Today we have a guest post from Kelsey from Sights Better Seen on the perfect one-day itinerary for York. Kelsey studied abroad in York, so she has lots of great travel tips and photos to share. Without further ado!
Anytime someone tells me they’re going to England, I tell them to head straight to York. Founded by the Romans in 71 AD, York is one of England’s oldest and most beautiful cities. Around every corner, you’ll find medieval architecture, half-timbered houses, or boxes of colorful flowers. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Why you should take a day trip to York
Here’s why I fell head over heels in love with this medieval English city and why you probably will, too:
- It’s super haunted – York is hailed as the most haunted city in Europe – some even argue it’s the most haunted city in the world. With 140 ghosts and more than 500 hauntings, they might be right.
- It’s easily walkable – York is a small city, so you don’t have to bother with public transportation. The city center is just a 15-minute walk from the train station.
- It’s safe – As a solo female traveler, I found York to be an extremely safe and welcoming place to visit.
P.S. You can also scroll to the bottom of this post for a free map of what to include in your one-day York itinerary, which you can download and use offline with an app like Google Maps.
Getting to York
York is located in Northern England; it’s 3.5 hours north of London by car. If you travel by train, it takes about 2 hours, making a day trip to York from London totally doable.
Your one day in York itinerary: What to do, see, eat, and drink
Have a Full English Breakfast at Partisan
Only a five-minute walk from the train station, Partisan is a great place to start your day trip to York. I recommend trying Partisan’s full English breakfast which consists of fried eggs, sausages, back bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, beans, and black pudding. It’s absolutely delicious. If you’re not a meat-eater, Partisan also offers vegetarian and vegan versions of the full English breakfast.
Walk the City Walls
Originally built by the Romans, York is encircled by medieval city walls (they’re actually the longest medieval town walls in England!). What’s neat is you can walk on top of the walls, which offer stunning views of the city. It takes an hour or so to walk the complete loop, which is about 2 miles long.
The walls can be a little crowded, so I recommend visiting them right when they open (8 a.m.) or just before they close (dusk). They’re free to visit, so I suggest hopping on and off the wall as you explore York. You can do a free self-guided tour — click here to read more. You can also do a private guided tour of the walls — check current prices here.
Marvel at the city’s gatehouses (known as “bars”)
The wall is punctuated by “bars”, meaning gatehouses, which were used in medieval times to collect tolls. There are four main bars meaning in York: Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar, and Micklegate Bar. I recommend seeing all of them!
See a museum (or five)
York is home to many excellent museums. My personal favorite is the York Castle Museum. Though it’s no longer a castle, it’s a former prison that has been converted into a quirky mixture of exhibits: You can walk down an old Victorian street, visit an 18th-century debtor’s prison, step back into the 1960s, and so much more.
Here are some other unique museums to see while in York:
- Vikings at JORVIK Viking Centre: A museum dedicated to all things Viking, featuring reconstructions of old Viking settlements. £12.50 for adults.
- National Railway Museum: If you love trains, you’ll be enamored with this museum. It’s also free!
- York’s Chocolate Story: Do I really have to convince you to go to a chocolate museum? You get to make your own chocolate bar and learn all about the history of this delicious sweet. £12.95 for adults.
- York Art Gallery: A public art gallery with a collection dating back to the 14th century. £7.27 for adults.
Enjoy afternoon tea at Betty’s
In operation since 1936, Betty’s is THE place to have afternoon tea in York. I recommend ordering the Traditional Afternoon Tea that comes with tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and a pot of tea. It costs £20 per person. If you’re on a budget, you can get the abbreviated version for £10 per person, which comes with tea and two scones.
Stroll through the Shambles
The Shambles is a small, narrow street that dates back to the Middle Ages. Walking down the street, you’ll wonder if you’ve just teleported straight into Hogwarts. Funnily enough, the Shambles is one of the locations that reportedly inspired Diagon Alley. You’ll even find several Harry Potter-themed stores there.
Along with the Harry Potter-themed stores, you’ll find all kinds of quirky and fun shops: chocolate shops, a cheese store, craft beer sellers, bakeries, to name a few. There’s a lot to do on the Shambles, so be sure to leave some time to explore.
Try a pasty at The Cornish Bakery
If you’re feeling peckish, stop by the Cornish Bakery for a pasty. A pasty is a traditional baked good that originated in the southwest of England; It’s basically a folded pie that’s filled with meat, cheese, and/or vegetables.
If you’re a vegetarian, I highly recommend trying the sweet potato and feta pasty at the Cornish Bakery — it’s amazing!
Visit the York Minster, York’s beautiful cathedral
Next, stop by the York Minster. Locally known as “The Minster”, this enormous Gothic cathedral is arguably York’s most famous landmark. I recommend paying to see inside the cathedral, as the interior is just as beautiful as the outside. An adult ticket costs £16.50, which includes both a church and a tower visit. The tower provides beautiful views of the city, so I highly recommend paying to go up.
Tip – if you visit an hour or two before the Minster closes, you’ll hear the choir singing the Evensong, which is the evening service. It’s also much less crowded at this time, which is always a plus in my book.
Have dinner at The Golden Fleece
The Golden Fleece is a traditional English pub that’s also the most haunted pub in York. Fifteen different ghosts “live” in the hotel! The most commonly seen ghost is Lady Alice Peckett, whose husband, John Peckett, owned the hotel and was mayor of York.
Foodwise, the Golden Fleece serves traditional pub food but offers vegetarian options, too. If you stay for dessert, be sure to get the sticky toffee pudding – it’s amazing!
Go on a ghost tour
If you stay later in the evening, you HAVE to go on a ghost tour in York. I recommend the Shadows of York Ghost Walk which costs £6 for adults. The Original Ghost Walk of York also comes highly recommended and costs £5 for adults. You can also book the York ghost bus tour here, which lasts 75 minutes and includes a comedy show.
Sip cocktails at Evil Eye
This quirky, dimly lit bar has a brightly painted interior that’s the perfect place to escape the rainy English weather. Evil Eye is known for its impressive selection of gin but serves an array of creative cocktails with many other spirits as well. You can even book a gin tasting or learn to make cocktails!
A map of the best things to do on a one-day itinerary in York:
When to visit York
November & December – In November and December, get into the Christmas spirit by visiting the York Christmas Festival, where you can enjoy warm cups of gluhwein, delicious baked goods, and fun activities.
February – In February, visit York to see the Yorvik Viking festival, which is an entire week of all things Viking. You’ll see reenactments (and even some battles!) and learn all about York’s Viking history.
March – In March, York hosts Restaurant Week, where you can dine at pricey restaurants at steeply discounted prices.
July – In July, York hosts the Great Yorkshire Fringe, which is ten days of theater, song, and dance productions. Similar to the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival, this festival is fun and enjoyable for all.
August – On a weekend in August, stop by the York Walls Festival to discover York’s heritage related to the City Walls.
For a complete list of festivals in York, click here. There’s something fun happening almost every month!
Where to stay in York:
The Golden Fleece -Not only does this pub serve delicious food, but you can also stay the night. It’s also located in the city center, which is quite convenient. You’ll literally have The Shambles at your doorstep.
The Lawrence Luxury Aparthotel – At the Lawrence, you can have your own little apartment situated in the heart of York. If you like to cook, you’re in luck – these apartments come with fully equipped kitchens.
Moxy York – This is a mid-range modern hotel with a quirky feel. All rooms and common areas are accented with bright purple, giving it a funky vibe. While the Moxy isn’t directly in the city center, it’s only a 5-10 minute walk to the center of town.
Safestay York – Located in a 16th-century Georgian townhouse, this hostel has an elegant and funky vibe. They offer mixed bed dorms, female-only dorms, or private rooms. It’s located right next to the train station.
YHA York – YHA York is a budget hostel that offers female-only, male-only, and private group rooms. This hostel is about a 25-minute walk to the center but is located on the River Ouse, making for a pretty setting. I’d suggest walking along the river into town!
And there you have it – all my suggestions for spending one day in York! As you now know, it’s a fantastic city with tons to do. I’m already trying to plan my next visit – I’m thinking December as I’m a sucker for Christmas markets.
Have you ever been to York? What did you think?