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The City of York is found in the Northwest of England. From the moment you arrive it’s easy to understand why York is regarded one of the best places to live in the UK. The city offers so much for any type of tourist, whether this is just a budget day trip to York or a luxury weekend trip to York.
One of my 2020 travel goals was to become better travelled in the UK and with travel made so uncertain by coronavirus, there was never a better time to get more familiar with some of the UK’s best travel destinations. A York day trip is perfect whilst local travel is being so encouraged so if you are wondering what to do in York, this post will help you make the most out of your time in this amazing English city.
Getting to York
York railway station is well connected with the rest of the country, meaning the city is easily accessible wherever you are travelling from. Even if you are based 210 miles away in the UK capital, a London to York day trip is very much possible! If you are planning on a York day trip from London you can arrive in York in just over 2 hours from London Kings Cross. York train station is around a 15 minute walk from the city centre. So soon as you arrive you can get on with your one day trip to York without wasting any extra travel time!
Starting your York Day Trip
For me, coffee is always the way to go when you arrive in a new city. And before embarking properly on my York day trip I headed to Brew and Brownie. Found on Museum Street, just a 10 minute walk from York railway station, this seemed the ideal place to drop in for a flat white and a pastry. Brew and Brownie operates as a café and a takeaway bakery – check them out here! I spent about an hour here enjoying coffee, writing in my journal, reading a book and planning my day. As with any day trip I make, this involves me finding the best free things to do in the city!
If you are looking to get money off attractions throughout the city, check out the York Card!
Free Things to on your York Day Trip
Free Walking Tour
Groups like White Rose Tours organised daily free walking tours, whatever the weather (which is necessary when in the UK!). Why not start your York day trip off with one of these to familiarise yourself with the cities history and main sights?
These botanic gardens date back to the 1830s and occupy the former grounds of St Mary’s Abbey. Their entrance is on Museum Street, just opposite Brew and Brownie! So you could start your day with a wander around here after enjoying your morning coffee. Alternatively, they are likely to be on your walk back to the station, so finish your day off with a relaxing stroll around the garden’s beautiful 10 acres. They really are amazing in twilight.
Undoubtedly the most poignant attraction in York is it’s mesmerizing minster. The site has been occupied since the 7th century, but the gothic style cathedral standing today was completed 1472. York Minister is one of the largest of it’s kind in Northern Europe, making it a must see on your York day trip.
Simply marvelling at the minster from the outside is an activity in itself which is of course free. Standard entry fee for an adult is £11.50 with discounts available for students. Children under 16 go free with any paying adult and York residents and students go free with proof of address. Visits are free with a York Card. (Pricing information correct July 2020)
Dean’s Park / Minster Gardens
This park is just beside York minster and is the perfect place to relax and admire the minster’s beauty. Why not enjoy a picnic in the sun here?
York City Walls
Since the Roman times, York has been defended by some form of wall. Miraculously to this day substantial portions of the city walls remain. In fact York is home to more miles of intact city wall than any other English city. The walls are generally 4m high and 1.8m wide.
The walls are totally free to walk along and definitely something you should check out on your York day trip. Not only is this a huge piece of the city’s history but they also offer an amazing views over the city.
National Railway Museum
This museum is free entry, running on donations, so is definitely a must-do for a budget day trip to York. The museum tells the story of rail transport in Britain and recently won European Museum of the Year 2021.
Clifford’s Tower Hill
Clifford’s Tower is the largest remaining part of York Castle, dating back to the 13th century. Entrance to the tower is charged at £5.90 (July 2020), however just to walk up to the hill to the top of the mound is free. You can admire the panoramic view of York city from up here.
The Shambles – “one of the world’s most famous streets”
This tiny old street is funnily enough one of York’s most popular tourist attractions so is definitely an essential on your one day trip to York. The Shambles date back as far as the 14th century, famed for the overhanging timber-framed buildings and for being the narrowest street in York. It’s been debated whether The Shambles was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, but J.K Rowling has denied this. Nonetheless there are many Harry Potter themed shops found down The Shambles, as well as an array of independent stores.
Wander Along the River
The River Ouse runs through York so you can wander down here and head to Rowntree Park. If you want to travel in style you can opt for a river boat cruise.
Browse the Minster Gate Bookshop
This independent book shop is home to over five floors of every single different book you can imagine – new, second hand or antiquarian. Why not grab a new book to read in one of the city’s beautiful free parks?
This is simply just a very short street with a very strange name. It’s thought to be the smallest street in York and was first mentioned in 1505 as Whitnourwhatnourgate, literally meaning “Neither whit nor what street”.
Other Paid Attractions to see on a York Day Trip
Jorvik Viking Centre
This unique museum takes visitors through the exhibition in small carriages equipped with speakers, teaching you all about the history of the Vikings in York. The exhibits include life like mannequins and scenes of life from the Viking times. The museum’s name comes from Jórvk, the Old Norse name for York. Standard Adult admission is £12.50 (July 2020) and your ticket is valid for free re-entry within 12 months.
York Castle Museum
This museum was founded in 1938 and built on the former site of York Castle which was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068. A major attraction of York Castle Museum is ‘Kirkgate’, a recreation of a late Victorian street. This was the first of it’s kind in Britain and is an exhibition that is still part of the museum today. The museum consists of a variety of other exhibitions which are currently taking tour bookings (July 2020). For more information check out their website.
York holds the title for being the ‘most haunted city in Europe’. So naturally has an array of different Ghost tours on offer so you can experience the city’s eeriness first hand! Why not finish your ‘York one day itinerary’ off with a creepy tour in the dark?
One Day in York Not Enough?
If you are planning to stay around longer after your one day trip to York, why not check out one of the many day trips from York. The North York Moors National Park are a 2 hour train journey away, cities such as Durham and Sheffield are close by, or if you fancy the coast Whitby is a stone’s throw away.
If you have been seeking somewhere to travel within the UK hopefully this post has inspired you to add a York day trip to your list. Let me know of any local travel you’ve been doing recently. Or if you have any favourite day trips around the UK!
Looking for other places to visit the in the UK? Check out more of my UK Guides:
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- 10 Waterfalls in Scotland to Visit in 2023 [+ map!]Scotland is without doubt home to some of the most stunning beauty in the UK. Here are some of the best waterfalls in Scotland.
- 10 BEST things to do in Swansea Bay in 2023Swansea Bay, Mumbles and Gower are full of hidden gems in South Wales. Here’s some of the best things to in Swansea Bay.
- Robin Hoods Bay North Yorkshire – The Ultimate 2023 Robin Hoods Bay GuideRHB is a beautiful village in the North York Moors National Park. This Robin Hoods Bay guide will help you make the most of your trip.
- 25 BEST Things to do on the Isle of Skye [Scotland] in 2023 (+ map)The Isle of Skye is one of the most magical places in the world, here are some of the BEST things to do on the Isle of Skye in 2023.