There are lots of fantastic York pubs. We have written guides for real ale drinkers, as well as those in search of the city’s most historic pubs, however we wanted to pick out the pubs that are simply just great places to drink. It’s not been an easy job whittling down the shortlist, however we’ve picked out ten of the best pubs in York within the city walls.
One of the first pubs you’ll see as you head into the city centre from the train station, The Maltings (pictured above) has been the deserving past winner of CAMRA’s York pub of the year award. Although you wouldn’t know it at first glance the left hand part of the pub is a new extension – added to cope with increasing demand.
Popular with visitors and locals alike, The Maltings is primarily a drinkers pub. Food is served during quite limited hours and there is sometimes a bit of folk music, but beer is what this pub is all about. Although the bar itself is quite small they always have a good selection of rotating guest beers as well as “proper” cider and the occasional perry.
The Lamb & Lion Inn
A pub with rooms that also serves food, The Lamb and Lion despite its traditional feel is actually one of York’s newer pubs. Inside the pub there is a smallish main bar at the front and a warren of other small drinking areas to the rear. What makes this pub a great place to drink is the beer garden at the back. The Lamb and Lion is butted up to Bootham Bar and the city walls are actually the garden’s boundary wall. From the raised patio area you can sip your drink and enjoy the spectacular view of York Minster.
The Eagle & Child
Another newer pub with ancient pedigree, The Eagle and Child on High Petergate occupies a Grade II listed timber framed building that was constructed way back in 1640. This is Leeds Brewery’s second pub in the city – after the Duke of York – and in my opinion is the finer of the two. Although there isn’t a large amount of seating downstairs there are a further two floors, and from the windows upstairs you can see views of York Minster’s Great West Window. Food is available through the day and they serve their own excellent beer along with carefully selected guest ales.
The Black Swan Inn
Supposedly haunted, The Black Swan Inn on Peasholme Green is a couple of hundred yards walk from the end of Parliament Street. The age of this sixteenth century one-time coaching inn has only been accentuated by the new glass fronted Hiscox building that now towers above it. With the front two rooms reserved for diners, the main drinking area is the bar at the back. Plenty of dark wood, a low ceiling, copper tables and open fire give it a lovely cosy atmosphere – especially in the winter. Drinks prices (for a man of my means) are a little bit expensive but they usually have three of four good ales on tap.
Ye Olde Starre Inne
Whilst many pubs in York claim the title, Ye Olde Starre Inne is believed to be the oldest continuously licensed establishment in the city. There are three wood panelled rooms inside with a large copper topped bar. Outside are three additional drinking areas – beer “yards” rather than beer gardens. The ale selection is usually good however the food on offer isn’t as great as that offered in some other York pubs. A little bit tricky to find, Ye Olde Starre Inne is located down a small alleway off of Stonegate. Be sure to look out for the large sign strung across the street that marks the entrance.
The Golden Ball
The Golden Ball in Bishophill is the archetypal cosy local pub. Separated into three and half drinking rooms – one with a billiards table – there is also an outdoor seating area where you can while away a lazy Sunday afternoon. There is regular entertainment of an evening including an open mic night, live bands, quiz night and a monthly soul club. Out of the city centre but still within the city walls, The Golden Ball is far enough away that you can avoid the tourist crowds but close enough that you won’t have to trek for ages to get there. One of my favourite York pubs.
The Phoenix Inn
The Phoenix Inn is one of those pubs in York that you probably wouldn’t find if you weren’t looking for it. Although it is right next to the city walls just round from Walmgate Bar, it’s well off of the beaten track for most tourists. A nice looking pub inside and out, this is a very chilled out place that serves good ales at reasonable prices. There is plenty of live music too, with jazz usually three nights a week. You can find The Phoenix Inn just the other side of the walls from York Barbican, handy for pre- or post-show drinks if you’re in town for an event at the Barbican.
If you head back into the city from the Phoenix via Walmgate / Fossgate you will stumble across The Hop. Very much a pub of two halves, the tiled walls at the front of are reminiscent of a Victorian bath house and a couple of low tables and an ornate dark wood bar complete the late nineteenth century feel.
At the back, the pub opens out into what can only be described as a large hall, with bare brick walls and bench style seating. Skylights in the roof bring in natural light and the seating is staggered so as to allow all drinkers to see the stage area (where you can hear live music four nights a week). This is an Ossett Brewery pub but also has plenty of other guest ales and beers as well.
The Blue Bell
The Blue Bell – a little further up Fossgate – did have a reputation as being a bit of grumpy pub. However a recent change of landlord has led to a boom in friendliness levels and overall customer service. Despite this, The Blue Bell is still a small pub and big groups will almost certainly be turned away (so definitely not a stag do destination – unless you’re keeping things very low key). Entering the pub itself is a bit like stepping back in time. Last renovated in the early twentieth century, it has a very cosy, authentic feel – something the swankier chain pubs can only dream about emulating.
The King’s Arms
Okay, I admit it I have a weakness for Sam Smith’s pubs. The King’s Arms made the final ten for two reasons. First up is the price of the beer. Pints of Sam Smith’s lager, ale and stout remain well under £3 (whilst I don’t care much for their ale, I find the lager and stout very drinkable). The second is the fantastic riverside location. The King’s Arms has bench seating on the cobbles outside overlooking the Ouse – or if you’re feeling brave you can dangle your legs off the quayside. In the winter months the pub will be inaccessible if the river breaks its banks, however during the summer it is an incredibly popular drinking spot.
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