One day in York: the perfect itinerary for a York day trip

If you’re travelling in the UK and want to visit York but have limited time then this guide to spending one day in York will help you plan the perfect day trip.

York is a great option for a day trip from most of England because it’s central, easy to travel to by car or train, and it’s a very walkable city meaning you don’t need a car.

In this guide you’ll find itinerary inspiration for your York visit that includes recommendations on what to do and where to eat. To help you create an achievable itinerary we’ve sectioned the attractions and food into morning, afternoon and evening so you know roughly what you can get done in the time you have.

We also cover all of your questions about planning a day trip to York, including if one day is enough, the best time to visit York, and what to do if you have more than one day in York.

If there’s a part of this guide that you’re particularly interested in you can skip straight there by clicking on that section in the contents below. If not, then continue reading to learn all about how to spend one day in York.

Things to consider when visiting York

  • One of the best things to see in York is the Shambles, however it starts getting really busy from mid-morning onwards. If you want to be able to wander through the winding streets and explore the shops at your own pace then I recommend getting there as early as possible.
  • Book restaurants in advance so that you know when and where you’re eating. You should book for any evening meal, and also for lunch if you’re visiting popular food spots like Betty’s.
  • If you’re planning on visiting several paid attractions while in York then consider buying a York pass instead as this may work out as better value than buying the tickets individually.

Is one day enough in York? 

One day is enough to see the main historic sights and some of the best things to do in York. However, to have plenty of time to truly explore the many shops, winding streets and towns nearby you’ll need to visit for two or three days.

One day in York itinerary

Morning

Shopping in the Shambles: Take an early wander through the streets of the shambles where you’ll find plenty of independent shops to explore including The Shop That Must Not Be Named, the Nutcracker Christmas Shop, and our personal favourite – The Society of Alchemists.

Shambles Market: After you’ve finished exploring the shambles, make your way to the Shambles Market to explore the many stalls dotted with handmade gifts. There are also plenty of food stalls, cafes and bakeries around the shambles market for you to grab something for breakfast or a quick snack.

York Minster: Just a short walk from the shambles is the York Minster, an impressive Cathedral that was built between 1220 and 1472. I’d highly recommend paying to visit inside the York Minster as it’s truly stunning to see the detail in the stone and the stained glass windows. There’s also tons to do including visiting the museum under the Cathedral and the crypt.

Lunch: By this point you’re probably ready for lunch, luckily there are many options to grab food around York. Some personal favourites are The York Roast Co, Shambles Kitchen or Newgate Coffee Bar.

Afternoon

City Walls & Cliffords Tower: Walk the city walls from Walmgate Bar to Micklegate Bar and stop off at Cliffords Tower. Walking what remains of the city walls is a must do when in York, not only for the history but also the stunning views over the city. 

Jorvik Viking Centre: Finish your afternoon with a trip to the Jorvik Viking Centre where you can get a glimpse into what life would have been like in Viking York. If you’re visiting in February you’ll also get to experience the Jorvik Viking Festival, the largest Viking festival in Europe.

Evening

Evening Meal: There are many great restaurants in York for your evening meal, just make sure you choose where to go and book a table ahead of time. Some great options include Impossible, Rustique (make sure you book a table at the right time to enjoy their set menu), and Lucia.

Evening Entertainment: After dinner you have a few choices for your evening entertainment before heading to jump on a train or to pick up your car. For some spooky evening entertainment you can do a walking ghost tour of the city. If ghosts aren’t really your thing then grab a drink in one of the many bars around the city. Two unique options to add to your list are the Valhalla Bar or Evil Eye.

Can you do a York day trip from London? 

To get a direct train from London to York you need to head to the London King’s Cross station. The trains to York leave roughly every 30 minutes between 6am to 10pm. It’s an easy journey that costs around £100 ($125) for a return and only takes two hours, making York an ideal day trip if you’re visiting London.

What is the best time to visit York? 

The best time to visit York is June and early July when the weather has started to warm up but isn’t too stifling like it can be towards late July and August. It’s also less busy than those main summer months when there are more tourists and the local schools are on their summer break.

November and December can also be a good time to visit York if you want to visit a UK Christmas market. I’ve visited York during the period when the Christmas market is on so I speak from experience when I say that it is incredibly busy during this period. Only visit in November and December if you’re very comfortable with crowds and queues!

How to get to York?

Being quite central, York is ideally located to get to by car or train. Unless you’re planning on exploring rural Yorkshire train is the most convenient way to travel as it’s quick and parking can be costly. York is well connected by train across the UK making it an ideal day trip if you’re visiting London or Edinburgh as you can get a direct train from either city to York in 2 – 2.5 hours. The official site to book train tickets in England is the National Rail site, however you can often get a good deal on Trainline.

If you’re travelling outside of the centre of York or already have car hire planned then it’s also easy to get there by car. York is close to three main roads (M1, A1(M) and M62) making it easy to reach by car from most of the country.

Parking in York

If you’re driving to York I’d recommend using the Park & Ride service that allows you to park in a secure car park outside the city centre and get on the dedicated bus service into the city. There are 6 park and rides in York, all have different times of operation from 6am to 11pm. The park & Ride is a great option because of the value it provides, you can park all day and travel into and out of the centre of York for just £3.80 a day.

If you’d rather drive and park in the centre of York there are several council run car parks available for you to park in at a cost of around £3.10 per hour.

Is the York pass worth it for one day?

The York Pass is worth it if you’re planning on visiting enough paid attractions so that the cost of individual entry to these attractions is higher than the amount you’ll pay for a York Pass. The York Pass is a visitor pass that gives you access to paid attractions at a lower cost when you access them using your pass. You can buy a one, two or three day access pass depending on how long you’ll be staying in York for. 

If you’re following the itinerary in this post then the York pass isn’t worth it because most of the activities are free! With the exception of the ghost tour which isn’t included in the York Pass the only attractions that have an entry cost are the York Minster (£18), Cliffords Tower (£10.50), and Jorvik Viking Centre (£16.50). This totals £45 so £14 less than the one day York Pass.

What to do if you have more than one day in York? 

If you have more than one day in York then there’s plenty to keep you busy, both in the city and further afield into the heart of Yorkshire. We’ve included a few suggestions below to get you started, 

  • Enjoy the Yorkshire coast by visiting towns like Whitby, Scarborough or Robin Hood’s Bay
  • Hike in the Yorkshire Dales National Park
  • Drive to Castle Howard
  • Take the train to Manchester in less than 2 hours
  • Take the train to Leeds in around 30 minutes
  • Explore the Yorkshire Dungeons
  • Take a cruise up the River Ouse
  • Visit York’s Chocolate Story

Summary: one day in York

In conclusion, a visit to York offers a blend of history, culture and charm, even if you only have one day in York. As you begin planning your day trip consider these three tips to make the most out of your visit

Start your day early: it can get busy so make an early start to beat the crowds and enjoy the peace of York’s quiet streets.

Plan your itinerary in advance: Prioritise the attractions and activities you most want to experience in York to ensure you make the most of your limited time.

Take breaks and savour the moments: While it’s tempting to rush through all the sights, remember to take breaks, relax in a charming cafe or park, and savour the unique ambiance of York.

If I only had one day to spend in York the three things I’d prioritise seeing would be the York Minster, walking a portion of the city walls and wandering around the shambles and shambles market.

Ultimately, no matter what you chose to do with your time in York you can’t really go wrong in this incredible city.

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