YORK: what to do, where to stay, where to eat and why you’ll love it! 

When looking for the perfect UK city break, York has to be high on the list – with more to do than you than you can throw a chocolate bar at – and there’s rather a lot of chocolate in York! It was where Rowntree’s created Kit Kat, Smarties and Aero, and Terry’s first produced the Chocolate Orange and the All Gold collection. 

York is quite unlike any other English city and is so much more than just its celebrated Roman roots and vibrant Viking past. Perfectly placed half-way between London and Edinburgh (circa 1 hour and 50 minutes from London and 2.5 hours from Edinburgh via train), it’s easily accessible from all over the UK and in addition to being thoroughly soaked in history, modern York is vibrant, eclectic and exciting.

Take a look below for my top recommendations on what to see, where to stay and where to eat during your next visit to this historic yet thoroughly modern gem of a city.

What To Do in York 

Discover York’s Chocolate Story

Did you know that the iconic confectionery companies of Terry’s, Rowntree’s and Craven’s were based in York? No, me neither. But it’s due to this delicious past, and present; (five million KitKats are still made here every day), that the city has earned the moniker as the UK Home of Chocolate. A visit to York’s Chocolate Story to take their ‘chocolate tour’ is a must-do on your itinerary.

It’s a delicious experience – as well as unwrapping York’s chocolate history, you will learn to make chocolate like a chocolatier and discover how to taste it properly – yes, like wine, chocolate has a specific way it should be tasted – who knew?

It’s interactive and fun for all the family. If you love chocolate, you will love this fully guided tour across three floors of interactive exploration which will take you on a journey through the city where chocolate made history.

(Price for 1st Feb 24 – 31st Jan 25)

Child (aged 4-15 years)*£16.00
Family of 4 (2 adults & 2 children)*£66.00
Child Under 4*FREE

Get your tickets here: https://www.yorkschocolatestory.com

York Minster

York Minster is imposing, impressive and contains over half of all the UK’s medieval stained glass, so it really needs to be seen from the inside to be properly appreciated. You can climb 275 steps of the central tower to get great views over the city centre too.

A Minister Tour is a great way to learn more about York Minister and why it is one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, (and arguably the grandest of Europe’s gothic cathedrals). It is the hugely knowledgeable guides who make the tours so worthwhile in my opinion. I found the tour very entertaining and above all, it really brings the history of the Minster to life, shines a light on current works, and explains why future plans for the Minster are so important in order to help preserve this magnificent landmark.

Book tickets here: https://yorkminster.org/visit/plan-your-visit/

Places to Stay in York

The city has a huge choice of hotels, but these two are my favourite suggestions; pick which suits you best – are you looking for quirky boutique cool (Hotel Indigo York), or pure five-star luxury (The Grand York). Both will exceed expectations but for very different reasons.

Hotel Indigo York

York’s chocolate heritage is embraced at Hotel Indigo York, where the city’s chocolate heritage and rich history are celebrated with award-winning interior design by Matthews Mee.

Every element of this hotel – from the entrance lobby, stairwell and each of the 103 rooms – is individual and unique. With a warm and personalised service, the team are genuinely some of the most friendly hotel staff I’ve ever met. Nothing is too much trouble. 

The tasteful chocolate touches interwoven within the decor is a delight! Think cushions inspired by smarties, wood panelling designed to look like chocolate squares, plus jelly mould lamps. Thoughtful touches like chocolate bars and treats sourced from local indies await in your room on the ‘Made in Yorkshire’ oak tables, continuing the theme.

The rooms are beautifully appointed, so it’s certainly not decor and style over substance. The beds are comfortable with 100% Egyptian cotton bed linen, there’s air conditioning and SPA inspired bathrooms kitted out with rainfall showers. In fact, everything you need to feel at home from the moment you arrive.

Located in the historic district of Walmgate, it’s in a great position too – well placed for visiting all the city’s many attractions.

If you love a boutique hotel with delightful surprises around every corner, this is a great choice for your York stay.

88-96 Walmgate, York Y01 9TL

Email: [email protected]

Check in: 3pm, Check out: 11am

Book here: https://hotelindigoyork.co.uk/

The Grand York

I’m not sure there are many better ways to arrive at a hotel than being greeted by a friendly doorman in a top hat. If you’re after a standout weekend away, there’s genuinely no better way to elevate your York stay than booking a room at The Grand, York’s only five-star hotel.

Upon arrival, this stunner of a hotel impresses from the off. With its beautiful architecture, it’s hard to know what to look at first as you stride across Edwardian parquet flooring, surrounded by glamorous wood panelling and glazed tiles, toward the fabulous central staircase that seems like a set from a period Hollywood movie. It’s testament to the attention to detail and utter care taken in the modernisation of the hotel, that these feature sit perfectly integrated side by side with slick modern touches.

The spa is glamorous and inviting yet is located with the historic hotel vaults. With a 14m swimming pool, state-of-the-art gym spa whirlpool, aromatic steam room, Nordic dry sauna and relaxation lounge, The Spa at The Grand is a secluded and tranquil escape.

The rooms are excellent. The Grand has 207 spacious bedrooms split between the main building and a new wing that opened in 2018. From elegantly appointed rooms to opulent suites, each one meticulously designed. 

I stayed in the modern wing of the hotel and my ‘Classic’ double room combined the timeless elegance and contemporary luxury that is the hallmark of the hotel. It was beautifully designed with optimum space and a delightfully comfortable cloud-like bed.

Bathrooms within the rooms are spacious with impressive marble decor featuring an elegant bath and a powerful shower. Other benefits include complimentary mineral water, a fully stocked Nespresso coffee machine, a chargeable minibar stocked upon request and complimentary mineral water.

The Grand York

Winner of ‘Hotel of the Year’ at The Catey Awards, The Grand York is an iconic destination hotel and thanks to the team’s excellent attention to detail and service, offers a memorable and luxury getaway that is genuinely hard to beat!

There is valet parking service available for guests at £35 per night.

Check in: 3pm, Check out: 11am

Email: [email protected]

Book here: https://www.thegrandyork.co.uk/

Where to Eat in York

Afternoon Tea at The Rise Restaurant

The distinguished ‘Rise’ Restaurant at The Grand York is a Restaurant, Terrace and Bar offering modern cuisine which is locally sourced, freshly prepared and delicious. However, it is in its flagship offering of Afternoon Tea, where I would argue The Rise really shines.

This Afternoon Tea is more than just a delightful tea; it is an experience that could just as easily sat in my list of ‘things to do’ instead of  ‘where to eat’.

Awarded ‘Best Afternoon Tea 2022’ by Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence, this is a contemporary take on Afternoon Tea. Beautifully crafted savoury and sweet treats are presented on an elaborate yet stylish silver stand in what is a tower of deliciousness. There’s also optional Prosecco, Champagne and Gin & Tonic upgrades, to make the most of an already luxurious experience.

The staff were outstanding and couldn’t be more attentive. This feels exactly how Afternoon Tea should be done. A touch of old school glamour in thoroughly contemporary surroundings and top tier cuisine.

Top tip: if you’re staying at The Grand, you can include afternoon tea as part of the booking too.

Dinner at The Rise Restaurant

Book your table here: https://www.thegrandyork.co.uk/drinking-and-dining/the-rise/

The Fat Badger

Wonderfully atmospheric and cosy, The Fat Badger restaurant offers delicious a la carte pub food, set right by York’s city walls. 

If you’re a fan of charming and characterful period features then you’ll enjoying dining here, surrounded by the quirky and cosy decor. Expect delicious cuisine, hand pulled ales, an absolutely huge list of speciality gins and friendly, smiling staff.

There also an added bonus of a secret beer garden, that’s buzzing with atmosphere.

Book your table here: https://www.thefatbadgeryork.com/

On your next visit to York, tell me which of these suggestions you visited. One visit will not be enough – I know!

Review and images by Victoria Reddington @vic_reddington

Some images supplied. Feature image courtesy of unsplash.com

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