York city guide
Contemporary, full of culture and renowned for its rich history and heritage, York is a city of contrasts. If you're coming to an Open Day, be sure to explore the city while you're here.
York is a vibrant, student-friendly city. 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.
The Student Guide to York
Posted by Kirsten on 7 February 2019
So, you’re thinking of studying in York?! You’ve made a good choice – York’s been named the best place to live in Britain, and…
My York Favourites
Posted by Alexander on 7 February 2019
Moving to a new city can be daunting. What’s the city like? What is there to do in your spare time? Where do you…
The Festive Season In York
Posted by Amy on 5 December 2018
York is known as one of the most festive cities in the country and walking around, it’s easy to see why. From the bustling…
Staying in York over the Christmas holidays
Posted by Lily on 5 December 2018
Hi, I’m Lily, a 2nd Year Chemistry student. Now, I may not be staying in York over the holidays myself but I live with…
A Student Guide to the City of York
Posted by Lauren on 22 November 2018
Congratulations! You’re thinking about living in York, one of the most beautiful and charming cities in the country. The cobbled roads and winding streets…
5 reasons to choose York
Posted by Sarah on 18 November 2018
It can feel overwhelming when it comes to weighing up the pros and cons of the many different universities you may be looking at…
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.
- For a mix of indie, punk, metal, pop and reggae - covering some of the best international, national and local live music and club nights - get down to Fibbers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- For film-lovers there are two city centre cinemas, an out of town multiplex and Aesthetica Film Festival, a BAFTA-recognised short film festival.
- Plastic Fortune run events, exhibitions and monthly creative meet ups in York.
- York City Art Gallery has a great collection showcasing modern art through to 16th century masters.
- To see a play there are two large theatres, York Theatre Royal and the Grand Opera House, as well as other smaller venues.
- For comedy check out The Barbican for well-known names and The Basement for local talent.
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 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)
York is a true foodie heaven. Every cuisine and budget are catered for.
- 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 food retailers.
- Get your chocolate and caffeine fix at Brew and Brownie, known for its tasty brunches, pretty pancakes and delicious cakes.
- Enjoy traditional Polish food at Barbakan, 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.
- Try North African and Middle Eastern street food at Los Moros.
- For a tasty curry including Halal options you could try Lal Quila or Akbars among many others. Freshwayssupermarket 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 Café and Deli.
- For more information, see places to eat in York (visityork.org).
7 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.
- Ancient walls encircle the city centre dating back to Roman times. Take a stroll and see the city from a different perspective.
- 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!
- 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. It's also supposed to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter!
4. 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.
5. 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!
6. 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.
7. Our colourful city offers more than 25 festivals with free events throughout the year.
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:
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!