Travel Diaries // A York City Guide

10 years ago (before we were together) Matt visited York, and for the last *almost* 8 years he's talked about going back and taking me with him because, he said, I'd love it.

As someone with a never-ending travel bucketlist, I've always shrugged it off as a 'one day' trip. Sure, one day I'd be up for visiting York, but tbh I'd prefer a weekend in Paris, or Amsterdam, or Dublin. Trips abroad have always beaten trips at home.

And then, for Christmas just gone, Matt and I decided to skip presents in favour of experiences that we could do together. Something to look forward to, something to remember, something more meaningful. So I finally booked him that trip to York!

I immediately started searching the geotag on Instagram and filled a board with all the things I wanted to see and do - I was actually looking forward to this! We visited at the end of January so it was cold and grey but still, Matt was right: I loved it! York's a beautifully historic city with lots of Roman architecture and plenty to see.

What to see & do

Ghost Bus Tour

After checking into our hotel on the Friday we had a quick freshen up and headed into the city to grab a bite to eat before joining the Ghost Bus Tour. While it was slightly cringe and a bit too dark to actually see the city's landmarks, I still enjoyed the experience and learning a bit about the history of York.

City Walls

The next day we were up and out early to get exploring. The city is actually pretty small and very walkable so we started the day with a stroll along the city walls. The walls circled the historic city and large parts of them remain today. You can walk along them from 8am daily and you'll get great views across parts of the city where they elevate.

St Mary's Abbey 

The ruins of St Mary's Abbey are housed with a beautiful garden where grey squirrels and pigeons are accustomed to feedings and come right up to you. I'm obsessed with walking around historic ruins and find them both tranquil and eerie at the same time - plus I like pretending I'm on a dystopian movie set!

York Minster

We arrived at the Minster in time for the first tower climb of the day. I always enjoy peeking inside the cathedrals of the world - I'm fascinated by the architecture (how they could even build these back then!), and the grandeur buildings with such intimate and peaceful atmospheres. I'm also a sucker for a good view so the tower tour was a must for me. 275 winding steps up a narrow tower to the top - worth it for that panorama across the city.

Clifford's Tower

Another must-visit for the views is Clifford's Tower. The Minster provided uninterrupted bird's-eye views across the whole of York, but Clifford's Tower offered a view just above the building tops. It was pretty windy when we went but the sun made a little appearance, making our view a bit brighter.

The Shambles

This cobbled little street was pretty busy when we visited. Apparently that's because tourists are flocking to see the street that inspired Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter stories. I have no idea if that's fact or fiction, but it's certainly as busy and features a few wizarding shops, so...?! We pushed our way through the crowds and headed into the food market to grab some vegan cake and rest our feet before heading back to the hotel to freshen up. Cue an evening of pizza, cocktails and stumbling over the cobbles on the way home!

Where to eat & drink


This Hummus and Pita Bar is 100% vegan. We ordered the meal deal which included a massive bowl of hummus topped with extra chickpeas, a large pita, an iced tea and any two sides. We chose the olives and aubergine salsa, and falafel balls because, y'know, chickpeas!

The Block

Pizza is served by the slice here and there's always a vegan option. We tried both flavours available: one was topped with tomato, mustard, gherkins and a vegan cheese that melted like the real thing; and the other was topped with mushrooms and spring onions and oh my god who knew this combo would work so well on pizza!

Double Dutch Pancake House

A cute little house conversion, decorated with traditional Dutch items, Double Dutch Pancake House has a full vegan menu complete with sweet and savoury options. We were fueling up before the long journey back home to Brighton so decided to share a few pancakes so we could taste test the menu. We ordered one savoury (Farmhouse, with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and vegan cheese), and two sweets (Caribbean, with rum-soaked raisins, coconut, pineapple and squirty cream; and Vegan Go Nuts, with vegan nutella, toasted almonds and Swedish Glace). We also ordered a thick milkshake each. It was amazing - until we had to sit on a coach for 6 hours with our top buttons undone!


Partisan is a hip cafe that sells the art hanging on its walls. Matt and I both ordered the vegan breakfast which comes served in a piping hot skillet. This is a must-have breakfast while in York. There were so many flavours, all layering up - I'm salivating just thinking about it. So. Much. Yum.

The Botanist

A quirky bar with mad scientists where you'd expect to find bar staff! They mixed the craziest cocktail concoctions, including one I ordered that came served in a terracotta plant pot with dry ice smoke billowing over the edges.

The Olde Starre Inn

Established in 1644, it's the oldest licenced pub in York and has a traditional British pub look and feel to it.


A strange little place. Circles is a little cafe in the middle of Lendal Bridge that also happens to be a gin bar. We popped in for an afternoon gin right around the time the locals were popping in for their afternoon cup of tea. Worth a visit though for their gin collection!


Probably the main reason Matt wanted to go back to York all these years was to go back to Dusk. A cocktail bar with a real student vibe and 2for1 cocktail offers, he'd tried the Jack Bauer all those years ago and was really excited to try it again. It's not something I'd ever order looking at the ingredients, but after 8 years of hearing about it I gave it a go and you know what? It was pretty good, damnit!

Gatehouse Coffee

Situated in an old gatehouse within the York city walls, this has to be one of the coolest places to stop for a coffee. It was pretty cold when we visited, but we just had to sit upstairs anyway!

Have you ever been to York? I was really impressed with this lovely little city and will definitely be heading back again some day.

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