York offers a wide range of opportunities for your free time.
There are restaurants to suit every taste. you can find small, independent restaurants with very distinctive menus using local products (Rattle Owl, Number 8, Mannion & Co), restaurants run by respected (and in some cases Michelin-starred) chefs (The Star Inn The City, The Black Swan, Middlethorpe Hall ), well-known restaurant chains (Jamie’s Italian, Pizza Express, Carluccio’s), charcuterie (Sotano, Mr P’s Curious Tavern, Pairings), vegetarian outlets (El Piano, Source, Goji), some of England’s best curry restaurants (Mumbai Lounge, Bombay Spice, Coconut Lagoon), delicious fish restaurants (Loch Fyne, The Wetherby Whaler, Drakes), and of course many great pubs serving traditional meals (The Guy Fawkes Inn, The Lamb & Lion, House of Trembling Madness). York also has excellent and authentic Chinese, Italian, Nepalese, Japanese, French, and Spanish restaurants (Yak and Yeti, Red Chilli, L’Antica Locanda, Le Cochon Aveugle).
A holiday in York would not be complete without a visit to one of the many friendly pubs. Local legend has it that York has three hundred and sixty five pubs, one for every day of the year. It certainly has more than just about any other British city, and with over three hundred beers on offer (and an annual beer festival) you will have plenty of choice. From the historic (The Guy Fawkes Inn, The Golden Fleece, The Blue Bell) to the modern (Brigantes, Sutlers, The Biltmore), from those specialising in traditional “real ales” (The Hop, The Maltings, The York Tap) to those celebrating the current explosion of “craft beers” (Pivni, House of Trembling Madness, Brewdog), you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes. And with a number of local breweries (The York Brewery, Brew York, The Hop Studio, Rudgate Brewery, Treboom, and many others), you’ll never be short of home-grown, unique flavours.
As well as traditional pubs, there are a lot of wine bars, gin specialists, tapas bars and cocktail bars (Lucia’s. Ambiente, The Botanist). Many of the pubs also have live music, for free, every night – from jazz to blues, from folk to rock, from relaxing and chilled to fun and danceable – we’re sure you’ll find something to love!
Another must during a trip to York is a visit to the famous Betty’s Café and Tea Rooms. You can treat yourself to a full afternoon tea or enjoy a traditional cream tea. As well as Betty’s, York has some wonderful coffee houses (Spring Espresso, The Attic, Brew and Brownie) and, continuing its history of confectionary, specialist chocolate cafés (York Cocoa House, The Chocolate Story, Monk Bar Chocolatiers), as well as many other cafés and tea rooms where you can enjoy a drink or a light snack.
Museums, Stately Houses, Historic Buildings and Galleries
York is one of England’s most historic cities (King George VI once remarked that “The history of York is the history of England”), and this is reflected in the wide range of museums you can visit while you’re here. From the world’s largest railway museum “The National Railway Museum” to the fascinating ‘museum of ordinary life’ “The Castle Museum” and the famous “Jorvik Viking Centre”, York has something for everyone.
York and the surrounding area also has a wealth of stately houses, historic buildings, and ancient ruins – including
York Minster and St Mary’s Abbey in the heart of York, and Rievaulx Abbey, Byland Abbey, Fountains Abbey (with the beautiful Studley Royal Gardens) and Kirkham Priory just a short drive away. Local stately homes include Beningbrough Hall art gallery and gardens, Castle Howard (one of the world’s finest stately homes), and Newby Hall (home of Britain’s most famous teddy bear collection).
If it’s not museums and historic buildings you’re after but art galleries, then the city contains everything from the traditional, in the York Art Gallery (housing the national Centre of Ceramic Art) to the avant garde, with smaller and often cutting-edge collections housed in “According to McGee”, “The New School House”, and the “Braithwaite Gallery”. Every year, the city’s many artists open their doors to the public for “York Open Studios”, where the whole city becomes a living, modern art gallery.
The city is home to many festivals.
Famous for the Jorvik Viking Festival, you can also experience the fascinating Early Music Festival (and its sister, the Late Music Festival), the Book Fair (one of the largest in the country), the Chocolate Festival, the spectacular York Mystery Plays, York Festival of Ideas, the Dragon Boat Races, York Festival of Food & Drink, the Beer Festival, Illuminating York, Pride, The Great Yorkshire Fringe music and comedy festival, the Rydale Festival, the Ebor Handicap horse races (recently voted as the best in the world by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities), the Festival of Angels ice sculpture event, and many more.
Unlike many cities York still has small, independent shops where you can find something different. If you are looking for something to take home, Betty’s Café also has a shop selling a range of high quality teas, chocolates and cakes. If you are looking for a bargain, the Designer Outlet is about 15 minutes from the city centre.
For more information on History, Activities, Sports, Festivals, Culture, TV/Film, National Parks and Adventure, please visit our Why York page.