This month’s UK staycation destination was (drumroll please)… York!
Under a two hour drive from Newcastle, it’s a city dripping in heritage and romantic charm. I can’t believe I waited this long to visit York. We drove down on a Saturday lunchtime and left late the next afternoon, and I spent most of that time wondering why I hadn’t been before.
Walking towards the city walls, the scent of chocolate croissants hit me. I’m not joking; York smells like baked treats! I don’t know if it came from the plethora of tea rooms, coffee shops and fudge shops, but that smell had me won over immediately, before I even saw any of the enchanting architecture.
Where to stay
We checked in to a wonderful room with a four poster bed at Marmadukes Town House Hotel. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Not convinced? Read my review.
What to do
Just meandering around York’s tangle of cobbled streets is a great way to spend your time there. I love compact cities, and York is certainly that. The breathtaking architecture harks back to York’s Roman, Viking, and Medieval heritage, while street performers will have you laughing.
Reigning over the city is York Mister, and I can guarantee it will blow you away when it first comes into view over the city walls. If you’re feeling energetic, climb the 275 steps up the Central Tower for the best and highest view of the city.
There are now interactive underground chambers in Revealing York Minster in the Undercroft. The underground chambers have been transformed with new audio-visual and interactive galleries revealing the significance behind the cathedral’s most treasured artifacts.
It’s not all grand buildings though; the city has plenty of parks and gardens to get lost in.
We ambled down a creepy little alley and stumbled upon Barley Hall, a Medieval house which was actually only discovered in the 1980’s, because it was hidden by an old office block. It’s been restored to provide a glimpse into otherwise forgotten eras.
Like any other historic city, York has a dark past – and a Ghost Walk around the favourite haunts will reveal all. A man in a black suit actually appeared in front of us and conjured a leaflet out of thin air. Safe to say that was scary enough for me, thank you very much.
York Art Gallery
There’s a huge collection of both modern and historic art on show at York Art Gallery. Here I am posing in front of the building, pretending to be cultured.
A ramble down The Shambles reveals a huge array of quaint independent shops as well as high-end boutiques and outlets for luxury brands like Jo Malone (if someone wants to buy me any perfume, I won’t argue). The street used to be lined with butchers’ shops and if you look closely, you’ll see that some buildings still have the old meat hooks hanging outside.
This is arguably the best preserved Medieval street in England and the ramshackle fifteenth century buildings lean alarmingly into each other. Not somewhere you want to get lost in after a heavy drinking session. I felt like I’d just shot out from a fireplace and landed in Diagon Alley. The old fashioned sweet shops make The Shambles even more picturesque and nostalgic.
If like most young females, you get enthusiastic about stationary and useless items; York is the place to stock up. There’s also an Antiques Centre (with a tea shop upstairs, obviously).
You’ll smell the fudge shops before you see them. Sorry, I seem to have written this post based on my sense of smell, but Baileys and white chocolate flavoured fudge? Don’t mind if I do. If like me you have a sweet tooth, The York Chocolate Story is also worth a visit. While other northern cities built their wealth on steel, coal or wool, York’s fame and fortune have rested on chocolate for almost 300 years. Could this city be any more appealing?
Don’t ask how or why, but we ended up in a sword shop. Tom was in his element, waving weapons around in a way that made me feel seriously uneasy. I didn’t realise he was quite such a dungeons and dragons enthusiast. Anyway, York Armoury is actually a pretty cool little shop and the staff are very knowledgeable, if that’s what floats your boat.
Where to drink
Cosy boozers aren’t hard to find, and Guy Fawkes Inn is a favourite among tourists and locals. The Exhibition and Punch Bowl will also quench your thirst but if you’re after decent cocktails, try Bobo Lomo, which is a Tiki style rum bar. While we were there, a special offer was running: two Mojitos for £8. That’ll do us!
All the usual chain pubs are there too: Yates, Revolution etc can be found along the riverside. I prefer to go to an independent or ‘real’ cocktail bar if I’m paying £7.50 though.
Where to eat
Proper Sunday roasts aren’t hard to find in York, and there are countless traditional English pubs serving up steaming plates of meat, veg and of course, Yorkshire Puddings. If you’re on the go, pick up something that’ll stick to yer ribs at The York Roast Co.
I’m a big fan of cities with decent cafe culture, and York doesn’t disappoint. You’ll find a decent cream tea on every corner, though I recommend you try the famous Betty’s Tea Room. The queues were far too long for us (yes, people were queuing for their cakes), but I’ll definitely be back to sample the Afternoon Tea one day. You know how partial I am to finger food!
I’ll also be back one day to spend a ridiculous amount of money at Teddy Bear Tea Rooms, which sits above a stuffed animal shop.
Dinner in York?
We’d heard great things about Lucia and I can never resist a good Italian feast so we sauntered over. The place was packed but we took that as a sign of its popularity and chose to wait an hour, drinking cocktails in the bar until a table became available. We were than led to a patio outside, where we had blankets to keep warm! It felt like being on holiday, I didn’t know it was even possible to dine al fresco in the UK at this time of year without it being freezing.
I had my favourite meal ever: Seafood linguine, and the mussels were the largest I’ve ever seen. Tom got steak and I sneaked a little taste. Not half bad!
All in all, a wonderful weekend in York full of sightseeing, eating and drinking. In Autumn, with golden leaves carpeting the cobbled streets and a crisp breeze in the air, the city was permeated with a premature sense of Christmas cheer. I think I might just have to revisit in December!
Do you want to visit York, or is there an unmissable place I didn’t spot? Let me know in the comments because I’ll definitely back in the city soon. Don’t forget to check out my facebook page and follow me on twitter too!