Here’s a city packed with everything magical – history, architecture, legends and a lot of spookiness. York, with its old world charm, is probably my most favorite city in the UK. It is even more special since this was my first ever solo trip from London. I was smitten from the minute I stepped into the city centre. There is something to see at every nook and corner of this beautiful city. Being just 2 hours away from London on train, it is also a popular weekend getaway spot for Londoners. So, here is a York England itinerary from London, to help you plan a perfect weekend at this magical city.
What to pack?
I made my trip on October and it was quite chilly and rainy at that time. It’s best to pack sweaters and a waterproof jacket so keep warm and dry. Good quality shoes and socks are a must as you will be walking a lot in York. A good knitted-cap or ear muffs will help prevent any ear aches due to the cold morning wind. Apart from this, all the normal travel essentials will do. If you plan on taking a lot of pictures on your phone (like me), a good power bank is a must!
There are lots of supermarkets in the city, so everything from food to medicines is available well within reach.
How to reach York from London?
York is around 211 miles from London. So it is best to travel from London King’s Cross Station to York by train. It takes just close to 2 hours and is the fastest way to reach York. Make sure to book your tickets well in advance to get cheaper rates.
You can also go for a bus service, which is comparatively cheaper. But the journey would take around 5-6 hours which could be tiring and a waste of time.
Two day York England Itinerary from London
- Have breakfast at one of the many cafes like the Partisan
- Visit the York Minster
- Head towards the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens
- Have lunch or Afternoon tea at Betty’s
- Head to the Shambles
- Have a coffee break at the Shambles Market food Court
- Visit the Jorvik Viking Center
- Have dinner at the The House of Trembling Madness or the Forest
- Take a Ghost walking tour or the Ghost bus tour
- Walk the city walls (at least a couple of sections) after breakfast
- Check out the National railway museum
- Visit the Cliffords tower
- Visit one of the smaller churches
- Try the River Cruise after lunch
- Visit the Barley hall
- Have a snack break at the York Roast Co (try the Yorkshire Pudding Wrap!)
- Take an evening walking tour or try the Cat trail
- Grab a drink at a haunted pub before calling it a day
The best & most affordable way to explore all the York attractions is with a York pass. Covering more than 20 attractions, the York pass can be booked for one to three days according to need. Rather than booking tickets for each attraction separately, booking one York pass for all of it together is easier to manage.
Top 20 things to do in York
York is one of the most compact cities in the UK. You will not need to use public transport or a car to get around. All attractions are at walkable distance from one another and at every turn, there is something interesting to note! Crowded with churches, historic buildings and snickleways, there is something in York for everyone to enjoy!
Here is a list of the best things to include in your York England itinerary:
1. Visit the York Minster
The York Minster, also known as the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, is an Anglican church located in the heart of the city. Being the second largest Gothic style cathedral in Northern Europe, the York Minster is truly a sight to behold. Elaborate medieval stained glass windows and gargoyles sprouting out of the outer walls are some of the most unique features of the cathedral.
Exploring the Undercroft Museum and the Central Tower offering panoramic views of the city are must do activities here. Entry to the cathedral is possible only with tickets. But, one can always attend services for free. Entry is also free for visitors who live in York – you can produce a valid address proof at the entrance for this.
Tip – Purchase tickets in advance to ensure availability of slot on the day of your visit. Consider taking the York Pass that allows entry to more than 25 attractions in the city. The pass is available for 1-3 days depending upon your need.
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2. Go shopping at Shambles
Shambles is without doubt my most favorite spot in York. It is one of the must visit places to add to your York England itinerary. Being the best-preserved medieval streets in Europe, it is the perfect place to take a look at some of the old overhanging timber-framed buildings from the 14th century. These beautiful cobbled streets were once home to butcher shops and houses. Hence its older name, The Great Flesh Shambles. It is interesting to note that most shops still have their meat hooks and shelves that used to display the meat!
With an array of some very interesting shops, it hard not to believe that you have stepped into Diagon Alley. For all the Harry Potter fans out there – The Shop That Must Not Be Named and the Potions Cauldron (9¾ Shambles!) are for you! There are some fun and quirky gift shops too. From postcards, bookmarks, magnets and more, its the best place to take home some souvenirs from York. Roly’s Fudge Pantry is also quite popular for their delicious fudge prepared in the traditional way.
Tip – Visit early in the morning or at night to witness the true beauty of Shambles without crowds!
3. Grab a bite at the Shambles Market
From souvenirs to fresh flowers and artisan crafts, the Shambles Market has a lot to explore. But the best part is the Shambles Market Food Court. Try the Shambles Kitchen for its Pulled Pork sandwiches, Nukkad for its amazing Indian street food and The Dark Horse Espresso Bar for some amazing coffee.
The Shambles Market also has stalls selling fresh produce, fish and meat too, every day of the week. Handmade candles, soaps and jewelry stalls are other things to look out for – they are pocket-friendly and insanely good!
4. Explore the snickelways
Coined by local author Mark W. Jones in his book A Walk Around the Snickelways of York (1983), the word ‘snickelway’ means a narrow passageway. It could be alleys, lanes, ginnels or snickets. Most of them date back to the medieval times and have the most quirky names like the Mad Alice Lane or Nether Hornpot Lane.
York has 50 medieval snickelways to discover, each unique in its own way. ‘Hole in the Wall‘ is the shortest snickelway, named after pub near it. ‘The Coffee Yard‘ is the longest, and is around 220 ft long. ‘Mad Alice Lane‘ is named after an abused woman who poisoned her husband to death. ‘Pope’s Head Alley‘ is York’s narrowest snickelway.
Tip – To ensure safety, it is better to avoid visiting the snickelways after dark.
5. Learn the Viking history at the Jorvik Viking Centre
For history buffs and anyone interested in The Vikings – this place is everything! Situated at Coppergate, just opposite ‘The Hole In Wand‘ shop, this is a a must visit experience in York. The Jorvik Viking Centre stands upon the site of the Coppergate Dig (1976-1981) that brought about many new discoveries about the Viking age.
The entire experience takes you through 10th century York known as ‘Jorvik‘ in carriages with speakers giving narrations in the language of your choice. This is a very immersive experience with life-like mannequins that can move and talk. Imagine being able to smell a pigsty or a butcher’s backyard!
Upon completion of the ride, you can also take a look at all the artefacts that came from the excavation. The Jorvik Viking Centre also has a gift shop packed with collectibles, clothes and stationery, among other things. Without doubt, this is an important experience to add to your York England itinerary.
Entry is allowed only with tickets, booking in advance is best to secure slots. Book your passes here!
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6. Walk on the Roman Mosaic at the Yorkshire Museum
A walk around York will fuel that urge to learn more about this wonderful city. The Yorkshire Museum will answer many of the questions. They hold exhibits from the Roman, Anglian, Viking and medieval eras. The museum also have exhibits on the dinosaur and sea life of Yorkshire.
My favorite sight here was the 4-metre square mosaic floor and a wall fresco from the Roman age. Visitors can walk on the mosaic floor, and it is a truly unique experience! There a few activities that children can indulge in including tracing the ammonites and digging for fossils.
This attraction is included in York pass – Book your York pass here!
7. Visit the Museum Gardens
The garden was set up in the 1830s by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society. It is home to the Yorkshire Museum, the York Observatory and ruins of the St Mary’s Abbey.
The York Observatory is the oldest in York and its refractor telescope was built by Thomas Cooke, a local, in 1850. The St Mary’s Abbey was the largest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England. Dating back to 1294, only the foundation walls of the original building remain. The Multangular Tower and the Hospitium are the other sights to see here. With so many historic elements surrounded by a beautiful garden, this is surely one of the best picnic spots in York.
A visit from September-November will give you a chance to take a look at the ‘Ghosts in The Gardens‘ – a series of 3D wire mesh sculptures. Its fun to spot the nuns, knights and animals hiding around the museum gardens waiting to be spotted!
8. Grab a drink at a haunted pub
York is one of the most haunted cities in England – haunted pubs, haunted snickelways, haunted hotels…the list goes on. York has its own list of some very haunted pubs. This includes the Golden Fleece and Ye Olde Starre Inne among others.
The Golden Fleece is the most haunted from the list. Sightings of at least 15 spectres is reported, but the most popular is Lady Alice Peckett. She was the wife of the mayor of York, John Peckett. He also owned the hotel.
Next comes the oldest pub in York, Ye Olde Starre Inne. Well, the most popular ghosts of the this old pub are that of two black cats. This could be the result of the tradition of burying cats in the walls of buildings as a ritual to protect from fire and bad luck.
If ghosts are your thing, the these are must visits for you! You just can’t imagine a York England itinerary without feeling the spooks at least once!
9. Go on a walking tour
Another must do activity in York is to go on a walking tour. There some amazing walks here with highly knowledgeable guides. Some of the most popular ones include the York Dark History Walking Tour, Dark Chronicles Horror walk of York, Mad Alice’s The Bloody Tour of York and York Witches and History Walking Tour. Pre-booking is necessary to attend all of these tours.
The Original Ghost Walk of York is famous for providing an authentic experience exploring the haunted areas of York. You can just meet at the starting point and pay the ticket fee there to join this tour. The York Ghost Bus Tour is also quite a memorable experience combining horror with comedy. For all Harry Potter Fans, the Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour and The Wizard Walk of York are some great options.
I personally did the York Witches and History Walking Tour and it was the best! The tour guide was the sweetest wizard and joining him as a witch apprentice was probably the best decision ever!
If you are looking for free walking tours, then the White Rose York Tours and The Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York (AVG) provide really good ones. And its completely free!
10. Try the free Cat trail
York has a very long history with cats and as a result, you will find cat statues all around York. Well, if you know where to look. That’s where the York Cat trail comes in. Starting at the Cat Gallery shop, this trail will lead you all around the city. It takes around an hour to complete and is one of the best self-guided walking trails in York. Its a free and fun activity for both kids and adults to indulge in!
So, pick up your free trail leaflet at the Cat Gallery shop and start on! The shop also has come cute cat merchandise including bookmarks, lucky cats and more.
11. Explore smaller churches
There are so many beautiful little churches in York. Most of the time they are missed in the rush to take a look at the York Minster. If you want to step away from the rush and crowds of tourists, you can add some of the smaller churches to your York England itinerary.
Try the All Saints Pavement, a beautiful church with a tall lantern tower that is visible from all around the city. Historically, it helped travelers move towards the city! St Olave’s Church located at the Marygate entrance of the Museum Gardens dates back to the 11th century. Holy Trinity Goodramgate from the 15th century is said to be on the site at the time of the Domesday Book! St Martin-cum-Gregory (The Stained Glass Centre), a 11th-century church, is now a Stained Glass Centre where you can attend workshops and learn a lot about stained glass!
Don’t miss the St Martin’s Coney Street! It has the St Martin’s Window of 1437, a beautiful stained glass window depicting the life of St Martin of Tours.
Fun fact – The 12th-century door knocker of the All Saints Pavement church depicts the Mouth of Hell!
12. Try a Yorkshire Pudding Wrap at the York Roast Co.
You just can’t complete a trip to York without trying their authentic Yorkshire Pudding! Ok, you don’t have to make it a roast dinner, even! York Roast Co. is famous for their mouth-watering Yorkshire Pudding Wraps filled with carved meat, stuffing and veggies in a thick gravy. There is always a queue waiting in font of the shop, waiting for their turn to try this delicacy. Filling and absolutely delicious, this is a must try when in York. Remember to add this to your York England itinerary!
13. Explore the Barley hall
Built in 1360, the Barley hall is a medieval townhouse at 2 Coffee Yard, York. It is a grade II listed building with beautiful timber frames and a huge Great Hall. The house was once home to Priors of Nostell and Mayor of York. Now reconstructed and set up as a museum, Barley hall is open to visitors upon pre-booking. You can visit this using York Pass – Book your pass here!
Visitors can imagine the way of life in Medieval England here by touching and using the exhibits. You can sit on the chairs and explore the house, giving your experience a more personal touch.
Fun fact – This is perfect chance to walk through the Coffee Yard snickelway. Look for the Red Devil at the entrance of the snickleway!
14. Visit the Castle museum
The Castle Museum give you the best of York’s history in a very immersive experience. Located in the prison of an old 11th century castle, this museum has a lot to offer. Some of the interesting features of the museum include the Kirkgate, a recreated Victorian street, York Castle Prison and Toy Stories.
Take a walk through the cobbled streets of Kirkgate to learn more about the lives of the rich and poor. Luxury and poverty were two faces of York and this is the best place to see it all. The Georgian Prison was not a place one would wish to be – horrible living conditions and terrible punishments – this was horror in every sense! Toy Stories is a great experience for kids with a carousel and play area.
The Sixties, When the World Changed Forever and Shaping the Body are some of the other exhibitions to look out for.
You can visit Castle Museum using York Pass – Book your pass here!
Note – Some parts of the Museum were closed for maintenance at the time of my visit. Ticket prices are only half now, so check before you book your visit!
15. Catch a view of the city from the Cliffords tower
The Cliffords tower was built by William the Conqueror to control the rebels of the north. It is the largest remaining part of the York Castle. The tower was once a royal mint and a Civil War garrison. Site of an antisemitic massacre in 1190 and execution of Roger de Clifford, this tower has a few tragic tales to tell.
Now, after some renovations, Clifford’s tower offers gorgeous panoramic views of York from its roofdeck. Being one of the iconic landmarks of York, a visit to the tower is a must to add to your York England itinerary.
Entry tickets can be booked online or at the entrance or using York pass.
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16. Afternoon Tea at Betty’s Tea Room
Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms is the best choice to have your Afternoon tea at in York. It is elegant and has a pleasant ambience to it which makes it the perfect setting your tea. The service includes delicious appetizers, sandwiches, scones with with clotted cream and jam, cakes, tarts and a wide selection of teas.
Apart from this, another treat to try when in York is the fat rascal. Its like a cross of a rock cake and a scone with dried fruit and spices. They are topped with cherry and almond faces that give them the cutest appearance!
17. National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum is one of the best free experiences to include in your York England itinerary. It has a brilliant collection of locomotives and narrates the growth of the British railways over the years. The Duchess of Hamilton, Mallard, which is the fastest steam locomotive in the world and the Japanese Bullet Train are some of the iconic exhibits here.
The museum also has interactive exhibitions and activity that are great for adults and children alike. The Great hall also has a cafe serving delicious refreshments. Entry is free, but pre-booking is necessary to ensure availability of slot.
18. Cruise the River Ouse
Prebooking is necessary to ensure availability, and a deposit amount is charged which will be retuned after the journey.
Fun fact – The rental boats have the sweetest names – Alice-May, Leonie, Penny and Tina are some of them.
19. Walk the city walls
Another completely free activity that is totally worth it! York has a circular wall around the main city, each at about 13 feet elevation. Mainly meant for defense against invaders, these walls, also known as the ‘Bar walls‘, are now open to visitors to walk on. They are open from dawn to dusk, except for days under maintenance or bad weather.
They are 3.4 km long and are the longest medieval town walls in England. The walls form a rough square shape, and each corner has a medieval fortified gateway called a ‘bar‘. The Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar were gatehouses that controlled traffic and collected tolls back in the time.
While the Bootham Bar close to the York Minster offers the best views, the Micklegate Bar was the main entrance to the city from the south. It was the way the Royals entered the city.
20. Visit the Roman Bath Museum
Located in the cellar of a pub called the ‘Roman Bath’, the Roman bath house complex was built by the ninth legion (71-122 AD). Excavated in the 1930s, one can see the caldarium,with some tiles also of that age.
One of the few existing structures of Roman York, Eboracum, the museum is open from 11am – 5pm everyday. A small entry fee is collected at the entrance.
The York Dungeon, York Art Gallery, Merchant Adventurers Hall and York’s Chocolate Story are other things you can include in your York England Itinerary.
All these attractions are included with a York Pass – Book your pass here!
Where to stay in York?
York has a wide selection of accommodations, ranging from luxurious hotels to homestays and hostels.
I stayed at Astor York, a beautiful hostel at Holgate. Its just around 15 minutes of walk from the city and is also set in a Grade II Victorian building! Its the best place for solo travelers and even friends taking a trip together. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful, and I had the most peaceful stay ever!
The Impossible Motel offers a quirky experience, where as the Castle Howard Holiday Cottages are as cottagecore as it could be! For all you witches out there, try the Hocus Pocus Tiny Hotel for a magical experience.
There is so much to see and do in York that you need at least 2 days to cover most of them. A city with so much history and quirk, York is 100% worth the visit. Most of the things to do can be completed over a weekend, so you you can sort them to make your own York England itinerary! Whether on foot or on a sightseeing hop-on-hop-off bus, it is one of the best places to visit in the UK. So the next time you plan a trip to Northern England, take a couple of days to explore this beautiful and magical city!