Thinking about taking a day trip to York? Here’s the only travel guide you’ll need to plan the perfect day in York.
One of England’s finest Medieval cities, a day trip to York is an absolute must. Whether you live in England and are looking for day trip ideas or you’re visiting England for the first time and planning an itinerary, York is the perfect place to come to experience British Medieval history, and architecture as well as modern British culture and food.
With so many historical places to visit, modern attractions, walking tours, gardens and of course the largest Gothic Cathedral in England, York has enough excitement to keep you busy for the day. Unlike other large cities in England, York is also the perfect size for a day trip.
Keep reading for the perfect travel guide to a day trip York and learn about all the best things to do in York.
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GETTING TO YORK
Train- Depending on where you’re coming from and the connections available, getting to York by train is by far the easiest way to get to this quaint city. With multiple direct trains per day from London and taking just under 2 hours, it is the fastest way to arrive for a day trip to York from London.
York also has train connections from all major UK cities, from smaller ones you might need to change trains. Use the Trainline here to check for the best fares.
Bus- If you’re coming to York from another major UK city especially nearby ones like Leeds, Manchester or Sheffield taking the bus is also a great option. Journey times are under 2 hours and if you leave early you’ll be able to beat the rush hour traffic.
If you’re coming from London, however, I don’t recommend taking the bus, in fact, don’t do it as the journey takes over 6 hours and you’ll spend most of your day trip to York on the bus.
Car– It takes just 3.5 hours to get to York from London if you’re planning to drive, so if you leave early enough, this is also a good option. From nearby cities, driving is a feasible option too. Parking in York can get quite expensive, however, especially for the whole day as you won’t really be using your car once having arrived.
Depending on where you’re coming from however and your party size driving might be much cheaper and easier than taking the train.
In summary, if you’re planning a day trip to York from London, the best way to get the most out of your time in York is to take the train.
TOP TIPS FOR A DAY TRIP TO YORK
- To get the most out of a day trip to York, you’ll want to arrive by train, especially if coming in from further afield like London. Buses, succumbing to all local traffic, take much longer than trains and are subject to quite a few more delays. If you just have one day, I highly recommend coming to York by train, especially from London.
- Use The York Pass. The York Pass gives you access to most of York’s most famous sights and attractions and it really is one of the best things to use if you’re just coming in for the day. A one-day York Pass costs £55 per adult and includes entrance to famous York attractions and hidden gems. The York Pass gives you access to Clifford’s Tower, City cruises Boat Tours, JORVIK Viking Center, the National Railway Museum, The York Dungeon, the Treasurer’s House, York Castle Museum and of course York Minster. Pretty much every place mentioned in this guide (for which you need a ticket) is included and with entrance fees averaging £12.50 per attraction it really is worth the spend if you’re planning to visit four or more attractions in this guide in the day. To find out more and book the York Pass click here.
- Start early. If you only have time for a day trip to York, you’ll want to get the most out of it and that means arriving as early as you can.
- The summer months in York can be pretty busy so I’d advise visiting in the shoulder months of April, May and September. This way you’ll be able to get the most out of your visit. When visiting in the summer months try to get to the most popular attractions early to beat the crowds or visit York on a weekday.
- Make sure to bring clothes for every season as the weather can change from day to day quite quickly. Don’t forget your umbrella, this is England after all.
WHERE TO EAT IN YORK
For a city as small as York, you’d be surprised by the many restaurant and cafe options. There are so many places to choose from traditional English and Yorkshire food to Indian and authentic Chinese. There are also a great handful of healthy cafes that serve some amazing mezze-sharing platters, salads and modern dishes. Here’s my pick of the best restaurants to choose from in York for your day out.
Source– Probably the best plant-based restaurant in town, their menu is creative, and the food, is delicious. If you committed to breakfast early, make sure to come here for their exquisite brunch options such as chickpea omelette, French toast, tofu shakshuka, grilled avocado, buddha bowls as well as a range of coffees and smoothies. Highly recommended for brunch and lunch.
Goji Cafe – A splendid little vegetarian cafe in the heart of York, perfect for plant-based afternoon tea, vegan cakes and a simple lunch or brunch. Their menu features plenty of veggie burgers, all-day brunch, two mains as well as plenty of selection of homemade cakes. Goji Cafe also does pre-order picnic boxes which you can take to the park on a lovely, sunny day.
Melton’s – One of the best-sophisticated dinner options in York, this Michelin Guide restaurant serves one of the best tasting menus in York. If you’re looking for a great way to end the day head over to Melton’s for their 6 or 7-course tasting menu (a vegetarian one is available too) or just order a la carte. A great way to sample some upscale, modern British cuisine.
The Yak and Yeti Gurkha Restaurant – Nepali food isn’t all too common, especially in small cities like York but this place is a real treat. Head here to this family-run restaurant to sample Nepali cuisine classics like momos (dumplings), thukpa (noodle soup) and dal baht (rice with lentils and curry). There are also quite a few other curries and stir-fried dishes to order with plenty of plant-based options to choose from.
The Orchid Vegan Restaurant – A highly rated Asian cuisine vegan restaurant in the center.
Looking for the best things to do in London? 15 Non-Touristy Things to Do in London by a Local
TOP THINGS TO DO IN YORK ON A DAY TRIP
There are so many things to do in York, even on a day trip York so I really recommend starting early. I’ve listed all the things to do in the order that I would personally do them based on crowds and ease of walking around the city but feel free to do things in the order that you’d like to.
While York is a city (any urban area with a Cathedral is technically a city in England), it definitely can’t compare to London or Manchester or even Leeds in size. It really has a small-size feel to it and it’s manageable and completely doable on foot.
Walk The Shambles
The Shambles is one of the most scenic and historical streets in York. It’s the perfect glimpse of what life would have looked like during Medieval times. The timber houses here lean towards each other in ways that make you wonder how they are still standing, the upper floors hanging over the lower floors to make the most of every centimetre of space available.
The Shambles used to be the butcher’s street of York, the window sills and ledges made for displaying cuts of meat, each stall specialising in a different cut of meat. While you can still find a butcher on the Shambles today you’ll find quite a few different local shops and boutiques selling a wide range of different items.
Wander the Shambles and pop into all the great stores, from boutique tea shops to bakeries, cosmetics and even Harry Potter memorabilia but don’t forget to look up and admire all the timber houses and medieval architecture that’s been here since the 13th Century.
The Shambles is a really small street and due to its popularity, it gets crowded very quickly. I highly recommend coming to the Shambles as soon as you arrive for your day in York especially if you want to take photos.
Right at the end of the Shambles you’ll find the Golden Fleece pub- one of the oldest pubs and inns in York dating back to 1503. It’s said to also be one of the most haunted pubs around. It’s a really charming place to come for a quite drink while exploring.
Learn about the Vikings at Jorvik Viking Centre
Like many places in England, York has a very long and colourful past. From around 800-1075, it flourished as a Viking city, a bustling, commercial center and heart of everyday life.
More recently an excavation of Coppergate actually revealed exactly how the Vikings lived right here in York. The excavation revealed Viking homes, artefacts and even dinner table wares which are now integrated and shown at the Jorvik Viking Center.
The ancient Viking city of Jorvik (present-day York) is recreated in this popular attraction allowing visitors to learn more about the Vikings and how they lived. When visiting Jorvik on a day trip to York you can go back in time and really experience and live York’s unique history.
Jorvik Viking Center is included on the York Pass. Get yours here.
Visit York Minster
The York Minster is something you simply can’t miss on a day trip to York.
One of the most beautiful and glorious cathedrals in England, the York Minster is the largest Gothic Cathedral north of the Alps with some 2,000 years of history. Upon entering you’ll immediately notice the incredible size of the cathedral and how light it is inside thanks to its amazing array of stained glass windows and buttresses that shoot skyward.
Walk down the main nave of the Cathedral- the largest one in England. Works on the nave started in 1291 and took 60 years to complete. The nave leads up to the Quire and Grand Organ from which you can walk around to admire the Great East Window and go down to the Crypt where you’ll find the ruins of the Roman Legionary fortress and the previous Norman churches that once stood here.
From here you can go around to check out the Chapter House- on the way make sure to look up and notice the Five Sisters Window in the North Transept, the oldest complete window in the Minster- and of course the magnificent Rose Window before leaving.