At the start of December me and my best friend Katie headed up north for a weekend break in York; our third adventure together in 2018! York is a city with Roman roots and a Viking past, almost exactly halfway between London and Edinburgh. Combining the best of its heritage with modern British life, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time as you amble down intertwining streets lined with 13th-century walls, but its thriving cultural scene will bring you right back to the present.
We had 48 hours explore this incredible city, and made the most of our visit by getting the York Pass, which gives you free access to over 40 York & beyond attractions and it is the only ticket you need to experience and explore York! It also includes discounts on evening entertainment such as ghost walks, escape rooms, plus money off offers at numerous cafes and restaurants across the city. Whilst we on our weekend break in York we stayed at the wonderful Staycity York and then spent 48 hours exploring the christmas markets, taking a ghost walk, learning at JORVIK Viking Centre, eating cake at the famous Bettys Tearoom and staring at York Minster. Come along and find out what else we got up to and why you should visit york….
HOW TO GET TO YORK
The average journey time between York and London is 2 hours 50 minutes, or if you’re not messing around the fastest journey time is 1 hour 47 minutes. On an average weekday, there are 43 trains per day travelling from York to London so its a super popular route and one which many people take on a daily basis. And it’s also accessible through other routes, such as if you’re coming from Liverpool, Wales or the East coast. If you’re coming from abroad the closest airport is Leeds and Bradford Airport, closely followed by Doncaster. However, the biggest airport located near to York is Manchester.
WHEN TO GO YORK
The weather in York varies greatly from month to month, with cold and wet winters, and warm summers. The temperature is around 16-26 degrees in the summer, and -2 – 10 degrees in the winter. There’s lots to do in York all throughout the year, and the city puts in place activities for these varying weathers. If you’re looking for the very warmest time to visit York, the hottest months are July, August, and then June. The warmest time of year is generally early August 21.5°C but if like me, you want to head to the Christmas markets in November or December you can expect temperatures around 1-5 degrees. Either way, you’ll be prepared now for a weekend break in York!
READ MORE: Visiting York Christmas Market
WHAT TO DO IN YORK
We had 48 hours explore this incredible city, and made the most of our visit by getting the York Pass, which gives you free access to over 40 York & beyond attractions and it is the only ticket you need to experience and explore York! Here are just a few of the things we got up to during our weekend break in York….
1. York Minster
One of the most iconic buildings in York has to be York Minster. A magnificent cathedral, with towering turrets, stained glass windows and stone buttresses. It is a marvel to view from both the inside and the outside, and is a must-visit attraction for anyone spending a weekend break in York. You can also head downstairs in to the underground chambers, where there is a history experience all about the cathedral, or if you have the stamina, walk the 275 steps up the central tower, offering views across the city!
2. York city walls
Another iconic must-see is a walk around the York city walls. The York city walls were first built by the Romans, and are now the longest medieval city barrier in the country. To walk the entire length will take hours, so my suggestion is to find an area you want to explore anyway and then head up on to the wall, as you’’ then get some great views of the surrounding areas too.
3. The River
Like most British cities, the river plays such a large role in the history of a place. York is no different and The Ouse winds its way around the medieval city of York and it a hot spot in its own right. In December, we did not spend much time here but in the summer, it is a picturesque delight. You can also hire a boat and go for a cruise by yourself.
4. The Jorvik Viking Centre
Whilst Katie headed off to York Dungeon, I headed to the Jorvik Viking Centre to experience their famous Viking experience, which includes a mini-car you sit in as they take you around the history of York. It’s like ‘It’s a small world’ at Disney but with Vikings. In 866, the city surrendered to Danish invasion and it gives a great snapshot of what life would have been like back then!
5. York Dungeon
Katie headed off here whilst I experienced the Vikings, and she said she had a great time! York dungeon delves into the murky side of history with actors, live shows and special effects throughout the experience. However, it is not for the faint hearted so be prepared to be scared. . With a boatload of (terrifying) actors, live shows, special effects and sets that evoke as much horror as history, it is not for the faint-hearted.
6. The Shambles
My favourite place in York has to be The Shambles – an Old English word for slaughterhouse, but these days it is lined with cute cafes, Harry Potter memorabilia, tearooms and much more. Many buildings in this street date back to the fourteenth century and still have butchers’ hooks out front. The houses lean in to the streets, offering some amazing shots when the crowds have gone.
7. Betty’s Tearoom
The moment we arrived in York, we headed to the famous Betty’s Tearoom to experience their legendary afternoon tea, which is one of Visit England’s ‘101 things to do before you go abroad’. Founded in 1919, Bettys’ is now a British institution and millions flock every year to taste their cakes and drink their tea. We booked ahead for the reservation-only luxury Lady Betty Afternoon Tea served in the first floor Belmont Room – it was a lovely way to spend a Friday afternoon!
8. York’s Chocolate Story
Last but not least, chocolate! A visit to York must include a trip to York’s Chocolate Story, located in the heart of York, close to The Shambles. It’s an hour-long experience with a guided tour and chocolate-making opportunity at the end. It’s a great way to uncover a host of surprising secrets and fascinating facts behind York’s greatest chocolate products, from the Chocolate Orange to the Kit Kat.
WHERE TO STAY IN YORK
Whilst we were there, we stayed at the wonderful Staycity York, just on the outskirts of the city for two nights in a two-bedroom apartments overlooking the city walls. Staycity Aparthotels are the perfect way to experience a new city – combining all of the advantages of a hotel with the comforts of home. It is just like being in your own home – you can put your feet up in the living room, watch TV on the flat screen, browse the internet using the complimentary WiFi and help yourself to endless cups of coffee in the fully equipped kitchen. We loved staying at Staycity York and it really felt like a home away from home for our weekend break in York.
WHERE TO EAT IN YORK
The Press Kitchen – On our first day in York, we headed to The Press Kitchen! The restaurant can be found on Walmgate within York’s walled city centre and is a café by day, restaurant, and bar by night. From the outside, The Press Kitchen does not look much more than one room, but enter within and the restaurant is never ending, offering a variety of seating areas. It is split over two floors – including a sun-filled courtyard, and allows fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere. They also have a love for music, with a jukebox in the room to the left, which you can pick your own soundtrack to your meal. The menu is eclectic and accessible, offering an array of modern Mediterranean cuisine, including pasta dishes, meat platters and Mexican breakfasts. We loved dining here and the food was incredible – we will be returning!
The Ivy York – Another iconic venue is The Ivy! We dined here for breakfast on our last day in the city and loved the relaxed yet sophisticated all-day dining experience. They serve food all day, from breakfast to dinner, and everything in between.
Cut & Chase – This independent restaurant and cocktail bar has been packing in the crowds since opening its doors on Goodramgate in 2016 and it is not hard to see why. Trendy at its heart, Cut & Chase offers industrial décor, set against cushions and fabrics. In addition, the menu is hard to miss too, with all-time British favourites, cocktails and Belgian waffles.
The Botanist – I have been to a few of these across the UK, and York is no different when it comes to their unique concept. They offer a wide range of food and drink, and a large selection of curious botanical cocktails, craft beers and ales, Champagne and wine, as well as an extensive menu.
Spark – We stumbled across this trendy place on our walk from the hotel and the city centre. It’s an area filled with old shipping containers offering a vibrant mix of street food from local independent chefs.
*Thank you to Visit York for inviting me to your wonderful city!