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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.

Come for a visit

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 2019With 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.

Got a question about living in York? 

Chat to our current students

Hot spots and hidden gems

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

At 3.4 kilometres long, the beautifully preserved City of York walls are the longest medieval town walls in England.

Green spaces

York is easy to explore on foot or by bike, with plenty of cycle lanes and paths.

  • The York Museum GardensYork Minster gardens, and Treasurer's House gardens are idyllic settings for a spot of relaxation and reflection. You could also take a scenic riverside stroll or walk the ancient City Walls.
  • Rowntree Park is the perfect place for a picnic by the river, and you can savour a '99' from the solar-powered ice cream boat nearby!
  • Next to campus you'll find Walmgate Stray - a perfect summer 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 the planets.

Live music

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

YUSU's Summer Ball

York has a vibrant nightlife that includes nightclubs, bars, live music, comedy, and theatre. There's something for everyone.

Nightlife

A long-standing urban legend says there's a pub for every day of the year in York. While that might not be quite true, there is a high density of pubs and bars in the compact city centre, including traditional pubs, cosy bars, indie nights and popular 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 the Trembling MadnessBrew York and Pivni. You can even try a horn of mead at the Viking-themed Valhalla.
  • For a cocktail or a mocktail 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.

Eating out

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.

Spark:York

  • 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. 

JORVIK Viking Festival is an annual celebration that takes place all across the city.

The Shambles, arguably Europe's best preserved medieval street is transformed during Illuminating York.

  • 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 FestivalLive 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

Bishy Road street festival

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 Designer Outlet is a short bus ride from the City Centre.

Fossgate Books is another of the many excellent bookshops in York.

Read more about independent shops in York

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 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.

Dean's Park next to York Minster.

York Museum Gardens

  • 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)

The Yorkshire coastline encompasses some of the UK's most rugged and charming countryside.

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. There's sunny Scarborough, a charming seaside town where you'll find amazing fish and chips, and Whitby, where the bustling harbour is overlooked by the Gothic ruins of Whitby Abbey - you can even experience the annual Goth Weekend.
  • 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).

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

Lonely Planet

Awards

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

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!