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Photograph: Sotano

The 13 best bars in York

Got doubts about the nightlife in this historic city? Head to these brilliant bars in York and you won’t be disappointed

Written by
Jacob Phillips
Daniel Dylan Wray
Huw Oliver

York may be better known for its pubs – they say you could visit a different one within the ancient city walls every day of the year – but there are plenty of new-fangled cocktail bars here too. There are underground speakeasy-style lairs. There are thronging music bars. And there are flashy spaces with record-holding gin selections. In other words: you should certainly prepare for the unexpected when it comes to York’s bar scene. There’s even an entire venue dedicated to the Stone Roses – and it’s gold, not fool’s.

So without further ado, here’s our pick of the best bars in York right now. And if you’re looking for some top-notch grub to soak up the booze? Check out our pick of the best restaurants in York.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in York

Amazing bars in York

There’s lots going on at Fossgate Social. In the morning, sourdough breakfasts and flat whites fly out of the kitchen; come afternoon, the booze starts flowing. We particularly like the setting: neon-lit walls adorned with work by local artists. The Social is easily one of the hipper bars in York’s ‘foodie quarter’, and its sister venue on Micklegate is also worth exploring – above all for the wacky array of live events its puts on in the basement.

‘Food, drinks, beer, ale, rock music, mead, and all things Viking’ – that’s Valhalla’s rather bloke-y offer, and we must say it’s much less annoying than it sounds. In fact, knocking back mead – there’s a weirdly varied selection here – from a drinking horn while sat next to some skeletons and shields is really, really fun. If you’re lucky, you’ll come when one of the bar’s open mic nights is on – then you’ll hear what contemporary vikings sound like. Answer: loud.


Evil Eye holds the world record for the number of gins it has in stock (1,028 at the time of writing). That should be reason enough to head down to this gin shop-slash-bar, quite frankly. But if you’re not so into your gins, the cocktail menu features all manner of classics that are sure to get you tipsy, fast. Enjoy your drink in the graffiti-splashed downstairs bar or on Roman-style loungers upstairs.

During the day, you’d never twig this bar existed. Hidden behind a thick metal door, Sotano is a candle-lit underground bar with an impeccable beer and gin selection. On-tap brews flow from converted steel pipes, while long dining room-style tables encourage visitors to socialise outside their social groups. If you’re peckish, there’s a menu of tapas ‘with a Yorkshire twist’.


Minutes away from Shambles Market, Bobo Lobo maintains that it serves the best mojito in York. While we can’t claim to have tested them all, we can confirm this one’s very good. Bobo Lobo also serves a wide range of classic drinks and has its own dance floor to boot. For a truly woozy experience, head up to the shisha roof terrace.

Impossible Wonderbar and Tea Rooms
Photograph: Impossible Wonderbar

6. Impossible Wonderbar and Tea Rooms

Impossible Wonderbar and Tea Rooms York is housed within a Grade II-listed building, once the home of Terry’s Chocolate Orange, overlooking the city’s iconic St Helen’s Square. Stumble down the twisting cobbled streets before settling down to sample their impressive cocktail menu. If you want to pay homage to the building’s former residents, then why not go for a Terry’s Orange Martini? 


Tucked inside in the old Motor House on Skeldergate Bridge, Dyls is elegantly done out and boasts a fantastic riverside garden. Formerly a toll booth that granted travellers access to the city, the building is now home to one of the city’s best craft beer and cocktail bars. Climb the spiral staircase up to the hexagonal tower room – you’ll struggle to find better seats anywhere in town.

Fancy Hank’s
Photograph: Fancy Hank’s

8. Fancy Hank’s

Fancy Hank’s has such a good reputation for its cocktails that they even host masterclasses, should you wish to learn how to make some of the very same drinks you can sip on here. Each cocktail on the menu relates to a US state – from Alabama to Virginia – and if you find yourself coming back time and time again, then you’ll get a stamp for every drink you order. Complete the menu and you’ll get a free bottle of prosecco.


Open until 4am every day, Drawing Board is a popular end-of-night retreat for York’s students and clubbers. It’s a bit of a maze, and all the funner for it: there are two bars downstairs, and two floors’ worth of live events space. Hungry? We strongly recommend the pizzas.

The place to hear R&B in York, ultra-modern Vudu Lounge makes a refreshing change if you’ve been traipsing around the historic city centre all day. Open seven nights a week – meaning there’s always somewhere to go throw some spontaneous shapes – the bar also hosts stellar cocktail classes, so you can go away with some super-useful new skills.

1906 Bar
Photograph: 1906

11. 1906 Bar

1906 offers the chance to step back in time. This intimate whisky lounge inside the Grand Hotel is the place to go if you want to sink into into a ruby-red leather armchair and order a dram to unwind at the end of a day. It has an extensive menu, from single malts to bourbons, but also an extensive range of cocktails, wines and gins for those who prefer something else.

Barack Obama, Britney Spears and Fidel Castro are some of the names that grace Dusk’s cocktail menu. The bar describes itself as ‘Glastonbury without the wellies’ – referring to both the breadth of its soundtrack and the hodgepodge crowd it attracts. Two-for-one cocktails until 10pm and a diverse menu make this a real favourite among students. There’s a decent open mic night on Sundays, too.


Yes, there’s a bar dedicated to the Stone Roses in York. We have no idea why, either. But if you’re into your indie, there’s no better night out. Vintage vinyl, a moped – oh yeah – and loads of graffiti decorate the bar, and pretty much every night, you’ll witness mass singalongs to whatever’s on the stereo. The highlight on the wide-ranging drinks menu? The signature ‘blue or red shits’.

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