10:00am: Start the day with a caffeine fix
There’s only one way to start the day in this Viking city and that’s with a Danish pastry. Fill up on a Scandi-snack at any one of the independent cafes along the Bishopthorpe (or Bishy if you’re local) Road, just south of the city. Robinsons and The Pig and Pastry have a great reputation for their barista’s brews too.
If you’d prefer to pick up a coffee closer to town, you can’t go wrong at Coffee Culture, a short walk away from York Minster, or Gatehouse Coffee, a stone-clad quirky coffee shop in one of the gates of the city’s ancient walls.
10.30am: Explore the historic city
You haven’t visited York until you’ve experienced its olde worlde charm. First on your list of must-sees has to be York Minster. A building that took more than 250 years to build and worthy of anyone’s attention (even those on a strict schedule). The beautiful cathedral sells tickets to scale its tower and take in panoramic views of the city. Perfect for scouting out your stomping ground for the day.
For an alternative view of the area, you can always try Clifford’s Tower, on the south side of the River Foss. However, time is of the essence, you might be better off sticking to the city centre and strolling beside the city walls. The longest town walls in England take roughly two hours to walk from one end to the other, so you might not get to see it all.
12:00pm: Shop at the Shambles
No, you haven’t arrived at Diagon Alley but you’re not far off. The so-called inspiration for Harry Potter’s favourite High Street, can be found in the centre of York and feels like taking a step back in time.
Filled with picturesque cobbles and quaint shops at unusual angles, the Shambles can feel like a film set rather than a shopping destination but don’t be fooled. The lovingly restored buildings are home to some of the best boutiques, cafés and antique shops in the city.
The Shambles Sweet Shop serves up traditional sweets to treat kids and big kids, while Paperesque is the place to splash your cash for all arts and crafts lovers, a specialist store with all the tools you need to journal about your staycation adventures. And then there’s The Shop That Must Not Be Named, THE place for Potterheads to stock up on wands and other wizardry goods.
1:00pm: Lunch at a traditional tearoom
Yorkshire is famous for its brewing abilities and equally well known for serving a traditional afternoon tea. The most famous venue of them all is Betty’s Café Tea Rooms, a beautifully decorated space that has sat proudly on St Helen’s Square since 1936. Afternoon Teas include kid-friendly, gluten free and vegan options, so everyone gets a taste of tradition.
If you struggle to get a booking at Betty’s, there are plenty of other tearooms to choose from. The Earl Grey Tearooms are a stone’s throw away from the Jorvik Viking Centre and sell their best blends from an on-site shop. Molly’s Tearooms is another option and is tucked secretly away in the back of an antiques store.
2:00pm: Visit the Viking Museum
Jorvik Viking Centre is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Named after the Viking word for York, the museum is built on the site of excavated houses and workshops from over 1,000 years ago. Booking your ticket in advance is always a good idea.
3:30pm: Enjoy an afternoon at the races
Time your trip to York just right and you could find yourself having a flutter at the races. Peak season falls between May and September but there are plenty of competitive fixtures to choose from all year round. More than 350,000 racegoers pass through the gates at York Racecourse annually, cheering on jockeys and looking to beat the odds. Chances are, you’ll want to join them!
6:30pm: Dine at a Michelin star restaurant
You’re on holiday, so why not treat yourself? Roots is the first restaurant in York to be awarded a Michelin-star, but be warned, the venue only opens between Thursday and Sunday. The impressive tasting menu of ingredients grown in a family farm and garden are served in a relaxed setting in a 19th century building on historic Marygate.
8:00pm: Join the ghost walk tour
Did you know that York is the most haunted city in Europe? According to the experts in this sort of thing, nowhere else on the continent is quite so paranormally charged. Where better then to join a ghost walk tour? The guided night-time strolls have been operating for decades and take you through all the haunted hotspots starting at The King’s Arms pub by Ouse Bridge.
10:00pm: Enjoy a night cap (or two)
Your search for more Viking-themed fun is over. Valhalla is an independent pub that pays homage to York’s Scandi invaders with a host of neat touches. Drink amber ale named after Odin, King of the Norse Gods, there’s even a room designed to look like a grand hall to celebrate the day’s battles. All of which, is soundtracked by heavy rock sounds.
If you’re looking for something completely different, Manahatta is a sophisticated cocktail bar with all the trappings of a New York speakeasy. Sip on cocktails prepared by master mixologists in a plush art deco interior. Elsewhere, The Market Cat is a city centre pub with a modern twist. The venue prides itself on a fantastic range of craft beers and an incredible wine selection for the perfect way to cap off your night.
12:00am: Settle down for the night
When your busy day comes to an end, you’ll need a comfortable room for the night that isn’t too far from all the action. The Lamb & Lion Inn, Sure Hotel Collection by Best Western is a 17th century building close to Bootham Bar, one of four ancient Roman gateways to the city. A quaint English inn with 12 individually decorated en-suite rooms.
9:00am: Rise and refuel
Your 24 hours are nearly up and what better way to start your day on the road than with a kitchen serving modern British AA-rosetted food. Breakfasts at the Lamb & Lion Inn always guarantee a treat.
More things to do in York
Need more staycation inspiration? Our guide to York explores more of the things to see and do within the ancient city walls and lists Best Western hotels in the area too. Handy!