York had been on my bucket list for some time, and when my brother told me he was visiting the UK to watch a horse, he had an ownership interest in compete in Yorkshire within two weeks of my arriving in the UK, I knew it was time to action this particular wish.
I thoroughly enjoyed the three days I spent in York, and could easily have stretched my visit for an additional day or so.
So why should you visit York? Let me count the ways…
1. The Shambles
This street was why I really wanted to visit York, I had seen photos and knew it was not only one of the most photogenic streets in the world, it was also the best preserved medieval street. I experienced the Shambles several times during my visit, and on the Sunday morning of my first visit, if I’m honest I was a little underwhelmed. There is always a danger of building something up and expecting things to be picture postcard perfect, and I think this is what happened to me. However over my time in York, I developed a special affection for this quaint little street that has survived the centuries intact. I can recommend getting up early and experiencing (and running if you are that way inclined) this street before the crowds arrive.
2. The City Wall
York is a medieval city, and medieval cities have city walls. York’s wall is pretty well preserved, and at just over 2 miles in circumference and slightly elevated it is perfect for walking on. There are a couple of places where it just ends and you are back on the streets, but is easy enough to navigate your way to the beginning of the next part. There are ramparts, and gatehouses, some of which contain museums, and in one (Walmgate) there is a great cafe with outdoor tables where you can while away a couple of hours in the sun (should there be any). The wall also gives you great views of the city – not only of the sights but into the living habits of its citizens.
3. York Minster
The Minster’s towers dominate the skyline of York and help you to get your bearings, should you wander off your intended course. There has been a church on the sight of this magnificent gothic style cathedral since 627, but the Minster in its current form dates from 1220, with the north transept being completed in 1253. The interior of the church is overlooked by some wonderful stain glass windows and is worth spending some time in, but the highlight for me was climbing the 275 steps of the narrow circular staircase (one way traffic only, which means you have to book, and pay for, a visiting time).
4. It’s steeped in history
A sense of history pervades this city. The Vikings, Richard III, Henry VIII are all part of it, and are represented in its many museums. The two Kings appear in museums on the wall, and there is a museum dedicated to the Vikings, on the spot where archeologists dug up evidence of how and when they lived here. If you are a fan of Wolf Hall the costumes from the TV production are displayed in Barley Hall.
The Viking Centre has a multi-million pound reimagining of life in the time of the Vikings. It involves climbing into pods that move you around the displays. At first I thought this was a bit gimmicky – I could have easily walked around the displays, but I did enjoy the chance to just sit and enjoy the little vignettes of Viking life when York was Jorvik.
4. The local pubs
The local pubs, are truly local inhabited by regulars who are friendly and willing to engage in conversation, and are impressed by the fact that you are from New Zealand (in London this is a bit of a ho hum fact). They also line up for mid-day opening on a Sunday (after seeing the Sunday roasts served up I could see why!) and then make sure you know how the place functions and they are so helpful you don’t need to ask the staff where the bathrooms are – the punters tell you. As a woman on my own I felt completely comfortable sitting in the pub on my own and engaging with the punters about cricket, rugby, (the one-day cricket was on, and the British Lions tour too was of interest), BREXIT and Donald Trump.
5. Its a great city for just wandering
Every time you turn a corner there’s a new and to die for view, plus there’s great shopping – the High St stores are all there, but also many interesting local shops too.
6. There are great cafes and restaurants
Often when trying to find a place to eat around the tourist hotspots I find that you run the risk of getting mediocre, expensive fare. Not so in York, no matter where I ate I found the food to be delicious and reasonably priced. I found Fillmore & Union just near the Minster (and they have a branch at the Railway Station too) know how to make good coffee, smoothies and serve up tasty healthy food. Gatehouse Coffee, on the wall at Walmgate Bar was a really cool place to spend some time, and finally I treated myself to a date night (yes, that’s right a date with myself!) at the Olive Tree that overlooks Clifford’s Tower, and had a delicious Mediterranean inspired meal.
Even the Railway Station has good food and drink options, I arrived a little early for my train back to London, and happily settled myself in a lounge at The Principal Hotel, which is in a listed building, adjacent to the station, and enjoyed a flat white in very gracious surroundings. By the way York is a just under two hour train trip from London, and the cost is reasonable too.
7. It has the craziest street names
As well as the Shambles, which in itself is pretty crazy, there are many snickelways, which are passageways between the medieval streets. You discover names such as Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Gate, Goodramgate, Monk Bar to name but a few.
If you haven’t gathered by now I think York is a must see, and it would be well worthwhile visiting when you are in the UK.