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A Day Trip to York – The Perfect One Day Itinerary

by Helen
view of York Minster from York walls

It’s very easy to spend a few days in York and still not cover everything there is to do. But if a day trip to York is all you have time for, then I’m here to help you scratch as far beneath the surface as you can manage. Read on to discover a perfect one day York itinerary to suit every budget.

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

There are so many things to do in York that it can be difficult to know where to start at the best of times. So what if you only have one day to get acquainted with this incredible city? How can you be sure you’ll get a flavour of York in just a few short hours? Is it even worth the effort?

Being a very compact city, it’s still 100% worth your while taking a day trip to York. You may not be able to fit in everything you want to do so you’re going to have to be very selective….either that or visit The Potion Room on The Shambles and create a spell to make time stand still (the jury’s still out on this one – I can’t promise this will actually work!).

HOW TO PLAN A DAY TRIP TO YORK

The centre of York is enclosed within its historic city walls – the most complete medieval city walls in England no less! You won’t have to travel outside of these city walls to enjoy the best that York has to offer, so you don’t have to worry about getting in a taxi or driving anywhere to create the perfect one day York itinerary.

It’s easy to have a great day trip to York without spending a huge amount of money. It’s even entirely possible to create a one day York itinerary that doesn’t cost a penny (except for your food and drink of course).

So, what does the perfect one day York itinerary include? How can you make sure you pack in as much as possible on your day trip to York?

Read on to discover 3 different options for one day York itineraries. There is something here to suit every budget! Don’t feel you have to do them in the order they’re presented – you can mix it up as you go along and do whatever suits you best!

If you’d like to plan your own one day York itinerary, or you just want to see what else there is to do in this amazing city, then check out this guide!

view of york minster over parks and gardens
Beautiful green spaces in York
Image by Jim Brewin from Pixabay

A DAY TRIP TO YORK – OPTION ONE (Budget: £££)

This is the most expensive one day York itinerary.

Cost of all activities for one adult: £45 (plus food and drink)

This itinerary is for those who’d like to make the most of York’s incredible museums and interactive exhibitions.

The museums in York have been very cleverly created. Forget stuffy glass cases and boring placards – York’s museums really bring history to life and provide a fully immersive experience into a bygone era.

The only downside to York’s museums is that there is a charge to get into almost all of them. For this reason, I recommend you look into getting the York City Pass if you want to follow this itinerary.

I’ve chosen a few of my favourite museums and exhibitions for this one day York itinerary, but you might take a look at the list of what’s on offer with the York City Pass and decide you’d prefer to do something a little different. That’s ok! Like I mentioned, York is quite a small city so you won’t be walking very far between any of the attractions. You can pretty much pick and mix as you please.

TimeActivity
Before you arriveBuy the York City Pass online. If you choose the mobile version of the card, there is no need to go and pick it up at York Visitor Centre on arrival, saving you valuable minutes!
08:30You’ll want to make the most of your time in York so arrive early! Take a walk around the city walls whilst you wait for the city to wake up. Admire the stunning views as you catch your first glimpse of the historic town.
09:45Stop for some breakfast (I’ve left a link to some recommendations at the end of this post). I’d recommend getting takeout so you can make your way straight to your first activity.
10:00Visit Jorvik Viking Centre. You’ll need about 1.5 hours here.
11:30Make your way around the corner to The Chocolate Story. This attraction takes approximately 1 hour.
12:45Stop for some lunch. Refer back to the cafes and coffee shop guide to help you decide where to go.
14:00Head to York Minster. You’ll likely want to spend around 1.5 – 2 hours here. There is a free tour available which takes around 40 minutes. I found it really interesting and learnt some fun facts about the building.
16:00Hop aboard the York City Sightseeing Bus. If you want to take the whole tour it lasts around 60 minutes. You’ll want to hop off at Clifford’s Tower to enjoy the next part of the itinerary…
17:00Hop off the York City Sightseeing Bus at Clifford’s Tower. Enjoy the views from the top and spend some time in the museum. Clifford’s Tower closes at 18:00 during the spring/summer months but the last admission is 17:30 so you’ve got just enough time to squeeze this one in!
18:00Make your way back into town. The York City Sightseeing Bus won’t be running after 17:30 but it’s only a short walk. Pass through The Shambles on your way back into town. The shops will be closed or closing but I think this is the best time to visit. You’ll be able to appreciate this quirky little street more without the crowds to spoil your experience.
18:20Depending on what time you have to leave York, you could go for a drink in one of York’s many pubs, or go for a bite to eat before you head home. For something to eat, I recommend The House of Trembling Madness or The Guy Fawkes Inn.
20:00What are you still doing here?! If you do still find yourself in York at this time, join one of the ghost tours (I enjoyed The Original Ghost Walk). They last around 1.5 – 2 hours.
view of York Minster against blue skies from the ground up
York Minster

A DAY TRIP TO YORK – OPTION TWO (Budget: ££)

This is a mid-range option for a one day York itinerary.

Cost of all activities for one adult: from £24 (plus food and drink)

This one day York itinerary is for those who like to visit a couple of the main attractions but also like to take some time soaking up the atmosphere of a place.

Once again, I’ve chosen a few of my favourite museums and exhibitions for this one day York itinerary, but you might take a look at some of the other activities on offer and decide you’d rather do one of those instead. That’s certainly very doable – you don’t have to stick to the attractions I’ve recommended here. Feel free to pick and choose as you wish!

TimeActivity
08:30Arrive early so you can make the most of your time in York! Whilst you wait for the city to wake up, take a walk around the city walls. Admire the stunning views as you catch your first glimpse of the historic town.
09:45Stop for a coffee and some breakfast. I’ve left a link to some cafe and coffee shops recommendations at the end of this post.
10:30Take a walking tour around York. Walking Tours are a great way to see the city and really get a feel for a place.   This tour which combines a walking tour with entrance to York Minster is a great option as you’ll get to explore the inside of the Minster with your guide too. You can stay in the Minster after the tour has finished if you want some extra time to explore this incredible building.  

A cheaper alternative would be to download a GPS audio walking tour to your phone. You can do this entirely at your own pace, but done in one go it should take around 1 hour 15 minutes. You can then pay separately for your entrance to York Minster and still have plenty of time to look around.  

A cheaper option still would be to take a free walking tour and then pay separately for your ticket to York Minster. Be aware that most free walking tours are approximately 2 hours long so you might need to adjust your timings a little if you still want to fit everything in. Oh, and be sure to have some cash on you to tip your guide!
13:00Stop for some lunch. I’ve linked to some of my favourite cafes and coffee shops at the end of this post.
14:00Visit Jorvik Viking Centre. You’ll need about 1.5 hours here.
15:30Head to the National Railway Museum and have a look around. This is a free museum is actually way more fun than it sounds. I really enjoyed looking around here and I would by no means class myself as a train enthusiast!
16:30If you need to catch a train home then you’re in the perfect location – the train station is just a short walk away. If not, you can head back into the main part of town and go for a drink or a bite to eat.
17:00Explore York’s pub scene. There are over 365 so you’re pretty spoilt for choice! Check out some of the haunted pubs such as The Golden Fleece and let me know if you see any spooky figures lurking behind the bar….
18:00If you’ve got time, go check out The Shambles now. It’ll be much quieter than during the day and you’ll be able to get some great photos.
18:30Well if you’re still here, you may as well stay for some food! My favourite options are The House of Trembling Madness or The Guy Fawkes Inn or, if you fancy some tapas, head to Sotano. Go on….. you know you want to!
20:00Are you ever going home? If you’re still in York, go find one of the ghost tours (I enjoyed The Original Ghost Walk). and enjoy being spooked before your journey home.
Helen standing on the steps leading up to Clifford's Tower
Clifford’s Tower

A DAY TRIP TO YORK OPTION THREE (Budget: £)

This is a budget option for a one day York itinerary.

Cost of all activities for one adult: FREE! £0! Nada!

Your only expense will be what you choose to spend on food and drink.

This one day York itinerary is for those who are on a strict budget but still want to get a good flavour of this fascinating historic city.

Luckily, choosing to take a day trip to York on a budget isn’t difficult as there are plenty of free things to do in York. I’ve made suggestions here for what I think would help you get a good overall feel for York, but feel free to mix this up a bit with your own ideas if you’d prefer.

TimeActivity
08:30Arrive early so you can make the most of your day trip to York! Start the day by walking up on the city walls. Admire the stunning views as you watch the city wake up around you.
09:45Stop for a coffee and a snack. If you’re strictly on a budget, you might even have brought some refreshments with you! Head over to the Museum Gardens to enjoy your picnic.
10:10Take a free walking tour of York. There is an expectation with most of the free walking tours available that you will give a donation at the end. However, the Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York stress on their website that a tip is not expected at the end of their tours. Tours start at 10:15, so get there around 5 minutes early to make sure you don’t miss the start. There is no need to book. Check the website for details regarding where the tour starts.
12:15Head over to the York Cocoa House – an independent chocolate shop – and gaze through the windows at the chocolate workshop. The shop does offer some free samples of their delicious chocolate although be warned, you will be seriously tempted to buy!
12:45Now that you’ve got your bearings, spend some time wandering the streets of York and take it all in. Spend some time exploring the snickelways and taking some incredible photos. Head to Blake Street and Fossgate and browse some quirky independent shops.   If you want a bit more structure to your wanderings, you can follow The York Cat Trail. Download a copy of the map here or pick up a copy from York Glass on The Shambles.
13:30You must be hungry after all that walking. Stop for some refreshments. Either head to a café (I’ve linked to some recommendations at the end of this post) or take your picnic to Dean’s Park and admire the views of York Minster as you tuck in.
14:00Walk off your lunch with a leisurely stroll along the River Ouse. It’s a nice easy walk and a bit of a change of pace from the bust centre of York.
14:45Enjoy the view from the top of Clifford’s Tower. You have to pay to enter, but you can climb the steps for free!
15:00Start making your way to the National Railway Museum. This is one of the only free museums in York and is actually a really fun place to spend an hour or so!
16:00If you need to catch a train home then you’re just a hop skip and a jump away from the main railway station. If you’ve got a bit more time, you can head back into York and continue your wandering.
17:30Can I tempt you with a drink in one of York’s 365+ pubs? It won’t be free of course, but it’ll be worth it!
18:00If you’re still in York, head over to The Shambles. It’s a lot more atmospheric once all the tourists have left for the day and is a perfect time to take photos.
18:30If you’re staying for some food before you head home, I recommend The House of Trembling Madness or The Guy Fawkes Inn.

MORE THINGS TO DO IN YORK

If you want to see what other activities are on offer in York, I recommend starting with my bumper guide to York. This covers things to do in York to suit all ages and budgets (including lots of free ideas!).

If you need some food and drink inspiration, check out this guide to my favourite independent cafes and coffee shops!

HOW TO GET TO YORK

If you’re coming on a day trip to York, I would recommend getting the train and leaving your car at home. The train station is so central and it’s only a short walk (around 7 – 10 minutes) until you’re in the thick of it all.

If you do decide to bring your car, there are some multi-storey car parks in the city centre. They can be quite pricey so it’s worth seeing if you can save any money by booking your parking space in advance.

Take the stress out of planning and check out this day trip to York from Manchester! This option includes your return train ticket plus your York City Pass.

Travelling from London? This option might be good for you!

WHERE TO STAY IN YORK

If you need overnight accommodation then York has a wide range of options. You can check prices and availability for York hotels here and here.

Don’t forget to read the reviews on TripAdvisor before you book!

A DAY TRIP TO YORK – WHAT WILL YOU DO?

I hope this has helped you plan your own perfect day trip to York. With some careful planning, you can have an incredible time!

What will you do on your day in York? Drop me a message and let me know!

Looking for a perfect one day York Itinerary? Here are my top picks for a one day York itinerary to suit every budget! #york #yorkshire #visityork
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