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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 named one of the best places to live and visit in the UK. 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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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 Gardens, York 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.
  • 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

  • For grassroots music, tribute acts and more, try The York Vaults.
  • 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 has a vibrant nightlife that includes nightclubs, bars, live music, comedy, and theatre. There's something for everyone.


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 Madness, Brew York and Pivni. You can even try a horn of mead at the Viking-themed Valhalla.
  • For a cocktail or a mocktail Evil Eye, Sotano and 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.


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 inspiring speakers from all over the world, 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 LGBT+ 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

Bishy Road street festival

  • York's streets are filled with entertainers and buskers like The Magic Ball Man, or violinist Ed Alleyne-Johnson, who was a supporting artist for David Bowie and Bob Dylan.
  • York Mediale run events, exhibitions and installations around 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 New Look, H&M, Primark and Urban Outfitters. Or catch the regular bus up to the York Designer Outlet for discounted prices on designer products.

  • Music fans can build their vinyl collection and swap music intel at Earworm Records.
  • There are several quirky clothing stores such as Dog and Bone Vintage to keep you kitted-out throughout the seasons.

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

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

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.

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 railway 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

Getting around

You can travel between campus and the city centre using our bus service which takes 20 minutes (outside peaks times). You can cycle which takes about 15 minutes and by foot it's around 30 minutes.

Lots of York students use bikes. There are plenty of cycle paths and bike lanes, and not many hills! You can buy a second-hand bike on campus or from many cycle shops in the city. Our on-campus Bike Doctor offers free bike safety checks once a month, and there are lots of places to lock up.

York is also home to an e-scooter scheme from TIER. You can rent an e-scooter or e-bike for as little as 18p per minute (£1 to unlock) and shuttle around campus or the city.

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


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