I’ll admit it. I am guilty of being a “toxic Londoner,” someone who thinks anywhere in the country that is not London (or maybe Edinburgh) looks like something out of The Shire from Lord of the Rings. So when my boyfriend and I spent the weekend in his home town of York, I found myself completely unprepared for an actual functioning city that was more then just fields. Of course, I’m exaggerating (a little), but it’s safe to say that York managed to impress me.
The city was established by the Romans in 71AD. The main city centre is surrounded by historic 13-feet-high walls which were constructed by the Romans (undoubtedly with some preservation here and there) and are accessible to the public. On a sunny, and maybe not so cold, day walking around the whole city along the walls is a lovely way to see the scenery.
The most famous landmark is the gargantuan York Minster. I knew it was big and famous, but I don’t think I realised just how big and how famous. As a student you can get a discounted ticket of £9 to explore the cathedral, neither my boyfriend or I are particularly passionate about history but just walking around, exploring, and looking at the exhibits took us around two hours and was definitely worth a visit. For an extra £5 you can tackle the 270 steps to the top of the tower for an incredible view of the city, something I would absolutely recommend.
If you’re a York resident and have proof of ID you get free general entry! My partner, who is a resident, didn’t know this so clearly they keep it pretty hush-hush and we only found out by overhearing from another visitor.
My favourite site of the whole weekend was The Shambles. This cobbled and unique little street is where J. K. Rowling found inspiration for the famous Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. As a big Harry Potter fan I’m not ashamed to admit that I did tear up at the sight of this. They have plenty of themed shops and cafés, you really do feel like you’ve been transported into this magical and well-loved wizarding world.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat, hit up the famous Betty’s Tea House for a gorgeous brunch, lunch or, if you’re feeling fancy, some Afternoon Tea. Established in 1919, it really feels like it’s out of Downton Abbey.
If you don’t have the whole weekend off, York is still a great place for a middle-of the week day trip and is quick and easy to get there by train. But, if you are lucky enough to make a whole weekend, and have access to a car, you could even head down to the seaside! In around an hour you can get to the eerie, yet charming town of Whitby which is famous for fish&chips and vampires. Bram Stoker stayed in Whitby when writing Dracula meaning there are a number of cheesy little vampire-related activities you can amuse yourself with. If you prefer outdoorsy activities, on a sunny day when it’s low tide you can walk along the beach to a nearby town called Sandsend. Make sure you get a hot chocolate and fresh crab sandwiches from the Seaside Café there, you will not regret it.
Overall I had a great time visiting York and would definitely recommend it to students if they’re looking for a little break. It’s still a city, but there’s something really charming and old fashioned about it that makes it the perfect spot to escape from the hustle and bustle of Manchester. Whether you go with friends, as a solo trip, or a quick romantic getaway, York is the perfect city to head to.