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Life in York

Lively, full of culture and beautiful, York is regularly voted one of the best places to live and visit in the UK. If you're coming to an Open Day make sure you explore the city while you're here. Be warned - you might just fall in love with the place - adored by students, staff and parents alike!

Come for a visit

York is a vibrant, student-friendly city. It's a contemporary, charming, and iconic city, known for its rich history and heritage. With a population of 200,000, it’s big enough to feel lively, but small enough to be friendly, and easy to cycle and walk around.

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Other useful sources to find out what's going on in the city include:

8 reasons why there's nowhere else quite like it

The city centre is full of character that will surprise and delight you throughout your time at York and beyond.

  1. Ancient walls encircle the city centre dating back to Roman times. Take a stroll and see the city from a different view.
  2. Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate is the shortest street in York with the longest name! Hundreds of years ago it was the site of York's Pillory, a post where criminals were tied to for humiliation and punishment. These days it's a popular spot for selfies!
  3. The Shambles is believed to be the oldest shopping street in Europe, even getting a mention in the Domesday Book of 1086. Back then it was a street of butchers and slaughterhouses.

Illuminating York, a magical outdoor festival of lights.

York's riverside by night.

  1. The spectacular York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. Climb the 275 steps to the top of the Minster Tower to get a great view of the city.
  2. Chocolate is a major part of York’s history - it’s the birthplace of the Kit Kat and Terry’s Chocolate Orange. If the wind is blowing in the right direction you can catch a whiff of chocolate in the air!
  3. Guy Fawkes was born and educated in York; you can even have a pint in the Guy Fawkes Inn on the site where he grew up.
  4. Our colourful city offers more than 25 festivals with free events throughout the year.

Awards

Here are just a few of the recent accolades the city and region have won:

Nowhere in northern England says 'medieval' quite like York, a city of extraordinary cultural and historical wealth.
Lonely Planet

Why our students love York

You don't have take our word for it, our student bloggers will happily tell you about why they love York.

Hot spots and hidden gems

These top picks, suggested by students and staff, will give you a good idea of city living in York.

Green space and outdoors

York is easy to explore on foot or by bike. It's flat and there are plenty of cycle lanes and paths.

  • The York Museum Gardens, the York Minster gardens, and the Treasurer's House gardens provide idyllic settings for a spot of relaxation and reflection, or you can take a riverside stroll, or a walk on the ancient walls.
  • Head to Rowntree Park for a picnic by the river, or a '99' from the solar-powered ice cream boat!
  • Next to campus you'll find Walmgate Stray - a summer picnic spot for students and an outdoor practice space for student societies like the Juggle Society.
  • You can also cycle the Solar System, a 6 mile cycle route with to scale models of our planets.

Live music

Venues across the city showcase everything from national names to local talent.

YUSU's Summer Ball

  • Practice your jazz hands at the The Phoenix Inn. They have live jazz jams on Wednesdays and Sundays which are usually free!
  • For ska and rocksteady, try Bangarang at the Spread Eagle.
  • If you're into roots, reggae, dancehall and dub check out the Irie Vibes nights at The Crescent.
  • The biggest venue in the city York Barbican puts on mainstream and nationally acclaimed artists such as Paloma Faith, Newton Faulkner and Jools Holland.
  • And you're only 20 minutes away from Leeds (by train) which has a number of larger venues including the O2 Academy and the First Direct Arena.

Nightlife

A long-standing urban legend says there's a pub for every day of the year in York. That’s not quite true, but there is a high density of pubs and bars in the compact city centre, including traditional pubs, cosy bars, indie nights and cheesy clubs.

  • The Students' Union (YUSU) organises regular student club nights in the city that cater to all tastes, as well as supporting student-run club nights.
  • If you're into real ale and craft beers you'll be spoilt for choice in York at pubs such as the House of Trembling MadnessPivni and York Tap.
  • For a cocktail or a mocktail the Evil EyeSotano and Bar Lucia are all well-known spots.
  • You can also hop on a train to Leeds (20 minutes) or Manchester (90 minutes) for a taste of the nightlife in the bigger nearby student cities.

Art, cinema and comedy

There are plenty of options to soak up some culture in York - a haven for art lovers, film buffs and theatre fanatics. York has also recently become a UNESCO City of Media Arts.

  • The Arts Barge Project is the brainchild behind a quirky arts venue on a barge, which will be coming to York city centre. They also organise community arts events.
  • You can't go far in York without seeing street entertainers and buskers like The Magic Ball Man. Or violist Ed Alleyne-Johnson, who was a member of New Model Army and a supporting artist for David Bowie, Bob Dylan and more.

York City Art Gallery

Bishy Road street festival

Festivals and events

Being a major tourist destination, there are activities and festivals all year round.

For more information see York Festivals.

Museums

York offers museums and galleries galore - from Vikings to trains and ghosts to chocolate. When you start your studies, you can get a YorkCard for discounted and sometimes free entry to many York attractions.

  • You can't miss the York Minster - the grand and gothic highlight of the city.
  • For ghosts and ghouls check out the York Dungeon, a ghost bus tour or a ghost walk.
  • Come face-to-face with a 'Viking' and take a tour of a Viking-age street at Jorvik Viking Centre.

Dean's Park next to York Minster.

York Museum Gardens

  • You don't have to be a train spotter to enjoy the National Railway Museum. They have an impressive collection telling the story of 300 years of history. It's also the home to the Flying Scotsman!
  • York's Chocolate Story - take a tour through York's history with chocolate-making, how to make it and taste it like an expert.

For more information see Museums in York (yorkmuseumstrust.org.uk).

Eating out

York is true foodie heaven. Every cuisine and budget are catered for.

  • You can't live in York without without visiting Bettys Café Tea Rooms at least once. It's a great choice for when your parents visit.
  • Brew and Brownie are known for tasty brunches, pretty pancakes and delicious cakes!
  • Ever tried Polish food? Barbakan is a cosy independent café and restaurant serving up delicious pierogi (Polish dumplings) and borscht (beetroot soup).
  • Get a view of the Minster from the roof terrace at The Habit while sampling some Jamaican street food.

The Habit

Bicis y Mas

  • Try some North African and Middle Eastern street food at Los Moros near the market.
  • For a tasty curry including Halal options you could try Lal Quila or Akbars among many others. Freshways supermarket also specialises in Halal, Arabic, Indian, Polish, Chinese, Turkish and Greek food.
  • Sample some authentic Italian food at Il Paradiso del Cibo or Toto's.
  • For vegetarian and vegan food try Goji Cafe and DeliEl Piano or Bicis Y Mas
  • If you're a chocolate lover go to the York Cocoa House (started by York alumna Sophie Jewett) for sweet and savoury chocolate treats.

For more information see place to eat in York (visityork.org).

Beyond York - city, coast and country

York is a great base from which to explore the stunning scenery of Yorkshire. Great rail and transport networks also connect you with the major cities of the UK and friends at other universities.

  • We have two of the country’s most beautiful national parks right on our doorstep – the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.
  • You're only an hour away from a stroll on the beach - head to sunny Scarborough! Slightly further away, Whitby is also a great seaside town with amazing fish and chips.
  • And you're a short train ride away from big cities such as: Leeds (20 minutes), Manchester (1.5 hours) London (2 hours) and Edinburgh (2.5 hours).

Beautiful York

If you're still not convinced about how amazing our city is - watch this stunning video made by a North Yorkshire-based production company Hewitt & Walker. It features lots of the highlights mentioned on this page!

Related links

Other useful sources to find out what's going on in the city include: