My husband treated me to a weekend in York as part of my birthday present. We’d been before but about ten years ago to spend the weekend with my sister and her family, when they still lived in Edinburgh. I had forgotten just how gorgeous York is and I can’t believe it took us this long to go back!
York is so full of ancient history and is one of England’s most beautiful historic cities, dating back to Roman times. York’s medieval buildings and streets are so well preserved and a lot of the streets are pedestrianised, making it ideal to explore on foot.
We stayed at the stunning Grays Court hotel, which has over 1,000 years of history! It’s also ideally located right in the heart of the city and very close to York Minster. I’d recommend staying at Grays Court but if that’s not possible, definitely visit by going for afternoon tea, dinner or even just a cocktail or two.
We were only in York for one full day so we didn’t get to do all the things we wanted but obviously that’s a great reason to return! Having said that, if you just want to walk around rather than visit attractions then a weekend is enough time.
Here are five things I recommend doing in York
Dating back to the 1200s, it took 250 years to build the magnificent York Minster. It’s also the second largest Gothic cathedral of Northern Europe and holds the largest collection of stained glass in the UK with 128 stained glass windows dating back to the 12th century. The great east window, which measures 186 square metres, is thought to be the largest area of stained glass in the world!
From the outside, York Minster is truly impressive. It’s a stunning example of Gothic architecture and has so much detail on the stone work. The gardens are really lovely too and are free to the public.
Walk along the City Walls
York is a walled city and the City Walls cover 3.4 km, making them the longest medieval town walls in England. They were built mainly in the 13th century and offer a unique, elevated walk around the city. It’s free to walk along the walls and you can join guided tours too. This was the view of our hotel, Grays Court, with York Minster behind it from our walk along the wall.
Discover The Shambles
If you’re a Harry Potter fan then do not miss The Shambles, which not only has three Harry Potter shops but was also apparently the inspiration for Diagon Alley! But even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, don’t miss it either as it’s like walking through history.
Turn down one of the side streets and you’ll find yourself in The Shambles Market, which is open every day of the week from 7am. Whilst not necessarily in the same location as The Shambles, there has been a market in York since Viking times in the 8th to late 11th centuries.
There are about 85 stalls selling everything from fruit & veg to meat, fish, clothing, baked goods, jewellery and more. And if you’re feeling hungry, try one of the street food stalls.
Visit Clifford’s Tower
I remember visiting Clifford’s Tower the first time we visited York so it was quite nostalgic to return. Clifford’s Tower is pretty much all that remains now of York Castle and dates back to 1068. It’s had quite a colourful history, including being a prison in the 1800s.
Definitely go inside as there are panoramic views over York from the top of Clifford’s Tower.
Enjoy dinner at Melton’s
One upside to having our original weekend cancelled due to snow was that we managed to get a table at fine dining restaurant Melton’s for dinner. A York institution since 1990, Melton’s is run and owned by husband and wife team, Michael and Lucy. It’s a bit out of the centre but definitely worth the trip.
The food was superb and very reasonably (well, based on London prices!) priced. We enjoyed every single course and I loved my dessert of a doughnut with custard and elements of rhubarb – so yummy! We’ll definitely return the next time we’re in York.
We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in York and it’s made me realise that we don’t do enough exploring in the UK. Definitely going to rectify that this year!