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

Got itchy feet? Here are some more of our travel articles to inspire you…

Holiday house swaps

Christmas market minibreaks

25 coastal breaks in Europe

Destinations for animal lovers

Restaurants with rooms for midweek breaks

48 hours in… New York

Top tips for travelling solo

Winter’s hottest destinations

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

Leave a comment *Mandatory text
I confirm I have written the entirety of the content and agree to the community guidelines and terms and conditions
  • Show comments


Roger 27/05/2017

With things generally when I sign in all that happens is that I go around in circles and I'm asked to sign in again (which I have already done) and provide a personal profile WHICH I HAVE ALREADY DONE. I've found your site unnavigable disappointiong and frustrating. Finally what about the railway museum in York ???????????????????

48 hours of fun


I've just spent 48 hours in Scarborough passing through York and Whitby on the way! Had a great time and was able to relax after only a very short time! A short break with a walk on the beach can really make a different and come Monday morning I felt quite relaxed and ready to face the madness of life again!

Why May’s bank holidays should equal more ‘me time’

Our celebrity editor, Carol Vorderman, says long weekends should remind us to put work on the back burner and be a little selfish. Hear, hear.

Read more

Presenter, author, superwoman

Seven beautiful UK walks for the Easter weekend

Daniela Soave celebrates the season with our pick of UK walks with charming highlights along each route.

Read more

Lifestyle & Culture


Lifestyle & Culture

An author of books on contemporary culture and she is currently working on a novel.