What to Do During a Weekend Break in York
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.
Doing it right – How to Have a Successful York Weekend Break
What to Do 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.
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.
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’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.
Walk the wall
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where to Stay 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.
Click here to compare prices of accommodation in York.
Unique or 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.
For accommodation that’s a bit more quirky, there’s Lendal Tower. Perfect for those wishing to experience medieval York, with higher levels of hygiene.
Or, you can sleep in a former railway carriage just outside the city!
Well, I hope that gives you a bit of an introductory idea of what’s on offer in the wonderful town of York. You can certainly squeeze a lot into a weekend city break.
However, if you’re after more ideas, here’s a detailed itinerary for Yorkshire. It’s a truly underrated corner of England.
You might enjoy some of these others posts:
Whacky and Offbeat Tours in London
What NOT to Do When Visiting the United Kingdom
What to Do With a Weekend in Dorset
Which Should You Travel to: Cambridge or Oxford?
How to Spend a Weekend in Margate
Afternoon Tea in London: Honest Reviews
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