I recently spent 3.5 days in the incredible city of York. Here, I give you the full itinerary for my long weekend in York, as well as some extra ideas so you can make the trip truly your own.
I first went to York on a school trip back when I was about 9 years old. A coach full of Year 5 children, we descended on the Jorvik Viking Centre as part of a history project. Even now, I have vivid memories of the strange smells that floated from the museum (more on that later!) and spending my trip money on some replica Roman coins from the gift shop (did anyone else love buying crystallised rocks and replica coins from museum gift shops?!).
York clearly made quite an impression on me and I’ve been back countless times since then. Most recently, we went when I was around 7 months pregnant (anyone looking for a perfect ‘babymoon’ destination? York is strong contender!) and spent 3 and a half days exploring every inch of this beautiful and intriguing city.
- 1 How to get to York
- 2 Where to Stay in York
- 3 A Long Weekend in York – Day One Itinerary
- 4 A Long Weekend in York – Day Two Itinerary
- 5 A Long Weekend in York – Day Three Itinerary
- 6 A Long Weekend in York – Day Four Itinerary
How to get to York
We booked train tickets in advance from thetrainline.com and travelled to York in first class comfort from Liverpool Lime Street. The journey took around 2 and a half hours and we paid ___ for 2 adults. Travelling first class meant that we were certain to get a seat with slightly more room to relax and refreshments such as tea, coffee, crisps, biscuit and soft drinks were included.
From York Station, it takes around 10 minutes to walk to the centre of York and to most of the hotels within the city walls.
If you don’t want to pay the extra for First Class, I’d still recommend reserving a seat so you don’t run the risk of having to stand for the duration of the journey. I’d also suggest nipping into a shop in the station before you leave to stock up on drinks and snacks in case you get peckish en route!
You can of course travel to York by car although be aware that most hotels within the city walls do not have car parking on site. Most hotels will direct you to one of the multi-story car parks within the city, but parking in one of these can set you back over £25 for a 24 hour period.
Getting to York by Car or Train – which is better?
York is such a compact city and if you don’t plan to venture too far from the city walls, there really is no need for a car during your stay. A car may come in handy if you were thinking of planning some day trips outside of York, although even then, there are plenty of tour companies that can provide transport as part of a package. Although I enjoy a road trip and usually love the freedom that having my car provides, in the case of York, I would 100% recommend taking the train.
Where to Stay in York
I like to stay away from large chain hotels and opt for somewhere a bit more personal. For example, I’m a sucker for anywhere shrouded in history or with a story to tell.
If you’re looking for some inspiration on places to stay in York, you can check out my round up of the best quirky and unusual places to stay in York, which includes some great budget options too.
And without further ado, read on for the ultimate guide to a weekend in York!
A Long Weekend in York – Day One Itinerary
We arrived in York late afternoon and, after checking into The Judges Court Hotel, we decided to get straight back out there and start exploring!
Chocolate Lollipop Workshop
York is nicknamed the Chocolate City so a chocolate related activity is a must. We decided to book onto one of the chocolate workshops at The Cocoa House, an independent chocolate shop specialising in its own artisan chocolates.
We got to the York Cocoa House early and spent some time browsing the shop, learning how chocolate is made. All the machinery used to take the cocoa from bean to bar is on display behind large glass windows and the friendly staff will gladly talk you through the process. After spending around 15 minutes in the shop, the temptation all got a bit too much for us and we ended up buying a bar of their special gin infused chocolate – yum!
The workshop itself was good fun, albeit very simple. We donned our stripy aprons and were given the option of making milk, chocolate or dark chocolate lollipops. Chocolate chips were melted with a hairdryer (yep, you read that correctly!) into a plastic food container ready to be mixed with your choice of ingredients to truly make the bar truly your own (I flavoured mine with violet and threw in a load of marshmallows because, yum). The bar was set and ready to take away with us at the end of the workshop.
The Cocoa House has a small café area at the back of the shop selling hot chocolate made with their own delicious chocolate, so of course we stayed to sample it!
Top Tip: Book in advance for this workshop. Despite being a weekday afternoon in March, the class was fully booked.
Website: York Cocoa House
Dinner at The House of Trembling Madness
I love quirky places with bags of character and that’s exactly what The House of Trembling Madness has in bucketloads. Hidden away on the top floor, you have to walk through a shop selling countless bottles of spirits from around the world to find the creaky stairs that lead you up to the small alehouse.
What this place lacks in size, it definitely makes up for in atmosphere. You may have to wait a short while for a table, but there’s plenty of unusual artefacts lining the walls to look at while you wait, and with a large selection of ales (there’re some tasty non alcoholic options) and gins, it might take you that long to decide what you want to drink! Food is simple and delicious – we went for a no fuss pie and mash – and despite it being busy, we didn’t wait too long for our food. Definitely one to visit, even if just for a drink.
Website: House of Trembling Madness
York Ghost Tour
Later that evening, we joined a ghost tour to help us walk off some of the pie and mash. There’s numerous ghost tours on offer but we opted for the Original Ghost Walk, which has apparently been chasing ghouls since 1973. At 8pm, we made our way to the meeting point at The Kings Arm Pub (the famous pub that floods should the water levels of the River Ouse get too high) to meet our guide for the evening.
The walk lasted around 2 hours and was just the right combination of entertaining, chilling and comical. Our guide clearly had a passion for live theatre and his recreation of the stories was so engaging that the two hours flew by.
Ghost walks are a great way to see the city and get your bearings, whilst learning about a different, more sinister side to York’s fascinating history. And at £5 per adult (£4 for children), it couldn’t be better value for money.
Top Tip: There’s quite a lot of standing around so make sure you wrap up warm! Comfortable shoes are a must too.
Website: The Original Ghost Walk of York
A Long Weekend in York – Day Two Itinerary
We rose early, and after setting ourselves up for the day with a tasty breakfast at The Perky Peacock, we made our way to the Jorvik Viking Centre for 10am.
Jorvik Viking Centre
We could smell the Jorvik Viking Centre long before we could see the staff dressed as Vikings standing outside. You see, the Jorvik is different to any other museum in that it tries to offer a fully immersive experience – smells and all!
We were lucky that there was no queue and we were able to walk straight inside without having to wait around. During busier periods (weekends and school holidays) I’m not sure we would have been so lucky so I would consider booking in advance or buying a York Pass.
Without a doubt, the best thing about this museum is the Time Cart – a ride back in time through Viking York. The Time Cart lasts around 30 minutes and is such a unique way of bringing history to life.
Afterwards, in the museum, there are plenty of archaeological finds to browse, many of which relate back to some of the characters you will have met during your time in Viking York. Staff are very approachable and knowledgeable and are happy to enter into discussions or answer any questions. It’s definitely a fun way to learn about the Viking era of York’s history!
We spent around 1.5 hours in The Jorvik Viking Centre.
Website: The Jorvik Viking Centre
If you don’t have a York Pass, it’s fairly expensive to get into the York Minster but in my opinion, it’s definitely worth it. You can pay slightly extra on the day (it’s weather dependant so you can’t book tower tickets in advance) to go up into the tower which promises breath-taking views across the city, but being pregnant, staff advised me against taking the narrow stone, spiral staircase to the top. Never mind, there was still plenty to marvel at within the cathedral itself and down below in the Undercroft Museum.
I’d definitely recommend joining one of the free tours which run Monday – Saturday between 10am and 3pm. I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining and interesting I found this tour and it really did make me appreciate the layers of both social and architectural history that the cathedral represents.
We spent around 2 hours exploring York Minster and the Undercroft Museum.
Website: York Minster
Lunch at The Brew & Brownie
All that culture had made us hungry so we stopped for a bite to eat at The Brew & Brownie. Good coffee and even better brownies (the clue’s in the name!) – this place immediately became a firm favourite.
Turns out I’m not alone in my adoration of The Brew & Brownie; this café gets seriously busy at peak times (lunchtime and weekends). You may end up queuing for a table but if you don’t have time to wait, you can always grab a takeaway and have a picnic in the park or eat on the go!
Website: Brew & Brownie
Walk the City Walls
Feeling fully refreshed, it was time for a brisk walk in the fresh air to help us beat the post lunchtime slump. Luckily for us, York has the perfect walking circuit up on the city walls!
The walk is just shy of 3.5k and takes around 2 hours in total but it’s so easy just do a section at a time if you don’t fancy doing it all at once. Sections of the wall are joined by four bars (gates) and it’s at these points that you can get on and off the wall. However, if you just fancy a rest, Gatehouse Coffee or The Perky Peacock can be found on the walls and are worth a visit.
Walking the walls in an absolute must. Not only is it completely incredible that you’re walking on layers of history spanning from around 71AD, but it’s also a great way to see the city from a higher vantage point. There’s an amazing view of York Minster along the section of the wall towards Mickelgate so get your camera at the ready!
Time for a rest!
All that fresh air had made us tired so we headed back to our hotel – The Judges Court – for a rest before dinner.
Dinner at Sotano
I adore tapas so of course I had to sample some of the tapas York had to offer. Thankfully, Sotano didn’t disappoint.
Tucked away off Little Stonegate, we climbed down the steps and found ourselves underground in a cosy, dimly lit area, rather like a cave. There’s not a huge number of tables so if you’re visiting at a weekend, booking is essential.
There’s a good selection of tapas dishes to choose from ranging from the usual chorizo and patatas bravas to some more unique seafood specials. We ordered a selection of about 6 to start with but couldn’t resist ordering more once we realised just how tasty it was! There’s a good selection of drinks too and the bar staff are more than happy to advise.
Sotano has a really warm and laid back atmosphere and the staff are friendly and helpful. It’s definitely one for your shortlist.
Website: Sotano, York
Walk The Shambles at night
I found it difficult to appreciate The Shambles during the day as it’s always teeming with tourists (of which I am also one – I can see the irony in this!). Visit in the evening however, when the shops are closed and you’ll likely get to see it in all its wonky glory without another person in sight!
I’m not sure if it’s because we’d been on the ghost tour and heard some sinister tales about ghostly sightings on The Shambles, but there’s definitely something deliciously eerie about being there when it’s so quiet. Take your time and soak in all that history. There really is nowhere else quite like it.
A Long Weekend in York – Day Three Itinerary
We got up early again ready to make the most of the day. Choosing to go for breakfast in Mannion and Co, we weren’t disappointed with our decision. The fresh bread is just so good it’s worth the trip alone. Stuffed full of eggs, spinach and the delicious bread, we were ready to seize the day!
Website: Mannion & Co
Clifford’s Tower is almost all that remains of York Castle and offers incredible views across the city of York. It’s looked after by English Heritage which means there is an entrance fee to pay unless you happen to be a member or have a York Pass.
As neither members of English Heritage or holders of a York Pass, we decided to just take advantage of the views from the steps of Clifford’s Tower without paying to enter inside. The views are still pretty good and you can get decent photos of the tower from the bottom. We spent around 20 minutes here before heading off to cruise the River Ouse in a little red boat.
Website: Clifford’s Tower
Hire a Little Red Boat
We decided to take advantage of the pleasant, sunny spring day and hire a self-drive little red boat and cruise up and down the River Ouse. The boats are incredibly easy to drive – just make sure you steer clear of the bigger cruise boats coming in the opposite direction!
We hired our boat for an hour and thoroughly enjoyed tootling along at a leisurely pace, peering in envy at the beautiful houses that line the river. On a nice day, this is such a lovely activity to do and it gives your feet a rest from walking everywhere. Make sure you lookout for the Two Hoots Ice Cream boat and stop off to buy a tasty treat!
Top Tip: In peak season, there can be a long wait for a little red boat. Beat the queues and book your boat in advance!
Have a drink on the River Ouse
There’s a few places to choose from, but we liked the look of Dyls with outdoor seating right on the edge of the river. We decided to make the most of the spring sunshine and take a seat outside, sipping our drinks and enjoying the view of the river.
It’s not just one for the sunny days either. Dyls is still worth a visit even if the weather isn’t so good. Housed within a little stone round house, the seating areas inside are cosy and intimate. If you’re looking for somewhere a little bit different then it’s definitely one you need to check out.
Website: Dyls, York
Stop for a snack
We’d eaten so much at breakfast that we hadn’t really felt the need to stop for lunch. That all changed however, when we heard about The York Roast Co and we knew we couldn’t possibly leave York without sampling its speciality!
The York Roast Co. speciality is an entire roast dinner, trimmings and all, served wrapped up in a giant Yorkshire Pudding. It’s more than a snack – it’s an entire meal in itself! I wasn’t all that hungry for a savoury snack but, not wanting to miss out, Steffan reluctantly gave me a few bites of his. If you like a roast dinner (and let’s face who doesn’t?!), you’ll definitely want to give it a try!
Website: The York Roast Co
One of the reasons I didn’t want an entire Yorkshire Pudding to myself was that I was saving myself for LICC – a very coincidental acronym for the Luxury Ice Cream Company.
I imagine this place is packed in the summer months so expect queues outside the door if you visit during the hot weather! The only problem? With over 150 ice cream flavours and a huge selection of toppings, it may take you a while to choose which one you want!
Website: LICC, York
Wander the streets of York
If there’s one thing you have to do in York, it’s to simply go for a wander. We spent a good hour in the afternoon just walking the streets, getting lost in the snickelways and gazing upwards to spot quirky features like the little red devil. It’s also a good time to visit some independent shops like the weird and wonderful Imaginarium on Blake Street or browse inside one of the second hand bookshops.
Top Tip: If you want more structure to your wanderings, you can collect a map for the York Cat Trail from York Glass on The Shambles. Or if it’s the snickelways you want to explore in detail, you can actually buy a book all about these intriguing passageways and where to find them.
Dinner at The Duke of York
After a couple of hours rest back at The Judges Court Hotel, we made our way out to have dinner at The Duke of York. We’d passed this restaurant so many times during our stay and had been intrigued by the way the old building so obviously leaned to one side!
Venturing inside the wonky structure, the décor inside wasn’t as quirky and unique as I’d been hoping given its outside appearance. Despite this, food was lovely and we tucked into a tasty three course meal to mark our last night in this incredible city.
Website: Duke of York
A Long Weekend in York – Day Four Itinerary
Despite having a train to catch later in the day, we were determined not to waste our last precious few hours in York and packed as much in as possible!
Free Walking Tour
There are a number of free (and paid for) walking tours that you can do in York. If you choose a free one, be aware that they can vary greatly in the quality of the tour. Our tour lasted around 2 hours and covered all the main sights of York. Although our guide clearly knew her stuff, the way information was presented was a little rushed and difficult to follow in parts.
Top Tip: Consider doing a walking tour on your first day instead as it will help you get your bearings and provide you with a general overview of the city’s history. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an option for us as this tour wasn’t running until our last day.
We’d been to The Railway Museum before on a previous visit to York so we didn’t need a great deal of time here. If you’ve never been before, I would suggest allocating at least an hour to browse as it’s surprisingly fun – even for a non train enthusiast! It’s a good place to end your trip to York if you’re leaving on the train as the museum is right next to the railway station.
The main reason we were here however, was to experience a very special afternoon tea aboard the Countess of York, a lovingly restored old fashioned first class train carriage. It really was like entering into a bygone era; a throwback to the times when tea on trains was served in silver teapots and attentive waiters tended to your every need.
The Countess of York is stationed within The Railway Museum and, if you want to visit for afternoon tea, booking in advance is a must!
Home Time & Final Thoughts on a Long Weekend in York
That just about wraps up how we spent our time in York and it’s safe to say, we had an absolutely amazing time.
As you’ll know if you’ve read the bumper guide to everything there is to do in York, there are many ways you could spend a few days in this incredible city. There really is so much to do that we could easily come back for another 3 days and spend our time doing completely different activities.
My top tip would be to plan in advance what you want to do in York so that you’re not wasting any valuable time in this incredible city deciding on your activities when you get here. Trust me when I say you’ll thank yourself for all that forward planning once you arrive!
Have you spent a weekend in York? What did you get up to? Let me know in the comments!