A Weekend in York: How to Best Enjoy This Historical City

Planning on spending a weekend in York? It’s a good idea, as it’s a beautiful city with an interesting history, varied amount of things to do and plenty of cute and quirky places to stay. Read on for more ideas of how to spend an ideal weekend in York.

York weekend break

We’re in God’s own country now.

Living in the United Kingdom is tough. The temptation to travel abroad can be all too much at times and this is a real shame.

There’s so much to see, do and eat within the country’s borders… heck, you could spend a lifetime exploring England alone.

This guide will cover what you can do during a two day break to the picturesque city of York, in England’s north.

It’s a place that’s filled with plenty of history, good food and fun activities to get yourself into, making it the perfect city break from London and the other bigger cities of the UK.

How to Spend a Weekend in York

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Read more: Spooky, Sustainable Fun: Champing in a Church in the UK

weekend in york

Part of the city with York Minster in the background.

What to Do During a Weekend in York

Let’s start with a few things you can get up to during your time in the city. Fun fact – I’d planned to do almost all of these and encountered barriers at every turn. Missing the start of a ghost tour, pubs being too full (travesty), the River Ouse flooding.

I still had a marvellous time in York, which is a real testament to the city.

York trip tip: Consider grabbing a York pass, which will give you free entry to more than 30 attractions. Depending on what activities you plan on doing, this could save you a heck-tonne of cash. Passes are available for one, to three days.

Book your York pass here

York weekend break

The Minster. If you peer closely, you can see some of the grotesques.

Visit the York Minster…

The Minster may be one of the most beautiful buildings in all of England, or at least I felt that way when I saw it. It should be at the top of your list of what to do during a weekend in York

It’s equally as interesting to view inside, as out. The outside is dotted with figures known as “grotesques” rather than gargoyles. So, rather than gremlin type creatures, you’ll see figures depicting a blind beggar, someone with leprosy and so on.

If you like stained glass windows, you wont be disappointed by the inside, which contains over 100 windows featuring historic images. Some of the more famous are the Pilgrimage Window and beautiful Great Rose Window.

Also, here I was thinking that a cathedral and minster were essentially the same thing. According to the internet, whose information should never be taken at face value, this is simply not the case. Minster is apparently a honorific title attributed to churches from the Anglo-saxon period.

Regardless, the York Minster dominates the cityscape and is a gorgeous piece of architecture. Be sure to check it out.

…And watch (or rather, listen to) the choir sing

Whilst you’re there, do your darnedest to witness the York Minster Choir sing. They have a history which dates back an incomprehensible amount of time and are said to be very, very good.

The Choir normally performs on Sundays at 10:00am, 11:30am and 4:00pm; on Tuesdays to Saturdays daily at 5:15pm. I spent a Tuesday in the city and tried to catch them, but typically they’d sung the day before and were taking a special break that day.

So, I had to sit through mass instead, which brought back traumatic memories from 13 years of Catholic schooling that I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to repress.

Read more: Things to Do in York on the Cheap

York weekend break

Walking the wall one fine, winter’s day.

Walk the wall around the city

You can see the Roman influence across the UK, particularly in the presence of city walls, a form of defence from times gone past. Some are merely crumbling versions of their former selves, but York has one of the most intact walls within the country.

3.4 kilometres of wall remains and they’re now considered a historic site.

Yet, you can still walk them – if anything, you should as you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the city, for free. More information can be found here.

Book onto a walking tour of York here

Go on a ghost tour

A medieval town like York would certainly have some disgruntled spirits – in fact, the place is inundated with ghosts and is considered to be the most haunted city in England. Places of supernatural interest include the Minster, the Museum and the Brewery, among many others.

There are plenty of ghost tours on offer, which will take you around the city to learn of its unsettling history. Alternatively, you can attempt to go ghost watching via a comedy Ghost bus!

Book a spot on the York Ghost Bus here!

York weekend break

I don’t have a single photo of a pub in York, which seems so wrong.

Grab a pint or meal in the House of the Trembling Madness

York has its share of historic pubs and one of the best known (and cutest – I have an interminable weakness for British pubs) is The House of Trembling Madness (or Delirium Tremens). People have been drinking on this site since 1180AD. That’s a mighty long time.

Grab a meal, grab a pint, but make sure you head there early before the after-work crowd descend upon it.

Or alternatively, make do with any pub in the city

If you can’t get into the DT, there are other venues to try your luck in, such as The Black Swan (another site that’s rumoured to be haunted), The Drawing Board or Pivni.

Read more: How to Spend a Weekend in Dorset

York weekend break

Clifford’s Tower in York.

Check out Clifford’s Tower

If you’re after a view of the city further afield from the walls, head out to Clifford’s Tower.

This tower is all that remains of York Castle and was raised by William the Conqueror. Adult entry costs £5.40.

Visit the National Railway Museum

If you’re into museums, or trains, or museums about trains, you’ve come to the right place.

British Rail has over 300 years of history and the National Railway Museum is the place to head if you want to learn more about the impact of trains on the UK over the last few centuries.

You can even take Afternoon Tea in a restored railway carriage. Well. I’m sold on the idea.

Read more: How to Spend Your First Week in London

York weekend break

No flower photos because I visited in winter.

Sniff the flowers at the Museum Gardens after visiting the York Museum

After exploring the York Museum and trying to not bump into any (un)friendly ghosts, take a stroll around the adjoining gardens, set within the Medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey.

If you time it right, i.e. go during the shoulder seasons and particularly spring, I can only imagine you will be delighted. Plus, there’ll be birds everywhere!

Take a day trip to the Yorkshire Dales or Moors

I can’t really blame you if you head to York only to leave immediately to explore the surrounding countryside, such as the Yorkshire Dales. Think stone built villages, rolling greens – basically England as you’ve always imagined it.

Book a place on a tour of the Yorkshire Dales

I also highly encourage making a trip to the Yorkshire Moors, which was actually the first part of England I ever stepped foot on! Well, if you don’t count Manchester Airport.

I actually read Wuthering Heights in the moors itself and man, was it a trippy experience.

Book a place on a tour to the Yorkshire Moors

York weekend break

The River Ouse, whilst flooding.

Cruise the River Ouse

Firstly, I love how the above heading rhymes.

Secondly, you can’t go wrong with seeing a city from water. Or boats in general. A river cruise down the Ouse (I had to again, I’m not sorry) will provide you of a unique perspective of the city of York.

I know when I did a cruise on the River Thames in London, I learned stuff about the city I’d never known before, despite having lived there for almost two years at the time.

Book a cruise on the Ouse

York weekend break

Damn it, English houses! Why you so pretty?

Where to Stay during a Weekend in York

  • Budget: I generally find YHA Hotels to be of a high standard around the world – they’re clean, affordable and friendly.
  • Mid-range: The Churchill is a Grade II listed mansion, not far at all from the city centre. The decor inside will certainly live up to its name, but its pricing is quite affordable.
  • Lah-di-dah: If you want to go all out, Grays Court may be the hotel for you. It’s the oldest inhabited house in York and has a rich and varied history.
  • Boutique: Judges Court is a boutique hotel, centrally located. As the name may suggest, it was originally used as lodgings for judges in the city on legal business.
  • Quirky: Lendal Tower was once part of York’s medieval wall defences. It’s now renovated holiday apartments, set on the river. Perfect for those wishing to experience medieval York, with higher levels of hygiene.

Check out other hotel options in York

weekend in york

More wall strollings.

Well, I hope that gives you a bit of an introductory idea of what’s on offer in this wonderful town. You can certainly squeeze a lot into a weekend in York.

However, if you’re after more ideas, here’s a detailed itinerary for Yorkshire. It’s a truly underrated corner of England.

Other posts on the United Kingdom

Some offbeat tours in London.
What NOT to do when visiting the United Kingdom.
Which should you travel to: Cambridge or Oxford?
How to Spend a weekend in Margate
Afternoon Tea in London, some honest reviews.

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Want to get out of the big city and head somewhere quiet and fun in the United Kingdom? A York weekend break may just be exactly what you need. Here are some ideas of what you can do over a two day period and where to stay. / UK Weekend Breaks / York Itinerary / #England / #York / #Yorkshire /


LC can often be found nursing a cup of green tea, with her head in a book. She is a writer, video editor and professional cheese eater. Her life's aspiration is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a Shetland pony and several pygmy goats. Follow along on Facebook or sign up to the monthly newsletter.

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Drew - December 10, 2015

I totally know the feeling. We recently did a weekend away in Somerset, looking forward to some quality hikes and walks through the countryside. We were met with driving rain and 50mph wind. We made the best of it and still had fun. Sometimes, things don’t work out like you planned, but it is okay.

    LC - December 10, 2015

    That’s a shame! I’m glad you still had a good time at the very least.

April - April 14, 2018

I loved York! The cathedral is amazing. And one of my favorite museums in the whole world is located in York – the York Castle Museum (which oddly has nothing to do with castles). I would love to go back.

    LC - April 15, 2018

    I didn’t make it to that museum! I feel the same way about the place. 🙂

Jackie S. - April 14, 2018

I enjoyed this comprehensive overview of York. Would love to go on a Ghost Tour, but will need to drag my husband as he is afraid of ghosts. Thank you for sharing.

    LC - April 15, 2018

    Haha the most haunted city in the UK may be a hard sell!

Kasey - April 14, 2018

Love British history, so I’ve had the vague idea of going to York some day for a while. Now I want to go sooner =-). Looks like a neat place, though I think I prefer England in the summer LOL. We are getting too used to being warm here in Sicily!

    LC - April 15, 2018

    I find summer and winter so hit and miss – you can have crappy weather or no summer at all and then the most glorious winter days! Definitely recommend York, it’s one of my favourite cities in England for sure.

Ferne Arfin - April 14, 2018

Nice post. I am keen to try the House of Trembling Madness next time I’m in York. 😉

    LC - April 15, 2018

    It’s such a great name, too!

tanya - April 14, 2018

You’re absolutely right that if you live in the UK you often overlook how amazing it can be to travel around. After living abroad for 4 years we travelled and camped around the UK last summer and absolutely loved it. It’s almost 20 years since I’ve been to York, yikes! But would love to go back and your post have loads of ideas of what to do, love it!

    LC - April 15, 2018

    Camping around the UK would be amazing! I have such high aspirations to do this one day. There really is so much packed in, it’s such a great country to explore.

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