York is a historic city in the north of England; famous for its city walls, its giant cathedral, Guy Fawkes, and beer. The latter is a good reason to visit any city, especially one with such a rich history, and so we ventured north for a weekend of ancient stone, religious hymns, pubs and…..well, beer.
Virgin trains release cheap advance tickets to York on a weekly basis, which is something you will want to take advantage of if you plan to visit. A weekend train fare can set you back £75 return per person if you’re not careful. Thankfully we are very careful, booked tickets as soon as they were released in advance, and paid £34.20 return each. We left Kings Cross early Saturday morning and returned late Sunday afternoon, the trip itself is a comfortable two hour journey from London.
The brave and/or budget minded can get a bus from around £28 return from London, the journey will take 5.5 hours depending on traffic and road conditions, and is as comfortable as riding in a cramped, noisy, smelly old sock. Check out Mega Bus for cheap bus tickets.
Another option for the budget minded should check out ride sharing with Blablacar from as little as £11 one way. Something else worth noting is that York is only 20 miles away from Leeds.
Hints – Off-peak or mid-week travel is significantly cheaper than weekend travel, and book online well in advance for the best fares.
Accommodation in York is horrifically expensive most of the time, but a Saturday night mid-summer is even more inflated. Strong tourism and sporting events have driven prices of a room up well above £75 per night and everyone seems to accept this as normal. We didn’t accept this and managed to find an Airbnb room about 30 minutes walk or 10 minutes bus from the city walls for £45.
I would recommend this option as the way to go unless you are splashing out on a nice hotel, or keen to spend the night in a backpackers hostel. In which case, you should know that the hostels will be FULL of large groups of extremely drunk men and women celebrating final nights of freedom before the big commitment. York is full of stag parties and hen’s nights. Beware.
Whatever option you choose, York has a good bus service, so if a 30 minute walk isn’t ideal for you, it doesn’t mean you are limited to paying city centre prices.
All the action is within the city walls and the area confined is small enough to see everything important in a full day. Cruise riverside, visit Clifford’s Tower and the Viking centre (if that’s your thing), take in architecture, atmosphere and swarms of staggering and strangely dressed grooms and brides to be. But for a truly great York experience, don’t miss the following:
York Minster is a fantastically impressive cathedral to the north of the city centre. If you time it right you can enter the cathedral for free as part of a church service, and even if you aren’t religious I would strongly recommend you take part, as it’s an awesome experience.
Take a picnic to the museum gardens and dine on a lush lawn surrounded by roman ruins. I’m not joking here, you can actually do this.
Walk the length of the city walls. It’s free and fun and you can jump off and on whenever you feel the need for refreshments.
Pubs. York has loads of good pubs and I would recommend trying them all. Especially Pivni, York Tap, Sotano, The Fossgate Social, Ye Old Shambles Tavern and one of the best pubs I’ve seen, and the best bottle shop in the country; House of Trembling Madness. In the city you are looking at anywhere between £3-£6 for a pint of beer, depending on your predilection. Food can be expensive (hence the picnic), but not more than london prices. Expect to pay £10-£15 for a main meal in most good pubs or standard restaurants.
For those who are splashing out on something fancy; Betty’s Cafe and Tea rooms is something of an institution in York and has served Yorkshire Tea with handmade treats since 1919. The decadent cafe is decorated in the Art Deco style and is a must-see for vintage enthusiasts. Betty’s is worth the high prices and cue at the door, delectable food and exquisite coffee come at a price, but the price is worth it.
Hint – The city walls close at dusk and most people vacate well before then, so if you time it just right you can catch a magical sunset over a gorgeous city from an ancient battlement, all to yourself.
York for one night;
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