York is one of my favourite places in England – it is a perfect blend of the past and present all enclosed in one place. Beginning as a Roman settlement, this northern city has outlived its Viking residents, its medieval heydays and is now a modern city still thriving within the old city walls. You can easily spend a day away here, exploring its charming hidden streets, quirky little shops and grand historic sites. It is a must-see location when visiting Yorkshire, so keep reading to find out how to spend one day in there!
To start your day in York properly, it must begin with breakfast, so head to one of York’s best cafes for a great start to your day. Breakfast at The Perky Peacock is a great way to see a little bit of history while having your morning coffee, as this charming little cafe is located in a medieval stone tower underneath Lendal Bridge. If you really want a taste of Yorkshire’s finest, treat yourself to a breakfast Bettys Café Tea Rooms in St. Helen’s Square, or head to it’s smaller sister cafe on Stonegate if you want to skip the queues. For the coffee lovers, head to Spring Espresso on Lendal for some of the best coffee around.
After you’ve been filled with some good old Yorkshire breakfast, head along Stonegate to get right into the thick of the historical part of York. Below the modern street of Stonegate you’ll find the ancient Roman road that once connected the Basilica to the civilian settlement on the other side of the river. From the Middle Ages onwards, this street was the home to every kind of shop, including goldsmiths, printers and glass painters and now familiar high-street names. Take your time browsing down this road, as once you reach the end of Stonegate you’ll find yourself looking up at York’s iconic historic site, the York Minster.
York Minister is the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe, and a key historic sight to see when visiting York. It is an enormous, hugely impressive building that takes your breath away looking at its sheer size and architectural detail. As well as admiring the outside of the Minster, you can go inside to explore this medieval wonder, but it does cost you to enter. There are also different events and activities inside the Minister to take part in, as well as opportunities to go to the top of the building to get a city-wide view. It is definitely a sight worth-seeing!
After you’ve taken an eyeful of the magnificent Minister, head to the adjoining Dean’s Park to see the Minster from a different angle. Make sure that you go all the way around the park to the back of the Minster so that you reach Minster Yard and then turn down The Queen’s Path so that you come to the statue of Constantine The Great and the Roman Column.
Once you’ve taken in the historic sites of the Minster and its surrounding area, turn down the small street of Minster Gates, which is a little street boasting some great tucked away shops like the wonderful Minster Gate Book Shop. This shop is a tiny sliver of a building squished on Minister Gate that can easily be missed, but for any bookworm fond of rooms filled to the brim with books of all genres and ages, this is the place to go.
From Minster Gate, carry on down Low Petergate, making sure to check out the Fudge Kitchen on your way, where you can watch fresh fudge being made and even try a taster for free! From there, make your way to the quirkiest and most famous street in the city, the Shambles.
The Shambles is a historic winding, cobbled street with overhanging timber-framed houses, some dating as far back as the 14th century. With its twisting alley and assortment of weird and wonderful shops, it is a part of York that still feels like there is magic lurking in the corners. It is as if you have stubbled into another time or place, beyond the modern world of high-street chains and huge corporations only a few streets away. On a rainy day, you can almost feel magic crackling in the damp air. You might even feel the need to go and buy a wand from The Shop That Must Not Be Named.
If you’re hungry by this point, head to the Shambles Market where you’ll find a whole selection of food stalls selling food from around the globe, or simply browse the stalls selling local crafts, clothes, and sweet treats.
Next on the agenda should be the York Museum Gardens, a public park right in the centre of the city which is where you’ll find loads of hidden historic treasures including the ruins of the medieval St. Mary’s Abbey. The whole park is a little bit like a scavenger hunt of historic sites, including Yorkshire’s oldest working observatory and the Yorkshire Museum.
After you’re stroll in the Museum Gardens, for the rest of the afternoon take a walk along the historic City Walls. The City Walls compromises about 3.4km of still-standing ancient stone walls, built mostly in the 13th century, that used to encircle the whole city, while now it only wraps around the centre of York. Starting at Bootham Bar, head as far as you want along the wall as there are multiple points to exit from. The whole circuit takes around 2 hours to walk if you want to complete the whole thing, walking the whole perimeter of the city of York.
After such a history filled day, head for some dinner at one of York’s fine restaurants. Try Melton’s Restaurant for relaxed fine dining, El Piano near the Minster for a vibrant array of tapas in a lively, snug Arab-Spanish eatery, and Mr P’s Curious Tavern for a quirky pub experience.