I’ve been thinking about starting a series of City Guides as I think it’s great to arrive in a new place armed with a handful of personal recommendations. It can make all the difference to a trip.
I’ve spent most of my life in York; I absolutely adore it, so here’s my guide to the city.
Favourite cafe – You’re spoilt for choice in York for gorgeous eateries, you really are, and there are often new ones popping up. At the moment, I’m loving Brew and Brownie which does an amazing BLT, as well as (you guessed it) killer brownies, as well as pancake stakes and other lovely stuff. Mannion & Co (which I’ve mentioned before) does tasty scrambled eggs and they serve their tea in gorgeous Japanese pots. Of course, there’s Bettys too, which you really shouldn’t miss. Their hot chocolate is to die for, and their Welsh Rarebit also hits the spot.
Favourite bar – Banyan does a great selection of cocktails; my fave is the Moroccoy Mai Tai. There’s also The Biltmore Bar and Grill which has loads to choose from, but I love the Pornstar Martini (don’t judge!) or the Pink Lemonade.
Favourite restaurant – If you love French food, then you HAVE to check out Rustique. They have two locations in town – one on Castlegate (the original) and one off Lendal Bridge. Both are great, but the original takes the edge slightly, I think. Most of the restaurants you walk into in York will serve you up a cracking meal. Honourable mentions – Ate O’Clock, Evil Eye, The Whippet Inn, Mumbai Lounge, Khao San Rd, Il Paradiso del Cibo, El Piano, and Rice Style.
Favourite pub – A new(ish) opening in King’s Square called The Duke of York. It’s got a great atmosphere and it’s quite traditional in an updated ‘hip’ sort of way. There’s also Guy Fawkes which is awesome in winter – all dark and lit with candles and does a yummy mulled cider. Oh, and The Whippet Inn is great too (and its food’s not bad either!).
Favourite walk – I love to walk the City Walls, which is free and offers great views. There’s also a little tour of the snickelways and passages which you can follow yourself when you buy the guidebook. And if you’re here in winter, book on a Ghost Walk. Yes, it may be a bit naff, but York is full of gruesome stories. If you like running, I can’t recommend trotting alongside the river enough. You might have to weave your way through some tourists but it’s great, especially when you get up to Rowntree Park. In the summer, there’s even an ice cream boat just waiting on the banks!
Unmissable – This could never be anything other than The Minster for me. I was a chorister here when I was little so it holds a really special place in my heart. You have to pay a few quid to get in, but I really think it’s worth it. It’s so peaceful (and cool) inside. The architecture is stunning, there are little side chapels you can bob into and light a candle of remembrance, you can join a tour, climb the Tower or venture into the Undercroft. I also love The Holy Trinity Church, on Goodramgate.
Places to avoid – If you love trains, then the National Railway Museum is a must-see; if, like me, you’re not bothered, then I wouldn’t waste valuable time there. That being said, it is free. I’d DEFINITELY avoid York’s newest attraction The Chocolate Story. It’s overpriced and every time I’ve been at least one of the interactive displays are broken.
Best time to visit – I’d say springtime. In Christmas and high summer, the crowds can be a little overwhelming.
Best place to stay – I’ve not stayed overnight in a hotel here, because, you know, I live here, but I’d always recommend opting for something other than your bog standard Holiday Inn, however, hopefully, you’ll be out and about anyway so you won’t be spending much time there.
Best way to get around – On foot, for sure. York’s not very big so you can easily walk around it. Cyclists take their lives into their hands, in my opinion! Also, for visitors, there’s a Hop On Hop Off bus that’s useful.
Best shop – Again, we’re spoiled, but I love the newly revamped Waterstones which has a great local fiction section, but the real favourite has to be The Imaginarium on Blake Street. It’s absolutely glorious – full of beautiful objects that you don’t need but want desperately. There are engraved science flasks, ceramic jewellery, scented candles, hand printed cards, woollen throws in gorgeous colours, elegant tea cups, bell jars; it really is special. Also, next door, the same couple run The Yorkshire Soap Co, which is pretty magical too.
What should you pack? Definitely a brolly or raincoat, comfortable shoes, maybe a guidebook if you want to explore properly.
If you venture further afield, where should you go? Hmmm. Castle Howard is spectacular and so is Fountains Abbey. If you’ve got kids, Newby Hall is always a good shout.
So there you have it, my guide to York. I know I’ll have missed loads off places and I could have written for hours and hours and hours, but I had to stop somewhere! I hope this is helpful to you guys if you ever come this way. Drop me a line and I’ll come and scoff a brownie with you!
Would you like to submit a City Guide for your city? Let me know, as I’d love to feature some guest writers.