My ultimate 2 days in York, England (ie – a York travel guide) is finally published! And less than four months after I came home ;0!! This lovely English city was the last stop on my daughter’s and mine Christmas getaway in December and was so worth the trip!
Once again, Instagram introduced me to a destination I had never heard of.
And this time it was a small city north of London.
With old cobblestoned streets and crooked buildings that I just needed to see for myself.
If you know me- you know I just can’t resist old buildings and cobblestone streets. Add in the Christmas holiday – and well let’s just say it’s most certainly going to be on my bucket list ;0.
So when I convinced my youngest daughter to go on a Christmas holiday with me to England, I knew I had to add this unique city to our itinerary.
FYI – be sure to read my suggestions for Bath and the Cotswolds too!
In a rush?
York Travel Guide
- How to Get to York and Around the City Once There
- Best Places to Stay in York, England
- Where to Eat
- What to Do in York, England
- What to Wear in York, England in Winter
- Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
How to Get to York and Around the City Once There
My daughter and I spent 15 days in England without a car in December 2022.
During a countrywide train strike.
So that was fun.
But from what I’ve been told – England has A LOT of train and metro strikes. And truth be told – we were minimally affected by this strike that was all over the local news for the entire two weeks we were in the country ;0.
We were traveling from the Cotswolds to York and luckily the only change we decided to make to preempt any potential route cancellations was to take a taxi to the Birmingham New Street train station instead of taking our original train from Moreton on Marsh to Birmingham.
So many people decided to use other modes of transportation during this train strike that we pretty much had all the train stations (and train cars) to ourselves for our entire trip. Well except for one train experience from Bath to the Cotwolds ;0.
All this to say – don’t panic if there is a train strike during your trip and you have no intention of learning how to drive on the opposite side of the road AND vehicle!! There are still trains that run even during a strike ;).
York is a big enough city that you can travel to it via train from any part of the UK. There is a direct train from London Kings Cross station to York that takes right around 2 hours.
I have always paid the extra money for 1st class seats on European trains. They are always less crowded and much quieter ;).
I booked all of my train tickets about two months in advance for this UK trip directly on the GWR website where I made an online account. And then downloaded the GWR app once in the country to get access to my tickets.
You obviously can travel to York via car as well but I very rarely rent cars in Europe so I cannot speak to that experience ;0.
York is a very walkable city with zero need for a car. So much so that we never even looked into or needed any other form of transportation.
If you do end up staying at No. 1 York (see below!) and are arriving via train, they will coordinate with you to pick up your luggage at the train station with a bike and a trolley so that you can walk luggage free to the hotel ;).
Best Places to Stay in York, England
Guest House No. 1 York
If you read my Bath Travel Guide, you know we stayed at the sister Guest House hotel in that city and LOVED IT.
So I knew our experience at No. 1 York was going to be equally as pleasant.
To my surprise – we even had a CHRISTMAS TREE IN OUR CLIFTON SUITE ROOM!!!
I could go on and on and on about all the things I loved about this hotel which I would say absolutely has the title ‘best boutique hotel in York’ in my book.
Grand Hotel York
While I have become quite partial to smaller, boutique hotels (and the attention to detail they seem to all have), you can never go wrong treating yourself to a stay at a city’s grand dame of hotels.
Grand Hotel York is that hotel in York ;).
We stopped in the lobby of this luxury hotel for a water break and to rest our feet while enjoying the grandeur of the property.
Hilton York and Hampton by Hilton York
You can find almost all of the typical large chains here in York however the Hilton York and Hampton by Hilton York were incredibly centrally located and always my chain of choice if not going for a boutique hotel or a signature hotel for a city ;).
Where to Eat
Pearly Cow York
Located in the Guest House No. 1 Hotel where we stayed, this may actually have been the best meal of our entire two week trip!
And if not THE best – at least top five (we did love our pot pie lunch in the Cotswolds on the stop before York ;)).
Il Paradiso del Cibo
Recommended to us by a York local – this little Italian hole in the wall was delicious!
As this tiny place does not take reservations, we were so lucky that at the time we were walking by (3pm on a Friday afternoon) a couple had just finished eating and we were able to take their table ;).
But the area this eating establishment is in is so cute – you can put your name on the list and wander around for a bit while you wait – because yes – it is worth it!
Probably the best place for breakfast and brunch in York! Another no reservations establishment but worth the walk from city center.
It’s a perfectly good reason to see a local neighborhood too – just be aware they are closed on Wednesdays…
Cresci Pizza York
Another eating establishment recommended by locals. We did not get the chance to eat here but had we stayed a third night in York – we likely would have been here for lunch or dinner!
Photo courtesy of Cresci Pizza Instagram
A Michelin starred restaurant in the heart of York, I have heard great things about the food here. Again – we did not eat here ourselves but it was highly recommended.
Photo courtesy of Roots Instagram
What to Do in York, England
While photos of this exact street in York are what put this city on my bucket list, I cannot pretend to say I wasn’t extremely disappointed in what I found once I was here.
Besides being very crowded, it felt quite touristy and cheesy.
In fact, the majority of the shops on this most famous landmark of York are gift shops related to ghosts or Harry Potter.
While this may be your thing, it really isn’t mine thus my disappointment at finally seeing one of the best preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe.
The Harry Potter focus is because this street is said to be inspiration for Diagon Alley from the movie adapations of the books.
Nonetheless, I would not say avoid this number one visitor attraction – just have your expectations set ;). It will be crowded (unless you wake up at 6am to beat the crowds – which we just could not get ourselves to do…).
And Tik Tok made The York Ghost Merchants shop in the Shambles a VERY popular attraction with that crowd. If you are interested in getting a ceramic ghost from that shop – be prepared to wait in a very long line.
One of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals as well as a York landmark. You can’t miss this massive church in York centre.
HOWEVER, every time we tried to go in – there was a private children’s Christmas performance going on so we weren’t allowed in!
The third and final time we attempted to go in the cathedral, we had to attend a ‘Choral Evensong’ which actually was quite beautiful.
However we were not allowed to take any pictures of the interior of the church because we were there for an actual service. Of course I snuck a few though… I didn’t travel all the way to York, England to not get photos inside this stunning building ;0.
The City Walls
One of the problems with visiting during Christmas or winter is that everything is weather and holiday dependent.
And because we were lucky enough to be in England for a HUGE snowstorm in December 2022, the city walls were closed due to ice.
While I would have loved to walk around the entire city on the top of the wall (which would have been a little over 2 miles and take around 2 hours), it was fun to wander the city centre and keep seeing these beautifully preserved city walls.
York Christmas Market
My favorite part about visiting Europe in December is THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS!
The York Christmas Market is ranked fifth in Britain and is a lovely, festive event ;).
We had hot chocolate and donuts at many of the stands as well as enjoyed watching a woodmaker make a cute wooden reindeer (wish we could have taken that home with us too!).
Shop on Fossgate
Probably my favorite shopping street in York. We found a few super cool retro stores (and of course bought a couple of Christmas dresses) as well as enjoyed the crisp winter air while walking this lovely cobblestone street.
Go Ghost Hunting
As previously mentioned, York is well known for being a ghost hunting city.
I had no idea- guess I didn’t do my research well enough – or maybe the blog posts I found about York while doing my planning NEVER MENTIONED THIS FACT (a huge pet peeve of mine when people sugarcoat places they have visited).
Use this website to find a tour that fits what you are looking for.
We were told to head over to the Golden Fleece Pub to read all about the ghost history of York. While we were tempted to sit and have a beer too, in the end, we kept on wandering.
York Mansion House
While we did not actually have the time to go in this lovely, historic mansion, had we spent one more day in York, this definitely would have been on our itinerary ;).
Van Gogh The Immersive Experience
While wandering the streets of York, we happened upon this exhibit. And my daughter, Nina, insisted we go in as she had been wanting to go to one of these exhibits for quite a while.
If you are ever in a city that has this and have around an hour of extra time – it was absolutely worth the time. And it’s the perfect place to rest your feet for a little bit too ;).
Tickets in December 2022 were 15 Pounds per adult and you actually sit in the middle of the exhibit!
York Castle Museum
Looking for a place to get in from the cold for an hour or so? This was a fun place to wander through exhibits.
By the time we hit this museum, we were pretty tired and were just looking for someplace to go for an hour or two. But if you find yourself in the same boat- there are a few interesting exhibits here.
Jorvik Viking Centre
Not a place we had the time to go to but we did walk by and again – if we had one more day in York, we would have taken the time to go in.
It is mentioned in many York travel guides as a top thing to do ;).
Photo courtesy of Jorvik Center Instagram
What to Wear in York, England in Winter
December temperatures for us during our 2022 visit were in the mid 40’s (F) during the day so our winter coats were necessary with warm hats, gloves, and scarves.
In fact, we took very few photos indoor so we made sure to make sure our accessories were cute enough to be photoworthy ;).
Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
- Fly San Diego to London
- Arrive London
- Day in London
- Day in London
- Train from London Paddington Station to Bath Spa (1 hour 20 minutes)
- Day in Bath
- Day trip from Bath to Bristol
- Train from Bath Spa to Moreton in Marsh (2 hours 45 minutes)
- Day in Cotswolds (private tour)
- Train from Birmingham New Street to York
- Day in York
- Day in York
- Train from York to London (2 hours)
- Day in London
- Fly London to San Diego
I hope you found this two days in York, England travel guide helpful in planning your adventures in this fun city!
This destination has so much history and multiple fun things to explore. It totally deserves spending some time here on any UK holiday ;).
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