If you are planning a trip to England, then you really do need to plan to spend at least 1 day in York. It’s one of the most fascinating cities in England due to its history. This history is kept alive through the astonishing preservation of its buildings, streets, and shops. It is also one of our favourite places in England, where you feel that after your day trip to York, like you have been walking around in a Harry Potter book. Here is our day in York itinerary to help you plan your own visit to this historic city.
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- Some Background on York
- Is a Day in York enough?
- When to plan your day trip to York?
- One day in York- Getting there
- Day trip to York – must have items
- Getting around during your day in York
- York in a day- Things to do
- York Day trip- An Itinerary
- Eating during your day trip to York
- Romantic things to add to your day in York
- How much money for a day trip to York
- Tips for planning your day trip to York
- Do I need the York City Pass for my day trip to York?
- So should I do a day trip to York?
Some Background on York
Before we get to our top tips for spending a day in York, here is a little bit of background on the city.
York is located in the North of England, in the county of North Yorkshire. It’s had a long and gruesome history which includes ancient Romans and Viking settlements.
The city was founded by the Romans in about 71 AD, and it’s city walls are still in relatively good condition. It also has a 13th Century gothic cathedral, York Minster, with two functioning bell towers.
Over 8 million tourists visit York every year, and it’s honestly not hard to see why. It’s filled with incredible attractions, ancient architecture, quirky shops, and great food. Oh and it is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in Europe with over 500 hauntings recorded here.
Is a Day in York enough?
You might be wondering if a day in York is enough? In all honesty you can cover a lot of ground and see a lot on a day trip to York. York is relatively small, and fortunately a lot of the tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other.
That being said if you do have the time then 2 days is probably ideal. This gives you more time to see all the attractions, and more importantly (in our opinion anyway!) a chance to explore the pubs and chow down on some traditional pub grub. You can also do a spooky evening ghost tour!
When to plan your day trip to York?
When you only have a day in York, you obviously want to visit when the weather is at its best. June to September is great because the days are brighter and the weather is warmer not to mention drier. This is perfect especially because you will want to do a lot of walking and exploring.
If winter is your only chance to visit don’t be put off as you can still plan an exciting day trip to York. There are a number of museums to visit if it is raining, and you can always warm up in a nice cosy pub. Also there is something a little more atmospheric about visiting York on a cold foggy day.
One thing that we would say is avoid planning your day in York over the summer school holidays (August). It does get really busy and can be hard to get in to certain restaurants. If you are visiting at this time though, make sure you book attractions in advance. And if you are wanting to visit any restaurants again book these in advance.
We should also add that if you are planning a day trip to York, you might be best trying to plan this mid week instead of a weekend. Weekends in York get really busy, and you will find yourself having to wait for tables at restaurants, and tourist attractions.
Wondering when the best and worst time to visit England is as a whole? Here is a helpful guide.
One day in York- Getting there
The easiest way to get to York is by train. We travelled from Manchester to York and it was approximately 1 and a half hours each way. From Manchester there are several regular trains throughout the day. Make sure you book in advance to get the cheapest fares.
If your day trip to York is being planned as part of a UK road trip, driving to York is relatively easy. It is located pretty much in the middle of London and Edinburgh, making it accessible from most major UK cities.
If you are driving, the York park and ride options are probably the best to save you from having to drive into York city centre. There are a number of places you can go and park your car, and then hop on a bus into York centre.
For more information you can have a look at the following website. We’ve done a day trip to York quite a few times and this is worth it if you are driving. The buses are pretty frequent and it saves you the hassle of navigating the small streets of York.
Day trip to York – must have items
For the perfect day trip to York here are our recommendations of must have items to bring with you.
- Decent walking shoes. With cobbled streets, and long scenic walks around the city walls you will need a good pair of shoes when you visit.
- Sun cream in the summer – especially if you plan to walk a lot.
- Rainwear – unfortunately it does rain quite a bit in England
- A good jacket, ideally rainproof.
- A portable phone charger- trust us you will take that many photos you will need it!
- A decent day bag for carrying essentials.
Getting around during your day in York
York is a pretty walkable city, so the best way to get around during your day in York is to walk. Most of the main attractions are in the centre, and walking is perfect because you get to experience the cobbled back streets, and soak in all the sights and sounds of the city.
Another good option is to go for a hop on hop off bus tour. Tickets are valid for 24 hours and the bus stops at all the main sights. Also you get the advantage of seeing York from the top of a double decker bus, and with a knowledgeable guide. Tickets can be purchased online in advance.
York in a day- Things to do
Here are some of the top things to do during your York day trip. It is certainly possible to do most things on the list during your day in York, just make sure you wear some decent shoes because your feet will get tired.
You cannot visit York without visiting this architectural beauty. York Minster is the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. It was completed in 1472 which is a fact so mind boggling to think about, particularly when you are standing on the cathedral floor looking at the intricacy of the building.
Admission to York Minster is £10 but if you pay an extra £5 you also get to visit the tower. Just be warned it’s a long walk with 275 stairs, and very little space to rest. If you do make it to the top though you will be rewarded with an incredible view. That is of course once you have caught your breath.
If you want to know more about York Minster but in particular York Minster Tower then we have a blog post especially for you.
York City Walls
When planning a day trip to York one of the highlights has to the city walls. Dating back to Roman times they were used to defend the city from attack. York has more walls intact than any other city in England, although the walls have had substantial changes made to them since Roman times.
The walls visible today are estimated to have replaced the Roman walls in the 14th century. If you wanted to walk the entire length this would take around 2 hours. If you are pressed for time we recommend walking between Bootham Bar and Monk Bar. You get some amazing views of York Minster as well as a chance to look at some amazing gardens.
No day trip to York is complete without a visit to The Shambles. This is probably the busiest street in York and it is not hard to see why. The picturesque buildings dating back to the 15th century appear to lean over the cobbled streets to almost meet in the middle.
Historically the street was filled with butchers shops and houses. Now though you will find some quirky shops and bakeries. It’s a beautiful place to walk around, although it is best enjoyed at a slow pace.
The York Dungeon
The York Dungeon is a great way to learn all about the history of York, in a more interactive way. You will journey through over 2000 years of York’s history from Vikings, to highwaymen and even learn about Guy Fawkes and his famous gunpowder plot.
I’m someone who is pretty much scared of their own shadow so this tour is not for me at all. You go between rooms and actors jump out at certain times adding a more thrilling experience. For me it’s terrifying, for others it’s fun – so if you aren’t scared go for it. You can book your tickets here, and be prepared to be scared!
York River Cruise
A river cruise is a unique way to see York. The tour usually lasts about an hour, and it allows you view the city in style whilst cruising up the River Ouse. You will learn all about the sights, with the onboard commentary, and there is also a bar so you can chill out whilst learning all about York. The cruise is really popular so do book your tickets online in advance.
The Golden Fleece
If you are like us then you probably don’t need an excuse to go to the pub on holiday. The really cool thing about the Golden Fleece though is that it was built on stilts without any real foundations. Which explains the strange angles and nooks when you enter the pub. Oh and did I mention it is also the most haunted pub in York?
The Golden Fleece dates back to 1503 and there have allegedly been several ghost sightings. Thankfully we didn’t spy anything supernatural during our visit. It is a very small pub so it can be hard to get a table to sip your pint. There is also a restaurant out the back that serves your basic pub style lunches.
Built upon a large mound York Castle or Clifford’s Tower has had its share of brutal and bloody history. These days you can climb to the viewing platform and get some amazing views of York and especially of York Minster. It is also a lot less strenuous of a climb than York Minster so if you are looking for an alternative then this is a must visit.
York Museum Gardens
Another must on your York day trip is to take a leisurely walk around the museum gardens. Located in the surrounds of the medieval ruins of St Mary’s Abbey the gardens are at their best in Spring when the flowers are in full bloom.
National Rail Museum
A day in York is not complete without a visit to the National Rail Museum. Entry to the museum is free, and it brilliantly tells the story of rail travel in Britain. From peeking inside the carriages of royalty to observing the history of British rail, I have to admit this museum is actually kind of cool. It is also very conveniently located next to the train station so it’s a great place to visit before getting the train back to wherever you need to go.
York Cat Trail
One of the quirkiest things I noticed about York were the statues of cats located on some of the buildings. You can pick up a guide at the Cat Gallery shop, which as you can probably guess is a shop devoted solely to our feline friends. Cats have played a big part in York’s history and if you look carefully you will find 18 of them dotted around the city. It’s actually a fun way to explore some of the streets of York.
So this one might be more suited to those of you that have more than a day in York. If you are staying the night make sure you get yourself booked on a York City ghost tour. There are so many to choose from, and whilst they can be a little spooky they are also really interesting too. You get to learn about the history of York, as well as gaining an insight into some of the more gruesome stories of the past. You even have an option to do a ghost bus tour.
Jorvik Viking Centre
York has a very rich viking history and the best place to learn about this is the Jorvik Viking Centre. It’s essentially a museum that explains the viking history of York, and is very education for adults and children alike.
York Chocolate Story
One of our favourite things about York, is the fact that it has such a strong connection to chocolate. If you want to learn all about the founding confectionery families, sample some chocolate, and learn all about how chocolate is made – the York Chocolate Story is for you.
There are also several different chocolate making classes you can do in the city through various providers. So if you want to make your own chocolate on your day trip to York you are in luck.
York Day trip- An Itinerary
Here is a sample itinerary for your day in York to help you plan your own trip.
Once you arrive in York we recommend visiting York Minster as early as possible. It can get really busy and particularly if you are looking to climb to the top you will need to book this for an allocated time. Once you are done head over to Bootham Bar and walk the city walls to Monk Bar. Spend the remainder of the morning exploring The Shambles and grab some lunch here. After lunch make sure you stop by the Golden Fleece for a quick drink before continuing your day.
After lunch take a walk to Cliffords Tower to enjoy the views of the city from here. Once you are done head back towards The Shambles and grab some afternoon tea. Keep an eye out for the Cat Trail along the way and see if you can spot any statues. Take a walk to the Museum Gardens for a bit of a stroll before heading to the National Rail Museum. The good thing about the museum is that it is so close to the train station, so a great place to end your York day trip.
Eating during your day trip to York
If you are lover of comfort food you will absolutely love York. Food is honestly one of the best things about any day trip to York.
For starters you can walk around The Shambles and stumble upon fish and chips, roast pork rolls, Yorkshire puddings, as well as bakeries with fresh sourdough and earl grey teacakes.
We also stumbled upon a bakery that sold the most exquisite brownies we have ever tasted. It was definitely much needed energy after all the walking and climbing. Like I said before York is a comfort foodies paradise and you will certainly find something delicious during your day in York.
You cannot do a day trip to York without having some afternoon tea. There are several tea houses in York with the most popular being Betty’s. It is somewhat an institution in these parts with people lining up in the street to get a table. You are best off trying for Betty’s mid week as there are less crowds.
Betty’s is a real British tea experience, and you can choose some delicious desserts to go with your hot brew. The desserts are so indulgent and mouthwatering, so do give them a try.
Tea and Scones
If your plans for Betty’s fails never fear because there are a number of quirky tea houses in York. A lot of independent traders do tea and scones, and other sweet treats, so make sure you have a good look around. Seriously what could be more British than sipping tea whilst munching on some home made scones?
Romantic things to add to your day in York
If you are lucky enough to be visiting York with your significant other here are some of the more romantic things to add to your day in York.
Evening River Cruise
An evening river cruise is definitely one of the more romantic things to add to your day in York. Not only do you get to experience York from a different perspective but you can sail along the River Ouse with floodlights guiding you along. You also get a glass of Prosecco to add to the fun.
Self drive boat ride
Another slightly more romantic thing to add to your day in York is to book a self drive boat trip down the River Ouse. If you want to spice it up a bit you can pack yourself a picnic to nibble on as you enjoy the city sights from the water.
How much money for a day trip to York
You might be wondering how much money you will need for your day trip to York. Overall we think York is one of the more expensive cities in the UK, although it is still cheaper than London. The county of Yorkshire is generally a cheaper part of the country, but prices in York are higher due to the booming tourist trade.
In terms of spending money you should budget around £100 per person for a day in York. This will include tourist attractions, food and drink, and souvenirs. This price will of course increase or decrease based on your own spending habits.
You probably won’t need accommodation if you are only spending a day in York, but in case you do, expect to pay somewhere between £120 – £150 per night. This is for mid range accommodation located in the centre of York.
Tips for planning your day trip to York
Here are some final tips for planning your day in York.
- Dress for the weather, and be prepared for rain!
- Book tours in advance particularly during peak season.
- Also book any restaurants in advance including Betty’s.
- York is pretty walkable but make sure you have decent shoes.
- Double check if there are any horse races on before you go as it will be crowded.
Do I need the York City Pass for my day trip to York?
If you are planning to visit a lot of museums, and do a hop on, hop off bus tour than it might be worth splurging and buying a York City Pass. This is particularly useful if you are spending a full 24 hours in York. The pass gives you options to visit museums and attractions such as York Minster, York Dungeon, Castle Howard & The North York Moors Railway.
If it is just a day trip to York that you are planning the pass may not be economical – but you can have a look at the link below for more information to see if this will be useful for your day trip to York.
So should I do a day trip to York?
Hopefully you have read this article and you have no doubt about whether you should do a day trip to York. But here is a friendly recap.
York is such a magical city, and it really is somewhere you have to visit if you are in England. It’s one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the country, and it will enchant you from the moment you step foot in it.
If you do only have a day in York you can see a lot as long as you plan it right. Book your activities in advance, and make sure you have a plan in terms of what you want to see.
We hope you enjoy your day trip to York.
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