Just a few hours north of London lies a city with almost 2,000 years of history. It was built by Romans and captured by Vikings. By the Middle Ages it was the most important city in the north with a flourishing trading port. Today, you can step back in time as you walk York’s 13th century city walls, get lost in the winding maze of cobblestone streets and see what pat civilisations left behind.
We arrived from London in the evening and checked into the Grand Hotel & Spa. First order of business was throwing myself face first onto one of the big cloud like beds – bliss! The hotel itself is in the former headquarters of the North Eastern Railway Company and is the pinnacle of luxury. Rooms are spacious and high ceilings run throughout the building. The bar (which is perfect for a pre-dinner drink or night cap) is elegantly decorated with velvet curtains and sofas. A fire place and large cabinets housing alcohol along the walls make it even more cosy.
(I’m lapping all this up before I begin my five-month hostel experience. I’ll soon swap spacious rooms, fluffy towels and an in-hotel spa for bunk beds and shared bathrooms.)
We took the evening to wander through the maze of cobblestoned streets before settling into The Three Tuns – a quintessential English pub – for dinner. Then back to the hotel bar for a gin and tonic served in a glass very similar size to my head – what more could you ask for!
Start the day with breakfast at Lucky Days. It’s a cosy, well-priced cafe which serves a mean eggs benedict and very large, very hot coffee.
Fuelled and ready to hit the sights, Clifford’s Tower was first up on the plan of attack. It’s almost all that remains of William the Conqureor’s York Castle and with panoramic views of the city is a perfect starting point for visitors. From the top you can spot the city walls, River Foss, York Minister and pretty much anything in the city and surrounding areas. The Tower has a small museum downstairs which takes visitor’s through its history. 20 minutes is plenty of time to spend here.
Across the road is York Castle Museum where you can literally walk through the last 400 years of British history. The giant building features period rooms, life-sized streets with operating shops, a comprehensive exhibit of how the World Wars affected English life all through to the colourful 60s, ending in the 21st century.
Head to Shambles Market for lunch. The open-air square has a delicious variety of street food and fresh fruit. We settled for Moroccan wraps which were amazing – despite me overestimating the amount of chilli.
York became the capital of a new Viking Kingdom shortly after they overtook the city in 866 AD. The Jorvik Viking centre is the city’s must-see attraction. It’s built on the site of one of the most famous modern archaeological discoveries – houses, workshops and backyards of the last known Viking settlement. Explore the remains of the village before hopping in an underground car and touring through a reimagined, life-like settlement. It’s an impressive and memorable insight into these past peoples. Tip: Buy tickets online in order to skip the long queue.
Get lost in spiderweb of streets! There are so many beautiful shopfronts and timber and flower trimmed buildings it’s hard to take a bad photo.
Once you’ve found your bearings again, marvel at York Minster. It’s one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe and towers in the heart of the city. For a different view, head up to the nearby city wall.
After a day of activities your legs will be aching and feet sore so head back to the Grand Hotel and Spa for some pre-dinner pampering in their spa.
Feeling fresh from my late-afternoon facial it was onto a gin and tonic at the hotel bar before a beautiful Italian meal at Carluccio’s. Although restaurant’s interior is open and modern it still feels cosy – especially with the amazing food!