The historic city of York, where medieval streets meet contemporary stores and a thriving foodie scene, surrounded by an ancient city wall. Modern day combines with old world, where Roman and Viking heritage exist alongside exciting ghost stories adding intrigue to York’s streets. There are unique experiences for everyone, just waiting to be discovered. Keep reading for my tips on how to spend a perfect weekend in York.
Take a stroll alone York City Walls.
York’s City Walls are the longest medieval town walls in England, originally built in the Roman times around 71 AD, they still stand at 3.5km long. On a sunny day, it’s the perfect way to explore the city and see many of the sights along the way. You’re truly able to appreciate how ancient the foundations of the city are by walking along this piece of history.
Visit York Minster
You cannot come to York without taking time to visit the iconic York Minster. The Cathedral’s gothic architecture dominates many views of the city skyline and is incredibly beautiful on the inside.Spend some time gazing at the largest displays of stained glass in the UK, before heading up the tower for incredible views over York!I must warn you, the climb is not for the faint of heart – there is only one way up and down a spiral staircase, which gets smaller the higher you go. Around step 200, I was partially regretting my decision to go up haha, but there was no turning back then.I do believe the experience of climbing through the Cathedral was truly incredible and the panoramic views of the city are worth it. However, if you’re claustrophobic or particularly unfit I’d give this a miss and spend more time discovering all of the hidden gems inside.
Climb Clifford’s Tower
Clifford’s Tower standing upon a high mound is almost all of the remains of York Castle which was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century. It was burned down twice, before being rebuilt by Henry VIII.The tower has served as a prison and royal mint during it’s existence. Now you are able to climb the tower to get unrivalled views of the city including York Minster, so even if you have climbed the cathedral tower it’s still definitely worth climbing Clifford’s Tower for a different view over the city. In the distance you’re able to see as far as the North York Moors, can you tell I’m a sucker for a good view?
Shop in The Shambles
The Shambles is a medieval shopping street in York with charming timber-framed buildings dating back to the 14th Century.The Shambles gained it’s name from an old term for meat market, there are still meat hooks on some of the buildings as a nod to it’s history. These days the street is lined with quaint shops and cafes, the perfect place to spend time shopping.
The Shambles is also thought to be inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and as a result there are a lot of Harry Potter themed stores to explore. My personal favourite was The Potions Cauldron – pop in for a flat witch, Serpents Venom or a Butter beer and a side of magic.
Take a Ghost Tour
York is known to be one of the most haunted cities in Europe, it’s definitely worth going on a ghost tour to hear about the thousands of years of folklore and legends that originate in the city.
We decided to go on The York Ghost Bus Tour, this theatrical tour takes you on a journey around York on a 1960s Routemaster bus. The ‘creepy’ conductor tells you all of the sinister stories from York’s landmarks such as York Minster and Dick Turpin’s grave.
You also have the opportunity to exit the bus and go on a walk through dark streets to visit haunted buildings and learn about the ghosts that haunt the city. This is a really unique experience to York and it gives you a great insight into the history of the city.The tour stopped at The Golden Fleece, which is best known for being the most haunted pub in York. We visited it again the next day to enjoy a drink and see if we would have a paranormal experience. There have been an abundance of sightings with people claiming to have seen furniture moving during the night!
Where to Eat
The Ivy St Helen’s Square is located in the heart of the city and a great lunch spot. It has a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere with the most beautiful decor.
There is a variety of food choices, both contemporary and traditional made with regionally sourced ingredients.I went for the Truffle Arancini and Zucchini fitters, which were both delicious and well presented.If the weather permits, you are able to sit outside and enjoy people watching over your food or cappuccino. I’d recommend booking a table in advance as this is a popular spot.
If you are interested in enjoying a traditional Afternoon Tea, there is only one place to do it – Betty’s!
Betty’s cafe Tea Rooms is synonymous with York. With interiors that were inspired by the Queen Mary ocean liner, it’s been serving up afternoon tea since 1936.
They serve delightful afternoon tea with a selection of sandwiches and scrumptious cakes, or why not try a Yorkshire cream tea if you are not as hungry.Again, I’d recommend booking in advance as there is normally a huge queue to get a table.
Bistro du Vin
Bistro Du Vin creates delicious dishes inspired by French home-style cooking, located in a Grade II listed mansion house.
The stunning interior of the restaurant boasts early 19th century architecture and charm. There is a skylight and draping plants that creates a down-to-earth relaxing atmosphere in which to enjoy your meal.Bistro du Vin’s menu is comprised of earthy and slow cooked dishes with a contemporary flair. It was very difficult to decide what to order as I was impressed by the ample choices. We settled on the Prix Fixe menu where you can choose between two or three courses. It’s available until 7pm on Monday to Saturday.
Whilst we were waiting for our food to be served, we enjoyed freshly baked bread and fresh lightly salted butter.I went for the Ham Hock and Wensleydale Croquettes which were served with garden pea and mint dip as a starter. This starter is a perfect example of the ethos of the restaurant, a heart-warming tasty dish created using regionally sourced ingredients. It was full of flavour and a great portion size.
For the main, I opted for the Roast Chicken Breast with chargrilled spring onions, Yorkshire chorizo jus and sweetcorn chilli salsa. This was a combination of flavours that complemented each other well to create a well rounded dish.
My husband went for the Herb Crusted Grimsby Filleted Cod with Courgette and basil puree with aubergine relish – he said it was very enjoyable.Throughout the meal, the wait staff were happy to answer any questions and suggest wine pairings for the dishes.
Where to Stay
Hotel du Vin is a Grade II listed mansion house which is located in the Mount area of the city. The hotel seamlessly combines the charm of it’s early 19th century architecture with the luxury modern amenities provided.The lounge and bar area at Hotel du Vin are designed with a classic style with comfortable leather chairs to spend your time relaxing. Whether you have a glass of wine in hand or a coffee, there is a cosy corner for you to enjoy the evening. The Room
Each of the rooms at Hotel du Vin has it’s own distinctive style, which I think is such a great way to make every stay special. The beautifully appointed rooms all feature luxury beds, Egyptian cotton, flat screen TVs and unique features of the building which have been restored.We were led up to our room which had a lovely lounge area slightly separated from the largest bed I think I have ever stayed in! There was ample wardrobe space for your belongings and a coffee station which is everything I need from a room.The open plan bathroom boasted a free standing bath tub, twin sinks and a double walk-in monsoon shower. There were luxurious robes and products available for your use. The bathroom was a spa like retreat and the highlight of the room in my opinion.
Having already spoken about the dining experience at Bistro du Vin, I had high hopes for breakfast and I wasn’t disappointed!Breakfast is open to guests and visitors, so even if you aren’t staying at the hotel you can pop in for a leisurely breakfast.
There is a ‘Country Table’ where you’ll find freshly squeezed juices, a selection of pastries, granola and yoghurts. You are served tea or coffee of your choice to your table.In addition to the selection available you can order from the breakfast menu, they have all of the classics such as eggs Benedict, or a full Yorkshire breakfast. I went with the continental twist and had the brioche toast with bacon and maple syrup. It was an indulgent start to the day and a real treat.Hotel du Vin believe a good breakfast makes a great start to the day and I’d have to agree, it sets you up for a day of exploring the city.
Hotel du Vin is situated perfectly for a weekend exploring York. It’s a stones throw away from the city and located close to the train station for anyone travelling far. The rooms are a luxurious retreat from the city and the hotel has a country chic style with a relaxing atmosphere.
With a rich history, more attractions per square mile than any other city in the UK, York is a quaint city break destination. Whether you’re exploring Roman and Viking heritage or discovering boutique shops in The Shambles, there are so many experiences you can find Only in York I would suggest that you spend a few days exploring the city, as there is simply too much to discover in one day.
I’d recommend purchasing the York Pass, it gives you entry into 45 attractions in York and beyond. This saves money on admission and allows you to see the best of the city.
Have you ever been to York?
I was kindly hosted on this press trip by Visit York. However, as always, all photography and opinions are my own.