York is a beautiful little city in the North of England that you simply must add to your travel bucket list this year. Far, far away from the hustle and bustle of London, my recent weekend away to York was (quite literally) a breath of fresh air. I was surprised to find that the city is small enough that you can get to know it quite well over just one weekend. I’ve put together a York 48 hour itinerary with all the best sights, which is more than enough to keep you busy for a weekend away!
Here’s what to do with 48 hours in York:
Day 1 in York
10:15 – York Minster
Start your day with York’s most iconic sight – York Minster. It is a phenomenally beautiful building, both inside and out. York Minster’s Great East Window is the largest expanse of stained glass in the UK and quite a sight to behold.
After you’ve had a wander round inside, make your way to the back entrance of the Minster to get tickets to join a tower trip. Be warned – it involves climbing 275 steps! If you’re afraid of heights or tight spaces then this probably isn’t for you, but when you reach the top there are stunning views of the York Minster architecture as well as the city and surrounding countryside.
These trips are weather dependent so Minster and Tower tickets (adult ticket – £16) can only be bought on the day. I’d recommend doing this one first to avoid a large queue, especially in the hot summer months.
Find out more about York Minster and book tickets online here. Free for YorkPass holders.
11:00 – Barley Hall
Barley Hall is a reconstructed Medieval Townhouse that explores magic, science and religion in medieval York. I was fortunate enough to visit when they’d just opened their new Magic and Mystery exhibition where you can learn more about witches and magical lore from centuries ago. Each room of the hall is reimagined as it would’ve been in the medieval era and there is a staff member in each room, dressed in costume, who can answer any questions and tell you more about life back then.
Open 10am – 4pm every day. £6 for adults. Free for York Pass holders.
12:15 – Lunch at Little Italy
My friend recommended Little Italy to me, comparing it to the infamous Italian restaurant Padella, in London. That’s quite a high bar to surpass but since it’s less than a 5 minute walk away from Barley Hall, we popped by to see what it’s like for ourselves. It’s best to either book in advance or arrive as early as possible as there can be queues, and now that I’ve been there myself, I can see why.
I ordered a plate gnochetti with spicy salami, aubergine, and parmesan. When the waiter put it down in front of me, I was shocked by the portion size.
It. Was. Enormous.
Though, to be honest, that’s exactly how I like my carbs. It still didn’t look like it was any better than any other restaurant’s pasta though. Then I took a bite and wow. Definitely the best pasta I’ve ever had and you’d be daft to miss this lovely restaurant in York.
13:15 – Roman Bath
This is a very short stop on the itinerary but well worth a visit if you’re a fan of the Romans. This is actually a pub but underneath it are the remains of a Roman bath from 71 AD. You can wander through the small exhibit learning about the importance of the Roman bath and what sort of people would’ve visited. There’s also the opportunity to dress up like a Roman soldier!
Open 11am – 5pm every day. Adults £3.50. Free with York Pass.
14:00 – York Chocolate Story
York Chocolate Story was one of the things I was most excited about visiting as everyone who I spoke to about York said it was amazing. Did you know that the companies Rowntree’s, Terry’s and Craven’s all began in the heart of York? The before Terry’s chocolate orange there was a Terry’s chocolate apple? Find out about the history of chocolate in the North, with some tasters along the way of course, in this fantastic chocolate museum!
15:00 – Jorvik Viking Centre
Did you know York has a strong Viking history? In the 1970s, they discovered archeological finds from the Viking period completely by chance. They kept digging and were amazed to find over 40,000 items, which have now been fashioned into an exhibition at Jorvik Viking Centre. The tour is an immersive experience and you are taken round in a cart, a little bit like a calm theme park ride, through numerous Viking scenes that they’ve recreated from their finds.
The replica Vikings are scarily realistic and the smells in there are certainly authentic too!
Open from 10am – 5pm every day. Adults £11. Free with York Pass.
16:30 – National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum in York is the largest in the world and contains the world’s fastest steam locomotive – The Mallard. This museum is absolutely enormous and contains a number of hugely impressive and beautiful trains, including Queen Victoria’s favourite carriage. You can peek inside these wonderful locomotives and even wander inside some of them. You don’t realise quite how big these are until you’re standing right underneath them!
There are a number of different rooms here featuring different types of trains and their histories so make sure you leave enough time to have a thorough wander through everything if you’re keen to see this.
18:00 – Evil Eye
After all that exploring I think it’s time for a drink, don’t you? Head to Evil Eye when you’re finished with all the museums for the day, where you’ll find over 1000 varieties of gin! Yes, really! They beat the world record for the number of gins commercially available.
In the summer months you can enjoy your drinks in the outdoor terrace they’ve got at the back, otherwise there’s plenty of space in their quirky interior for small or large groups. My personal favourite drinks were the Watermelon Martini and Persian Carpet Ride.
Open 11am – 12am every day.
19:30 – York Roast Co
You can’t go to Yorkshire without having an authentic Yorkshire pudding, can you? Head to York Roast Co on your way to The King’s Arms (where the Ghost Walk begins) and pick up a yorkshire pudding wrap. That’s right, a yorkshire pudding wrap. I wasn’t sure at first and thought I’d just try it as a novel food item but it turned out to be so good.
£5.75 – £6.75 for The Yorkypud.
20:00 – The Original Ghost Walk
The Original Ghost Walk kicks off at the King’s Arm pub every evening at 8pm. Although the tour wasn’t quite as scary as I thought it would be, there were some fun and creepy stories along this night-time tour of York. Of course in the summer it’s still light outside, which somewhat diminishes its spooky power but the tour guide has an amazingly expressive way of telling every tale.
No need to book, just turn up at 8pm.
£5 adults. £4 children. £1 off with a YorkPass.
Day 2 in York
10:00 – Clifford’s Tower
Clifford’s Tower is the largest remaining part of York Castle and is a great place to find stunning views over York. It’s not as tall as York Minster but of course the advantage here is that you get panoramic views of York including York Minster. Head here first thing in the morning to watch the city waking up.
Open from 10am – 6pm every day. Adults £5.40. Free with York Pass.
10:30 – York Castle Museum
Right next to Clifford’s Tower is York Castle Museum. I must admit I didn’t consider this place a priority on my list of places to go in York but it turned out to be my favourite museum. There are a wide range of exhibitions to see here including the old York prison, a 60s exhibition and a history of fashion, the body & size. You can also walk through Victorian York in their spectacular recreation of Victorian shops and streets, which is fully immersive.
12:30 – Lunch at Mannion and Co.
Mannion and Co wasn’t on my radar but was recommended to me by a man working at Paragon Street StayCity ApartHotels, where I was staying. He raved about the delicious deli boards so off we went to check them out ourselves. We were not disappointed. Two of us shared the Bits and Bobs deli board, adding on a sausage roll each, which came to around £15. They’ve got outdoor seating here so if you’re looking to dine al fresco with a lovely summery menu, this is the place for you.
Open 9am – 5pm every day.
13:30 – Yorkshire Museum
A couple of minutes away from your lunch stop is Yorkshire Museum. It is a bit of an eclectic museum as it contains four permanent collections: geology, biology, astrology and archaeology. There’s a new Jurassic World exhibition which is well worth checking out, especially if you’re travelling with children. There’s also more about Medieval, Roman and Viking York, though these have largely been covered by Day 1’s’ museums.
Open 10am – 5pm every day. Adults £7.50. Free for YorkPass holders.
14:30 – The Shambles
No visit to York is complete without a visit to The Shambles, aka Diagon Alley. This narrow street, filled with quaint old shops is thought to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books. Take your time wandering down this street, peering into every window and every alley along the way. In York, these tiny alleys are actually called snickelways!
As you wander down you’ll see a Christmas shop (it’s open all year round!), some Viking stores, a smaller version of Betty’s Tea Room as well as three dedicated Harry Potter shops. There’s The Shop That Must Not Be Named (my favourite!), as well the World of Wizardry and The Boy Wizard. All three of them are at the end of the Shambles and on a particularly busy day you might find a queue outside them with people waiting to get in! This was undoubtedly a highlight of my 2 days in York and I’m sure it will be for many Harry Potter fans.
For more Potter, check out my ultimate guide to Harry Potter in York.
15:00 – River Cruise
Running through York is the River Ouse and every day there are numerous river cruises that can take you for a little tour of the city via these waters. There aren’t a great deal of picturesque views along this tour actually but there are plenty of snippets of history to be shared about York’s riverside.
On a hot sunny day, this cruise can be a wonderful way to find out even more about the city of York, typically lasting 45 mins – 1 hour.
Timing depends on the season so check the timetable here. Adults £9.50. Free for YorkPass holders. Departures from King’s Staith Landing and Lendal Bridge Landing.
16:00 – Betty’s Cafe
You can’t visit York without visiting Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms. They’re infamous in the region with hoards of tourist flocking here to try their legendary fat rascal scones as well as locals coming for special occasions or just a catch up over some tea.
I didn’t end up having dinner after my visit to Betty’s because the fat rascal was, well, fat. It’s not your traditional scone but it is a wonderful afternoon treat – crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. Spread a bit of butter on this, grab a glass of Pimms and … bliss. The perfect way to end a busy weekend in York!
Open 9am – 9pm every day.
17:00 – Castle Walk
It’s probably time for your train home soon, but why not take the scenic route back to wherever you’re staying and walk along the old Castle Walls. You can hop on and off these at numerous points throughout the city and they’re not difficult to find. If you wanted to walk the entire way round the city it would only take you one and a half to two hours!
Open all hours.
*I was a guest of Visit York for this weekend away but all opinions are my own.
I was given a YorkPass for my two days in York, which, as you can see, enabled me to get into most attractions for free. A YorkPass for 2 days costs £60, which would see you saving a good £30-40 on the above attractions. Find out more about YorkPass here
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