York Minster and the Shambles
Pushing away from the centre and typical tourists spots, those in search of a some real York history must take a trip to Clifford's Tower, the keep of York Castle. Flanked by the rivers Ouse and Foss, it is easy to see why this would have made a formidable fortification in times passed. Not only does this offer a window into York's long and truly interesting history, but this tower sits perfectly atop its Motte to give unparalleled views of the York skyline. If you are out there unprepared grab the guidebook from the entrance to get the most from the tower, and if you are hungry for more head to the adjacent York Castle Museum to learn your fill about this areas history.
Once you are done, venture forth along the rivers in any direction - you are certain to find something worth investigating and at the very least there are several beautiful bridges along the river and the city walls yet to explore.
Even if the idea of a museum trip isn't your cup of tea, you should still visit York Museum to take a stroll around the grounds. Our favourite part: the squirrels! These cute little critters are more than happy to eat straight from your hands and pose for a photo. Oh, and of course if you are looking for more history, culture and education then the museum does offer that in spades. Be sure to pay a visit to the remains St Mary's Abbey, walk the Dame Judi Dench Walk along the river, check out the York Observatory and when all is said and done grab some food from The Star Inn the City.
Regardless of what you are looking for, I do genuinely recommend a quick stop at the Museum grounds as part of your walking tour.
Just get walking!
I could go on, but as you may have noticed York is truly a walking city - don't expect to get far with a car! I think York is one of the most walkable cities in England, not just because its compact historic roads are definitely worth seeing on foot, but because there is always something to stumble upon you could easily miss behind the wheel. If you are after some inspiration, let me give you a suggestion for a nice walk that will let you see a touch of everything I have suggested:
- Starting at the Shambles ideally early to avoid the crowds, head south towards Clifford's Tower,
- After having explored to tower (and the Castle Museum), cross the river at Skeldergate Bridge,
- Once across the river you should be able to find access to York's walls, when in a walled city you must walk the walls!
- Following the walls you will get to see just how varied York truly is, from some of the more modern builds in the East of the city, the mix of old and new as you progress ending with the perfect sight-line to the Minster - all the while passing gatehouses and towers along the wall.
- You will naturally leave the wall walk as it slopes down to road level - head across the river again and make your way towards the ever present landmark of the minster.
- Before viewing the Minster, take a detour off of the road into the Museums grounds to explore, make sure to check out St Mary's Abbey!
- It is finally time to make your way to the Minster - hopefully the weather will allow you to climb the Minster, but enjoy exploring the building and its surrounds regardless.
Then the rest of the day is yours! Depending on how long you spent in the various museums and other pit-stops you make, I would estimate this route to average about half a days exploration but it will certainly give you a good lay of the city and hopefully help you find some inspiration on where to spend your afternoon.
Food and Drink
Food and drink is a bit more difficult in York - the real problem is it was all so damn good! While I would love to recommend "Thor's Fries", chopped German sausage with amazing topped fries, it came from the Christmas Market making it a bit tricky to get in April. However, I did learn after the fact that my Christmas Market supper came from my favourite eatery of the weekend: The Shambles Kitchen. A fairly unassuming shopfront situated on the Shambles itself, this Sandwich shop serves up some of the most amazing sandwiches I have ever seen. You'll get messy but damn if it isn't worth it. With all of the great eating York has to offer it must be said their food was truly something special.
Drink has exactly the same issue - every bar and pub I stepped into had a healthy selection of ales and you really cannot go wrong anywhere. My favourite pint of the weekend came from the Three-Legged Mare, close to our hotel we hit this place up on the first night and not only was this where I got to first try my preferred drink of the weekend, Yorkshire Terrier, but its selection of ales and Belgium beers meant I would be more than happy to spend a long evening here. A Best Bitter with a warm welcome, everything I ask of a watering hole.
Honorary mention to The House of Trembling Madness, unfortunately I never did get to drink in here, the popularity immediately hits you with the queue leading up the stairs, but the shop on the first floor kept our hotel room well stocked with some top quality drink. Hopefully I will start my next visit to York by finally getting to enjoy this spot properly.
With all said and done...
I sincerely hope you take the time to visit York, as I hope I made clear in the beginning of this it takes a lot for me to like a city, but I truly do love York and cannot wait to visit it again. York is the perfect balance of everything I want to love about cities while not ending up like every other one: Proud of its heritage and maintaining its history, while developing all of the perks of a modern metropolis (Hopefully without the crowding). Even if you don't share my interests, there are plenty of other options for entertainment, shopping, enrichment and relaxation; whatever it is that may draw you here I am sure York will deliver and you will be as hungry as me to return.
If nothing else I must return so I can climb the Minster proper and hopefully get a quiet pint, free of the Christmas rush - as much as the market is worth a visit I cannot wait to explore in peace...
You could also consider
Unfortunately my time in York was limited so there were some options I ran out of time to check out. All of these came well recommended so maybe you will find something here worth a visit: