts are also a winner too.
The York Roast Company on Stonegate is synonymous throughout Britain as perfecting the Sunday Roast Yorkshire Roll. Choose your favourite meat and vegetables and they will wrap it in a fluffy Yorkshire Pudding (a staple of British cuisine) and serving it with lashings of gravy! Perfect.
Shambles Kitchen is a cute sandwich shop on the Shambles serving up eclectic, and very filling, sandwiches for the masses along York's busiest street. And they're reasonably priced too.
Ye Olde Pie and Sausage Shoppe on the Shambles is a cute hole-in-the-wall serving exceptional pies and sausage rolls. Try the black pudding and pork and enjoy, honestly, Britain's best pie. Unbelievable.
Shambles Market, round the side of the Shambles, combines a local's farmers market with a excellent international food stalls. Either pack a picnic and wander to the river or York Museum Gardens, or sample from a range of the stalls around for lunch.
Love Cheese is a hidden cheese and wine bar you never knew existed! Venture past the incredible array of local cheese and head to their "Speakcheesy" - a cute garden serving up rustic pizzas and artisanal cheese boards. The relaxed vibe makes it a must-visit in York.
Forest opposite Grape Lane is one of York's most picturesque restaurants. Cobblestones streets will entice you into its pretty inside with great food to match.
Guy Fawkes Inn is the birthplace, literally, of the infamous rebel who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605. The pub has a cosy interior, pretty beer garden, and a stone's throw from the Minster.
The Golden Fleece is one of Britain's most haunted pubs. This pub was mentioned as far back as 1503. Despite this, it's a cosy pub that offers live music and beds upstairs for your stay!
Pivní serves fantastic craft beers over two-floors of a 16th-century townhouse round the corner from Shambles.
For the adults
Pairings Wine Bar is one of the city's best wine bars. Venture to Castlegate and step into a chic setting with mixing Spanish tapas with French vibes. Pair a wine with a small plate or two and dine with the locals. It's a women-owned business too, so even more reason to support it!
Bora Bora is a fun cocktail bar if you're after something more relaxed than a pub. It's tucked round the corner of Swinegate and offers an extensive 2-4-1 menu too.
House of the Trembling Madness is the epitome of eclectic. This bar serves the best lesser-known Belgian beers; fake taxidermy lines the walls of this authentic medieval building. If there are any beers you like, buy some from the extensively-stocked store at the front!
Tipping is not required in York. At some restaurants, 12.5% is added discretionally to your bill.
York is a very safe city. However, its cobblestone streets might be tough if you don't have suitable footwear, especially at night. Uber operates in York, so that is an option if you wish.
Two Passports Top Tip: Don't be intimidated by pubs!
Pubs are an institution in Britain, much like tapas bars are to Spanish culture. Don't be intimidated walking into them. It's not uncommon for people to stand and chat to the server, especially if there are no seats. Often the locals are nice enough to talk welcome you in too and give you the best advice on where to visit in the city.
When to Go
Low Season: November to February
Cold and dark nights ahead, with rain and wind a common occurrence. Christmas in the city is a magical time of year but can be busy, so book accommodation and attractions in advance.
Shoulder Season: March to May and September to October
The days are longer and flowers blossom around York Museum Gardens and by the river. The city gets busy for Halloween events and is popular for families - book accommodation in advance and research special events.
High Season: June to August
The city is mobbed with tourists and it can get uncomfortably hot in crowded spaces; the city is busy with tourists from across the UK as well as internationally. Book accommodation well in advance, as with travel. Thursday and Friday trains from London, and other cities, will be busy with families wanting to make York a weekend break.
How to Get There
Travelling by train
Most cities in the UK have direct routes to York from: London (2 hours), Manchester (1h 20m), Liverpool (2h 10m), Birmingham (2h 30m) and Edinburgh (2h 30m).
The train station is south-west of the city centre (see map above).
Two Passports Top Tip
York is not blessed with an airport and we can't imagine, and we don't advise, flying into Great Britain to only visit York - it should be incorporated as part of your wider UK adventure.
Travelling by coach
Coaches are possible too, dropping you off at the train station. Prices range from marginally cheaper to a lot cheaper, however journeys from London take 6+ hours. We'd recommend the train.
Travelling in the city
York is a "city" by default due to its cathedral. Please don't think it's a great metropolis like London or even Manchester. York is tiny - think of it more as an average-size town.
Its only public transport is the bus system which caters for locals and commuters. If you're visiting the city, everything you need and will want to see is walkable. Believe us. It's walkable.