A Complete 2 Day Guide


A weekend in York offers a delightful snapshot of its rich history and vibrant culture. The ancient city walls, the awe-inspiring York Minster, and quaint cobbled streets will captivate you.

York’s well-preserved heritage makes a perfect itinerary for travelers looking to experience both the old and the new over a short visit. Planning a weekend in York requires a thoughtful approach to ensure that you experience the essence of this historic city.

Perfect 2 Days in York Itinerary

With only two days for your trip to York, you should prioritize the must-see attractions while also allowing for some leisurely exploration. Itineraries typically include visits to the renowned National Railway Museum, the picturesque Shambles, and a stroll along the River Ouse.

Ideal for relaxation, shopping and sightseeing, a perfect weekend in York balances structured tours with spontaneous discovery. Dining at traditional tea rooms or enjoying an evening ghost walk adds to the unique charm of a weekend break in this enchanting city.

A well-planned route enables you to make the most of your time in York without rushing.

York Walls with York Minster in the background
York Walls with York Minster in the background

Day 1: Historic York

The first day in York is dedicated to exploring the rich historical canvas of the city, with visits to iconic landmarks and a step back to the city’s Roman past.

Morning

We recommend that guests begin their journey through historic York with a visit to the majestic York Minster. One of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe, it boasts architectural elements such as the Great East Window – the largest single expanse of medieval stained glass in the country

The morning light cascades through its stunning stained glass windows, creating an awe-inspiring start to the day. To fully appreciate the grandeur of this architectural wonder, visitors can climb the Central Tower for a panoramic view of the city.

  • York Minster, Deangate, York YO1 7HH
  • Opening Hours: 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Admission: from £18 adults, child under 17 free
York Minster seen from the West Nave
York Minster seen from the West Nave

Afternoon

After a delightful morning, visitors can stroll along The Shambles, a narrow medieval street. The timber-framed buildings lean over the cobblestones. The Shambles is reminiscent of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series, making it a perfect photo opportunity.

The cultural journey continues at York’s Chocolate Story, where you’ll uncover York’s confectionery history and sample some treats. This popular visitor attraction highlights York’s importance in the chocolate industry.

There are opportunities to make chocolate lollies, sample different varieties, and purchase chocolates from the museum shop. The multi-sensory experience aims to educate visitors about chocolate through sight, smell, sound and taste. Bookings in advance are recommended.

  • York’s Chocolate Story, 3 – 4 King’s Square, York YO1 7LD
  • Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Tour Fee: from £18.50 adults, £16 child, under 4s free
York Chocolate Story
York Chocolate Story

Evening

The Rise restaurant offers a stylish dinner experience in York, with a heated terrace in Summer. The restaurant serves modern British cuisine, with signature dishes such as The Grand Scotch Egg and Pan-Fried Stonebass. There’s a Junior Diners menu and a wide selection of wines and cocktails for adults.

Post-dinner, visitors can immerse themselves in the city’s spine-tingling past with a ghost tour revealing the haunting stories of Old York.

  • Dinner Timing: Plan to dine from 5:30 PM onwards
  • Ghost Tour: Starting around 8:00 PM, lasts approximately 1.5 hours

The day concludes with a restful stay at your hotel – see our suggestions for where to stay below.

Dinner at The Rise restaurant, York
Dinner at The Rise restaurant, York

Day 2: Culture and Leisure

The second day in York offers a blend of cultural immersion and leisure, capturing the essence of Viking York and the tranquility of the city’s gardens.

Morning

Visitors can begin their day at the National Railway Museum York, the largest of its kind in Britain. They will discover a collection of over 100 locomotives and almost 200 other items of rolling stock. The experience offers an insightful look into the history of rail transport in the UK.

  • National Railway Museum York, Leeman Rd, York YO26 4XJ
  • Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Admission: free – book your ticket in advance on their website.

Afternoon

After lunch, the journey continues at Jorvik Viking Centre, which provides an interactive trip into the Viking age of York. Fun for adults as well as kids, it brings the sights, smells and sounds of the era to life. We enjoyed every moment!

  • JORVIK Viking Centre, 19 Coppergate, York YO1 9WT
  • Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Admission: £16.50 adult, £11 child, under 5s free

Next, explore the Yorkshire Museum in Museum Gardens, where the city’s rich history from the Roman era through to the times of the Vikings and beyond, is on display. We were particularly impressed with the Four Seasons Mosaic, and the Statue of Mars at this fascinating York museum.

Pop into The Grand Hotel for a delicious afternoon tea at Rise Restaurant. There’s a lovely selection of savouries, sandwiches, scones and sweet treats.

  • Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens, Museum Street, York YO1 7FR
  • Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Admission: £9.50 adult, £4.75 child, under 5s free

Alternatively, visit Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience York. It allows visitors to step into the swirling, vibrant world of Vincent Van Gogh.

This exhibition combines video projection, audio, and virtual reality to create a unique encounter with the artist’s work. It is held in St Mary’s Church, a Grade I listed former church.

  • Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience York, St Mary’s Church, Castlegate, York YO1 9RN
  • Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (closed on Wednesdays)
  • Admission: £15 adult, £9 child

Evening

For the evening, relax at The Fat Badger, a classic pub in York offering a selection of traditional British fare and regional ales. Try the luxury fish pie and the dark chocolate and orange cheesecake.

Dinner at The Fat Badger, York
Dinner at The Fat Badger, York

Additional York Attractions

There are many other great things to do in York that cater to a variety of interests, from historical landmarks to retail therapy.

For those interested in a panoramic view of the city, Clifford’s Tower is a must-visit. The tower stands as a proud remnant of York’s past. Climbing the steps to the top provides a rewarding vista, while infusing a sense of history.

York City Walls encircle the city and offer a picturesque walk with views of the city’s ancient architecture and bustling modern life. The circuit, which takes approximately two hours to complete, is filled with informative signage detailing the city’s history.

Fans of the wizarding world will enjoy the various magic themed shops and experiences on the Shambles. This historic street is often thought to be an inspiration for Diagon Alley, although JK Rowling has said that wasn’t the case. Exploring the cobbled street, one can find all things magical or even partake in themed walking tours.

York Castle Museum is one of our favourite things to do in the city. One of the highlights is a Victorian street scene complete with shops, pub and even a police station.

This large museum vividly recreates life in York during Victorian times. There is also a recreated Georgian prison cell that allows visitors to experience what the conditions were like for prisoners centuries ago.

Visitors should plan their itinerary to include a few of these attractions, for a well-rounded and memorable York weekend. If you have a bit more time, you could also include a day trip to Castle Howard, Whitby or the North York Moors Steam Railway.

York Castle Museum
York Castle Museum

Dining and Nightlife

York offers an array of dining options and a vibrant nightlife scene to complement its rich history. Visitors may begin their culinary journey with dinner in York. The city caters to a diverse palate, boasting everything from traditional British fare to international cuisines.

One notable establishment for an evening meal is The Rise, located within The Grand, York. Renowned for its modern British cuisine, the restaurant provides a sophisticated ambiance and a creative menu. They offer a combination of à la carte options and set menus, focusing on locally-sourced ingredients.

For those seeking a traditional pub experience, The Fat Badger is a prime choice. Situated in the heart of York, this pub is known for its classic interiors and a selection of real ales. The Fat Badger serves hearty pub food and is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. Their fish and chips come highly recommended and encapsulate authentic British flavors.

If you’re looking for a quick snack whilst walking around, head to The York Roast Co. at 78 Low Petergate or 4 Stonegate. They do an infamous Yorkshire pudding wrap! Head to Partisan cafe on Micklegate for delicious cakes and coffee.

The nightlife in York caters to various tastes with numerous pubs, bars, and clubs. Many establishments feature live music ranging from jazz to indie, providing a perfect backdrop for a relaxing evening.

For visitors looking to prolong their night, there are a selection of late-night venues that offer a mix of dance floors and lounges for every kind of night owl.

  • Must-try Pubs & Bars:
    • The Last Drop Inn – old school pub on Colliergate.
    • Pivni York – award-winning beers in a 16th century townhouse.
    • Evil Eye Lounge – a fun cocktail bar and gin house on Stonegate.
    • Brew York – at Walmgate for craft beer.

You can’t miss the charm and character of York after dark, where the blend of old-world pubs and modern bars creates a unique and memorable experience.

Partisan York
Partisan York

Where to Stay in York

There’s a range of good places to stay in York to suit various preferences. Notable options include:

The Grand, York: A renowned 5-star hotel steeped in history and luxury. It has a prime location in the centre of York and is operated by the Splendid Hospitality Group (SHG).

Built in 1906 as the headquarters of The North Eastern Railway Company, The Grand has an impressive Edwardian architectural style. It retains many original interior features, like oak wood panelling and marble floors.

The bedrooms are decorated in a classic, elegant style befitting the historic property. The hotel’s sumptuous beds ensure a peaceful night’s sleep, replenishing guests for another day of exploration.

There’s a great range of dining options like The Rise Restaurant Terrace & Bar, Legacy and the 1906 Bar. As well as a luxury spa with indoor pool, there’s a popular cookery school and several meeting and event spaces.

  • Address: Station Rise, York YO1 6GD, United Kingdom
  • Amenities: Spa, Indoor Pool, Fitness Centre, Meeting Rooms
  • Room booking: Advance reservation recommended

Hotel Indigo York, an IHG Hotel: A boutique hotel with a unique character, located in the Walmgate neighbourhood and also managed by the Splendid Hospitality Group. It aims to provide a locally-inspired experience by incorporating York’s industrial chocolate-making past into the hotel’s decor.

Hotel Indigo’s central location makes it convenient for exploring York’s key sights. The guest rooms have a modern, stylish feel blended with vintage touches.

We loved the friendly welcome and the complimentary chocolate bars in our room. In the ground floor dining area, you can order rustic pizzas, bar snacks and a wide variety of cocktails, York gin and local ales.

  • Address: 88-96 Walmgate, York YO1 9TL
  • Amenities: Fitness Centre, Meeting Room
  • Room booking: Advance reservation recommended

Planning Your Visit to York

When preparing for a weekend in York, it is important to consider the logistics of travel, timing your visit, accommodation options, transport within the city, and the advantages of purchasing a York Pass.

How to Get to York

This beautiful city in Northern England is easily accessible by various modes of transportation.

By train: York is a major railway hub, with frequent services from London King’s Cross, Edinburgh Waverley, and Manchester Piccadilly, among others. This makes it a convenient option for a 2-day itinerary.

By car: You can also travel to York by car, via major road networks like the A64 which links to the M1 and A1(M).

Best Time to Visit York

To experience York at its best, timing is key. The ideal times for a visit are during the shoulder seasons of Spring (March to June) and Autumn (September to November).

You can enjoy moderate weather and smaller crowds. Long weekends provide a perfect opportunity for a 2-day York itinerary, allowing visitors to explore the city’s delights without rushing.

Walking the City Walls in late Spring
Walking the City Walls in late Spring

Getting Around York

The city of York is compact, and many of its attractions are within walking distance. For longer distances, there are ample public transport options, including:

  • Buses: Extensive network reaching across the city.
  • Taxis: Readily available for more direct travel.

For those preferring to drive, there are several car parks. It’s wise to be aware that the city centre has many pedestrian zones.

York Pass Benefits

Purchasing a York Pass can be an economical way to see the city’s attractions. Benefits include:

  • Free entry to over 30 attractions.
  • Special offers on dining, shopping, and tours.

A York Pass could be especially beneficial for visitors planning to spend a weekend in York, ensuring they make the most of their 2-day York itinerary.

Clifford's Tower, York
Clifford’s Tower, York

Final Thoughts on a Weekend in York Itinerary

For anyone seeking a great weekend getaway, York is an ideal choice. The city’s well-preserved architecture and bustling streets provide an ideal backdrop for a memorable weekend break.

The perfect 2 day itinerary in York has a satisfying blend of knowledge and relaxation. A break in York will leave you with a wealth of memories and experiences.

Weekend Itinerary Highlights:

  • York Minster: A must-visit for its stunning Gothic architecture.
  • Shambles: Iconic medieval street for a unique shopping experience.
  • York City Walls: The walk offers panoramic views of the city.
  • National Railway Museum: For enthusiasts seeking a journey through train history.

We were guests of The Grand York and Hotel Indigo York for the purposes of this review.

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