Oh York, we can’t wait to visit you again! We knew that we wanted to take a road trip over the Easter and decided on the medieval city of York in Yorkshire. I haven’t really seen much of the North except for Manchester and a few day trips to Scotland, but having our own car now and following such a lovely visit, I’d definitely like to change that! York is a city of pubs, friendly locals, quirky historical architecture and a lot of history. Here’s what we got up to in our two days there and what I’d recommend for other first-time visitors!
It took us around five hours drive each way from London so we arrived in York at 4pm (we should have left much earlier than we did) and checked in to the Travelodge York Layerthorpe, which was just five minutes’ walk in to the city centre. Wrapped up in as many layers as we could fit, we found ourselves in The Shambles, once voted The UK’s prettiest street and rumoured to be the inspiration behind Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, with it’s narrow cobbled lanes and wonky buildings overlapping with cute old store fronts. The first afternoon we were there it was trying to rain and then on Saturday it was SO busy with tourists queueing outside to go in the Harry Potter themed shops so I couldn’t get a great photo.
We then spent a little time walking around the small city to get our bearings and take in all the beautiful old streets and pubs. We stopped for a drink in the Starr Inn – York’s oldest pub that dates back to 16 and then we spent much of our evening in The Trembling Madness a few doors down. The House of Trembling Madness is somewhere that I would 100% recommend for many reasons! It’s a tiny, quirky, medieval bar on the top floor of a three storey building. The ground floor is an alcohol shop selling all local and national beers and ciders and the lower floor are the toilets-cum-liquor store selling some of the world’s most rare liquors. On the top floor there are taxidermy animal heads lining the walls between the wooden beams and a small wooden bar selling rare Belgium beers, cooking burgers in one corner and the bartenders dancing along to old school soul and jazz music. Tiny chairs and tables line the small room with sheepskin rugs rung over the back of the benches.
As well as the atmosphere and decor the food and drink were also up to parr. We ate the Special beer & beef stew with rarebit and the burger with slaw which was awesome and a bigger than standard portion size. Perfect for warming your bones and filling up after a day of travelling and walking around a new city. We also went in to The Evil Eye cocktail bar next door, The Hole In The Wall a few minutes away, The Minster Inn and The Kings Arms. All cool bars to check out! We were stuffed and tired by then so headed back to the hotel to get some sleep ready for an early morning!
We had a look on TripAdvisor in the morning and decided to go to Barbakan for breakfast in Fossgate (our favourite section of the city). It’s a Polish restaurant with super friendly staff, vintage style decor and a strong menu for breakfast lunch and dinner. I had the Duck Rumor (apparently these sell-out every morning) and a latte and H the poached eggs with salmon and tea. The breakfast were really amazing and again the portions were huge. Get here early so you can get a seat and not wait as long for food or service. This place features a lot of pork on the menu so maybe bear this in mind if any Halal tourists are considering Barbakan! After breakfast we had a stroll down Fossgate with its lovely shops, pubs and restaurants.
We then headed to York Minster at around 11am and there was already a 15 minute long queue outside. The ticket costs £10 each and lasts for a year so you can make multiple visits.. or pass on to family/friends. When we finally made it inside and out of the freezing cold, into the stunning Minster, we spent an hour looking around at all the history and all the different layers and corners of the cathedral. Then at 12pm we went up the Tower and I would definitely recommend it for the extra £5! The climb to the top of the tower was probably the highlight of our trip. Climbing the 275 steps to the top, the is split in the middle but a section where you scale the south side of the Minster to reach the central tower and then continue up narrowing and inclining steps to reach the roof and viewing point. I can imagine it would be awesome to come back in summer and to see the views again when the temperature is warmer!
After this we were invited in to the Belfey church next door for a free Easter cafe where they were serving free coffee, tea and cakes over Easter weekend. We then took another walk across the city to The Blue Bell in Fossgate, which is the smallest pub in York and over 200 years old. This is a proper cosy, old mans pub with the original wood-panelled Edwardian decor and open fire. There’s a magic about a pub that has kept all of its history and character so well preserved and respected. Go here to warm up in front of the fire and have a little chat with the friendly and knowledgeable locals. But know there are strict rules: no kids, no groups, no music or mobile phones to be used inside!
Our last stop in York was Drake’s fish and chip shop for a tasty late lunch. I love the Yorkshire take on fish & chips – it comes with free bread and tea and again the portion size again is huge and very reasonably priced – £12 for a jumbo cod (the size of my arm) and chips for us to share.
Everybody should go to York for a hidden little gem in the UK that’s got so much to offer! I’d love to go again in summer and be able to sit outside and take in the atmosphere all around. Please let me know in the comments if there’s anywhere I should put on a list for when we go back!