4 Hours in York, A Picturesque Medieval City in England

Since I started blogging, my sources of travel information have considerably changed. Whilst I won’t deny that the ripe old Lonely Planet and the gravitational Trip Advisor still play a role in many of my travel exploits, I now gain much greater pleasure from those nuggets of wisdom shared by all of you. Some of your “48 hours in…” guides have all but done my entire holiday research for me and so many of you have honed down the skill of hopping around a new city in just one day.

visit York England blog post

An Afternoon in York

But sometimes, we don’t have 48 hours, we don’t have one day, we perhaps don’t even have half a day. I rarely see blog posts covering how to see a place in just a few hours but our trip to York last month was sandwiched between a morning in Durham and a final arrival destination of our comfy new mattress in London so we got our efficiency hats on and made the best of our 4 hours in York.

York beautiful cities England

If you find yourself in the same boat with only an afternoon to spare there, I hope this whistle-stop tour around the quaint medieval city of York might prove helpful.

Climb Clifford’s Tower

Clifford's Tower York

If you have climbed the Coliseum in Rome or the Duomo in Florence, the handful of steps at Clifford’s Tower will seem easy in comparison.

climb Clifford's Tower York attractions

Like most ancient forts and castles, the staircases are not suitable for claustrophobes but fortunately, you don’t have to conquer too many of them before you reach the vantage point at the top, which offers panoramic views across York.

panoramic view from Clifford's Tower York

There is a small fee for climbing the tower but if the weather is on your side, it is certainly worth the ascent.

York views Clifford's Tower

York Minster

Some would say the famous York Minster Cathedral is by far the most popular and renowned attraction in the city. I must confess that whilst we gawked in awe at the Gothic exteriors, we ultimately ended up opting out of exploring the inside.

York Minster Cathedral

We had already spent the morning browsing Durham Cathedral and we knew we would only have enough time to either see the interior of York Minster or a museum we had our eye on (read on to find out which one) so something had to give.

tourist information York Minster

The entry ticket for visiting the York Minster is on the more costly end of the spectrum at £15 per adult (find the price list here) but given that the maintenance of the property can cost thousands of pounds daily, the money does go towards upkeep of this stunning building.

York attractions sights York Minster

I am told by all those who have been before me that the interiors are spectacular and although we had a little glimpse from the entrance, I would definitely take a proper look inside if I ever return to York.

York Minster Cathedral Gothic architecture

Walk  through the Shambles

I love the fact that York is home to a street whose crooked and uneven imperfection has resulted in its perfectly quaint cult status.

The Shambles Street York

The Shambles is consistently name-checked as one of Britain’s prettiest streets with the fifteenth century buildings on either side of the road leaning in flirtatiously, the rooves so close they are virtually caressing each other. Of all the places in York we visited, the Shambles easily had the most dense proportion of keen photographers and given its well-preserved Medieval charm, it was not hard to see why.

Shambles York pretty street England

If you can peel your eyes away from the architecture and the retro signs, spend a few moments browsing in and out of the independent shops, quirky, endearing tea rooms and watch your will power crumble away when the aroma of the freshly made fudge consumes the pores of this narrow street.

old beautiful famous streets England

Eat Gourmet Fudge and Chocolate

I introduced this post by saying how much I enjoy hearing pearls of travel wisdom from fellow bloggers and it was thanks to Adventures of a London Kiwi that I was given this particular tip-off.

best fudge shop York

I was snugly under the duvet in a cosy Durham pub hotel, when she spotted one of my tweets and told me that I must not miss out on a visit to Fudge Kitchen in York (the chocolate orange flavour is a bit heavenly) but I saw and raised by also visiting the newer Roly s Fudge Parlour, where we stepped in just as a new batch of fudge was being made.

fudge shop York Roly's

If you have more time than we did and the fudge shops haven’t quite curbed your sugar cravings, then either experience the quaint magic of an old-fashioned English sweet shop or make your way over to York Chocolate Story for a decadent hot chocolate in the chocolate bar cafe or a guided tour of the chocolate factory and find out just why York is such a significant place when tracing the history of chocolate in the UK.

old English sweet shop York

The National Railway Museum, York

Our most unexpected pleasant surprise of our time in York came with an end of the day visit to The National Railway Museum. I have never really considered myself to be a motoring or railway aficionado but with last week’s post about Havana’s vintage cars and the enthused ranting you’re about to read about the railway museum, I am starting to wonder if a tide has turned and made a transport geek out of me 😀

national railway museum Yorkold railway history

A little tip for those of you who can be flexible with your travelling, arriving late in the day on a weekday was a very fortunate bit of chance, as it meant we had almost the entire museum to ourselves and were able to beat the crowds (or rather, they had beaten us but the net result was the same!)

railway museum York cafe restaurants

Full of genuine old trains in a huge open space, we saw everything from royal trains to old steam trains to parcel delivery trains.

royal old trains York museum England

And we even saw some of the old parcels they were carrying.

old Just Married Suitcaserailway memorabilia souvenirs

We had fun climbing into some of them and getting a taste to what it must have been like to get on board these trains at a time when they were considered such innovative, exciting scientific accomplishments.

green train railway museum YorkStation Hall National Railway Museum York

And as two Londoners who have spent far too much of their collective time standing on crowded London trains, it was nice to have a whole carriage to yourself and to actually get a seat!

National Railway Museum blog article

The museum even has its own dining car restaurant but as we had arrived so late in the day, they were setting up for a private event.

Yarmouth South Town bench

And we became nostalgic and patriotic when looking at old signs that used to be found at train stations, Pumpkin taking a particular shining to the Yarmouth memorabilia, a part of the country that conjures up so many nostalgic, childhood memories for him.

old train signs memorabilia

Whilst I would have loved to have spent another day or night in York, hopefully this post has proved how many of its highlights you can capture even if you fancy an afternoon out in this beautiful medieval city.

York viewpoints Clifford's Tower

Have you ever visited York? What would you add to this list?


46 thoughts on “4 Hours in York, A Picturesque Medieval City in England

  1. You went to the railway museum! Hoorah! I flippin’ love it! I’ve been to it a couple of times now, hahaha!
    Sounds like you really packed a lot into those four hours, very impressive!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 10:37 pm

      Oh my goodness, isn’t it just the best museum?! I’m not even a huge museum person normally but we had so much fun here! I only wish we’d had a bit longer to walk around it a bit more slowly but I can totally see why you’ve been a few times, it’s fascinating!

  2. Great post Shikha, you managed to fit so much into your short stay! I’d love to visit York, wish we’d done a stop off like you when we headed back from our recent trip to Harrogate! K

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 10:38 pm

      Thank you Keri! It was a jam-packed few hours that’s for sure but it was a nice way to bring up what would have been a long journey from Durham back to London and it meant we managed to miss getting back into town in rush hour as well as seeing a new place so it was win win 🙂

  3. My friend went to university in York, I was so jealous of his walk to classes! Gorgeous architecture. Thank-you for the photos! 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 10:45 pm

      Yes! The architecture there was stopping me in my tracks the whole afternoon Katie, so beautiful!

  4. Only 4 hours!? You packed in a whirlwind tour of activity, that’s for sure!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 10:48 pm

      Haha, we did a LOT of walking during those 4 hours Emma! I’d loved to have spent a bit longer up there but as it was mainly a trip to the North East of England, this was a little add on bonus before we got back to London 🙂 Thanks again for the fudge shop tip!

  5. I loved York, visiting the Minster and walking around the walls but I never got to Clifford’s Tower, I think a return is long overdue!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 10:48 pm

      And I didn’t make it inside the Minster, which I’m definitely going to do if I return myself Suze! A really pretty city.

  6. Very impressed how much you fit into four hours! Love York – I’ve got a weekend guide in the drafts folder with a lot of the same places, the Railway Museum is great and I love the Castle Museum too, such a random mix of exhibits.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 10:51 pm

      Oh I’m very much looking forward to seeing your York post too Lucy! I didn’t expect I’d enjoy the railway museum so much but it was a tip from someone and I absolutely loved it! I could have done with another night or two in York but have a few ideas of things I want to explore next time I go there.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 10:52 pm

      It was such good fun Andy! Definitely brought out the train-loving geek in me!

  7. I can’t believe how much you managed to squeeze into just 4 hours! Wish I had this guide last year when I was in York. I had a few hours to kill in the city before coming home from my friend’s hen do, and I honestly didn’t do half of what I wanted to do (although, to be fair, the hangover may have had something to do with that…).

    Love the fact you went to the Railway Museum – that would definitely be the first thing on my list I think 😉 I reckon I’m overdue another visit! x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 10:55 pm

      Hehe, I’ve seen your city guides Emily and I know how efficient and well planned they are so I’m sure it was only to do with the hangover! It’s such a gorgeous city isn’t it and I would absolutely recommend the railway museum if you do go. Genuinely one of the most quirky, fun museums I’ve ever been to 🙂

  8. I have lived in the UK for 8 years and never been to York, I think I need to fix that. You got a lot into 4 hours. Great post. x

    Ashleigh x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 10:57 pm

      Aww thank you so much Ashleigh, really appreciate your lovely comment. And definitely no judgement from me, as I’ve pretty much lived here all my life and only made it myself this year! A gorgeous historic city though so I highly recommend it (though obviously if you have more than 4 hours, that would make it a bit easier!) 🙂

  9. I love York, so pretty and so many interesting things to do!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 10:59 pm

      I agree Becky, such a beautiful city with a surprising number of great activities and sights as you say.

  10. Only 4 hours, but you can do a lot of different things in York. Eat Gourmet Fudge and Chocolate? That is something Cez would love to do, I bet!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 11:54 pm

      Aaah so Cez also has a sweet tooth like me eh?! It’s certainly a place with a lot of activities Agness, I agree and such a beautiful city as well 🙂

  11. So glad you managed to pack so much in to four hours! I grew up in Scarborough, so York was our closest city and I absolutely love it. York Minster is lovely inside and, if you ever get a chance to go back, a good tip is to go to one of the services as a) it’s then free to get in and b) there’s something quite magical about sitting in it when it’s full, especially at Christmas or Easter. Betty’s tearoom is also a must!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 11:55 pm

      Ah, thanks so much for the tips Emily! I wanted to go to Betty’s actually but because I had been to the one in Harrogate before, we ended up picking a different tea room in the end. I haven’t even mentioned on here that we stopped to sit down for a scone! I’ll definitely remember that about the services, must be really magical at Christmas time!

  12. We agree, TripAdvisor and the traditional guide books are great starts for researching a trip, but then to delve deeper, good travel blog posts are very helpful. The Shambles looks like a pretty place to roam – and the fudge looks dangerous :-). Being named one of Britain’s “prettiest streets” must attract competitors. In Majorca, Fornalutx (which we walked to from Soller) is named as the island’s “prettiest town” (and some say Spain’s “prettiest town”) but we found other strong contenders for that title, like the quaint village of Deia (where there’s so little flat land, people are buried standing up).

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 27, 2015 — 11:57 pm

      Oh my goodness, that’s fascinating, can’t imagine land so flat! I must remember those names for if I ever return to Majorca (I’ve only seen the coastal bit and that was a very long time ago too). The Shambles was very pretty, though I’ve seen a few little streets in other parts of England which I think would be strong contenders (and that perhaps are a little less busy) but there’s definitely a reason why York draws in the crowds though. It’s absolutely got that lovely Medieval charm about it! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  13. A very interesting read. Of Course York is beautiful and I would love to do 24H and see how much I can do. Great pics.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 2, 2015 — 9:23 pm

      Thanks so much for the kind comment Marc! I agree York is so beautiful – ideally we’d have spent a bit longer there too but it was just a short stop en route back to London so I’d love to return there and go for a few days next time.

  14. I really need to get my butt to York! I’ve heard so many lovely things and still haven’t been. Perhaps an easy one to visit for 2016 with the little one! x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 2, 2015 — 9:32 pm

      Oh I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who was a bit late to make it there Char as everyone I was speaking to was sounding surprised I hadn’t gone but yes, I’d highly recommend it for a little family trip with baby as it’s quite easy to explore, loads of family friendly cafes and I just know you’ll love it there ☺

  15. York is such gorgeous place and your photographs are amazing! I think a visit to Bettys for afternoon tea might perhaps be added on to the York to do list? They definitely know how to do afternoon tea! L x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 2, 2015 — 9:35 pm

      Oh thank you so much for the kind comment Laura! I absolutely loved our limited time there and only wish we could have spent a bit longer enjoying it. I’ve been to Bettys in Harrogate just for a piece of cake but not for proper afternoon tea so I’d love to do that when I next make it to York! I keep hearing how fabulous it is! x

  16. I’ve never been to this part of the UK but it looks adorable! Such a sweet looking town so I may have to visit some day soon. Even a whistle stop tour is better than no tour at all 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 9, 2015 — 8:08 pm

      Oh it’s so pretty Ayla – you should definitely put it on the list for your next staycation but if you do get a bit more time than we did, I highly recommend it as there’s quite a lot to do in York and it’s nice to be able to take it in at a less athletic pace than we did!

  17. York looks so pretty! And how cute is The Shambles? Looks like something out of Harry Potter!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 9, 2015 — 8:15 pm

      Rather embarrassingly Laura, I’ve never actually seen Harry Potter (!) so I’ll have to take your word for it on that front but yes, the Shambles is SO cute! Actually, York in general is pretty darn charming, so photogenic and historical. It’s quite touristy but that doesn’t seem to spoil it and I loved it there, definitely worth a visit if you get a chance and haven’t been before!

  18. I loved York and I think you managed to fit more into 4 hours than I did in a whole weekend there! Might have been a pub crawl that took up a lot of my weekend though… Would you recommend Durham? It’s been on my list for awhile.

  19. Oh, I have to visit it some day!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 8, 2016 — 12:17 pm

      Yes, I would definitely recommend it – it is touristy but with good reason but if possible, better to allow yourself more than just one afternoon! :mrgreen:

  20. Love that post when i think i have to deal with some things in life! I found your blog few days ago, but read it a lot and I just want to say that you do such a wonderful job! Picture and colors, general vibe

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