I arrived to York, England by car. I had just visited the ever so dreamy Cotswolds and made my way three hours north to the medieval town of York. Not a town that I had heard of before, but a town that should be on everyone’s “must visit” list. In fact, I don’t know exactly where I heard of York and what prompted me to visit. But once I arrived in the UK all of the residents had the same reaction when I told them I would be staying in York: “Ugh, you’re so lucky. You’re going to love York. I love York.” So I knew – I was in for a treat.
Upon arriving to York I felt as though I had stepped in to an alternate universe. And perhaps I had. The haunted, medieval feeling that York gives you envelops you from the moment you step foot into city centre. York is old, bustling, full of character, and alluring. There are many adjectives I could use to describe this town that dates back to 71 AD. But I challenge you to visit for yourself and choose your own adjective.
Day one: Get a feel for the city
After arriving to York I recommend starting with a free walking tour of the city hosted by The Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York. They’ve been showing tourists the ins and outs of the city since 1951. The tour runs at 10:15am and 1:15pm and meets outside the city walls at Exhibition Square. It claims to last two hours, however my tour went three hours. If you need to dip out early don’t feel bad, the guides have no problem with people leaving as they please.
Your tour ends on the shortest street in Britain – Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, but also close to Shambles Street. Dating back to the 14thcentury, Shambles Street got its name from butchers hanging meat on hooks outside their shops. If you look up, you’ll notice that the hooks are still there. More famously, Shambles is known as the place that inspired Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter phenomenon. Although not filmed in York, Shambles Street has taken full advantage of this. You’ll notice a shop with the address “9 ¾” and “The Shop That Shall Not Be Named”. After walking down the spooky street head to the next street over where you’ll find the Shambles Market. Enjoy all types of food from food trucks or buy your own groceries from the market carts.
Day two: Explore York’s city walls and ancient buildings
York’s walls are the longest in England and make up approximately two miles of surviving masonry. Walking the wall is free and is open from 8:00am until sunset. Grab a coffee and cake at the Perky Peacock and begin your walk. If you complete the entire walk, it’ll take you about two hours.
While you’re walking the ancient walls, you’ll be able to see York Minster from all different angles. I encourage you to view it from inside. You can pay to get into this cathedral that dates back to 637 AD and has the largest stained glass window in the UK.
Where to have a bite….
Drakes Fish & Chips – A hole in the wall restaurant all over the city. Best for takeaway fish and chips.
The Cornish Bakery – An award winning bakery located all over the UK.
Pairings Wine Bar – Just that – a pairing of wine and small plates. Also offering wine flights, sit back, relax and enjoy the dimly lit atmosphere.
Shambles Market – At the outdoor Shambles Market you’ll find food for cheap. Ranging from hot dogs to crepes, and even international food! Choose what you’d like and take a seat at the many covered (and heated in the winter) picnic tables.
Where to have a drink….
Perky Peacock – A small and intimate coffee shop located under the bridge, on River Ouse.
Bettys – Enjoy their infamous afternoon tea in plush interior. Also serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner aside from their afternoon tea.
The House of the Trembling Madness – A local, crowded, loud, pub that is full of character and shouldn’t be missed. I walked by this place three times before I actually found it. It’s the perfect hidden pub in the centre of York.
Evil Eye Lounge – Cocktail and gin bar also serving Asian street food.
York Cocoa House – If you happen to be in York on a cold blustering day, step inside York Coco House to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate. Hot chocolate flavors ranging from milk chocolate, to peanut butter, and even hazelnut.
Taking two days out of my UK road trip to see the city of York was one of the highlights of my trip. When I pulled into York I was on day six of my two to six month world adventure. I came to town feeling tired and lonely, for reasons unbeknownst to me. But after walking around this medieval city for two days and meeting the locals, I left with my cup overflowing. Yes York was crowded and touristy. But the beauty and history of the town made up for it. From the girl who sat across from me in the coffee shop and spoke passionately about her career and her country. To the 80-year old Australian woman I met on my free walking tour. The city and people of York hold a piece of my heart.
*For more on my time in York check out my Instagram story highlights*