If there’s anything that stands out to me about York in comparison to other cities, it’s the abundance of independent, quirky places to shop, eat and drink. It’s very easy to stick with what you know sometimes and just visit the usual chains that you’re familiar with, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t experience the unique places that York has to offer.
As a student, you may find your need for a caffeine fix inexplicably heightened, but not to worry – independent coffee houses are scattered everywhere, but I’ve narrowed down the list to some of the best.
The must-tries include The Perky Peacock and Gatehouse Coffee. Situated within the actual city walls, these cosy spots provide a unique setting with very reasonable prices. Alternative, more modernised, instagram-oriented brunch spots include Gulp & Graze, Brew & Brownie and Spring Espresso.
Unfortunately, the secret is out about these and they can get quite busy, so I’d recommend visiting on a weekday. The fact that the majority of the reviews are 5* kind of speaks for itself.
Fossgate in general is crammed with a lot of gems and definitely somewhere you need to visit – it can be a hub of activity in the summer months. I’d reccommend trying The Hop which is known for its stone baked pizzas (2 pizzas and a bottle of wine for under £20 on Mondays!) and Fossgate Social, which is an absolute go-to for a lot of students. There’s so much more to explore just on this street, but these are a good place to start. It’s also conveniently just around the corner from the Merchantgate bus stop, where the 66 and 66a stop on the way back to uni.
Annoyingly, it took me almost to the end of my first year, and this wonderful heatwave, to discover the fab walks along the River Ouse – kind of hidden in plain sight, really. A good loop which takes about 45 minutes at a wandering pace, is from the town centre to Millennium Bridge and back.
The bridge itself has built-in benches the whole way across so makes for a great photo spot, or somewhere to relax on a hot day. The ice cream boat that docks there (yep, that’s a thing in York) is far too cute to resist. This is also a great running route than can easily be made longer with a few little detours through the holiday parks alongside the river banks.
Conveniently, there is a path starting next to the bridge that leads, through Fulford, back to uni, if you fancy that walk instead.
This is a good opportunity to give a nod to the York Solar System cycle route, sign-posted from Milennium Bridge, which inspired the AstroSoc to do the same across campus. It’s a scale model of the planets which stretches for 6.4 miles and is a good bike ride if that’s your thing.
York is, understandably, very popular among history students and enthusiasts – it’s crammed with listed buildings. It’s actually home to the oldest working convent in England, called ‘The Bar Convent‘ which I only found out recently. It’s just down from the train station, so the perfect location, and they actually provide accommodation and have an award-winning cafe, open to the public – worth a visit when the family come to stay, for something a bit different.
It’d be blasphemous not to mention The Shambles – although it’s apparently not particularly hidden, I can literally never find it without the help of Google Maps, despite having visited York so many times growing up. This infamous street, said to be the inspo for Diagon Alley, is the most visited street in Europe and is now home to The Shop That Must Not Be Named, which has the most extensive selection of Harry Potter paraphernalia I have ever seen. It’s wonderful. You could spend a whole day just mooching in the weird and wonderful shops on this street. Have a nosey at the street food stalls that are part of the Shambles Market Food Court while you’re there.
It’s a great place to bring friends and family when they come to see you at uni because it’s just so unique. You can also get a picture with the street sign for Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate round the corner, which is an inevitable crowd-pleaser too.