NO, YOU CAN’T SEE YORK IN A DAY.
Sometimes, though, a day is what you have—a couple of nights off the train from London, as a brief destination, or a stopover on route to Edinburgh, or on a road trip to the Dales or Lakes or East Midlands. Here’s a worthy introduction to the historic political and ecclesiastical capital of England’s North Country for centuries— one of Britain’s must-see destinations. A microcosm of history lies compactly within her largely intact city walls.
IN THE BEGINNING
Stop at the terrific York Visitors Centre on Museum Street. It’s just between York Station and York Minster. Pick up street maps of the historic city center and its vast network of pedestrian squares and alleys. Find out what’s going on while you’re in town.
TO SPEND A NIGHT OR TWO
The Royal York Hotel, right at historic York Station, is both convenient and the epitome of Edwardian station hotel luxury. It’s lots of fun. For more budget-conscious accommodation,not far away on the River Ouse is the Park Inn. In the heart of the city center, Dean’s Court is a three-star Best Western hotel at Bootham Bar, next door to York Minster. The York Hilton is a stylish modern hotel, facing the Norman keep known as Clifford’s Tower and the Castle Museum.
YORK’S BIG THREE
The largest Gothic cathedral north of the Alps, 13th-century York Minster is the seat of the Archbishop of York and the northern England archdiocese of the Church. Among its treasures, the Minster’s windows form the largest display of medieval stained glass in the world.
The Castle Museum has been regarded as one of the most important folk museums in the world for a generation. See period rooms of English furnishings through the centuries, stroll a Victorian street of shops, visit highwayman Dick Turpin’s cell and check out the groovy life of the Swinging ’60s.
It’s the largest rail museum in the world. The National Railway Museum has it all for rail fans: historic locomotives from the great days of steam, carriages of Queen Victoria and her son, King Edward VII, engine works and Pullman carriages, signal houses and freight carriages. Railway-themed dining, too. Like all of the national museums, admission is free.
OTHER TREASURES WORTH THE TAKING
Folks line up throughout the year to visit the Jorvik Viking Centre on Coopergate. Go mid-morning to avoid the queue. It’s a timeride back into the 900s—to Viking Jorvik, replete with commerce, domestic life, and the sights, sounds and smells of life then.
There aren’t many places in the world you can walk medieval city walls. Get a different view of York from the ramparts of the old city. Stroll between any two medieval gatehouses, the “Bars” of the city, but Bootham Bar to Monks Bar is a beautiful stretch.
Stop and smell the roses at York’s open air Newgate Market, between broad Parliament Street and the Shambles. In fact, do explore the whole pedestrian quarter there, including cobbled Stonegate and Petergate. This is where the city reveals its timelessness. It’s also where you can have afternoon tea at famous Bettys—if you don’t mind the queue.
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FOR AN EVENING MEAL
There’s no need to look far, restaurants adorn every block of center city York. If you want a classic pub scene for food and drink, there are two historic Stonegate venues. The Punch Bowl has been justly famous for its range of classic English pies for years. Dating from the 1400s, Ye Old Starre Inn claims to be the oldest pub in the city, still providing good food to travelers and beverage to the thirsty. One of the good versions of an English carvery is Russell’s on Coopergate. A selection of roasts and accompaniments and a bevy of veg make an easy meal, well done and moderately priced.
For a more ambitious evening, check out what is playing at the Theatre Royal York. There are often last minute tickets available at this bijou regional theatre with a varied playbill. Alternatively, York is famous for its ghosts, and evening ghost walks are all the rage—and around every corner.
ALONG THE WAY
Your rambles in York might also discover the Yorkshire Museum in St. Mary’s Gardens, the Merchant Adventurers Hall, the Richard III Museum or a climb up the castle mound of Clifford’s Tower for a bird’s-eye view of the medieval city. If your feet tire of walking, take a Yorkboat ride on the River Ouse. The best thing about York, though, is that all its delightful attractions are in easy walking distance in the old walled city.
Explore at www.visityork.org