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A perfect weekend in York

York Walls and Minster - Credit: VisitEngland

Fresh from a lovely weekend away in York, here is our guide to a fantastic few days in this beautiful and historic city…


Betty's Tea Rooms, York - Credit: VisitEngland/Diana Jarvis

York has plenty of fine-dining restaurants that are perfect for celebrating a special occasion or just enjoying an indulgent meal out. However, if you fancy trying something different and want in on a local favourite, book a table at Korean restaurant, Oshibi. Run by a husband and wife team and located just off trendy Fossgate, this cosy eatery is a real gem. Order bibimbap and dumplings from the kitchen or opt for the Korean BBQ (where you grill your own meat on a hotplate at your table) for a fun and different dining experience.

For afternoon tea in York there is only one place to go: Bettys. A local institution, these historic tea rooms have been serving up pies, pastries, scones and sandwiches for nearly 100 years. Make sure to book ahead unless you fancy a long wait in the queue downstairs – testament to the establishment’s enduring popularity. Celebrating? Choose the Champagne Tea in the elegant Belmont Rooms and you won’t be disappointed. Make sure to let your waiter know the occasion and you’ll even get a little sweet treat to take away.

No weekend away in the UK would be complete without a classic Sunday lunch. While a traditional roast is a staple in most UK pubs, a truly great Sunday dinner is rarer than you might think. Luckily, we’ve found one of the best for you in York. Serving up the Sunday lunch of your dreams in the shadow of York Minster is the Guy Fawkes Inn. This Medieval inn is located on the site of Guy Fawkes’ birth – the infamous conspirator was born here in 1570, 35 years before he would attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the failed Gunpowder Plot. Still lit by gaslight and candles, the inn certainly maintains its historic character and provides an atmospheric setting for a delicious dinner. Tuck in to mouth-watering roast beef, pork or chicken with all the trimmings, including fantastic gravy and some of the best mash we’ve ever tasted! Vegetarians need not worry as the luxury nut roast is a real treat. It goes without saying that the Yorkshire puddings were excellent.


York Minster - Credit: VisitEngland/Richard J Jones

Of course, there is a whole host of things to see and do in York – train spotters mustn’t miss the National Railway Museum and history buffs will love the Jorvik Viking Museum – but here are just a few of our favourites…

Take a stroll around the city walls, it’s a great way to get your bearings and you get fantastic views of the city thrown in. The majority of the walls in their current form were built to encircle the Medieval city between the 12th and 14th centuries. However, parts of the walls date back to the occupation by the Danes in 867AD and even further to the original Roman fort founded around 71AD. Head to the lovely Museum Gardens to see the Multangular Tower, the most intact structure that remains of the original Roman walls.  

To the south of the city centre, atop a hill in between York’s two rivers (the Ouse and the Foss), is Clifford’s Tower. This tower is all that is left of the motte and bailey castle built here by William the Conqueror in 1068. The tower has a long, complex and sometimes horrifying history; take the climb up to the top to learn about the castle’s role in the city’s story and enjoy spectacular views of the city – on a clear day you can even see as far as the North York Moors in the distance. NB: Sufferers of vertigo may want to sit this one out as the climb is quite steep. Take a look around the Castle Museum instead, which is located right next to the tower – at ground level!

By now, if you’ve strolled along the city walls and made the climb up Clifford’s Tower, you’ll have already seen the magnificent York Minster from afar. Time for a closer look! Work began on this spectacular cathedral around 1080 but it wasn’t completed until 1472. In fact, even toady, a team of expert stonemasons works year-round to maintain and restore the centuries-old architecture. More conservation work is carried out to preserve the cathedral’s beautiful Medieval stained glass, which is the largest collection in the UK, its oldest pieces dating back to the 12th century. The Minster’s breath-taking Great East Window is the largest single expanse of stained glass in the country and since 2014 has been protected by revolutionary UV resistant glazing. One of England’s finest Gothic cathedrals, a visit to York Minster is an absolute must for all newcomers to the city.


The Shambles, York - Credit: VisitEngland

Aside from the Minster, The Shambles is arguable the most famous spot in York. This narrow lane of overhanging timber-framed buildings is one of the best-preserved Medieval streets in the world, with many of its shops dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The quaint street is said to have been J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley (the famous wizarding high street in the author’s phenomenal series) and Harry Potter-themed shops have popped up in The Shambles to bring a taste of magic to muggle shoppers. The street is also home to a dazzling Christmas store and a whole array of charming shops selling everything from tea to jewellery and sweet treats – it’s a great place to pick up unique souvenirs and gifts.

We also recommend taking a gander at the stylish boutiques to be found in the streets about the cathedral. If retail therapy is your thing, you can spend hours browsing in the high-end fashion and cosmetics stores in this picturesque area. One final tip for the book-lovers out there: don’t miss the fantastic Minster Gate Book Shop, it’s an absolute treasure of a find – just make sure you’ve got room in your luggage for all your lovely new books!

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