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Get Lost Fresher: A guide to York in the day

The town is one of the great attractions of the university, which is why losing yourself in the windy streets of medieval York is an absolute must. Alex Donaldson leads the way.

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Credit: Tungsten92
Clifford's Tower; Credit: Tungsten92


First off, see those big blue and yellow buses? Don't bother. Grab a bike or better yet take a stroll straight into town. Even if you're in Halifax you're never more than a 35 minute walk away from the city centre.

Even the history-phobes amongst you won't fail to notice the sheer volume of ancient locations and sites around the city - and thankfully most of them are free. First of all, on the way into town, from whichever direction you approach from you'll hit one of the many Roman wall gates, or bars, which encircle York. Walk round them to get some of the best views of the city as a whole, especially Monkgate. Numner one on every tourist's list in York is obviously York Minster. It's fairly self-explanatory. Magnificently tall, thousands of years old and free entry with a University of York student card. Next on our student budget York day trip is the Shambles. This cobbled overhanging street is 200 metres of unadulterated Tudor England and is home to some wonderful artisan shops and cafes. The tea shop always has free samples. For you Harry Potter fans, Diagon Alley was based on it...

You will inevitably come past Clifford's Tower. It's the castle that looks like the ones you drew in primary school with a single tower on a pointy hill... minus the Jewish massacre which took place in 1190. You're supposed to save climbing it till you're highly inebriated but it's just as nice in the day.

Perhaps one of the most relaxed areas of York is Museum Gardens, as they border the River Ouse. In winter the ruins are covered in snow, whilst during the three clear days of June we had this year, it was the best place to sunbathe in the city. If you happen to have some of your loan left in summer you might be tempted to splash out (literally) on hiring a boat on the river. Although jolly, spiffing, British student friendly fun, it is a bit steep.

There is however one place that is worth an entrance fee. That is the legendry Viking centre, Jorvik. You have to go at least once if you live in York. Its Viking town 'ride' is hilarious for cynics and thoroughly enjoyable for everyone else, even if it does have a unique odour.

If you happen to feel hungry, which no doubt you all will within three days of leaving home York is home to a vast array of cafes, restaurants and bars and takeaways serving up food all day. You'll find all the usual chains are present. Yes, there is a Nandos. But head to Fiesta Latina on a Tuesday and you'll get 50% off their huge tex-mex dishes, and probably a free habanero chili shot from their enormous tequila collection. For those after a fancier feast you could try the Blue Bicycle...its got a green bicycle outside. Meanwhile Ambiente Tapas bar beats anything La Tasca can throw up hands down.

Finding something to kill time in York can be as easy as listening to the various buskers which are a constant presence throughout town and doing a teashop crawl, which surely has to culminate in a trip to Betty's Tearooms in all its decadence. Although food is extortionate, if you just go for a drink it's the same price as a Starbucks, and twice as hipster. If you're after coffee rather than tea, proper coffee - head to Bison Coffee on Heslington Road. Not only does it grind some of the finest beans in Yorkshire, but its home to a vintage shop, regular acoustic gigs, and its very own music stage at YO1 Festival.

Hopefully this brief guide to what to see, do and eat in York will be a useful guide. I've deliberately left out any specific directions, as you really have to learn you own way round York. It's only after getting lost a few times that you find the places you'll grow to love. But even after a year you probably still won't know your Mickle from your Monk. All you really need to know is the walk back from The Willow in the dark.

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1 Comment

Australian visitor Posted on Sunday 25 Aug 2019

Thanks for this great little synopsis. Intend to use it.

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