York is the perfect city for a weekend break. Hotels for every budget, loads of interesting stuff to do whatever the weather, fantastic places to eat and drink and plenty of stuff going on in the evening. We’ve put together a quick guide to making the most of a weekend break in York.
Places to Stay
If you’ve staying just Friday and Saturday night, you probably don’t want to spend too much time travelling in and out of the city. Fortunately there are plenty of centrally located hotels to choose from. Dean Court, Guy Fawkes Inn and The Lamb & Lion (pictured) are all within a hundred yards or so of York Minster. The Hilton too is very handy for tourist attractions, being within a stones throw of Clifford’s Tower, York Castle Museum and York Dungeons.
If you’re visiting York for a special occasion or just want to push the boat out a bit York has some Luxury and Boutique options as well. Top end hotels The Grand Hotel & Spa and The Pinnacle York are both very close to the station – very handy if you’re travelling to York by train. Boutique hotels like Marmaduke’s, Hotel Indigo and Hotel du Vin are a little further out, although Judges Court – just off of Coney Street – is in a great central location.
Things To Do
York Minster is the city’s most famous landmark, and probably tops most people’s lists of things to do whilst you’re here. Taking centuries to complete, it is one of the finest Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Although the Minster is undoubtedly an incredible building, if you find that even the idea of wandering round a church has you nodding off to sleep, then there’s plenty of other stuff to do.
York Dungeon is a Horrible History-style experience – complete with costumed actors – taking you through the darker, disgusting and often downright disturbing parts of the city’s past. York’s history is intertwined with that of two giants of the confectionery industry – Rowntree’s and Terry’s. York’s Chocolate Story is a part museum – telling the stories behind the wrappers – and part chocolate-making guide.
If history is your thing then both York Castle Museum (pictured) and The Yorkshire Museum have some fascinating exhibitions, whilst at the recently reopened Jorvik Centre you can see the remains of Viking parts of York. If you’re particularly interested in history you can also book your own themed tours of the city with a knowledgeable local guide.
The National Railway Museum is a huge free museum – the largest railway museum anywhere in the world. If you enjoy an occasional tipple now and again then you can book a beer tasting or a get yourself on a brewery tour. Fancy yourself as a bit of a Sherlock Holmes then test your powers of perception at Gr8escape – a live escape room experience.
Aside from the bigger museums there are also loads of smaller attractions, including Barley Hall – a medieval townhouse complete with banqueting room, Fairfax House – a Georgian mansion house and York Army Museum.
If you’re wanting to do some serious sightseeing over a weekend break then a York Pass will almost certainly work out cheaper than paying for attractions individually. The two day pass works out at £25 per day for adults – to get your money’s worth you need to visit 3 or 4 places on each day.
Places to Eat
Despite its small size York isn’t short of restaurants and most of the pubs and bars also serve food. If you’re looking for great places to eat then be sure to check out our guide to the city’s ten best restaurants. However, if you literally can’t spare the time to read it here are my top three recommendations – in no particular order.
- No. 8 Bistro Located on Gillygate, most tourists probably won’t walk past this little restaurant – however they’ll be missing out. Carefully crafted dishes from locally sourced ingredients have established No. 8 Bistro as one of the best places to eat in York.
- Ambiente This has been my go to restaurant in recent years (although the service was incredibly slow last time I visited). Tasty tapas in a listed Georgian building – and the bill never seems to come to as much as I was expecting.
- Rustique Serving classic French food, Rustique is something of a York institution – and so popular that they’ve opened up a second restaurant in the city. Their two and three course set menus – available through the week – are also great value for money.
If you’re in York for the weekend, you’ll probably want to eat out on the Saturday night. One piece of advice – if you’ve seen somewhere you fancy eating always try and book a table. I have spent not one, but two separate Saturday evenings (one in the p*****g rain) wandering about York with my girlfriend trying to find somewhere with a free table – and both times ended up in Wetherspoons (I’ve nothing against Wetherspoons – or their food – it just wouldn’t be top of your list when looking for a restaurant).
Pubs & Bars
Although its not true that there are 365 pubs in York, you’re literally never more than two hundred yards away from a drink within the city walls. In part this is testament to the local appetite for beer, but it is also the result of the incredible number of visitors we get every year. Whatever your poison, York has somewhere for you.
If you’re after exotic cocktails, top notch real ale, three hundred year old pubs or just great places to drink, York has some great bars and boozers. We’ve also written a guide to some of the more out of the way or hidden bars if you fancy checking out some of the city’s best kept secrets
Whilst we do get big touring productions and well known names at the Barbican, Opera House and Theatre Royal, some months can be a little bit quieter than others. So if you want to incorporate seeing a show, concert or play into your weekend it’s definitely worth checking out what’s on before booking dates for your hotel.
Gig-wise Fibbers, The Crescent, The Basement and The Fulford Arms all usually have touring/local bands on a Friday and Saturday – you can find gig listings here. Although it might seem strange, you’re more likely to find live music in York’s pubs in the week rather than on a Friday or Saturday night. That said there’ll almost certainly be live music in The Roman Bath, The Habit and The Hop – but you can check our full listings to find out exactly what’s on.
Comedy at the weekends is a little bit harder to come by. There used to be a comedy club night every Saturday at The Duchess – however the venue was shut and is currently being redeveloped as luxury housing. The Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club put on a Friday show once a month at The Basement and a bigger Saturday show once a month at York Barbican. Unfortunately the big names off the telly tend to tour midweek, and York’s other comedy clubs run on non-weekend nights.