What to do at the Weekend:
Visit York at Christmas
It’s Ben’s favourite place in the UK. Here’s what we did during our post-Christmas break in the amazing City of York, and our tips for anyone visiting.
What we did at the weekend:
Location: Harrogate and York, North Yorkshire
Where we stayed: The Innkeeper’s Lodge
Our rating: 8/10
Visiting York at Christmas
Between Christmas and New Year is a time when typically us marketing types are off-work on annual leave as our respective employers shut down.
We both work (or worked in Ben’s case) in the construction sector.
We’re not complaining of course, being off over Christmas rocks and our sympathies go out to the retail heroes that keep us fed and beer-ed during this time.
We have both been there.
Anyway, instead of sitting at home eating leftover turkey and getting fat (fatter) off festive chocolate and booze, we decided that we would make use of our Christmas leave and go get fat somewhere else.
Almost Visiting Copenhagen
Our choice was Copenhagen, neither of us had been before and we had only heard good things from practically everyone we had spoken to about it.
The break was booked and on the horizon until two days before we were due to fly, when the Danish government changed the Covid-related testing and entry requirements.
Consequently, the post-Christmas timing made it virtually impossible for us to go (boooo).
Slightly disappointed but undeterred in our plan to go away for a bit, we opted for York instead, and we had a great time (so take that, Danish government!)
Our Experience of York
As with a few of our trips away, this was Tanith’s first time to York and Ben’s millionth.
Ben is in fact a bit of a York evangelist – spreading the good word about the city’s charms to anyone that listens.
In fact, two of his previous co-workers visited very shortly after he’d had a conversation with them about it. True story.
Where we stayed
At the late notice, the hotels in York were pretty booked up and very expensive (as they generally are nowadays).
We stayed quite a way out of York at a pub/hotel in Harrogate (which is also a beautiful place) – The Innkeeper’s Lodge (link here and at the top of the page) as we could use the One4All gift card that Ben got as a Christmas gift from work.
Money is tight around Christmas!
It was a pretty nice place in a quiet area, very rustic feeling, converted farmhouse type – just the cosy ticket for a cold North Yorkshire break in December.
York is a Beautiful City
There is so much to see and do in York that it’s going to take multiple visits to scratch the surface.
York is a strikingly beautiful city with its breathtaking architecture and impressive historical landmarks that are sure to have you reaching for the camera often (certainly for your first York visit).
The tourists hotspots amongst them include the stunningly impressive and unmissable York Minster that is a constant presence overlooking the City, to the famous crooked street of The Shambles.
You will quickly notice why this street is said to be the inspiration for J.K Rowling’s Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books.
In fact, you will find multiple Harry Potter inspired shops along this thoroughfare.
“The Shop That Must Not Be Named” was the first of these and is still the best in our view, which is evidenced by the usual long line outside.
You will never be stuck for places to eat and drink in York either. It is full to the brim with bars and restaurants.
“You will never be stuck for places to eat and drink in York either. It is full to the brim with bars and restaurants”.
So do make sure you eat at least one yorkshire pudding whilst you’re there – it would be rude not to.
Finally, the people of York really add to its charm in our opinion. They are generally fabulous and have that warmness that typically comes from Northern folk
Next, we’re going to get Ben’s tips for your York visit.
Ben’s Best Things to do in York – (Beyond the Usual)
So I’d call myself a bit of a York-Phile (probably not an actual word but I’m going with it).
Since I’ve visited more times than I can count, I’ve picked up a thing or two about what to do in York and where to visit beyond the usual tourist things.
1. Ghost Walks
York often claims to be the most haunted City in the UK.
So, it might come as no surprise to see men and women dressed up in elaborate (often Victorian) garb advertising Ghost Walks/Tours pretty much on every street corner.
Being quite into most paranormal / ghostly things, I would suggest that going on a ghost walk is about as essential to visiting York as visiting the Spanish Steps is in Rome.
You simply have to do it.
Ghost Tours in York
Most Ghost Tours are not expensive – you will expect to pay around a fiver for the evening.
They operate pretty much every day of the year, and they last around two hours tops.
Alongside learning about the more paranormal side to York, you’ll learn a lot of interesting history, and experience a walking tour of the beautiful old city at night time (when it’s less crowded).
Definitely a winner in my book.
We found a Witches and History Walking Tour that looked pretty cool on Get Your Guide.
2. Sightseeing Bus Tour
Okay, so this one is touristy, but I always recommend getting a ticket on a HOHO (Hop on, Hop Off) bus around York.
I personally like the City Sightseeing Bus and feel it’s absolutely the best way to get around the city for 24 hours.
There are a huge number of stops throughout the city and it’ll take you to all the main tourist hotspots.
York obviously has a long and fascinating history and these tour buses give you a real insight into the really cool story of York (which I like as I’m a massive nerd).
If you get lucky, you might pick up the bus with the ‘talking’ bus driver, who adds his own little tidbits to the programmed voiceover.
I managed to get him a few times over the years – wish I had got his name though come to think of it!
How much does the Sightseeing Bus Cost?
Yes, okay these sightseeing buses are usually quite pricey – typically around the 20 quid mark per 24 hour ticket in York.
But I feel it enhances your visit to a really significant degree and makes it worth parting with your hard earned cash.
Having said that, I would always recommend you try to find a discount code online before booking anything like this too.
If you are looking to go for this option, go to their website, book online, and you (usually) redeem outside the York Art Gallery or Information place near the Minster.
I used to say that this was York’s best kept secret and an absolute must-see for any trip to York.
To be fair, it’s still an absolute must-see but now the secret is well-and-truly out.
It’s in a pretty unassuming location on Stonegate, which is pretty close to the Minster.
You might well just walk past it if you were not looking for it, so keep a beady eye out for the sign.
I’m convinced that like Narnia, you have to believe it’s there in order to see it!
On the ground floor is an amazing menagerie of weird and wonderful beers, ales, and spirits of all shapes, sizes, and flavours from breweries all across the country and indeed the world.
You know the ones you see with massively obscure names at your local craft fayre – those.
It’s also in actuality, one of the only places I know that sells mead by the big bottle and I always make a point of getting some when I’m there.
Odin’s Mead, which is breakfast tea flavoured and brewed by the Lancashire Mead Company (if you were interested).
Upstairs at the House of the Trembling Madness
Upstairs is the really cool bit.
A small pub/restaurant, which, if you don’t get there for little after opening time, you ain’t getting a seat!
It fills up so fast, especially on weekends and like I said, the secret is definitely out.
And for good reason too.
It’s pretty much unlike anywhere you’ll have been before.
The decor is straight out of something that Neil Gaiman would concoct with unusual items and taxidermy adorning the walls.
It’s a weird, wonderful, and superb place to while away an hour or two over a pint and a bit of food.
Every time I visit York, I make a point of visiting the Golden Fleece Pub located at the bottom of The Shambles.
Ever since I accidentally stumbled into this delightfully crooked, ancient feeling watering hole, I was hooked.
Like most of the pubs in York, it claims to be one of the oldest and most haunted.
I can personally attest to its creepiness having accidentally wandered upstairs some years ago (when you could just wander upstairs, alas no longer) looking for the bathroom and having the feeling of being watched by unseen eyes.
Most Haunted (remember the ghost show with Evette Fielding?) have even been there and investigated it – look out for the sign on the way in.
The management, of course, play up to this as often as they can.
The Golden Fleece is a Must-Visit
Offering overnight stays in the haunted pub, signs above the bar that read “don’t worry, the ghosts don’t believe in you either,” the ever-present barfly Saul the skeleton, and the skull of Elizabeth Johnson, which was thankfully returned after she was stolen earlier by (one assumes) some drunken idiot in 2022.
She probably wouldn’t be my first choice of woman to take home from the pub….
That of course would be Tanith (no, she didn’t even make me say that).
Anyway, like the previous tip, this is a little pub with a big history and as well as being a local legend, it has become a real tourist hotspot.
So, if you fancy some food, particularly on a Friday or Saturday evening, I’d advise that you book ahead.
There is also live music on very often (all week in a lot of cases) and always a great atmosphere.
Just don’t get completely steaming because the floors are pretty darn uneven towards the rear of the pub!
5. The King’s Arms
Yes I know, another pub. But sod it, it’s my blog post and I like pubs.
I could have gone for the Black Swann or Guy Fawkes Inn, both brilliant and both have definitely had more than their fair share of my money over the years, but everybody goes there!
I’m going for the King’s Arms not because it’s an amazing pub, but because it’s in an amazing location.
This is one of the best places (in my opinion) in York to spend a summer’s evening.
It’s located right on the banks of the River Ouse and sitting outside with a cold beer after a long day of exploring, watching the river flow by while people stream across the bridge, is an absolute joy.
It’s also the meeting point for the Original Ghost Walk in York, and yes that’s how I first found out about this place.
So yeah to sum up, my best bits are pubs, historical things, and ghosts. Sue me.
Anyway, it’s obviously a pretty generic name for a pub, so if you are unsure, it’s this place on Google Maps: The Kings Arms Pub, 3 King’s Staith, York YO1 9SN.
That’s all for this post folks, hope you enjoyed it!
Leave us a comment with your own recommendations if you like.
2 responses to “Post-Christmas York Visit”
Yay, stick it to the Danish government! Seriously, I chuckled and smiled all the way through this post. I just love the way you guys write. I did sixth form in harrogate so safe to say I know it well, but have absolutely no idea where people stay when they visit – your accommodation looked gorgeous! And I couldn’t agree more about the Harry Potter shops – the first one that sprung up was the best, but every time I go back there’s another one!
Hey Fizz! Your comment was so kind, thank you for leaving it and for reading the post. The place we stayed really was lovely, absolutely in-keeping with that cosy Christmas feel we were looking for. The Shambles is pretty much a homage to Harry Potter now! Not complaining too much, we love it. Can’t wait to get back to York next year. Thanks so much again for the comment!