A visit to Medieval York is like stepping back in the middle ages! We visited York for the first time on our trip to the UK with my parents and we spent a short but sweet 24 hours in York exploring as much of this magical city as we could! York has so much to offer and we really only managed to scratch the surface. We loved exploring the extensive city walls, picturesque overhanging timber houses of The Shambles and the magnificent Gothic cathedral, York Minster. We also made sure to do some Christmas bauble shopping, warmed up in charming pubs and chocolate shops and admired the festive lights around the city! York very quickly became one of our favourite cities in the UK! Here is our guide on the best things to do in 24 hours in York.
After Christmas in Surrey and Kent, I headed North with my parents while Dan spent a few extra days with his. We spent the better part of the day driving to York and once we got there we couldn’t wait to explore! We had booked a night at Staycity York Apartments which was conveniently located so that we could walk to town and had a kitchen and washer dryer (which is always appreciated when travelling)! Parking wasn’t included but we got a discount for staying in the hotel. The apartment was clean, comfortable and perfect for our 24 hours in York!
Once we’d checked in and dropped our bags, we wandered out, map in hand and headed along the city walls towards the River Ouse. York is bursting with bridges and they are one of the best places to admire and take in the cityscape around you.
We wandered around the city, admiring the stunning architecture. York definitely feels like one of the most liveable cities I’ve visited in the UK and has some of the most charming pubs, shops and buildings! We bought so many lovely souvenirs during our stay in York that we decided to send them back to Australia so we didn’t have to carry them around in our luggage for the next month. We sent them with Parcel2Go who were really reasonably priced and our lovely York package arrived safely back in Australia!
One of the places I was most excited to visit in York was The Shambles. The Shambles is a narrow cobbled, medieval street filled with Elizabethan buildings. It is one of the oldest and best preserved medieval streets in Europe, with some of the timber-framed buildings dating back to the 14th century! It is said to have been inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series, and there are now Harry Potter and wizardry themed stores located along the street! It’s just as charming as the pictures and there are parts of the street that are so close you can touch both sides of the street at once!
We wandered from the Shambles to York Minster. York Minster is without a doubt one of the most magnificent cathedrals in the world. It’s been the centre of Christianity in the north of England since the 7th century and is one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe. The architecture and grandness of the cathedral will leave you in awe (and having to walk a few hundred metres away to take the whole thing in)!
Christmas lights and trees lined every street and all the shops were still decked out in lights and decorations. I was sad that we’d missed out on seeing London’s Christmas lights on this occasion as we didn’t have time, but seeing York all festive and bright definitely cured that!
As soon as it started to get dark it got really cold. We couldn’t help but stop in at ‘York’s Oldest Licensed Pub’, the Ye Olde Starre Inne. It has been operating since 1644 and we found a nice cosy corner for a mulled wine to help us warm up before heading back to find some dinner to take home to our apartment.
Our apartment was literally opposite a section of the city walls so that is where we started our next morning! York has had city walls since the Roman times, and today substantial portions (miles and miles) of the walls still remain. You can walk on most of the city walls, however as we learned the night before they shut them at dusk because they get icy and slippery and no one wants to fall off the city walls and hurt themselves.
We wandered for about 10 minutes along the first portion of the walls and admiring just how high they were and what incredible condition they were in!
Next up was Clifford’s Tower, a 13th Century castle keep located on a very steep grass mound. We walked the stairs to the top for the view and caught the beautiful sunrise over York! As we were visiting a few days after Christmas the tower was closed, but if it were open we would definitely have paid to go in. It was well worth climbing the tiny, steep stairs for the beautiful view.
The focus of the rest of our morning was to explore the city in the morning light and to go and wander the city walls on the opposite side of town that we’d seen the night before. This part of the city walls was probably our favourite, the views all the way to York Minster were amazing and it felt pretty special to be able to walk along these ancient walls (plus it is free to do so)! Just watching where you are walking because they can be a little slippery and there is fairly large drop offs if you were to fall over the edge!
We loved our 24 hours in York and we WILL be back one day! This time with Dan in tow because I have a feeling he would love York too (and all the charming little pubs)! We only scratched the surface in York and next time we’ll definitely spend longer and hopefully get to see some more of Yorkshire too because it looked stuuuuunnning from the car on our way to Scotland!