York is regularly voted one of the best places to live and visit in the UK. The city was named the best place to live in the North and North East by The Sunday Times 2019. With a population of 200,000, it’s big enough to feel lively but small enough to feel like home.
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 their city.
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Faye's tour of York
Got a question about living in 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.
Venues across the city showcase everything from national names to local talent.
- Listen or play! There are acoustic and open mic nights happening most days of the week including Ruby Tuesdays open mic night at Sotano and Vinnie's Open Mic Nights.
- If it's local artists and DIY/punk bands you're after, The Fulford Arms is the place to be. These bands often perform at other small venues in the city such as City Screen's The Basement.
- Practise your jazz hands at The Phoenix Inn. They have live 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 Sound System nights at The Crescent.
- The biggest venue in the city, York Barbican, puts on mainstream and nationally acclaimed artists.
- 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.
York is a true foodie heaven. When you need a bite to eat, the city boasts a thriving street food scene, high-quality restaurants and quirky coffee shops.
- Visiting Bettys Café Tea Rooms at least once is a must as a student in York. It's a great choice for when your parents visit.
- Spark:York has turned old shipping containers into a community venue full of amazing local street food retailers and a events like gigs, quizzes and arts and crafts drop-ins.
- Get your chocolate and caffeine fix at Brew and Brownie, known for its tasty brunches, pretty pancakes and delicious cakes.
- Get a view of the Minster from the roof terrace at The Habit over brunch or lunch with friends.
- Taste authentic flavours from around the world - try traditional Nepalese cuisine at the Yak & Yeti, North African and Middle Eastern street food at Los Moros or Thai-style tapas at Phranakhon.
- For a tasty curry (including Halal options) you could try Mumbai Lounge or check out the giant hanging naan bread at Akbars, among many others.
- Sample some authentic Italian food at Il Paradiso del Cibo or Toto's. The gelatos at Roberto are also hard to resist on a sunny day.
- For vegetarian and vegan food try Goji Café for their organic sharing platters, or Once Across the Garden for fast-food favourites with a vegan twist.
- For more information, see places to eat in York (visityork.org).
Festivals: citywide culture and national celebrations
With a major event happening every month, there is always something unique and exciting to discover in York. Whatever your interests, you’ll find plenty of entertaining cultural events to enjoy.
- A city-wide celebration of our rich Norse heritage, JORVIK Viking Festival sees York transported back to the Middle Ages with living history encampments, markets, workshops, talks and dramatic combat performances.
- For film fans the Aesthetica Short Film Festival is an annual celebration of independent film from around the world. Featuring emerging talent and established filmmakers, you can even submit an entry yourself.
- Featuring world-class speakers, exhibitions, theatre, music, films and family-friendly activities, York Festival of Ideas offers a huge range of events at venues across campus and the city.
- There's something particularly magical about York at Christmas. Soak up the festive spirit at St Nicholas Christmas Fair for unique crafted gifts, or get cosy at a pop-up alpine bar with a warming mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.
- The annual York Pride celebrations paint the town all the colours of the rainbow with a parade and musical performances to celebrate and support the LGBTQ community.
- Nearby Leeds is well known for big music festivals such as Leeds Festival, Live at Leeds and Slam Dunk fest.
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 is also a UNESCO City of Media Arts.
- York Art Gallery has a great collection showcasing modern art through to 16th century masters, or for something more cutting-edge, try the Art of Protest Gallery.
- Theatre-goers can enjoy productions at York Theatre Royal or the Grand Opera House, while film fans will love our array of cinemas across the city.
- For comedy, check out The Barbican for well-known names and The Basement for local talent.
- York's streets are filled with entertainers and buskers like The Magic Ball Man, or violist Ed Alleyne-Johnson, who was a supporting artist for David Bowie and Bob Dylan.
- Plastic Fortune run events, exhibitions and monthly creative meet-ups in York.
- The Arts Barge Project is a quirky arts venue on a reclaimed barge showcasing music, comedy, poetry and more.
Shopping: superb independents and chain favourites
York offers some of the most distinctive and stylish shopping in the UK. Major retail chains and independent stores share York’s iconic medieval streets.
Get your fashion fix at all the major high street chains including Topshop, H&M, Primark and Urban Outfitters. Or catch the regular bus up to the York Designer Outlet for discounted prices on designer products.
- York is a city filled with excellent indie bookshops like Ken Spelman Books or The Little Apple Bookshop.
- The Shambles Market in the heart of the city is the bustling home of York’s largest group of independent traders.
- There are plenty of Harry Potter-themed shops, including The Shop That Must Not be Named, which lives on The Shambles, one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe.
- Buying gifts or indulging in local products is an absolute pleasure in York, where there are intriguing speciality stores like York Cocoa Works, York Gin and Love Cheese.
Read more about independent shops in York
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 a haunting experience check out The York Dungeon, hop on a ghost bus tour or dare to do a ghost walk.
- Come face-to-face with a 'Viking' and take a tour of the sights, sounds and smells of 10th-century York at JORVIK Viking Centre.
- You don't have to be a trainspotter to enjoy the National Railway Museum. Their impressive collection tells the story of 300 years of history.
- York's Chocolate Story - take a tour through York's history of chocolate and learn how to make it and taste it like an expert.
For more information see Museums in York (yorkmuseumstrust.org.uk)
Nowhere in northern England says 'medieval' quite like York, a city of extraordinary cultural and historical wealth.
Here are just a few of the accolades the city and region have won:
- The best place to live in the North and North East, The Sunday Times 2019
- The best place to live in Britain, The Sunday Times 2018
- The third 'must see' region in the world, Lonely Planet Best in Travel Guide 2014
- Best European travel destination, World Travel Awards 2014
- City with lowest crime rates mostly likely to affect students in England and Wales, The Complete University Guide 2019
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!