Just two hours from London by train on a good day (there are some, honest), York was for years a hidden gem in the 24 Hour getaway guide until people wished up to the beauty of the place. The city has something for everyone. History, culture, good food, great bars, horse racing and football. Who wouldn’t want to grab a slice of that?
The city’s skyline is dominated by The Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe although fans of Sisters of Mercy will be disappointed by lack of acknowledgement to the band or that genre. It’s not cheap to enter – £15 for an adult although that gives you the opportunity to climb the tower and survey the whole city.
The Minster may be the biggest thing of the skyline but the biggest draw for visitors is still The Jorvik Viking Centre (soft “J”, like a “Y” making it Yorvik) in Marygate, which has them queuing round the block to experience life back when Saturday afternoon’s entertainments included food, beer and a good pillage. York was one of the most important cities in the Viking age and you can still find traces of the Nordic influence in the city with Carlsberg, Danish Bacon and Lurpak on sale in supermarkets.
After a full dose of history that you may need some chocolate. York’s most important contribution to 20th century cuisine was undoubtably The Chocolate Orange (there was once an apple and a lemon version didn’t you know?) made by those fine chaps Rowntree and Terry. Learn the history of how chocolate shaped the city (not literally, that would be impractical) at The Chocolate Museum in Kings Square, where you can also try you hand at making a bar of your own.
You may well see a larger than normal number of Middle-age men with notepads, thermos flasks and binoculars wandering around the streets. Don’t be alarmed – these are simply the lesser-sported trainspotters, making a trip to their own Mecca, the National Railway Museum, bizarrely located next to the train station – what’s the chances of that? It’s the place to be seen if stream locomotives and rolling stock are your thing.
Cultured out? Fancy some shopping around the lanes and alleyways of the city centre? They are quite literally The Shambles, the oldest known shopping street in England, dating back to The Doomsday Book era, the last time that DFS didn’t have a sale on. Not interested? Then if you’ve timed it right head out of the city centre down Tadcaster Road for some horse racing at one of the country’s top racecourses.
The city isn’t just a magnet for those interested in chocolate, trains and quaint little boutiques. It’s a haven for those who love a bit of craft beer action. You can literally stumble from pub to pub in the city centre, sampling something new on every street. If you only have time to sample a couple then try these four beauties:-
Start at the Railway Station with a trip to the York Tap, with a selection of just 32 craft beers, then if you can drag yourself away head down to 48 Stonegate for the Trembling Madness, once the local of Mr a Guy Fawkes no less, where you can stock up in the ground floor off licence after a session or two in the bar upstairs before ending up at The Maltings in Tanner’s Gate, which boasts about being a pub for “grown ups”. The International Ghost Foundation ranks York as the most haunted city in Great Britain so it’s only fair you can share a pint of Old Whallop with a spirit world chaser at The Golden Fleece in Pavement, England’s most haunted hostelry no less. Strange how all the sightings happen after drinkers have had a few though.
After all that Ghoulish drinking you will need some food. Decent restaurants aplenty in the city centre but some to keep you eye on include Ateoclock in Ousegate where fish and seafood take top billing on their daily chalkboard specials. Want something with a bit more meat? How about Venison done three ways (an Assiette to those who have been to a finishing school) at 31 Castlegate? Certainly not an address to forget anyway. Finally, Walmgate Ale House is worth a shot especially for their Pork belly stuffed with chorizo and black pudding…oh and it’s 5 guest local ales.
After all the excesses of the day you’ll be needing a bed for the night. Prices are high in the city centre so you may want to head down Tadcaster Road where there’s a Holiday Inn, Marriott and the Knavesmire Manor Hotel as well as plenty of Bed and Breakfast options.