Monday, 20 February 2017

A Guide To York: things to do, places to eat & shopping

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After falling in love with York during a trip in early 2016, where I accompanied Lyzi to the York Literature Festival, I thought it would be nice to return a year later with Luke in tow and use it as a base for our 7 year anniversary celebrations. I say 'celebrations' - all we wanted to do was eat lots of food and desperately try and make each other laugh by being gross and ridiculous. We weren't after much. Luckily for us, we did both.

Luke and I traveled from Somerset to York by Cross Country trains which took around 5 hours so we had plenty of time to chat, read, play Pokémon, and eat our little train picnics. After what felt like a lifetime, we finally made it to York station before walking across the city to our hotel. 

We then spent the next 4 days, and 3 nights, eating lots of good food, marveling at the old architecture, frequenting independent shops and drinking cocktails. Bliss! As I've been a couple of times now, I thought I'd put together a little guide to York in order to help you get the best out of your very own trip.

I will warn you, this is a long one. Grab yourself a drink and a snack and find some matches to hold your eyes open.

things to do
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VISIT THE MINSTER Deangate
*mostly wheelchair accessible. there are toilets & a disabled toilet inside* 

York Minster is the second largest of its kind in Northern Europe, the biggest being found in Cologne, and it is absolutely stunning. For around a tenner, you can explore the inside to your heart's content. Even if you aren't particularly religious, the stunning architecture is enough to keep you occupied. There are informed guides wandering around, as well as various leaflets on the history of the structure, if you're wanting to learn more than what your eyes can tell you. There's also a free exhibition in the Undercroft that charts its history too. You're going to leave the Minster with all the information, pals. If you're still feeling inquisitive, you can climb the 250 or so steps up the tower in order to experience a bird's eye view of the city. 

If you're there with a romantic partner, you may want to test the age-old theory that if you kiss under the heart window you'll stay together forever. I told Luke that he had an eyelash and sneakily kissed him whilst he had his eyes closed. That man is now trapped. He thinks I have now inadvertently cursed myself. You do what you have to do...

Nose around for a good hour or so. It's well worth it. 

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STROLL DOWN THE SHAMBLES ...The Shambles
*wheelchair accessible but it is a cobbled street so take care* 

This quaint old street dates back to the fourteenth century and, as you can expect, it's full of character - from its higgledy-piggledy buildings that almost touch in the middle to the shrine dedicated to priest-hiding Saint Margaret Clitherow. The street, once known for butchers shops, is now lined with various vendors offering everything from buttery bronzed pies to handmade glassware. Diagon Alley, in real life! 

Head here in the mornings or late afternoons if you're wanting to escape the crowds. 

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YORKBOAT CRUISE Lendal
*A couple of the boats are wheelchair accessible. call ahead for details. toilets on board* 

We took a cruise along the River Ouse (poet!) on Valentine's morning and really enjoyed ourselves. We learnt more about the history of the industry and politics of the area in years gone by and we saw several interesting buildings along the way. Time flies quickly, as it only takes around an hour in total, but we thought it was worth it for all the facts that our guide reeled off. 

If you're interested, buy your tickets online because it knocks a few quid off.
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LEARN SOME HISTORY AT BARLEY HALL Coffee Yard
*toilets inside attraction* 

Barley Hall is a reconstructed Medieval townhouse situated in the middle of the city centre. Parts of the structure date back to 1360 when it was first built by local monks. Over the years, however, it went into decline but it was later rediscovered when builders were demolishing surrounding structures. It has since been restored to its former glory and you can now head here to peruse costumes from the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall and experience what it was like to live in Medieval England. 

We didn't get time to go inside so I cannot comment on whether it's worth the entry free but even if you don't go inside the structure is pretty cool to look at from outside so add it to your itinerary. 

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TAKE A BREAK IN THE MUSEUM GARDENS 
Museum St
*mostly wheelchair accessible. Call the museum ahead for further details. toilets inside* 

If the weather is nice, why not grab some picnic goods from the delis in the city and take a stroll around the Museum Gardens which can be found sat alongside the River Ouse. Head into the Yorkshire Museum to find out more about the Viking days of Jorvik or muse over the ruins of the Abbey. Alternatively, you could take a look at the observatory or, if you're like me, you could spend time cooing over the many squirrels that bounce around the grounds. Seriously pals, if you ever want to entertain me just leave me to watch squirrels. Enthralling.

An excellent place to head to if you want to get away from the bustle of the city streets.


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HAVE A GANDER DOWN FOSSGATE ...Fossgate
*wheelchair accessible* 

Fossgate is an area that, funnily enough, sits around the River Foss and cafés and independent shops can be found lined up along this ancient street. Situated near the bottom of The Shambles, Fossgate is a quieter area from my experience so keep that in mind if you want a more chilled out stroll. I've mentioned a few of the shops and cafés later on in this post; however, if you're looking for attractions make sure you peruse The Merchant Adventurers' Hall next to The Hairy Fig deli. Built in 1357, the Great Hall was once used for business by Medieval merchants. Another one for the history buffs...


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THE CHOCOLATE STORY King's Square
*wheelchair accessible.  chairs offered in each room for those who have trouble standing. toilets at start of tour* 

If you're more interested in chocolate, however, this museum of sorts gives you the best of both worlds! The York Chocolate Story is a guided walking tour through the history of chocolate in the city, from its journey across the seas to its local heyday in the factories of the Terrys' and the Rowntrees'. This was my second time on the tour, having gone the year previous, but I still found it really engaging thanks to our guide Mark. The guides are informed, funny and personable and they really make the experience. Once you're clued up on the history of York, and once you've seen the chocolatiers make a batch of chocolates in front of you, you get to make your very own lollipop to take away. It's good fun and family friendly too!

They have a new exhibition on the way to celebrate 250 years of Terry's so keep an eye out for that if, like me, you are obsessed with chocolate oranges. 


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YORK ART GALLERY Exhibition Sq
*wheelchair accessible. toilets inside* 


York Art Gallery is currently home to exhibitions on ceramics, flesh and 'unimagined treasures' inspired by The Lumber Room by Saki. We didn't have time to visit but online reviews would suggest that it's well worth a visit if you're at all interested in the exhibitions on offer! 

The gallery is handily situated by Bootham Bar. 

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CLIFFORD'S TOWER Tower St
Clifford's Tower, a Norman now-ruinous keep, is the only thing that remains (I believe) of what was once York castle and for a small fee you can climb the steps up to the top to look out upon the city. The Tower has a rich and complicated history, beginning as part of Royal fortifications before ending up as a jail for local felons. 

If you happen to find yourself in York during Spring, stop by to gaze upon the many daffodils that come to surround the Tower. 
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WALK THE CITY WALLS Bootham Bar to Monk Bar  

The city is surrounded by Roman-built walls that you can still wander around to this day. You could walk the entire wall around the city which would take you around 2 hours or so or, like us, you could walk the most scenic part from Monk Bar to Bootham Bar which takes a much more manageable 20 minutes. 

There are a few benches and places to stop along the way if you'd like to nurse a hot drink with a pretty stunning view of the Minster.

You could also spend an afternoon at the National Railway Museum, go on one of Mr Dexter's Curious Adventures, learn all about the history of the area at the JORVIK centre (once it's re-opened following the flood) or York Castle Museum, catch a film or an event at the CityScreen Picturehouse, see a show at one of the theatres or take one of the many ghost tours.

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food & drink
My life pretty much revolves around what I am going to eat next and where I am going to eat it and, luckily for me, York is home to a multitude of cafés and restaurants laden with good food.

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AMBIENTE TAPAS Goodramgate
After enjoying food at the Goodramgate branch a year previous, I decided to return to pick out some more tapas dishes to try. We had a wonderful first evening tucked away in the cosy room upstairs. If you're after a bit more space, or a group table, you may want to check out their Fossgate branch. We would recommend the bistec de arrachera, carilla de bresa and the shiitake mushroom and halloumi fritters. The staff are friendly and happy to help with allergy information so give them a call if you have any questions. 

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BREW AND BROWNIE Museum St
Everyone raves about this place so, of course, I went along to find out what all the fuss was about. After tucking ourselves away on a corner table, we then tucked into their somewhat infamous pancakes. Luke opted for bacon, blueberries and syrup. I went off piste and opted for nutella and salted caramel. Hnghh. I am still thinking about that first mouthful, pals! If pancakes aren't your thing, not to worry! They also do lots of yummy looking sandwiches and soups, as well as an array of cakes. Worth the wait, in my opinion. The decor is also very blogger-friendly. Dem subway tiles, tho!

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CAFE CONCERTO High Petergate
As it was so inviting last time, I decided to return to Café Concerto for a couple of breakfasts in full view of the Minster. You can get a baguette and a hot drink of your choice for around £6 so we took advantage of that offer. I went for the sausage baguette and Luke went for the bacon with added brie. Simple but comforting. No complaints. Grab a table by the window if you can and marvel at the view.

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THE BOTANIST Stonegate
I'm a sucker for wildflowers and cocktails so, naturally, we ended up at this Northern chain on Valentine's evening! The staff were attentive, the food was good, the cocktail menu was plentiful, and the live singer added a nice touch. Head here for an evening of cocktails, order the 'English Mojito'...and then send me one in a tupperware container. Ta! 


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SHAMBLES FOOD MARKET The Shambles
The Shambles now has a little food market adjacent to it where you'll be able to find many kinds of street food, from crepes to Turkish wraps. Have a nose if you're in the area. 

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YORK COCOA HOUSE 
Blake St
York's history is steeped in chocolate so that basically makes a visit to this chocolate-based café an educational experience. Choose a hot chocolate off their extensive menu (the Belgian one was pretty great) and a slice of their chocolate stout cake. Thank me later! If cakes aren't your thing, they have an entire savoury menu peppered with chocolate throughout. Book a table for their Afternoon Tea if you want  to try the best of both worlds. 

York Cocoa House also hold chocolate making workshops that sound pretty good - a nice way to spend an afternoon. 

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THE HOUSE OF TREMBLING MADNESS 
Stonegate
The House of Trembling Madness is a Medieval-style alehouse above a shop that sells an extensive range of beers and spirits. Fill up a table with family and friends, get the drinks flowing and pick out some nibbles or a hearty dish off the menu. An atmospheric drink stop, that's for sure!

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THE STAR INN THE CITY Museum St
Refusing to go on a river cruise with empty bellies, I booked us in for breakfast by the riverside at The Star Inn The City. Superb setting, calming atmosphere, attentive staff and flavourful food made for a really pleasant experience. I have a huge soft spot for smoked salmon and good scrambled eggs. Luke actually inquired about the tomatoes, as he liked them so much, and they came out with one for him to take away! Excellent service. 

This would also be a great place to head to for Summer drinks out on the terrace!


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HENSHELWOOD'S DELI  New St
If you're after picnic goods, tasty handmade sandwiches or warming soups to take away, Henshelwood's Deli is probably the place you're looking for. It's nice and central and can be found by The Shambles.

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PAVEMENT VAULTS 2 Picadilly
Pavement Vaults is a BBQ smokehouse joint that has all the usual BBQ fare on offer, from burgers to ribs, and then some. Tasty fast food. No complaints. 

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LITTLE BETTY'S  Stonegate
Betty's is a Yorkshire institution. However, it is often packed to the rafters with a long queue of tourists hanging out the door. Head to Little Betty's on Stonegate instead. You'll find the same fare delivered in a cosier and somewhat quieter atmosphere.  


SHAMBLES KITCHEN

SHAMBLES KITCHEN The Shambles
If you're looking for tasty street food of a lunch time, go to The Shambles Kitchen. With specials that alter daily, you're sure to find something to suit your tastes, from their famous pulled pork and soups, to tagines and stews.

We couldn't visit every single restaurant and café on our list so here are a few other recommendations: The Rattle Owl over on Micklegate,  Mannion and Co on Blake St for some Yorkshire rarebit and excellent brunch dishes, Mr P's Curious Tavern for inventive small dishes, Pig and Pastry for chorizo and eggs, El Piano or Goji Cafe for global veggie and vegan fare,  Barbakan for authentic Polish food, Spring Espresso for award winning coffees or their fluffy pancakes, Fossgate Social for some respite over a coffee, The Perky Peacock for riverside chats, and Blue Bicycle for fine fodder on Fossgate (once it is re-opened following the flood).

If you're looking to have drinks somewhere, check out The Habit on Goodramgate for their beer terrace with a view of the Minster, The Blue Bell on Fossgate for a cosy technology-free pub, Pairings if you're into your wines and cheeses or Evil Eye on Stonegate for an array of cocktails.

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shopping
I didn't buy anything the last time I was in York so this time I wanted to make a list of all of the shops that I wanted to visit out of interest. Reader, we visited quite a few. I came away with a vintage Wrangler shirt, some postcards to use as bookmarks and a few secondhand books that you'll see in an upcoming book haul.  

I'm sharing a small selection of mostly independent shops that we visited but rest assured that York has all the usual High Street staples alongside some more spendy designer options like Mulberry. There's also a designer outlet just outside the centre that you can take a shuttle to, I believe, that stocks all the big brands at lower prices. I, however, am far more enamoured by secondhand books and vintage clothing.

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THE MINSTER GATE BOOKSHOP  Minster Gates 
Situated opposite the Minster, The Minster Gate Bookshop houses a whole host of antiquarian and secondhand books. With walls top-to-toe in books, steep little stairs, and cosy little corners aplenty, it was everything that I could've wanted from a bookshop experience. If you're looking for a bargain, head downstairs. You'll find cut-price copies of many novels including work from Patricia Highsmith, Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie and Angela Carter to name but a few.

If you're a reader, this is a necessary stop on your tour. 


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MONK BAR CHOCOLATIERS The Shambles
The law states that if you come across a cute chocolatiers on a cosy little street, you must go in and purchase a box of chocolates and so we found ourselves doing just that when we passed by Monk Bar Chocolatiers. I have been obsessed with boxes of chocolates ever since I was introduced to Matilda as a child so I, of course, came away with a little box of 8 to share with my family. I picked Baileys and salted caramel for my Mum, a vanilla truffle for my sister and some caramels and truffles for myself. 

If the promise of a little curated box of chocolates isn't enough for you, you can also get a little chocolate shot that consists of melted milk chocolate in a chocolate cup for £1.99. An essential purchase!

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BOWLER VINTAGE Fossgate
If you're into beautiful visual merchandising, this is your kind of vintage shop. Bowler Vintage, found on Fossgate, always looks immaculate and is full of sartorial staples from tweed jackets that remind me of my Grandad to sickly sweet '50s style dresses. I very nearly came away with a lightwash denim jacket and another tartan scarf.


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OLIVER BONAS Stonegate 
A blogger staple! This is another shop that's beautifully laid out with clean crisp displays of glassware, jewellery and the like. Head here if you're looking to add to your bar cart or want to up your blogger credentials.


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DOG AND BONE VINTAGE Castlegate
Dog and Bone Vintage is set out across two floors and you'll find it full to the brim with vintage sports jackets, floral skirts and denim. Fairly priced garments with a little sale section downstairs too. 

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TRAVELLING MAN Goodramgate 
If you're into comics, tabletop gaming, zines or anime, this should be your first port of call. Not content with just stocking a ton of exciting new reads, they also have an extensive zine library and a floor upstairs dedicated to gaming and various daily events. A cool little store that you could easily while away an afternoon in. 

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THE IMAGINARIUM Blake St
The Imaginarium is yet another shop that has beautiful visual merchandising. A blogger's haven, it stocks quirky homewares, cards and scentware. A good place to buy gifts, I'd imagine.


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HEBDEN TEA COMPANY  The Shambles
This is a little pocket of paradise for those of you that are into your teas. Hebden Tea is a small business that stocks teas, and tea accessories, from around the world. If that wasn't enough for you, you can also try a selection of different flavours straight from the windowsill of the shop. Cocktail bars, take note!


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CHINESE LAUNDRY Goodramgate 
Chinese Laundry is a vintage shop that fits with my eccentric aunt at a party aesthetic so it was inevitable that I didn't come away empty handed. Not only do they stock vintage goods, they also re-work pieces and sell things from their very own line. Everything I spied was affordable and infinitely wearable.

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OXFAM BOOKS Lower Petergate 
I cannot walk past a secondhand bookshop without going in. It's a disease! This branch is home to lots of old comics, a well-stocked crime/thriller section and some pretty old books. Whilst I came away empty handed, I did spy two Sarah Waters novels on the shelf that someone should definitely take home.  


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THE HAIRY FIG Fossgate
The Hairy Fig is a beautiful little deli with a small café out back that serves up produce from the front of the shop. If you're looking for good quality ingredients from around the world, aged balsamic vinegars, picnic goods or a cosy lunch, this place is definitely for you.

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LITTLE APPLE BOOKSHOP High Petergate
A few doors down from Café Concerto, The Little Apple Bookshop houses lots of children's fiction, latest releases, fun gifts and signed copies of books. Luke came away with a couple of poetry books for his classroom and I came away with a new-ish release that has won much acclaim. I did, however, leave behind a signed copy of Lol Tolhurst's memoir of his early days in The Cure and I'm kind of regretting that now. Never act responsibly when book buying, pals!

You could also check out Fossgate Books, The Inkwell on Gillygate for records, Love Cheese on Gillygate for a wide range of cheeses or a cheese board in their little garden, and Rafi's Spice Box on Goodramgate for handpicked curry mixes.

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Aaaand that's my guide to York! I'm sure I will be back within the next few years. It's a wonderful little city that I would definitely recommend to fellow disableds who struggle to walk long distances as everything is quite compact.

If you've got any other York recommendations, do leave some ideas in the comments below. Has this post got you interested in York? Have a gander at my post from 2016 on things to do in York if you want to see what I got up to last time. Otherwise, you can have a scroll through all my other adventures


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5 comments

  1. Loved this post, OI'm trying to get to York as soon as I can find cheapish train tickets there, will be saving this for when I do!

    annie | appletoothpaste

    ReplyDelete
  2. The photos in this post are so beautiful Bee! I have (embarrassingly) not travelled anywhere that isn't in the South of England but York looks exactly like the kind of places I love to visit - quirky, full of history and packed with plenty of cobbled lanes and second-hand/vintage shops. Maybe I'll be brave and attempt the train journey when I'm better at public transport!

    Lauren | whatlaurendidtoday.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh my gosh York looks amazing! And ALL the food you posted, I need it now.

    Jane / deluminators

    ReplyDelete
  4. It looks like you guys had the most amazing time, all these pictures are just stunning! x

    holljc.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  5. this is the loveliest guide! love these photos
    Mary Lee

    ReplyDelete

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