*AD – This "weekend breaks in York" post features a press trip with Visit York and gifted experiences. But as usual, all opinions remain my own.
I set myself the challenge at the start of the year to really make the most of my time in the UK. To get out and see new places. To explore what had been right on my doorstep the whole time and to rediscover the places I already knew – read: staycation in Cromer. Two thirds of the way through the year and I'm happy to say I've ticked off visiting one of the cities I've always wanted to visit. I was invited on a press trip to York with Visit York, and it did nothing but confirm that this beautiful city is one of my favourite places in the UK. After I raved about what an amazing time I had there, my parents instantly booked a trip! I can't wait to hear what they think of all the places I'll be recommending in this post.
Why York is the perfect city for a girly weekend away
While York is the perfect city for any occasion, whether it's a romantic weekend away or a family trip. After visiting with one of my best friends on a long overdue girly trip, I'm convinced it's one of the best cities in the UK for catching up with your girlfriends. Not only is it absolutely beautiful and great for exploring, but it has a fantastic range of speciality gin bars, one of the best afternoon teas I've ever had. And don't get me started on the fantastic selection of restaurants from local to international cuisine to refuel after a busy day shopping in the winding lanes.
But even more importantly, York has a fantastic atmosphere that lends itself well to a girly weekend. It is by far the friendliest and most welcoming city I have ever visited. I lost count of the number of lovely people who started conversations with us at the markets, in bars and on the streets. The genuine warmth that comes from this city makes it a fantastic place to bring your girls. While some cities might be more intimidating, York is a place where you can go on a night out without getting hassled by guys, where you can feel safe walking around at night.
Where to stay for your weekend breaks in York?
There are so many great places to stay in York, from cosy B&Bs to grand hotels, to budget-friendly options. Whatever your budget, you'll find a place that suits you. One great thing about York being such a small city is that no matter where you stay, you're never far from the very centre. We were able to spend all weekend walking between sights, the hotel, restaurants and shopping. My favourite way to explore a new city is always on foot, so this only made me love York even more.
We stayed at Radisson Hotel York, which was only my second time staying in a Radisson. Overlooking the river and with amazing city views over the Minster at both sunset and sunrise. A great budget-friendly option with a touch of class. The hotel is set to one side of the bridge into the city and easy walking distance from the train station. Just a few minutes' walk from the main shopping area and close to the Shambles. It's a great location for weekend breaks in York. From the second we walked in the door, the staff were so welcoming. And, it was the comfiest bed I've slept on in years! Rooms start from £63 a night and include a full cooked buffet breakfast with continental options.
Check out this page for a choice of 600 properties in York to suit all budgets and preferred locations.
- Reserve a room at Radisson Hotel York
- Find hotels near York train station
- Book hotels near York Minster
- Choose hotels near York's Shambles Market
- Pick hotels near York Christmas Market
How to get to York
Getting to York is simple no matter which direction you're travelling from thanks to the LNER line. Trains come with free wifi, no booking fees and offer cheap tickets on various routes. If you're travelling from London, tickets start from £18. From Edinburgh is costs as little as £17.50 to reach York, or from Aberdeen it costs £129.50. We travelled from where I live in Norfolk and had a lovely, easy journey via Peterborough. Despite having two changes, the journey only took us around 3 hours which was plenty of time for snacks and catch-ups.
I really recommend travelling by train when you visit York. Not only is it perfect for sharing a bottle of bubbly on the train, but the city is within easy walking distance of the train station. York is a much smaller city than I expected which makes it perfect for exploring on foot and avoiding parking charges. Unless you plan to venture out of the city, there really is no need to travel by car. Also - when we travelled on a Friday afternoon, our journey was much shorter by train than it would have been in rush hour traffic.
Where to eat when visiting York?
I think you all know by now that food is a huge priority of mine when I travel and York was no different. I was hugely excited to see how many amazing independent restaurants and cafés lined the streets. The city reminded me a bit of Cambridge, a really unique style and a lot of creative cuisine. I definitely recommend eating your way around the city during your weekend breaks in York.
A recommendation via Insta, Teajuanas Café was a perfect end to our weekend in York. Just a short walk from our hotel, it was the perfect place to brunch before we headed home. Think speciality coffees, teas and a nice simple menu with all the sexy toppings to build the breakfast you want. I went for poached eggs on avocado toast with smoked salmon. They also have meatier options with bacon and parma ham, or veggie options. And for those who fancy something nice and simple, they even offer marmite on toast! Plus I better not forget to mention the shining jewel on their menu – if you think you can handle it: Huevos Rancheros! Get here early because the café is small and it filled up quickly.
If you ask me there's no better place to head for an afternoon bite than the Shambles Market. Not only is it great for browsing but there's an amazing range of food stalls. The market boasts street food options from all over the world including North Africa, Turkey, France, Sicily and of course, local delicacies. I couldn't resist the savoury crépes at KREP and plumped for a goats cheese, pickled beetroot, roast tomatoes and rocket – absolute heaven!
- North African – Los Moros – Chermoula Lamb’s liver with Lebanese spicy potatoes or vegan falafel options
- Sicilian – Pizzoli – homemade pizza, lasagne and focaccia, plus delicious pizzolo and arancino
- Turkish – Shambles Wraps – sautéed meat wraps, and grilled lamb kufta kebab options
- Local – Shambles Kitchen – gently smoked meat; hot sausage, spicy chicken thighs, turkey breast and pork ribs, with tasty sides such as homemade ‘slaw, potato salad or twice-fried chips.
- Local – The Chicken Shack – marinated and brined rotisserie chicken and famous chicken wings from local business Winner Winner
- Local – Café M – coffees, teas, nibbles, ice cream, pastries and much more
Now I'm pretty sure you already know where I'm going to recommend, its reputation precedes it! Betty's Cafe Tea Rooms is an institution in York having opened its doors over a century ago. It's a place I've had recommended to me countless times. As someone who loves afternoon tea, was always on my UK bucket list. We enjoyed a Champagne Afternoon Tea in the Belmont Room when we visited and it couldn't have been more perfect. I want to clarify, because I didn't know before I visited, that there are two options when you go to Betty's.
- You can turn up and join the queue for a Traditional Afternoon Tea downstairs in the tea rooms. This costs £19.95 (£27.95 with a glass of Champagne) You can also book ahead.
- Or, you can book the Belmont Room (which is upstairs and absolutely lovely!) for afternoon tea. Click to book an afternoon tea – it costs £34.95 per person (£42.95 per person with Champagne)
I was absolutely blown away by the amazing service and the gorgeous food and drink. So impressed, that I've actually booked the exact same afternoon tea as a surprise for my parents when they visit York next weekend. If you can't stretch to an afternoon tea, it's worth popping in the gift shop to check out the tasty treats they have on sale there.
An epic start to weekend breaks in York, we dined out on the Friday night at award-winning Café No.8 Bistro. Just a few minutes walk from the Minster and our hotel, it gave us a chance to see the beauty of the city at night. This cosy little restaurant may seem unassuming from the street, but prepare to rediscover your tastebuds thanks to their amazing chefs. My favourite meal of the weekend, think casual dining but with a touch of elegance and using all local ingredients of the finest quality.
For both of us, the standout dish was the main – Pan fried duck breast with sesame, 5 spice, Bootham honey, miso glazed Pak-choi, chilli, peanut and coriander sauce. It was actually the first time I've eaten meat in over two years and it couldn't have been more perfectly cooked. It's worth going to York purely for this melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Highly recommend booking ahead – the restaurant was fully booked for the whole night when we were there.
Which bars to drink at in York?
York is jam-packed full of amazing little bars, traditional pubs and even speciality drinking holes. It's a hive of activity on a Friday and Saturday night. So whatever your scene, I really recommend taking a walk around to discover what the city has to offer. During one short stroll we managed to find some cosy old pubs with live music, buzzing cocktail bars, speciality gin bars and much more. Apparently there's a total of 365 pubs in York so why not plan a year-long pub crawl to try and fit them all in? Top recommendations include:
- Evil Eye – speciality gin shop and cocktail bar
- Sotano Charcuterie & Bar – independent bar & restaurant serving tapas
- The Drawing Board – cocktails and beer
- The House of Trembling Madness – speciality beers.
I also really recommend checking out this post by The Travelista – it's a fab guide to York which helped inspire my own trip. And best of all, Jess is local, so she really knows the best places.
Where to shop during your girly weekend?
Start with the Shambles
Perfect for browsing the market for cute and quirky wares that are great for gifts. Then head along the actual Shambles where you'll find endless potion and wand shops filled with Harry Potter memorabilia in a nod to the street inspiring Hogsmeade. You'll also find great little independents around here selling everything from coffee and fudge, to luxe bath products and postcards.
Head to the shops
Once you're done over this side, head out of the front of the market to find all your favourite high street and luxe brands within easy walking distance. York has a fantastic range of shops so is perfect for a girly weekend.
Top 10 things to do during weekend breaks in York
One thing I really loved about York was how many unique experiences it offered. There are so many things that make York special – from its culture and heritage, to food and drink, to its fabulous shopping. You can read more about these #OnlyInYork experiences with Visit York.
- Walk the city walls (free!)
- Climb to the top of York Minster (York Pass or entry fee)
- Join a ghost tour – better yet – join the Bloody York Gin Tour!
- Visit Clifford's Tower (York Pass or entry fee)
- Go the Shambles and walk in Harry Potter's footsteps (free!)
- Get scared silly at York Dungeons
- Feel festive at York Christmas Markets
- Take a boat tour and see the city from a new perspective
- Relax along the riverside or in the park by St Mary's Abbey
- Make friends with the locals – some of the friendliest people I've met!
If you're planning on a lot of sightseeing – be sure to look into the York Pass. It's the official sightseeing card which gives you entry to 45+ attractions across York and North Yorkshire. Super convenient and easy to use, you also get a free guidebook and 24 hour York City Sightseeing bus ticket included. Plus discounts at ASK Italian and vouchers for ghost walks, evening river cruise, taxis and car hire. Let me know if you use this guide to plan your weekend breaks in York!
Have you been to York – what did you think of the city? What are your favourite UK cities for a girly weekend break?