Now you may or may not have confirmed your place at York, but either way it would be helpful to know a little bit more about the place. There are some headlines – not least how pretty it is, as well as how stocked full of Medieval history and architecture it is (we all know that’s what really matters…)
You may also have heard that the clubs are few but the pubs are many. I could talk generally about these things but I think it might be more useful to give you an insight into some specific places that I love in York, and so possibly/hopefully build a more intimate picture of what life in the city is like. So, without further ado, here are my **TOP 5 PLACES TO EAT/DRINK/BE IN YORK**
1) Evil Eye & The House of the Trembling Madness
Okay, okay, I know that’s two places but they’re basically next door to each other and complement each other perfectly. One is a cocktail bar with a ceramic, Mediterranean villa-esque interior, the other is a faux-Medieval ‘ale-house’, replete with taxidermic animals.
Let’s start with Evil Eye. First of all, the cocktails are brilliant, as you would hope. There is also a phenomenal range. I would make my way steadily across the whole menu were it not for my bank balance/liver. Upstairs they have these really cool beds as well, where you can recline, sumptuously sipping a strawberry daiquiri. It is the ‘edgier’ of the two places, but then again I took my parents there at 4 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and they really liked it.
Now, to the ale house. Trembling Madness is pretty iconic and you may have heard of it already. It does, on first sight, appear to be just a massive beer cellar (matched by the equally impressive spirits cabinet downstairs). But tucked away upstairs is a pub that is, from my experience, always totally packed. And for good reason: with a range of good beers, excellent food and a warm atmosphere that takes you back to 1396 but without the dysentery. It is well worth a visit. (As long as you’re not creeped out by the stuffed animal heads on the wall.)
2) Perky Peacocks
You may not know that York has its fair share of ‘indie’ coffee shops to compete with the behemoth that is Bettys. If you’re not willing to queue for hours in the rain to get into the latter, then there is absolutely no shortage of places to get your caffeine fix. So many in fact, that I struggled to single one out. But Perky Peacocks nudges just ahead of the rest, purely for its element of surprise. Don’t get me wrong, there are some stellar alternatives (a high density of which are packed onto Fossgate, including the excellent Fossgate Social), but with those you won’t get the bemused cries of friends saying ‘where the hell are we going?’
Tucked away under the bridge over the Ouse, it looks to be just some sort of hut. Inside it is tiny and, like a hut, the walls are pretty bare, but there are few places cosier. Prices are pretty reasonable given the epidemic of beardy hipster cafes, and it is also an ideal alternative place to work if you want to get away from the hub of campus.
3) St Mary’s Abbey
This is, shamefully, only a relatively recent discovery of mine. Situated in the lovely Museum Gardens, the ruins of the grand St Mary’s Abbey have adopted a beauty of their own after what we can only imagine was the majesty of the original. There is a lot to learn about the ancient origins of York here (if that floats your boat), but more pressingly, it is a wonderful place to just be.
4) The City Walls
Again this is slightly bending the rules of my own brief, as this isn’t technically a ‘place’ so much as a thing to do in a succession of places, but it’s my list and I’m in charge. Anyway, if you find yourself with a spare afternoon, or just really need to get away from it all, then the trail round the city walls is well worth doing. It gives you a great sense of the city’s ‘character’ as well as some quite stunning views of the Minster. Having never toured the Minster, most of my appreciation of it comes from its exterior and, if we’re honest, that’s almost enough. Prepare yourself for a flurry of poorly shot Instagram posts taken by people standing beneath it.
5) Il Paradiso Del Cibo
Selecting a restaurant was difficult, partly because there are so many in York, and partly because I’ve only really visited each one once, in an attempt to get round them all. But this place has a special place in my heart, because it was where I ate on the night before my first day of my first year. It is characterful, effuses Italian hospitality, and rightly deserves its name, ‘The Paradise of Food’.
As I said there are plenty of other options, so here are a couple of my highlights: for a slightly cheaper but just as authentic Italian restaurant, try L’Antica Locanda on the Shambles; for the curry of gods, try Mumbai Lounge; for top quality vegan food look no further than El Piano; for great pub food go for The Lamb and Lion; for brunch try Brew and Brownie; if you want something fancy and want push the boat out go for Le Cochon Aveugle (the food is quite experimental so can either be a bit weird or delicious), but if you want something less pricey go for Cafe No. 8 or Rustique, both of which do great set-menu/early-bird prices.