Check in to your chosen accommodation. We recommend boutique hotels, self-catering properties and bed and breakfasts that we truly believe are the best across a range of budgets. They’re all in fabulous, central locations, and close to many of our favourite restaurants and cafes. After you have settled in, stroll to the magnificent York Minster.
In its current form, the 800 year-old York Minster is one of the world’s finest Gothic cathedrals, and houses more than half of England’s medieval stained glass. It took over 250 years to build. Its site proclaimed Constantine the Great as Emperor back in AD 306, and was originally a wooden church built by the Anglo-Saxons. The Minster’s central tower is the highest point in York and weather permitting, it’s really worth climbing to the top. Children must be 8 or over though. If you arrive by 2pm, it’s worth joining a tour led by one of the volunteers (included in your ticket price). We share a few more details here.
Why not begin your first evening in York at a characterful pub? Or perhaps a wine bar? Click here to view our top picks for pubs and bars in York.
York has some stunning restaurants ideal for groups. Start your holiday with the best of British. Amongst our favourites for groups are The Starr Inn the City, The Whippet Inn and Bistro No. 8. Click here to view more details.
We suggest you book ahead of your trip as many of our top picks have bookings weeks in advance.
If you’re staying in a self-catering property, we recommend some great places to buy your supplies. Click here for more details. If you fancy breakfast out, why not consider soaking up the art nouveau splendour of Betty’s. We prefer breakfast at Betty’s to afternoon tea and you won’t have to queue for a table.
No visit to York is complete without a walk around the medieval walls, the most complete city walls in all of England. Start your walk from Monkgate Bar and walk towards Micklegate Bar. This is known as the North corner and is the only corner where you can walk the trail all on the walls. This section takes in views of the iconic Minster. View these very informative and engaging vodcasts, The Minster, Bootham Bar and The Treasurer’s House to Monkgate.
There are so many great options for lunch and if you’re like us, you prefer something a bit lighter but still somewhere you can sit down, relax and soak up the atmosphere. We recommend a great selection of places for lunch that can take you on a culinary journey across the globe or if you’d rather, just stay in Britain.
SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR
All sights and shops mentioned within this walking tour are listed in the google map below
After lunch, we think you will enjoy exploring many of York’s beautiful medieval streets and our favourite independent shops. We’ve included a map below with our suggested walking route.
Begin at Constantine the Great’s statue at York Minster. Walk past the stone masons yard so you can view the Minster’s magnificent East window, the largest expanse of medieval glass in the country. It has only recently been unveiled following 12 years of restoration.
There’s a charming garden overlooking St Williams College and rather delicious cup cakes at Crumb’s Cupcakery! St Williams College is a rather fine example of a timber framed medieval building. It dates back to 1461 and was built as a school for the Minster’s priests.
Via left at the Minster and turn right at Ogleforth. You will notice the entrance to The Treasurer’s House a Grade 1 listed historic house owned by the National Trust. A bit further on, is the stunning Gray’s Court Hotel, one of the boutique hotels we recommend in this guide.
Continue along Ogleforth, passing The York Brewery apartments on your right onto Goodramgate. Turn right and stroll up Goodramgate, taking the left fork until you reach the entrance to Holy Trinity Church (entered via an 18th century archway), giving you a glimpse of medieval York behind a busy street. It’s one of York’s hidden delights. It dates from the 15th century and has some magnificent stained glass. The box pews are truly unique. The secluded churchyard has benches to sit down and enjoy the peaceful surrounds.
Exit via Hornpot Lane onto Low Petergate. Turn right and stroll up this street, passing Mr Ps Curious Tavern on your left (one of our favourite lunchtime haunts). Turn left at Grape Lane, and then take the secret alleyway – Coffee Yard down on your right. This is York’s longest snickelway. You will pass Barley Hall. This medieval treasure has now been fully restored to its full original glory. Peek into the medieval dining room as you walk through.
You will come out on Stonegate, arguably York’s prettiest street. In the 16th century, Stonegate became famous for its book shops and printers and you will see outside no. 33, a red devil, a reference to the printer’s apprentice and assistant who was responsible for carrying hot metal type.
Pop in to ‘little’ Betty’s for a fat rascal to take-away (so nice with an afternoon cup of tea) or better yet, see if there’s a table upstairs to enjoy one in-house. Other favourite haunts on Stonegate include The House of Trembling Madness and The Evil Eye Lounge. You will enter St Helen’s Square at the bottom of Stonegate (essentially the centre point in York). You’re likely to enjoy some street artists here. Betty’s Tearoom takes pride of place in the square in a stunning art nouveau building.
Take a right onto Blake Street and pop into one of our favourite independent shops, The Imaginarium. Owned by the Yorkshire Soap Company next door, it’s full of wonderfully curious gifts. Retrace your footsteps, turning right onto St Helen’s Square. Straight ahead is The Mansion House Recently restored, it’s a wonderful exampleof Georgian splendour in York.
If coffee calls, you can’t go wrong at Spring Espresso just around the corner on Lendal. It’s also hard to pass up on their vegan flapjacks.
Turn back and walk past St Helen’s Square again but continue along Lendal which becomes Coney St. You will find an excellent selection of independent shops along here including Lush on your right, selling fresh, handmade cosmetics, Waterstones (it’s actually deceptively large), Monsoon, for women’s clothing, Holland and Barrett for health foods and many other shops worth browsing.
If you feel like seeing a film, CityScreen in on the river side, just near the double-sided clock. It’s a lovely, boutique cinema with very comfortable seats and showing a great range of both mainstream and art house films.
At the end of Coney Street, continue up Tower Street turning left onto Castlegate. You will arrive at Fairfax House.
One of the finest Georgian townhouses in England, Fairfax House transports you to 18th century city life in York. Originally a winter residence for Viscount Fairfax and his daughter Anne, it’s a charming city centre property to wander through. Audio tours are available and there are excellent guides dotted throughout the house. A beautiful collection of furniture donated by Noel Terry of chocolate fame brings the townhouse to life.
Around the corner is Clifford’s Tower. One of the main surviving features of York castle, Clifford’s Tower sits proudly on a small hill overlooking the River Ouse.
Time to head to one of our favourite cafes to relax for a bit. From Clifford’s Tower, cross the car park towards the River Foss and follow the path around to Picaddily. Cross the road and walk down Merchantgate. Turn left and walk up Fossgate until you reach Fossgate Social. This is a lovely café for coffee, cocktails, and light snacks. During summer, there’s a lovely outdoor courtyard and it’s also dog-friendly. They normally have a very good range of vegan offerings too. If full, another great option is the other Spring Espresso across the road. Pop into Give the Dog a bone for quirky gifts.
Continue up Fossgate and cross over to the Shambles. York’s most famous medieval street housing stunning timber framed buildings dating back to the 14th century. The Shambles was a street of butchers and houses, many with slaughterhouses at the back. We suggest shops to explore here.
Walk back to your hotel.
One of the things we love about York are all the tranquil and peaceful spots dotted around the town centre. Set in the stunning surrounds of the ruins of St Marys Abbey (built in 1088), these 10 acres of botanical gardens, right in the centre of town, are absolutely delightful. Known by my daughter as squirrel park, you will adore dozens of these fury friends playing amongst the beautiful trees, shrubs and plants. The stone walls of the abbey built in 1260 are the most complete abbey walls in England. A corner Roman tower (70AD) also remains in one section of the gardens.
Opposite the museum gardens is one of our favourite cafes, Brew and Brownie.
Check out our recommendations for lunch. Maybe you will be in the mood for fabulous steak at The Whippet Inn, Polish dumplings or a more casual/healthy lunch at Filmore and Union.
Some suggestions for your final afternoon:
Food & history tours
Why not join a foodie tour of York? Tours in a dish offers a range of excellent foodie tours to tempt you. There’s the original afternoon tea tour, a hidden gems tour, a cheese and tea pairing tour and more recently a craft beer tour and a cheese and wine experience. It’s a great way to explore the city with a local who has a passion for food & history.
If your group includes young ones, a visit to the railway museum is a great choice. Telling the story of railways in Britain and their impact on society, the free entry railway museum is one of York’s top tourist attractions and we know why. A fabulous collection of over 100 locomotives, photos, audio adventures and special events throughout the year. It’s always popular so it’s wise to arrive quite early or visit later in the day.
If shopping is your thing, check out our favourite independents.
Perhaps you will be in the mood for a lavish afternoon tea?
Book ahead so you won’t be disappointed.