Six years ago, I visited York for the first time with my study abroad class. The trip was an optional add-on, but everyone went. There was so much that I loved about the city, that I made it a point to have Julie and I transit through there on our way to London. Though we certainly could have made the train trip down from Edinburgh to London in one day, York is a great place for an overnight stop, or longer if you have more time.
Leaving our hotel early Sunday morning, we jumped into a cab and headed into the city center where we boarded our train to York. (As cost effective as it is to take a bus, when you’re in a hurry, the quickest route is always the best) The train takes about two and a half hours which is about an hour shorter than the time it takes to drive. Plus you get to take in the lovely views. I made note of two cities (Newcastle & Durham) I definitely want to visit on a longer England trip. Sadly, the train didn’t have Wi-Fi, so there wasn’t an opportunity to catch up on what the rest of the world was up to.
York Train Station is just over the River Ouse and very near to the city center. Busses go on a regular schedule to and from the station, so it’s very easy to get into the heart of York. When we arrived in the late morning, our first priority was to drop off our bags at the hotel before heading back to the city for the day. Throughout our travels, we have had a good amount of success with early check in, but the York Marriott was busy that morning, so we had to check our bags with the front desk before heading out to explore the city.
If you only have a short time in York, like we did, there are some definite “musts” that I recommend doing if you want to get the most out of your visit. For us, that meant heading in the direction of the Minister, after a quick pit stop for lunch. Before you get to the Minster though, you can make your way through the Shambles. The Shambles is an old and narrow street that once housed a number of butcher shops who used outdoor hooks to dry their meats. Walking down the street, you can still see some of those hooks today, though the butcher shops have left the area. It’s a touristy little street with a number of small shops and some eateries now, but worthy of a visit.
It’s hard to miss the Minster once you come across it. The structure is so large you can see it peaking through in places throughout the city. And getting the whole of the Minster into a single photo is a challenge as well. All you have to do is glance around at all the tourists (including us) trying to get as far back as possible to get a good view (and a selfie).
The history of the Minster is as impressive as the structure itself. Tracing its roots back to Roman occupation, the Minster has withstood the most tumultuous years of England’s past and continues to stand strong. Reinforcements and renovations have helped ensure that the Minster will be here for years to come and future generations to enjoy.
If you want to take in all that the Minster has to offer, I recommend purchasing the combo ticket which includes access to the Minster Tower. The cost is £15 per person, but it allows you to trek up to the top of the Minster which provides some awesome panoramic views. During our entire trip, it very sparingly rained, but one such time it did was while we were on our way up to the top. A light rain didn’t stop us, but the big crowd of people making the same climb did slow us down. Be prepared: there are 275 steps to make it to the top and the journey is a narrow one. If you’re like us, you’re going to have to take it slow anyway due to to overwhelming number of people in front of you.
Walking around and up through the Minster, we worked up a bit of an appetite. Fortunately for us, there was a small street fair going on in town and we found the perfect snack.
These donuts were AMAZING and arguably the best either of us have had. If you’re in the UK and can find them, I HIGHLY recommend these delicious donuts from The Donut Kitchen.
With a sugar high added to our afternoon, we opted to undertake another “must” when visiting York: walking the ancient walls. Like the Minster, these walls date back to Roman times (71 AD) but have since been changed and modified as years have passed. To circle the walls in their entirety, you would need to walk 3.4 kilometers or a little over two miles. We set out to do just that, but lost track of the path just outside the city center and decided to head back.
As the day grew later, the clouds started to roll in and we decided to wrap up our day of exploring in York.
Eager to make it back to the hotel before the rain started, we made one more quick stop at another famous York stop, Clifford’s Tower. A castle once stood here, built by William the Conquerer in 1068-1069, but all that remains is the tower atop a green hill.
A few minutes after I grabbed this shot, we jumped on a bus as the rain started to fall. We headed back to our hotel, by which point our room was ready. The front desk agent was very nice and upgraded us to a room that overlooked the York Racecourse. We finished our night with dinner at the Cross Keys pub, a short walk from the hotel, and then stayed up late to watch the US Women’s World Cup finale. Our day in York flew by, but our adventure continued the next morning as we made our way to London!