York, Maine is a very special place to us, so it seemed a no-brainer to visit the city from which it took its name, especially when it’s only a two-hour train ride from London! We stayed at the Jorvik Hotel, a quirky, cozy, and modern spot named for the Viking version of the city’s name in the 9th century. York’s history goes back much further, having been founded by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago. Remnants of the city’s long and varied history dot the place and make it quite an enjoyable place for a visit.
Our first day started at the Fairfax House, an old Georgian townhouse with an interesting history and a beautiful central staircase. The property is manned by guides that breathe life into every room. Clifford’s Tower, part of the medieval castle that guarded the city from the 11th century, is nearby and offers 360-degree views atop a daffodil-dotted grassy hill.
After a quick bite at Plonkers, we descended, along with seemingly every other tourist in town, on the Shambles, a picturesque street lined with crooked timber-framed buildings. We ended up coming back early the following morning to enjoy it with minimal crowds. One positive of coming in the middle of the day was being able to buy some delicious chocolates from Monk Bar Chocolatiers, which claims to be York’s oldest chocolatier. To get away from the crowds we slipped into Holy Trinity Church, a 15th-century church tucked away among trees and gardens; be sure to ring the peace bell outside!
We continued the theme away from the crowds on Chapter House Street, home to the eclectic Treasurer’s House. You can visit the gardens and appreciate the exterior of the building for free, but it’s worth paying to get inside to learn more about the work Frank Green undertook to renovate and reinvent the property. We couldn’t avoid the crowds for much longer as we made our way to the gem in York’s crown—the Minster. Both the interior and exterior are beautiful and we were lucky enough to visit during practice for a choir concert. Walk up the 300 steps to the top of the tower for great views and a different perspective on the cathedral’s architecture. We closed the night out with a delicious vegan dinner at El Piano.
Our second day was dominated by a half-day trip to Knaresborough (more on that soon!), but we spent the morning seeing more of York. We started with a stroll through the Museum Gardens, including the ruined St. Mary’s Abbey before making our way to Bootham Bar to climb some of the Roman and medieval walls around the center of the city. Doing this early in the morning was ideal as we avoided the crowds and could better enjoy the views. This section of the walls offers great views of the Minster.
We dismounted the wall at Monk Bar and walked through the center, stopping at Shambles Market to grab a souvenir screen print from Sleepy Greek. From there we walked southward along the River Foss and then the east bank of the River Ouse, appreciating a more natural side of the city. We crossed to the other side at Millennium Bridge and then mounted another section of the wall at Skeldergate Bridge. Once the wall turns toward the northeast, you’re presented with nice views along the walls toward York Minster. After a brief stop appreciating Lendal Bridge from the river, we grabbed a train to Knaresborough before beginning our journey back home to London at the end of the day.