Few years back I gave myself a challenge: visit as many cities in the U.K as I can before going back to France. This month I was lucky enough to visit 2 lovely yet different cities: Liverpool and York. A few days ago, I spent a weekend in the beautiful city of York.
York is one of the most beautiful quaint cities in England with lots to see and do from the lovely cobbled streets to the historic buildings, cute tea shops and so on. Hopefully this guide will give you all the tips on what to see, do and eat in one of England’s best-kept medieval cities. The fascinating city is still showcasing remains of the culture that once ruled it, from the Romans to the Vikings who gave its name (Jorvik) and finally the Normans.
How to enjoy the weekend in York?
How to get there
York is 2.5 hours away from London Kings Cross on the Virgin Trains East Coast line. My aim was to travel on a budget, and I have to say I did pretty good with the hotel booking however I was less clever in regards to the transport. Sadly my visit to York coincided with York Races which meant that train fares were quite expensive!Virgin Trains often have deals so be sure to check it out before travelling.
What to do
Stroll Down ‘The Shambles’
One of the most popular attraction is The Shambles, a small street in the centre of the city that is full of shops and tea rooms. The architecture is what attracts people the most, the medieval buildings (some being timber-framed) along with the raised and uneven pavement makes the area very charming. The Shambles used to be housed by butcher shops but is now home to souvenir shops, cute boutiques, tea shops, cafes and restaurants if you fancy a nice brunch or lunch. It is simply impossible to leave the streets without being tempted to buy something. You are bound to find a souvenir to bring back to your family or friends. It was very busy when we visited, I think it was due to the bank holiday weekend.
The Jorvik Viking Centre
The Jorvik Viking Centre is the newest attraction in York and takes visitors into what used to be York during the Viking-era… Jorvik. While waiting in the queue we were welcome by a funny smell. We were later told that the smell was recreated to mirror the smell of the town during the Viking occupation. Once inside, you hop into a type of car and you are guided inside the 10th century viking town. The visit allow you to see the scene of daily life. After the ride, we were ushered into a room exhibiting the objects excavated at the sites. This attraction is extremely popular with the kids, it was funny seeing the excitement in their eyes.
The stone tower is the last remaining tower of what once used to be York Castle. The castle was the site of a gruesome event: the mass massacre and suicide of York’s Jewish community in 1190. There is not much to see inside but it offers a good view of the city.
A Visit to York cannot be complete without admiring the magnificent cathedral (Britain’s largest Gothic building) with its medieval stained glass. I have not visited inside however will make sure to do it next time I visit York. If you have time you can even see the best views in York after climbing the 275 steps up the Central Tower.
If you are into history, you will be pleased with the many museums in York. The National Railway Museum offers over 300 years of railway history. The Yorkshire Museum and the Museum Gardens takes you back in time with the architectural treasures and display of animals. The museum is interesting but it’s the beautiful garden surrounded by the medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey that are in my view the highlight. Since the day was nice, there were lots of people enjoying the sun or having picnic. There was even a wedding happening in one of the adjacent building.
Other museums worth a visit are the York Castle Museum and the York Art Gallery.
Where to eat
The city centre has so many places to eat that it makes deciding a difficult task. Of all the many coffee shops and tea rooms, Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms is undeniably the most popular as queues were stretching outside of the shop. I love food and wouldn’t mind queuing for it but with the many other choices around, I didn’t see the point in waiting 30 minutes for a cake.
We had dinner at Khao San Rd, a Thai restaurant… well that’s not very local but we were looking for a restaurant that offered gluten free and it was close to the hotel so…. The phad thai I ordered wasn’t the best but at £10 including starter, it was worth the price.
Breakfast/brunch was done at Mannions & Co a lovely bistro situated in the centre. The place is really traditional yet cute with a lovely garden at the back. Everything we had on the menu was amazing (even the gluten free bread). We were lucky as we did not have to wait to be seated since they work on a no reservation basis; but as we were leaving, we could see a small queue.
For a quick drink after a long day walking through the town, head over to the Guy Fawkes Inn which is very popular with tourists and locals. Otherwise the riverside offers a good selection of the chain pubs like the Slug and Lettuce, Yates, O’Neill’s etc… Again, with the race, all the pubs were packed.
Where to stay
There is a variety of choice when it comes to accommodation. We were lucky to have booked the Novotel York Centre while Accor Hotels were running a £50 a night promotion. It was a bargain because due to the race, everything when up. The Novotel is a clean family friendly hotel situated close to the city walls. The hotel is about 15 minutes walk from the city centre and less than 10 minutes taxi ride to the station.
I had a great time and enjoyed my weekend in York but it wasn’t enough to enjoy all York has to offer in terms of sightseeing and eating. Apparently York is more beautiful in Winter, so I might come back again 🙂
Have you ever been to York? Do you plan to visit? If I have missed out on a little gem, let me know in the comments below – I will check it out on my next visit.
Thanks for reading, Mayi