A few years ago I used to travel to York a few days a week. It’s amazing how when you are made to go somewhere for work purposes you become blind to its appeal so on my return this week I wanted to make sure that I did the place justice and spent time appreciating the city.
Christmas in any historical town can be beautiful and York is no exception.
St Nicholas Fair lines the streets with snug wooden chalets and twinkling lights from 17 November right up to 23 December. Stallholders sell unique gifts including jewellery, homewares, crafts and local wines and cheeses. To add to the festive atmosphere, scents of hot mulled wine and roasted chestnuts will fill the air. It’s a tiny market compared to some of the others I’ve reviewed but so pretty.
York is best known for its Viking heritage and most visits wouldn’t be complete without taking in some of these sites. The Jorvic Viking Centre isn’t as dull as it sounds and contains over a thousand relics from a five year dig; complete with animatronic Vikings. I’m not much of a museum buff to be honest so preferred some of the spooky Viking walks around the city. You can do a variety of walks in York such as medieval, Roman or ghost themed – the latter being my favourite!
The pub scene in the city is crazy good with pubs tucked around every corner. Craft beer is really popular with places like York Tap. All 1920s stained glass, inlaid terrazzo floor and dark, woody authenticity, the Tap is, arguably, a mite gloomy as a space. However, its mighty range of 32 cask and craft keg beers is worth the gloom. Try its best bitter and, while you’re at the bar, one of Tap’s terrific pork pies from Robinson’s of Knaresborough (£2.50). Other gems to try include the House of Trembling Madness – a quirky place dressed with hundreds of stuffed animal heads which serves an array of Belgian beers. There’s also the Maltings which is a family run real ale pub selling lots of local beers and ciders. The best thing about York is that pubs just pop up down side roads in the middle of the city centre offering a great pause for a weary shopper.
There are lots of great restaurants in York but what it is really great for is afternoon tea. With the iconic Betty’s Tearoom being featured on many to shows, lots of similar (and cheaper) alternatives have popped up offering the traditional three tier of cakes and endless real leaf tea. Molly’s tearoom offers great home made food in a cosy relaxed environment, favoured by locals or Earl Grey is famed for its great pies though is a little bit pricier than Molly’s owing to location.
Finally, let’s have a think about where to stay. The surprising thing about York is hotels are all pretty cheap. If you like a modern hotel in a central location then look at the Park Inn or the Hilton Hampton – both offering rooms for £80 a night. For something a bit more boutique with personality the Judges Court offers quirky plushness for £147 a night or the Hotel du Vin (£109 a night) is a 19th century building mixing sleek contemporary style with period features.
York is definitely worth a visit and coming out of season makes a huge difference as hotel prices are lower and you don’t need to fight your way through hoards of tourists just to get around.