For me, York feels like coming home. Yes, I lived close to the city when I was little, visited multiple times and now one of my closest friends lives up there. But it’s more than that.
Maybe it’s the beauty. Maybe it’s the history. Maybe it’s the wonderful yet indecipherable Northern accent.
I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something in the spirit of the city that will always keep me coming back.
York is, and always will be my absolute favourite.
In case you haven’t realised, I’m a major Harry Potter nerd. Part of why I visited Oxford was to take part in some Harry Potter tourism. And the same goes for York.
The Shambles is a street in York which is credited as the inspiration for the famous fictional street, Diagon Alley. And it’s easy to see the resemblance.
The Shambles is literally a shambles (an absolute mess). The narrow street is lined by mismatched buildings of all different shapes and sizes, which seem poised to fall into the cobbled street below at any moment.
The Shambles definitely plays up the Harry Potter connection. There’s no less than THREE Harry Potter themed shops scattered down the street, my personal favorite being The Shop Which Must Not Be Named.
However, if you’re not a huge fan of with wizarding world (WHY NOT??) you’ll find a wonderfully random array of shops down this alleyway too. You will find everything from year-round Christmas decorations, all kinds of tea, and a new shop which sells little colourful handmade ghosts!
York's city walls
York’s historic city walls are an amazing free attraction to be enjoyed throughout the year. Since Roman times, the city of York has been surrounded by a defensive wall. Today, large portions of the wall still remain and offer the perfect way to see the city.
On those rare warm, Sunday afternoons they can be busy, but if you aren’t in a rush, it’s worth the traffic jams on the stairs! Along the walls, you’ll get wonderful views of The Minster, the gardens of the beautiful Treasurer’s House and other locations around the city. If you wander the wall’s path for long enough you’ll encounter the four gatehouses which have been key exits and entrances from the city throughout its history. At one of the four gatehouses, Monks Bar, you’ll also find the Richard III Experience – a close look at the life of the final Plantagenet king.
The museums of York
York almost has too much history. This becomes particularly clear when you take a look at the endless museums found in the historic city. But it also makes it the perfect location for history nerds such as myself.
As a settlement has stood there since Roman times, you’ll find a museum focusing on a range of different periods and topics. If you are looking for a general overview, check out the Yorkshire Museum or the York Castle Museum which takes you through the entire history of York. Or to look at a more specific period, visit the Jorvik Viking Centre (for the Vikings obvs), or Barley Hall to visit medieval York.
BUT if you’d rather be eating chocolate than wondering why this random roman coin is so important, then you are in luck. There’s a CHOCOLATE MUSEUM! And it’s actually super interesting. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn about York in the 1900s while stuffing your face with Quality Streets.
Food, pubs and more pubs
Any big city like Cambridge or Brighton is going to have some original food establishments. And York is no exception, but I can’t choose just one to recommend!
Every time I visit York I try to make it to a new cafe or restaurant, and so far none have disappointed. Looking for a popular cafe that serves delicious coffee and brunch? Check out Brew and Brownie or Cafe Concerto. Or sample one of the MANY delicious Italian restaurants.
Or if you’re looking to shelter from the cold, grab a cozy spot in one of the numerous pubs, such as Ye Olde Starr Inn, the oldest licensed pub in york dating form 1644. Grab a seat by the open fire and marvel at the thought of how much beer has been consumed in this one building over the centuries.
This is probably my favorite bar in the world. It’s also one of Johnny Depp’s so if you don’t trust my judgment, you can trust his.
Once you step off the dark (usually rainy) streets of York, the music and colour filling the bar will literally slap you in the face. In a good way.
You’ll then squeeze up to the bar and grab a (slightly sticky) menu to glance over their wonderful selection of drinks, created from the rows and rows of different spirits lining the walls behind the bar. Once you’ve made your selection and picked up your delicious drink, you can grab a seat among the rowdier crowds downstairs area, or head upstairs to one of the quieter floors, where you can actually hear each other talk.
And on the upstairs floors in one of the rooms, you won’t find seats. Instead, you’ll find something more like a bed. It sounds kinda weird but honestly, it’s amazing. So recline with a fancy cocktail and imagine your a queen or courtier, receiving your many admirers….
If you’re visiting york you have to go to the Minster. I don’t care if you aren’t into churches, you’ll be into this one.
York Minster is a stunning example of gothic design and one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe. It is a site of huge historical importance and has weathered fascinating periods in human history. A stone church of some form has stood at the site since 633, and it was also the location at which Constantine was announced Roman emperor in 306. This was the dude who did a few things like fond Constantinople and declare Christinaity to be the religion of the Roman Empire, so nothing too major…
Within the foundations of the cathedral, you will find a small historical exhibition where you can find out more about the church and York’s history since Roman times.
However, you don’t need to delve into the history to appreciate the Mister. Just walk around it with your head turned to the ceiling and marvel at the glorious design and intricacies covering every surface. And if you can cope with the height and the stairs, take a trip up the church tower where you will truly understand the scale of the building and the beautiful surrounding views.
As someone who loves history and food, York is obviously a great place to visit. And what’s better is some places like the Guy Fawkes Inn combine to two. (This is a cool little pub which was also the birthplace of Guy Fawkes who plotted and failed to blow up Parliament in 1605 – beginning bonfire night on 5th Nov each year).
But for me, the memories that the city holds for me personally makes it my favourite.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are in York and the surrounding area, I’ve spent countless weekends up there visiting with friends and enjoyed one of my favourite (super cute) weekend trips with David up there.
Have you been to York? Share your memories below, or if you haven’t I’m giving you some homework…venture up to the north of England and make a few memories of your own!