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A perfect day in York

Visit this historic city in Yorkshire for medieval streets, modern menus and proper pubs

By Katie Gregory and Ellie Walker-Arnott |

The train from London to York is like a Tardis. Step on in twenty-first-century London, then off again two hours later and around 1,000 years lighter in medieval Britain. Wonky timber houses teeter over cobbled streets, a gothic cathedral fills every square inch of skyline, and ancient walls separate the city from the countryside beyond. Factor in a growing food scene and more pubs than days of the year, and now’s the time to book those tickets.

A perfect day in York

York's Old Quarter

First up

Don cobble-friendly footwear and walk around York’s car-free, historic centre. The Old Quarter is the place to start. Get lost in a web of alleys and lanes – ‘snickelways’ and ‘ginnels’ in these parts – then come up for air in York Museum Gardens.


Soak up the vibes

Once you’ve taken in the epic exterior of York Minster – the biggest gothic cathedral north of the Alps – climb its tower for vertigo-inducing views. Then follow the two-hour walk around York City Walls to see the city in widescreen.

Bettys Cafe Tea Room, York.

Stop for lunch

Indie restaurant Skosh on Micklegate does a great line in small plate-style lunches, and nearby Partisan serves brunch with a side-order of antique French furniture. For afters, tuck into an afternoon tea of fruity ‘fat rascal’ scones at Bettys Tea Rooms. It’s a Yorkshire institution.


Drink like a local

Word on the street is that York has more than 365 pubs, aka one for every day of the year. Assuming you’ve not got that long, plump for a pint at The Golden Fleece – said to be York’s most haunted drinking hole – and try the York Tap, an Edwardian addition to the grand Victorian train station.

The Shambles
Photograph: Clare Louise Jackson/

Hit the shops

The Shambles has a daily market, and every street leading off it hides a clutch of one-off shops. For edible take-home treats, dinky Monk Bar Chocolatiers lives up to York’s chocolate pedigree (Terry’s and Rowntree’s were born here) and Fudge Kitchen will satisfy any sweet tooth.

Christmas in The Shambles, York
Photograph: Alamy

If you only do one thing

Stroll along the Shambles. Yes, this slimline street and former slaughterhouse is a tourist trap. Yes, it’s on the front of every guidebook going. But yes, it’s every ounce as atmospheric as you’d hope from one of Britain’s prettiest ancient streets – especially at sunset.

Drapers Flat, York, National Trust
Photograph: Mike Henton

And if you stay the night, wake up here

Forget sea views. In York you want to book yourself a bed with Minster views. Draper’s Flat is above the National Trust’s shop, right in the heart of the city and in the shadow of York’s enormous cathedral. Inside this first-floor hideaway it’s all plush and modern but outside it’s as picture-perfect as half-timbered medieval buildings come. Spend your stay in your PJs admiring the world-class vista from your room, or wander the winding, cobbled alleyways of the city centre. Don’t forget to pop into nearby Treasurer’s House (another National Trust gem) with its peaceful and pretty garden out back. From £452 for three nights.

Hanging around?

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