If you’re planning a day trip to York, we have all the local tips and information you need to ensure you have an amazing visit to this historic city. Whether you are looking for culture, shopping, dining, Viking history, Roman remains, museums, gardens, outdoor activities, walking tours, boat trips or one-of-a-kind experiences, York has it all!
Our best advice for your perfect day trip is “plan to stay late'' especially if you’re planning the trip as part of a stag night, hen night, or on a home-based staycation, as York’s nightlife is legendary.
Why Visit York
Why is a day trip to York better than other UK cities in northeast England? For a start, this historic city has a compact centre so it’s easy to pack the most into your day without spending too much time walking between sights.
York has plenty of indoor attractions making it a great place for day trips in all seasons, even if the weather turns cold and showery. It’s also very easy to reach, less than 12 miles from the A1(M) motorway. Alternatively, take the train and make the journey part of your day trip. York railway station is a pleasant 10-minute walk over the bridge across the River Ouse to the heart of the medieval city.
There are plenty of free things to do in York including walking along the top of the 13th century City Walls, the longest town walls in England. Explore the historic streets with their quaint architecture straight from the pages of a nursery rhyme, visit the botanical gardens and picnic in Rowntree Park. You can walk along the Fosse River and feed the swans or visit the National Railway Museum as that’s free too! York Minster charges an admission fee for tourists, but visitors are welcome to attend daily Evensong, enjoy the cathedral setting and listen to the organ as part of the worship service. Sunday morning services are led by the Choral Scholars and Songmen and are free for worshippers to attend.
What To See
From the moment you arrive in York, you will be surrounded with amazing sights and historic buildings such as the 13th century Clifford’s Tower, sitting on a manmade “motte” or mound and providing great views of the city.
Don’t miss exploring the medieval cobbled streets known as The Shambles. The leaning half-timbered buildings house one-of-a-kind shops, cafes and attractions and you’ll definitely want a selfie to share on Instagram with friends.
Another must-see is York Minster, one of the largest and most magnificent cathedrals in the world. Dating back to the 7th century it has a decorative Gothic nave, stunning stained glass windows (including the world’s largest expanse of medieval stained glass) and the 53-foot tall Five Sisters Window. Tours include a behind-the-scenes Hidden Minster Tour and the opportunity to climb 275 spiral steps up the 200-feet-high Tower for amazing city views.
What To Do In York
The city takes pride in its gruesome past with haunted walking tours, dungeons, castles and over 20 museums. You can celebrate Viking history by throwing axes Viking-style at the innovative The Hilt. attraction inspired by a visit to the Yorvik Museum. Explore this archaeological site beneath the streets of York in a motorised pod with informative commentary. As well as the sights and sounds of a 10th century Viking settlement you also get the smells! On a similar note, visit The DIG, an interactive archaeological adventure which is particularly geared to families.
York has a wide choice of walking tours for getting an insight into the past as part of your day trip to York. Join a free Walking Tour of York with a guide (just pay a tip if you enjoy it) or book a place on a Ghost Walk and see the more gruesome side of York’s history.
York is brimming with museums ranging from York Art Gallery to York Castle Museum on Coppergate which includes a recreated Victorian street. Visit the Yorkshire Museum and the York Cold War Bunker or learn more about one of York’s most famous industries - chocolate - at the fascinating York Chocolate Story.
Where To Eat And Drink
Every memorable day trip to York needs to include some great food and drink.
For a substantial meal or a special event head to The Refectory kitchen and terrace. It serves divine braised pork and flavoursome steaks with a choice of sauces including bone marrow butter.
If you’re trying to impress someone special, book afternoon tea at Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms, a historic York landmark compete with pianist in stately rooms inspired by the 1930s RMS Queen Mary.
Finally, for waterfront dining with beautiful river views, look no further than the Star Inn the City which serves breakfast with Yorkshire puds and a host of other seasonal locally inspired dishes. Save room for the “After Eight” Pudding, a luscious blend of dark chocolate and peppermint sorbet to round off your meal.
Although we’ve packed in a host of ideas for things to do on a day trip to York, we’re not done yet! Check this out for more things to do in York and perhaps consider extending your day trip to York with an overnight stay. As you can see, spending a day in York barely scratches the surface of all that this historic city has to offer!