48 hours in… York

48 hours in… York

When you’d love to get away but don’t have a lot of time, a mini-break to York offers everything you need to relax, says Daniela Soave

When you’d love to get away but don’t have a lot of time, a mini-break to York offers everything you need to relax, says Daniela Soave

I love York. I loved it as a teenager and I love still it as a fiftysomething.

I’ve travelled to York from Scotland, London and, more recently, South West England, and no matter where I’ve lived, the train journey has taken between two and three hours. Which is why I can say with confidence that York as a short-stay destination is pretty much bang-on for us all, no matter which corner of the UK we live in.

In a nutshell

York is a destination where ancient meets modern. Cobbled medieval streets and passages; imposing city walls (1,900 years of history contained in a two-mile stretch, the longest of its kind in England), the gothic majesty of York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals of its kind in the world.

Marry that to independent shops, the very best of upmarket chains, world-class restaurants and hotels, museums and galleries a-plenty, breath-taking scenery and you have the perfect location for a romantic weekend, a getaway with mates or a full-on cultural immersion.

Where to stay

The city offers an abundance of places to stay, from budget hotels to the poshest of posh; from homely restaurants with rooms, to rather grand short-let apartments, from former judges’ lodgings to an amazing historic convent.

So, whether you’re booking far in advance to secure the best deal or being more spontaneous, it still shouldn’t break the bank, unless of course you are aiming for absolute high-end. And even in those cases, it helps to call the hotel direct rather than use a booking service. In my experience, I’ve always managed to better the rate I find online.

Whether you’re up for a romantic break, a weekend with pals or a sightseeing extravaganza, just dip in for the things that appeal to you. You won’t be disappointed.

Where to shop

York is a shopper’s delight, not only because of the variety it offers but the fact it’s so neatly contained. All the major chains are here, but there are so many interesting independent shops too. Here are a few of my favourites:

Burgins Perfumery Established in 1880, this journey back in time offers an astonishing selection of scents with good old-fashioned service.

The Inkwell Laid out like an old school classroom, this epitome of cool sells vinyl records, record players, books and old film magazines. Delightful.

Van Mildert If you’re looking for cool fashion normally found only in swanky London stores, this small northern chain for men, women and children stocks a handful of classy premium brands.

Snowhome At this store you’ll find an eclectic mix of gifts, accessories, lighting and furniture.

York Designer Outlet If you want to nab a bargain, head for the designer outlet 10 minutes’ drive from the city centre (buses also operate from the railway station). It boasts more than 120 stores.

Places for relaxing

No one can visit York without experiencing afternoon tea in the Art Deco elegance of Betty’s Café Tea Rooms, famous worldwide for its Swiss patisserie. Expect proper silver teapots, dainty sandwiches, freshly baked scones and handmade cakes. Bliss.

Several of York’s grand hotels boast fabulous spas which are open to non-residents, too. Booking a treatment gains you access to facilities including saunas, steam rooms, yoga classes and swimming pools. Try The Grand Hotel, Middlethorpe Hall, Headley House or the Mount Royale Hotel.

York has a huge number of historic, characterful pubs. Plus there are six breweries in the York area, so real ale fans are in for a treat. Try The York Tap , the beautifully restored railway pub, The House of Trembling Madness (worth a visit surely for the name alone), housed above an off-licence in an ancient Norman building, The Lamb & Lion Inn, an old English inn by the city walls serving modern British pub food or, if you fancy something a bit more New York, head for the Biltmore Bar & Grill for cocktails, champagne, fine wine and beers.

Things to do

There’s so much to do in York, but to get a real taste of what the city has to offer, try something from this list.

Go on a ghost walk Held every Saturday night of the year, the 75-minute tour will guide you through the most haunted sites in York.

Have a day at the races York Racecourse is one of the best in the UK, offering an enjoyable and different day out.

Take part in a wine tasting The Hotel du Vin holds events regularly. In May, for instance, there’s the opportunity to try six wines from the Piedmont region during a four-course dinner.

Take in a show at the York Barbican In May there’s comedy from Stewart Lee, Count Arthur Strong and the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club, while concerts include Imelda May, the Cranberries and even Shakin’ Stevens.

Exploring the area

York is a wonderful destination to explore on foot. Whether it’s a walk along the River Ouse or a view from above along the City Walls, or a wander through the atmospheric medieval Shambles, there’s so much to see and do. Here are my top tips.

Visit the Minster Two thousand years of history in one of the world’s most majestic cathedrals. Don’t miss the Undercroft, with its fantastic display of artefacts and archaeological finds, or the Old Palace, with its ancient library and resources for tracing family trees. Or indeed the wondrous stained glass windows.

Rediscover the legend of the Vikings This major new exhibition at York Museum brings together the most significant Viking hoards found in Britain for the first time.

Visit the home of the Terry family Yes, those geniuses who decided to put chocolate and orange together lived in York. Goddards House and Garden is an elegant arts and craft building set in four acres and is now run by the National Trust. Take advantage of spring days by playing croquet on the lawn, having a G&T on the terrace or playing with the vintage Hornby train set.

Travel inspiration on Victoria

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Have you ever been to York? Let us know your recommendations in the comments section below…

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Loved York


Recently went on a four day break to York for the first time and absolutely loved it there - so much to do and see. We visited The Minster, walked around the walls, went to the park and museum. and the famous Shambles - can't wait to go back again x

York by day

Gwen 19/06/2017

I visited York on a day trip and travelled down the quaint cobbled streets and had lunch in a lovely wee pub and the atmosphere was amazing

Definitely going to visit

Hopegirl 30/05/2017

This year I'm really going to make an effort to explore our own small island, so many beautiful places to see!

Favourite City


Love the lovely historic City of York.It's a bit of a running joke with my boys who live in Leeds,when I go to visit & they say where do you fancy going? Guess what? Oh Mam, not again! Yes, you guessed, York it is, everytime!

York a complete break

garethsmum 28/05/2017

An ideal weekend away everything in walking distance in the city and then stunning scenery within easy driving distance. The Shambles, upper stories of houses almost touching above quirky shops.The vibrant market and its myriad of different stalls. Then probably the best Cathedral in UK (York Minster takes your breath away) Just a few hundred yards from the City centre is the greatest transport museum in the world.( The National Railway Museum) York is an Amazing place

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