How to Spend a Weekend in York: a Complete 2 Day Itinerary

York is such a vibrant and interesting city to visit, filled with history, restaurants and plenty of shopping. While you can do York in one day it’s best to have a weekend in York to truly experience everything it has to offer. 

In this guide we cover everything you need to know about spending a weekend in York, including where to eat, what attractions are a must see during your visit, and is two days enough in York. To help you create the perfect trip we’ve also provided a 2 day itinerary complete with a daily breakdown from the morning through to the evening. 

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 a weekend in York.

Is two Days enough in York? 

Yes, two days in York is enough time. If your visit is well planned then you’ll be able to explore all the main sites and enjoy some slower shopping time in York. To help you plan the perfect trip we’ve also written a complete guide to visiting York that includes the best time to visit, what to pack and how to get to York.

However, it’ll be quite rushed with a packed itinerary so if you want to experience absolutely everything that York has to offer and be able to enjoy a more relaxed visit then 3 days would be the better option. If you only have one day in York it’s still possible to see most of the main sites and have a great day, you’ll just have to prioritise what attractions you want to visit and arrive with a travel plan.

Day 1 in York

Morning

Shambles & Shambles market: get up and out early to wander through the streets of the shambles before the rush of people arrive around mid-morning. There are many independent shops to explore including The Shop That Must Not Be Named, the Nutcracker Christmas Shop, and our personal favourite – The Society of Alchemists. Threaded throughout the winding streets of the Shambles is the Shambles Market, with a mixture of stalls filled with handmade gifts, sweet treats, and crafts. 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. .

Jorvik Viking Centre: After you’ve explored the shambles take a visit to the Jorvik Viking Centre to get a glimpse into what life would have been like in Viking York. To get the added experience of the Jorvik Viking Festival, the largest Viking festival in Europe, you’ll need to visit in February. .

Afternoon

Yorkshire Museum and Gardens: visit the Yorkshire Museum to learn all about the city’s Roman, Viking and Medieval past. The exhibitions and events at the museum change from time to time, including plenty of family friendly events to keep the whole family engaged. Established in the 1830s, the Museum Gardens are best known for stunning plants and flowers, a wide array of wildlife, and the historic ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey. You can also visit the York Observatory on the grounds of the garden.

Time to shop: The Shambles isn’t the only place in York, in fact, the city has a huge number of shops from designer brands to unique independent shops so there’s bound to be something for you.

York Chocolate Factory: chocolate is one of the many cornerstone’s of York with several famous chocolate factories being based there in the past, including Terry’s, Rowntree’s and Craven’s. Discover why York is called the Chocolate City through interactive exhibits, demonstrations and even take part in a chocolate masterclass!

Evening 

Ghost Tour: Given that York is somewhere with such rich and lasting history it’s no surprising that there’s also a focus on the ghostly and haunted! There are many ghost tours that take you on a walking or bus journey around the city streets, visiting some of the most haunted places and buildings, where you’ll hear all the ghost stories that have been passed down through generations. 

Day 2 in York

Morning

York Minster: Ideally located in the centre of York, York Minster is an impressive Cathedral that was built between 1220 and 1472. You should visit the York Minster as it’s truly stunning to see the detail in the stone and the stained glass windows. There’s loads of different parts of the Minster to see once you’re inside, including visiting the museum under the Cathedral and the crypt.

City Walls & Cliffords Tower: Walking the city walls is a must do when in York, not only for the history but also the stunning views over the city. Starting at Walmgate Bar follow the trail around to Micklegate Bar, stopping off at Cliffords Tower along the way. In 1069 William the Conqueror built two small castles, one of which was in the same spot that Cliffords Tower stands today. After being burnt to the ground and rebuilt twice the tower was rebuilt in stone for the final time from 1245 – 1272. 

Afternoon

The afternoon today is light because you’ve got a jam packed morning, in fact, you may end up having a late lunch and getting to your afternoon attraction a little later than planned. The great thing about York is that it’s all close together so it doesn’t take long to get around if you’re slightly off your planned schedule. 

York Castle Museum: the buildings of the York Castle Museum were once the York Country Gaol, the main prison for the whole of Yorkshire that was first opened in 1705. One of the exhibitions you can visit is Kirkgate, the oldest indoor street of its kind with original shop fronts and items from around the end of the 19th century. 

Afternoon Tea at Betty’s: Betty’s is an institution in York and is known as having some of the absolute best cake and sweet treats in the city for more than 100 years. Their afternoon tea is the most popular for visitors, however at between £29.95 and £37.95 per person it’s not the cheapest option. If you’re looking to visit Betty’s on a budget then go for an individual sweet treat instead at a more manageable cost of between £5 and £10.

Evening

River Ouse Cruise: the River Ouse runs through the centre of York making it the ideal way to see the city. There are many options to cruise the river, including a daytime or sunset cruising tour, or hire of a self steer boat. Most cruises only last one hour so you can fit a sunset cruise in before dinner and experience York at its most beautiful. 

Relax with dinner and enjoy a few drinks: After a couple of busy days you’ll probably be ready to relax. Follow this up your river cruise with a late dinner at one of the many restaurants around York. If you fancy stopping for a nightcap or some cocktails there are several cocktail bars with great theming, including the viking bar Valhalla or Evil Eye with its bizarre but fun vibe. 

Where to eat breakfast in York

These are just a couple of our favourite spots to grab breakfast or brunch in York.

  1. Drift-in 

Drift-in is my top place to grab breakfast when I’m in York. They’re a typical brunch place with the most delicious bagels, french toast and smoothies. My personal favourite is the halloumi and avocado bagel with a slight hint of chilli. 

  1. Gert & Henrys

The best thing about Gert & Henrys is that it’s right in the heart of the Shambles Market so you can enjoy a traditional English breakfast and watch the hustle and bustle happen around you. 

Where to eat lunch in York

These are just a couple of our favourite spots to grab lunch in York.

  1. The York Roast Co

If you’re visiting the UK for the first time then there’s no better way to experience what it truly means to be British than with a roast dinner – especially in Yorkshire! The York Roast Co take the traditional roast dinner one step further with their giant wraps made from yorkshire pudding, that hold a generous portion of perfectly roasted meat, vegetables, stuffing and gravy. 

  1. Shambles Kitchen

The Shambles Kitchen is famous in York for their delicious sandwiches made with slow smoked meat and homemade artisan bread. As the name suggests you can find the Shambles Kitchen in the historic Shambles in the centre of York, making it ideally located for no matter where in the city you end up at lunch time. 

  1. Newgate Coffee Bar.

If you’ve come to York for the spooky history then you need to have lunch at Newgate Coffee Bar! They serve delicious sandwiches and cakes alongside a dose of haunting with the ghost of John William Nevison. One of Britain’s most notorious highwaymen, Nevison hid out in the cupboard at the building that is now the Newgate Coffee Bar in 1684 before being caught and hanged that same year. Built in 1337 it’s a great place to visit if you’re looking to soak up the history of York with old wooden beams and wonky, uneven floors. 

Where to eat dinner in York

Here are a few great dinner spots when you’re visiting York for the weekend.

  1. Rustique 

At Rustique you’ll be able to enjoy rustic French cuisine in a warm and cosy restaurant. For the best deal make sure you book a table during the times their  set menu is available (including Friday, Saturday and Sunday), where you’ll find the courses for the same price as one of their main dishes on their standard menu. 

  1. Impossible

Impossible has a luxurious feel as soon as you walk in with plush seating, several separate dining areas and bars, and excellent customer service. They even have an attached cocktail bar, Pink’s, so you won’t have to move far to enjoy a couple of after dinner cocktails or mocktails! The best part is the history of the building, this grade II listed building was once the home of Terry’s Chocolate Orange. 

  1. Lucia

Lucia’s is all about style with delicious Italian food, classic cocktails, and an instagrammable decor. Lucia’s is very in demand so make sure you book well ahead of time, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend. 

The main thing to remember no matter where you book, is to book in advance or you may end up eating McDonalds!

Is the York pass worth it for 2 days

The York Pass is worth it for a weekend 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 is worth it. The total cost of all of the paid for activities that are included in the York Pass is £85.50 and the two day York Pass is £75, saving you £10. Not a huge saving but the York Pass gives you the flexibility to swap out one of the attractions for something else. 

What to do if you have more than a weekend in York?

If you’re visiting York for more than a couple of days 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
  • Visit Barley Hall in York

Summary: how to spend a weekend in York

In conclusion, a weekend in York is the perfect amount of time to find a great mix of attractions, food and relaxation. As you begin planning your time there consider these three tips to make the most out of your visit

Get out early in the morning: York can get pretty busy so if you’re not a fan of crowds, or just want to get some great pictures of the city in peace then you’ll need to make an early start. This is especially true for the Shambles and Shambles Market where it becomes packed with tourists and locals by mid-morning.

Plan what you want to do in advance: Spend some time researching all of the things you can do and see in York. Use this research to make a plan of action and prioritise the attractions and activities that are most important to you in advance. This is especially important as some attractions will need to booked in advance, especially during peak times of the year. 

Check the weather forecast: You have the luxury of having more than one day to get stuff done so make sure to check the weather forecast before you book any activities. This way if it’s raining one day and clear skies the next (quite possible at any time of the year in England) then you can plan to visit the indoor attractions around the rain. 

If I only had one weekend to spend in York the five  things I’d prioritise seeing would be the York Minster, walking a portion of the city walls, wandering around the shambles and shambles market, York museum and gardens, and a walking ghost tour. 

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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