Image Credit: Luke Snell
One of the best things about York is having such a historic and diverse city on your doorstep. Without a doubt, my biggest regret from first year was only ever venturing to town for the occasional Kuda Tuesday or a heavy night at Drawing Board, only really discovering all the incredible things York has to offer in my second year. From galleries and museums, to food hotspots, beautiful cobbled streets and city walks, York is a city that has a lot to offer, and a lot going on under the surface. The easy rail connections and location also make it a prime city to take day trips to the Yorkshire coast, Leeds and other vibrant Northern cities. With club nights off the table, and students having more free time than ever before, maybe this is the year to truly unpack everything York has to offer.
If nothing else, I recommend a pub trip.
A vibrant and student friendly boxpark packing plenty of incredible food stalls and bars, SPARK is a stone's throw from Merchantgate bus stop. The incredible Vegan fast food joint Doner Summer is a favourite of mine (I can’t get often of their teller trays), but with excellent pizza, burgers and even stalls selling Mexican and Columbian street food, there is something here for everyone’s tastes. Often hosting live music, DJs and with a well-stocked bar this boxpark is a must.
2. York Art Gallery
The York Art Gallery is known for its extensive permanent collection of ceramics, but also hosts a range of visiting exhibitions throughout the year. For those interested in more contemporary art, The Aesthetic Art Prize is one to look out for. Check out their website for opening details as well as any new exhibitions or events taking place.
3. York City Cruises
On a sunny afternoon, there can be nothing better than taking a boat along the river Ouse, either on a larger city cruise boat or get some friends together and hire your own self-drive boat for up to an hour. I would highly recommend the latter for more freedom and a more lively experience.
4.York Roast Co.
With two shops in the city centre, the York Roast Co. serves roast dinners served either in a giant Yorkshire pudding or the famous ‘Yorky Pud’ – a roast dinner encased up in a Yorkshire pudding wrap. This place is a York institution and, if you can’t be bothered to make the walk into town, they are also on Deliveroo.
5. Take a train to Leeds
A half-hour train journey will get you to Leeds where you’ll find infinitely more bars, clubs and cafes and most importantly vintage shops. A more vibrant and (let’s face it) edgy city than York, Leeds makes for an essential day trip for a whole load of reasons but most popular for York students is the shopping. For vintage shopping, Leeds is also a must visit – Ryan Vintage and Blue Rinse are two good places to start. Great pubs, cafés and plenty of shops make this trip a must.
6. Take a daytrip
A slightly longer train journey will get you to Scarborough. Get some fish and chips, take a walk along the seafront or just relax in the sea breeze, Scarbrough offers a change of scenery and a thoroughly enjoyable day out. Wait until the summer term for this one or bring a jacket, but if the weather’s good then Scarborough makes a beautiful day with sandy beaches just a ten-minute walk from the train station.
7. Climb the Minster Tower
Visiting the Minister is free for York students – just show your student card to walk around over one thousand years of history, taking in all the historic Cathedral has to offer. For an additional £5 you can get a ticket to climb the 275 steps to the top of the Minster tower and see views across the city and out to the uni campus.
8. Go on a ghost tour
Well-known for being the ‘most haunted city in Europe’, York has a variety of ghost tours running from the city centre that take you all across town. Sure, the amatuer dramatics and storytelling might verge on the cheesy side of things, but it’s still an enjoyable way to spend a night and explore more of the city.
9. Visit a pub
My dad always loves to say that York has a pub for every day of the week and a church for every Sunday and while I couldn’t care much about the churches, the pubs are really something else. Fossgate is the most student friendly street to drink on, however I would recommend straying further and discovering some of the absolute gems York has to offer. Drinking within the city walls is usually more expensive but worth it for the historic buildings, people watching and great selection of beers.
10. Feed the geese on campus
One of the most straightforward options on the list yet often ignored by students, why not grab a bag of seed from Nisa and go and find some geese to feed? Around Vanbrugh or up by Heslington Hall are usually the best places to find yourself some hungry geese and it can be a very pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon. Best off try and make friends with York’s wildlife from the start of your time here as you’ll be seeing a lot of them throughout your degree, trust me.
11. Go to a music/ drama society performance
There are loads of performances happening on campus from drama to opera, comedy to art exhibitions and live music. Student groups are always hosting a diverse variety of events and performances, and even with the current situation, there is still plenty going on this term.
12. Clifford's Tower
Clifford’s Tower is one of those places in York that is often used to describe where other places are. While it is probably not worth walking to the top (the views are far better from the Minster tower and the tickets are cheaper there too) Clifford’s Tower is definitely a good one to know where it is and still an interesting visit if you fancy paying the slightly higher prices for entry.
13. Picnic in the Museum Gardens
The museum gardens back onto the Ouse near the city library, with beautifully kept lawns and the towering ruins of a historic Abbey. The perfect place to go for a picnic in nice weather or to grab a take away coffee and wander around in winter, you can’t go wrong with a quick trip here. I highly recommend grabbing a takeaway wrap or falafel from nearby Middle Feast before walking up to enjoy in the scenic gardens.
14. Walk the walls
To walk the entirety of the walls usually takes around two hours, but if you don’t fancy the commitment you can pick up the walls at various points. It’s a good way to get your bearings around the city and the views are superb, definitely something worth doing with some housemates and ending up in one of York’s many pubs afterwards. The best parts to walk are the section behind the Minster and the stretch that runs near the train station.
15. Dame Judi Dench Walk
Born in York, Dame Judi Dench now has a walkway along the river named after her. I’m not sure whether Judi Dench has ever been here but still, it’s an enjoyable walk on a sunny day and a different way to see the city. Starting at Lendal Bridge, follow this path along the river to watch the city cruises, students struggling to operate hire boats and usually a few rowers too.
16. Railway museum
Even if you have no interest in trains, the National Railway Museum makes a good activity for a rainy day. With free admission, pop in to look at some old Victorian trains and immerse yourself in some history.
17. Shambles & Shambles Market
Always heaving and packed with Harry Potter fans, the Shambles is part of York you’ll probably end up avoiding when you live here. Sure, the glut of Potter-themed shop fronts can grow a little tiresome but it’s definitely worth going to once and the Shamble Markets behind it has some great fruit, veg and flower stalls as well as some great street food and a bar that offers ‘2 for 1’ deals almost every day.
18. Café culture
York is a city blessed with many incredible cafés and tearooms suited to every taste. Want to sip a latte in a chilled out, surf-themed café? Drift In might be just for you. Fancy flicking through some records while you wait for your flat white? Why not try Forty Five Vinyl Café? Fancy some excellent vegan brunch options with your cappuccino? Daughter is always a shout. Got some money to drop or a nan to impress? Go Betty’s.
19. Live music
Ok, you might have to wait a while for this one but as soon as guidelines allow, I highly recommend checking out some of the live music from York’s thriving scene. Whether it’s a casual open mic in one of the many pubs and bars that offer them, or a full blown gig at either The Crescent or Fulford Arms, I’ve had some incredible gig nights in York. When these venues open, make sure to get down because you will not regret it.
20. Join Nouse
I snuck this one in at the end and hoped no one would notice.