AD| After day dreaming about visiting for several years, York has been very high up on my never ending English Destination bucket list. Perhaps even being number 1 spot? Being too far away for my partner to drive and train prices in the £200+ range, I never ended up making it over there. The idea of spending that much money on a trip in my own country just sounded ridiculous to me! I could get a holiday in Barcelona for that much! However, recently (and luckily) I was invited by National Express to hop on a coach with them and finally go to York for the weekend. Of course, I jumped at the chance and also felt like an idiot for not considering coach travel in the first place.
It was my first time doing coach travel (you can read about my time here) but I’ve learnt a lot! (Partially how much cheaper it is!) We also opted for an AirBNB room while there, which was a bit of a disaster, but more on that part later!
The Harry Potter influence…
So what is it about York that made me so desperate to go there in the first place? Well, it may or may not have been the Harry Potter influence. I am a big fan, although I don’t think it’s apparent on the blog. (I’m Hufflepuff, by the way!)
The Shambles is said to be one of the main inspirations behind Diagon Alley and I can really see why. I would go as far to say that if I didn’t know better, the Shambles IS Diagon Alley. Packed to the brim with quirky little shops and Harry Potter themed shops, it made me feel like I was suspended in time and that I should’ve got my letter. Sigh. But if Harry Potter isn’t your cup of tea, is York still worth visiting? Of course it is. The Shambles is one of the main attractions, but there is a lot more to this little town. York is definitely one of those places that you stumble across something at every corner you turn!
Standing at 235 feet tall since the 4th Century, this beautiful Cathedral is definitely hard to miss. At £10 entry fee, it’s well worth a visit inside. Originally built with wood back in 627, York Minister is still to this day one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe (and of course, England!) Even if religion isn’t your thing, I would still recommend visiting.
Admittedly, I am scared of “Cathedral burnout”. Similar to Temple Burn out, it’s the feeling that once you’ve seen one Cathedral, you’ve seen them all. That they all start to look the same! I like to cherry pick which ones I visit. York Minister definitely combats any of those feelings head on with how grand and beautiful it is. Especially with a blue sky, like it was for us!
When we first stumbled across this, we weren’t really sure what it was. We hadn’t done our research properly and when we had arrived in front of it, with the cold biting our faces and still with our sleepy eyes on, we saw it more as an exercise challenge. We climbed the steep stairs to the top, looked at the view and came back down again when we saw there was an entry fee. At around £6 for Adults and £3.50 for children (dependent on season) we decided to skip visiting inside this time. You can see some of the view from the top of the stairs, but if you want to pop in for the History, it is probably worth the price.
Clifford’s Tower is actually the final remains of the original York Castle, built by William the Conqueror. It was officially established around 1068, but believed to be occupied by the Romans before. Over time, Clifford’s Tower has become a variation of things, mainly a treasury and a prison. One of the darkest times for British History also took place here too. It was the massacre and the mass suicide of the Jewish community around the year 1190. The tour around is self-guided and is said to have the best views in York. Knowing what I know now, I’d pay to visit inside! Never judge a book by its cover they say after all.
Perhaps I am biased but this was the best part of York for me. Excluding all the Harry Potter bits and pieces, this one (if not the best) preserved street in England. Originally known as “The Great Flesh Shambles,” this quaint street was one decorated with, you guessed it…Meat! Around 25 butcher’s shops were noted to have been set up down these windy lanes. Thankfully, those days are now long gone and have been home to bookshops, coffee shops, a market and all things Harry Potter. As I said earlier, one of the most magical places I’ve been! I think I even tried a cup of chocolate flavour tea!? The streets are quite narrow and full, so imagining what it was like back then with the smell? Yikes!
York’s Chocolate Story
If you love chocolate, this museum is for you! At £13 Adults and £10.50 for Children, you can get a fully guided tour on the history of York’s very own chocolate creations. You’ll learn how to make, taste and create like a professional. We were short on time so we only had time to pop in and grab a strange flavoured KitKat. We grabbed the Spring Time in Japan KitKat flavour, which was based on the famous Sakura blossoms. The KitKat was cherry and apple flavour, which was covered in “Ruby” chocolate (kind of tastes like white chocolate!) It was around £7.50, even though I am a massive chocoholic, I typically wouldn’t pay this much for a special KitKat but I made it last and it was so delicious!
Museum Gardens & Roman Wall Walk
After all the excitement of the day, we took a stroll around the Museum Gardens right next to the river. Decorated with Roman ruins, it was a nice way to end the afternoon. There is a Roman wall that you can walk around the town on too. Unfortunately, this was closed when we were there. This is apparently a rare occurrence but due to how cold it was, I’m not surprised it was closed! If you visit York, you can do this walk around for free and it is open from 8am to sunset. It’s around 3.4 kilometres long and if you do the whole thing, it would take around 2 hours! Most people pop on and walk for a little while then head down. When we head back, we are definitely doing this!
We walked past this several times before heading in but this is a great place to stop and eat! Built entirely from up cycled shipping containers, it houses so many small individual food businesses. If you like street food, this place is for you. It really has something for everyone. We (eventually) grabbed some chicken wings and a milkshake from MELK. We really couldn’t decide what to eat as there was so much choice! I regret not grabbing the vegan kebab to this day… This is not indoors, but don’t worry about getting cold as they have blankets on every bench and overhead heaters too! Not only do they serve food here, there are a few bars and some local shopping businesses are here too. There is also a mini stage inside where local bands play on Friday and Saturday nights.
Other tourist attractions
When we went, there was a lovely Christmas market that we enjoyed! It did get quite busy though, but the food was delicious and worth a visit if you’re visiting from late November. Who knew dipping a freshly made cinnamon roll into hot apple juice was so delicious?
I believe there is also river cruises available to do in the spring and summer time, which could be lovely. We are aiming to go back then, so please keep an eye out for a summer version of this post! Not to mention the variety of Museums available if they are your thing. There is an Air Museum as well as a Natural History of York Museum. There is also a York Dungeons if you want to learn more about the spooky/dark side of York.
The AirBNB Issue
I am a big big lover of AirBNB and I use it quite often, almost for every trip. Sadly for this trip it really let us down. There was no hot water the whole weekend, the host had a party quite loudly into the early hours, dead bugs were in the draw we were provided to pop our clothes in and we tackled around 4 spiders above our heads while they were playing James Bond and fighting through the dangling dust! We took it in our stride and just dealt with it. It’s not the end of the world, we’re not complainers. We were going to give it 3 stars for cleanliness but everything else was fine.
Upon leaving, we finally met the host, who then pressured us to give the experience 5 stars. We laughed it off and went on our way. Like I said, we’re not complainers! When it came to reviewing, we were honest and gave the cleanliness 3 stars. The host then started harassing us for several days over the app complaining that she wanted 5 stars! Yikes!!
But that’s all for my trip to York anyway! We had a great time regardless and I cannot wait to go back! Have you ever been to York? Would you go on my recommendation? Let me know!