Even though it is a mere 2-hour rail journey from London, this was the first time I had made the trip to York, and boy does the city have so much to offer!
Welcome to York! Where the streets are gates, the gates are bars and the bars are pubs! While in town I made a great friend in John, a local pub owner and history enthusiast, who proudly recited the above poem to me (more than once!) explaining that it paints the picture of York pretty perfectly. As the poem goes: each street name ends in gate, the gates to the city are in fact called bars, and you’re more inclined to find a good ol’ English pub than you are a wine bar.
One thing that struck me about York is that it caters to the needs of each and every type of visitor; like any great city should. Whether you’re looking to shop ’til you drop, soak up centuries of history, keep the kids entertained, or if you’re simply looking for somewhere beautiful to sightsee, York has it all wrapped up within its walls. Here are just some of York’s many wonders I discovered:
History, history and more history
History is in abundance in York and I was lucky enough to have my newfound friend John who not only explained so much of it to me but also gave me a walking tour of the city. Here are some of my favourite parts from my tour:
Walk the walls
John explained that York was formed as a walled city by the Romans to keep out any invasions. The walls were our starting point and featured throughout our tour. You can walk the walls of York and see this glorious little city from all angles; it sure is a beautiful sight to behold. Not only are the views spectacular but all 4 gateways (or bars as previously explained) have their own unique history. In particular, Micklegate Bar is special as it is the only port of entry to York for any member of the Royal Family. Royals must request entry and a huge ceremony takes place at Micklegate. I love the story of Micklegate Bar as it is a tradition still observed to this day and I can imagine Queen Elizabeth calling in ahead to check to see if it’s ok to stop by…or it could just be the animated way John told it! Either way, I love quirky little traditions like this as they are so quintessentially English.
Stand in awe in York Minster
Next stop on our tour was York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe. The Minster will blow you away with its grandeur and mind-boggling architectural design; taking almost 1,000 years to build by hand. One thing that really surprised me was that the masonry workers that are currently, and lovingly, restoring the Minster actually still work with traditional methods within the grounds - it’s really cool to see!
Check out the York Museum Gardens
I visited York with my bulldog Nelson so we explored the beautiful museum gardens. While you’re there don’t forget to check out the Multiangular Tower; made up of 10 sides with both Roman and medieval rocks, each represents a different time in history.
The great thing about shopping in York is that you’ll find all of the High Street chains as well as a whole array of independent stores that are unique to the city; something I am a massive fan of - support your local! That said, I couldn’t help but pop into the Mulberry factory Shop - not only do they offer fantastic discounts on this luxury brand but they were more than happy to let Nelson into the shop which is a real godsend for me…not necessarily my wallet though as I may have bought a bag or 2 - oops!
Without a doubt, The Shambles is a must-see in York; an ancient street lined with one-off shops in wonky timber-framed buildings that hang over your head as if they’re about to fall down. Once known as The Great Flesh Shambles, the overhanging buildings originally housed 25 butchers until as recently as 1872, but now The Shambles more resembles Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
You can’t visit Britain without popping into a good ol’ fashioned pub or 2, and York has this covered. With more than 365 pubs within its walls, there’s a different pub for each day of the year!
I can recommend the Blue Boar pub; John my wonderful tour guide and now friend runs this pub and I can assure you, you will be made to feel at home instantly by Paige and Gemma behind the bar. If you visit, be sure to check out their Wednesday night quiz for a really fun (and whacky!) evening out.
Your Bike Shed
Situated next door to Micklegate Bar is a perfect place for breakfast before you walk the walls: Your Bike Shed. They were so incredibly friendly, they welcomed Nelson with open arms, and they make the best eggs in town! I ate here every morning!
Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms
Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms has been serving up delciousness since 1939, withstanding the Second World War, it is still a thriving business to this day and a must-visit. The interior is so cute and authentic and be sure to try the scones!
Written by Kelly Convey, Travel Blogger travelling around Britain on behalf of Expedia as the UK Pioneer. Kelly travels to a different location within the UK every week discovering hidden gems and exciting things to do; hoping to inspire others to do the same. More often than not, her bulldog Nelson also tags along for the ride making for even more varied and exciting adventures. Find out all you need to know about travelling to and around Britain with a dog.