Easily one of England’s prettiest cities with a charm similar to Oxford and Cambridge, picture-perfect medieval streets, gothic architecture and vast intriguing history; York is also one of the best places to visit in the UK for
This post is packed full of inspiration for a girls weekend in York, from Instagram-worthy brunch spots, hidden cocktail bars and plenty of girly things to do in York to make you wonder why you hadn’t visited sooner!
I’ve added a quick links table of contents below to enable you to click to a particular section of this post!
A Surprising Girls Weekend in York
For a city with such an intriguing history, it can be surprising to learn just how popular York is for occasions such as hen dos and girly get-togethers. In fact, there will not be many streets that you do not see groups of girls together, dressed up glam and looking to explore the many interesting things to do in York.
Unwrap York’s rich chocolate history, follow the famous cat trail and embrace the quintessentially British tradition of afternoon tea served on-board a vintage train carriage or, at York’s iconic Betty’s Tea Room.
If you’re looking for girls weekend ideas, this post has got you covered with all the girly things to do in York!
Things to do for a Girls Weekend Away in York
Deangate, York YO1 7HH
No visit to York is complete without a trip to York’s most famous landmark. Looming over the city, this magnificent Gothic cathedral is the second largest in Northern Europe and took 250 years to build. Arguably, one of the best things to do in England and, one of the most popular too, with a staggering 2 million people a year visiting York Minster. This is an attraction you most definitely want on your York itinerary!
The Minster’s stained glass windows are particularly beautiful. To learn more about the history of The
One thing you won’t want to miss is the breathtaking views from the Central Tower. To climb the York Minster Central Tower you need to book an allocated slot. Brace yourself as there are 275 steps in total, therefore you may want to order lunch after you’ve climbed!
The climb up is pretty strenuous (Mum & I were knackered!), but there is a mini-break after approximately 175 steps to enjoy the fantastic views of the roof, pinnacles and ornate carvings of The Minster.
Once you reach the top of York Minster you are greeted by spectacular panoramic views over the city of York and beyond. I
If you can’t quite brave climbing York Minster’s Central Tower, I’ve shared a couple of spots where you can enjoy a fabulous view of The Minster from York’s unique bars (further down the post).
Didn’t receive your Hogwarts letter? Don’t worry, neither did I! Before you can say “expecto patronum!” you’re in a real-life Diagon Alley in York. J.K Rowling is believed to have gathered inspiration from The Shambles quaint cobbled streets and higgledy-piggledy buildings. It’s easy to see why! The Shambles in York is a must-visit for Harry Potter fans, with plenty of wondrous wizarding shops to explore, including The Shop That Must Not Be Named, The World of Wizardry, The Potions Cauldron and The Boy Wizard.
Love Harry Potter? Check out the library that inspired J.K Rowling in Porto.
You don’t have to be potty for Potter to enjoy the beauty of The Shambles; it’s a great place to capture some pictures and get a glimpse of how York used to look once-upon-a-time.
The Shambles was the place in York I wanted to visit most and for me, The Shambles comes alive at night.
In the day, you will find The Shambles busy with tons of tourists all battling for their coveted Instagram shots. By visiting in the evening, you are likely to only find a couple of people on The Shambles, if at all. In all honesty, I could have stayed admiring the crooked houses on The Shambles all evening.
York is an incredibly beautiful place to explore at night. I marvelled at the cobbled streets aglow from the lampposts and the looming shadows over the Gothic architecture; which deepened the medieval and haunted past York is known for.
Museum St, York YO1 7FR
One of the most picturesque places to visit in York (other than The Shambles), the Museum Gardens are a great place to spend a sunny day in York.
These beautiful botanical gardens are located right in the heart of York’s city centre, offering peace and tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The gardens brought back fond memories of my recent trip to The Hague in Holland, which also has a pretty park garden in its city centre.
Bring a picnic and enjoy the idyllic views of St Mary’s Abbey, where amidst the champion trees, rockeries and flowers you will uncover tangible stories from the past.
Best of all, it’s one of the many free things to do in York, not to mention, one of the prettiest ways to enjoy the city.
York Cats Trail, Cat Cafe & Cat Gallery
Love cats? You’re in luck! York has a long history of cats and for a fun thing to do in York, why not browse York’s labyrinth of cobbled streets looking for cats? Head to York Glass in The Shambles or The Cat Gallery to learn more about York’s cat history and pick up a brochure to follow the popular York Lucky Cats Trail.
There are 22 statues of cats to find and don’t be a scaredy-cat when you find the ghost cat above York’s haunted Golden Fleece pub.
Another free thing to do in York = more money to spend on wining and dining!
If you prefer your feline friends alive and kicking, enjoy a coffee with a cat in the new addition York Cat Cafe.
York’s Unique Shops
A girls weekend away often involves shopping and shopping in York is a real delight. As well as the usual high street favourites: Primark, New Look, H&M etc, there are also plenty of quirky shops in York. Coppergate is the place for high street favourites and is also where archaeologists unearthed remains of York’s Viking past…
Wander to Swinegate to peruse the mix of stores tucked away amongst York’s medieval and Georgian architecture. Head to Petergate and Gillygate to marvel at the vast array of York’s unique independent shops.
Ruby Shoo is potentially one of the quirkiest shoe shops I’ve ever seen, let alone in York. Immerse yourself in the wide-range of colourful heels adorned with Disney princesses. I probably should have purchased the Toy Story heels, my bunnies are called Buzz & Woody, after all…
The pineapple flip flops would have been eye-catching around the pool on my recent trip to Zante too!
The Imaginarium is as the shop frontage states “licensed to sell beautiful things” and inside you will find a plethora of trinkets for you and your home.
The Yorkshire Soap Co is the place to try and buy a variety of perfumes, cute cupcake bath bombs and candles.
Seeking designer stores at bargain prices? Hop on the bus to York Designer Outlet, located 10 minutes from the city centre.
Love shopping in new cities? Check out my other posts:
City Screen Picturehouse
For a more relaxing evening in York, why not catch a flick at York’s independent picture house City Screen? Playing some niche alternative films, as well as big blockbusters, City Screen offers a more intimate cinema experience. The riverside bar has pretty river views and, you can also bring along your favourite tipple too!
York City Cruise
13-17 Coney St, York YO1 9QL
Take to the water in York’s red boats to explore the city by boat. These self-drive boats are available to hire in one hour slots and fit up to 8 people. Why not take a picnic aboard to enjoy as you cruise along the River Ouse?
There are only 14 boats in the fleet, click here to find out more and pre-book your red boat.
Don’t fancy taking the helm? Rest assured there are plenty of city sightseeing cruises in York to enjoy with a drink in hand, as you cruise by some of York’s historic buildings and iconic sights.
Whether you’re looking for an evening cruise, afternoon tea cruise or party cruise, there are plenty of options on the website.
Attractions in York
To familiarise yourself with York, you may want to do the York Walking Tour, free for all and a great way to find interesting things to do in York. The York Free Walking Tours run from the York City Art Gallery on Exhibition Square at 10.15am, 11.15am and 6.15 pm. No need to book, just meet your York Guide at the William Etty Statue.
Depending on your preferences for a weekend in York, I would also highly recommend walking part of York’s Old City Walls. The famous city walls offer some of the best views in York, the section near The Minster is particularly beautiful.
When it comes to a York weekend break, there are so many interesting things to do that you might struggle to fit it all in! As well as the activities listed above, there are numerous museums and historic houses to visit. If you want to see as much as you can and are considering cheap things to do in York to keep costs down, I would suggest purchasing a York Pass as this will give you free entry into 45+ York city attractions (including City Sightseeing hop-on hop-off bus) and beyond.
The best thing to do is plan what things you want to see and do in York before deciding whether to buy a 1,2,3 or 6-day York Pass.
Visit York’s #OnlyinYork guide on their website shows you all the things you can do, you guessed it only in York!
York is also known as the city of festivals with an event every month of the year. One event I certainly want to attend is the famous York Christmas Market. Find out more about York City of Festivals here.
The Best Places to Eat in York
Similar to any big city, you will be sure to find some well-known commercial chain-restaurants (most of which are housed in York’s historic buildings) such as Carluccio’s, Pizza Express and Nandos.
Carluccio’s is located in the former Terry’s (of chocolate orange fame and only my favourite chocolate ever) iconic chocolate factory and shop. Located in the most beautiful building (I adored the staircase) overlooking York’s St Helens Square, they also serve an amazing strawberry cheesecake pudding (very similar to Eton Mess), in addition to their popular Italian dishes.
York’s Independent Restaurants & Eateries
Whilst mainstream restaurants are familiar and generally offer good deals, I would urge you to look beyond the chains to explore the vast and wide-ranging independent eateries in York.
Here are my suggestions for places to eat in York City Centre:
Afternoon Tea in York aboard T
he Countess of York
If I haven’t already spoken about trains enough in this post, one of the most unique things to do in York is to enjoy a civilised afternoon tea aboard the Countess of York train.
One of York’s finest luxury Afternoon Tea experiences, The Countess of York carriage has been beautifully restored to give visitors an unforgettable dining experience.
In all honesty, I’d been craving scones ever since I enjoyed afternoon tea at The Laura Ashley Tea Room in Cornwall and, you can only imagine my delight when I discovered the scones aboard the Countess of York are baked to a traditional York recipe! Infused with vanilla cream and homemade preserve, you get to enjoy all the delights of afternoon tea with an #OnlyinYork twist!
As it was Afternoon Tea Week, all aboard the Countess of York were treated to complimentary scones with jam and lemon curd to take-away.
The delectable afternoon tea menu features a selection of dainty sandwiches, homemade cakes, fancies and seasonal based loose-leaf teas. My favourite was Taylors of Harrogate China Rose Petal Tea (I’ve already ordered some online!); it was that good!
It was a warm day in York during our visit and, you can only imagine our delight when we realised champagne was included! Thank you, Visit York!
Dining aboard the Countess of York is a lovely idea for something to do in York and, my Mum remarked how much my Nanny would have loved this experience too.
Don’t worry, gluten-free options are available too. The Countess of York is a great experience to do inside during rainy days in York! It is England, after all…!
Betty’s Tea Room
6-8 St. Helen’s Square, York YO1 8QP
Another afternoon tea spot you won’t want to miss is Betty’s, an iconic Tea Room celebrating its centenary year.
Betty’s is without a doubt one of the most popular places to visit in York and one of the top girly things to do in York is enjoying afternoon tea. Though, you may want to arrive early as we saw queues of tourists waiting for a table every time we passed by.
If time is limited, skip the queues and head to Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms located on Stonegate; make sure you try a famous Betty’s
I am perusing the Betty’s website as I’m writing this post, with my finger hovering precariously over the buy now button for the chocolate orange little rascals!
York Chocolate Story
3-4 Kings Square, York YO1 7LD
From afternoon tea, cakes to chocolate…is it any wonder York is such a popular location for
York’s famous 90-minute chocolate tour takes you back in time to the early days of well-known brands Rowntrees, Craven’s and Terry’s (it’s not Terry’s it’s mine!)
These chocolate brands were famously founded in York if you didn’t know!
Sadly, my favourite Terry’s has crossed the shores to Poland, so there was no chocolate orange to be enjoyed on the York chocolate tour.
I’ve spent many a night eating my body weight in chocolate but, when it comes down to it, I really didn’t know too much about the history of chocolate before visiting York’s Chocolate Story. It’s an interesting tour, though is geared towards a younger audience and therefore may be better suited as a family activity in York.
This #onlyinyork experience is free to enter with a York Pass.
If you can’t get enough of chocolate in York, you can also taste handmade chocolates at the York Cocoa House on Blake Street, see how chocolates are made at The Shambles Monk Bar Chocolatiers. Also, visit Shambles Sweet Shop and Roly’s Fudge Pantry on The Shambles.
Love Cheese, as well as chocolate? You will want to head to York’s only specialist cheese shop, aptly named ‘Love Cheese!’
Brunch at Dyls
Skeldergate Bridge, York YO1 9WJ
All good weekends in York begin with brunch and Dyls is the prettiest little spot! If you are looking for Instagrammable places in York to eat, where the food tastes great; look no further than Dyls.
Located in an iconic former gatehouse on a bridge, overlooking the River Ouse (which also flows to my hometown of Milton Keynes); it’s the perfect place in York to brunch with a view.
I was over the moon that Mum and I stumbled upon Dyls. It’s such a pretty little place to dine that we took ages deciding whether to sit inside or outside overlooking the river.
Mum enjoyed egg on toast, which looked equally as tasty!
As well as brunch, Dyls also has a fantastic cocktail menu. I wish we would have had more time to come back and try their strawberry laces cocktail!
Cosy Club is another eatery that will look good on your Instagram grid. Pick up a brunch dish with a hot drink for the bargain price of £8.25!
Other places to consider for brunch in York are detailed below:
Dinner at The Cut & Craft
8 St Sampsons Square, York YO1 8RN
For glamorous steak dining without the price tag, eat at The Cut & Craft. The Cut & Craft is a fairly new addition to the York food scene and, it created a lot of excitement when it opened. Cut & Craft is also one of several independent restaurants in the city.
If you’re used to dining in London, Cut & Craft has the decor of STK and the prices of Flat Iron. They even have the £10 flat iron steak served on a wooden board.
Mum and I ordered the flat iron steak with chips and fish n chips. We also enjoyed two rounds of Prosecco cocktails and the bill came to only £39! Such a bargain (thanks Ben for the recommendation & Ryan for the fantastic service!)
Those with food intolerances or preferences, check out the handy Cut & Craft Food Allergen Guide.
17-21 Piccadilly, York YO1 9PB
For more cheap places to eat in York, enjoy the street food at Spark.
Another food venue that reminded me of London, Spark is very similar to Boxpark and Dinerama in Shoreditch London; created using similarly converted ship containers.
Serving a variety of cuisines, Spark caters for all tastes and you can enjoy pizza, bao buns, burgers and noodles, to name a few options!
A great atmosphere, Spark is a must-visit in York and the place to dine al fresco during the warmer summer evenings! It’s the perfect way to start an evening out in York, as well as a social dining experience to enjoy a few cocktails and nibbles as the sun-sets.
Street food and street art sound like the perfect combination to me!
Shambles Market/Food Court
Located just off
Diagon Alley, I mean, The Shambles is where you will find the market and Shambles Food Court. Home to York’s largest group of independent traders, you will find everything from African street food, fabrics, flowers and a unique range of arts/crafts from talented traders.
The market is open 7 days a week and, as you would expect from York, also has a range of delicious baked goods (gluten-free, organic and vegan options available.)
Another option for cheap places to eat in York, embrace The Shambles street food scene.
Mr. P’s Curious Tavern
71 Low Petergate, York YO1 7HY
For those seeking a haunted weekend in York, the intriguing
The eatery is housed inside a creaky grade II listed tavern, parts of which date back as old as The Shambles and, not only that, the building is said to be haunted!
Mr. P’s Curious Tavern is one of Michelin-starred Yorkshire chef, Andrew Pern’s establishments and is a unique #onlyinyork find, which has affirmed itself as one of the best places to eat in York. Pick-n-mix platters and small sharing plates create an unforgettable social dining experience.
Thursdays at Mr P’s are a real treat as you can watch local artists perform whilst you dine.
Check out Mr P’s other establishment The Star Inn and admire the views of The Minster from the garden.
For some good old British favourites, or as a potential hangover cure, eat fish n chips at Drakes or pick up one of York’s finest roast dinner wraps from York Roast Co.
The Best Bars in York City Centre for a Girls Weekend in York
York has an incredibly vast and eclectic bar scene, from traditional bars dating back to the Roman and Viking era, haunted pubs and bars, to trendy modern bars. One of the most intriguing for me was discovering York’s hidden bars.
42 Stonegate, York YO1 8AS
If you’re hunting for the best bars in York city centre, you’ll want to visit Evil Eye. Don’t be fooled by the shop frontage, it’s a facade for one of York’s best-hidden bars. A gin lover’s paradise, Evil Eye has one of the largest gin collections you’ll ever see and as it is a shop, as well as a bar, you can purchase your favourites to take home with you. Win-win!
The bar itself appears quite dark and grungy on the first appearance, but upstairs you will find many Middle Eastern-inspired rooms opulently adorned in an array of colours and carpets.
For me, the real draw is the street art sun terrace overlooking The Minster. A York hidden gem, indeed!
The House of Trembling Madness
48 Stonegate, York YO1 8AS
Another of York’s hidden pubs you really won’t want to miss is The House of Trembling Madness. Get a glimpse into York’s Norman history, The House of Trembling Madness has an old-world feel, similar to The Stark’s Winterfell, with animal heads on the walls and hearty meals.
Perhaps, not quite as girly and glamorous as some of the other bars included on this list; The House of Trembling Madness offers something different and is a classic York pub you won’t find anywhere else.
19-22 Fossgate, York YO1 9TA
As well as the great brunch deal I mentioned earlier in the post, Cosy Club is also one of the most
15-19 Stonegate, York YO1 8ZW
Tucked away in a small lane (known as
In addition to the selection of bars listed above, there are also some rooftop bars in York. Head to Kennedy’s rooftop bar and The Golden Lion rooftop bar to enjoy a drink with a view over the city.
Getting to York
York is located in Northern England and is easily accessible from the A1, A59, A64
There are six park-and-ride sites surrounding York city centre, with buses every 10 minutes during the day. Parking inside the city is fairly limited, therefore to get the most out of a visit to York the best option is to visit by train.
Short breaks to York by Train
York is the ideal place to visit in the UK for a weekend staycation. The city of York is in the heart of England, perfectly located to visit from London, Manchester and Edinburgh.
A direct train from London, Manchester and Edinburgh takes you into York city centre in around 2 hours. Meaning, getting to York couldn’t be easier from either North or South of England. A direct rail service operates from Manchester Airport into York Central Station.
For our girly weekend away, Mum and I took the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) train from London Kings Cross Station, which took 1.5 hours to reach York Station.
As you would expect, the LNER train to York from London is cheapest when booked in advance and, if you travel first class you also get the added bonus of a meal, drink and snack served to your seat. If your York weekend break is for a special occasion or you just want to arrive in style, I would definitely recommend making a splurge and booking a first-class LNER train ticket.
Whilst this was a girls weekend in York, Mum and I made an exception for a lovely chap we met in the first-class carriage train to York. Louis was surprised by his daughter with a first-class return ticket so that he could visit some old friends. Mum and I loved chatting to Louis, who told us about the places he had travelled, his life performing in amateur dramatics and the tricks he used to play with his twin brother.
Underlying the importance of train travel for people to visit loved ones, travelling by train also enables personal connections to be made along the way.
Travelling first class presents a new experience; I could certainly get used to being wined and dined on the train. The food looked incredible aboard and, I sure wish I’d chosen the chicken casserole Louis enjoyed. Though, being a girls weekend to York, Mum and I did enjoy some complimentary glasses of wine courtesy of LNER.
On our return journey, I even saw Fredrick from Made in Chelsea aboard our LNER train from York to London. First-class is worth exploring if you want to be in with the chance of mingling with the celebs, sweetie!
York is a walkable city and, you will find all the attractions are within easy reach of York Central Station. Therefore, you need not worry about how to get to the city centre. Plus, taxis are waiting outside to take you to your York hotel if needed.
Where to Stay in York for a Girls Weekend
An apartment is always a great idea for a girls weekend as the kitchenette facilities with fridge provide a chilled place to store any drinks and snacks for a weekend visit.
Stay City Apartments are located right next to York’s famous old city walls and are within ten minutes walk to the city centre, meaning, you can be at The Shambles, Minster or York’s restaurants and bars within a few minutes.
We brought along a bottle of Prosecco for our weekend in York and, the fridge in our Stay City Apartment came in very handy indeed!
Browse the range of aparthotel rooms at Stay City York.
If you’re a regular reader of The Life of a Social Butterfly, you will know my favourite is boutique accommodation. There are plenty of options for a boutique stay in York to give you a more home-away-from-home feel or interior inspiration for a unique stay in York.
Check out some of my finds below:
Jorvik House – a quirky boutique hotel
Parisi Hotel – a small boutique hotel
Hotel Indigo – a contemporary boutique hotel
The Grand Hotel – a luxury spa hotel. The Grand Hotel has an underground spa and pool hidden away in the former vaults of the North Eastern Railway. If you are seeking a relaxing girls weekend in York, check out the spa packages available at The Grand Hotel York.
Girls Weekend Travel Guide to York
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about all the best places to visit in York for a girls weekend. As you can see there are plenty of interesting things to do in York, so much so, that you may find it difficult to fit all the activities in your York itinerary!
Click the handy map below
Mum and I loved our girls weekend in York. Not only did it provide us with the perfect opportunity to spend more time together
We really could not believe how much there is to do in the city.
What are you waiting for? Get your girls weekend bag packed, grab some friends and enjoy the perfect girls weekend in York!
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Special thanks to Visit York for hosting us on a press trip. Our train travel, apartment, welcome meal, afternoon tea and York City Passes were gifted. All thoughts and photos are my own and are in no way endorsed by Visit York.