One of my favourite things about being at university is getting to live in York. It might not be the biggest city but there’s always something going on and plenty of hidden gems of York to explore. I’ve been here five years and I’m still working my way through all the cafes!
Although covid has put many events on pause this last year, normally there are lots of events happening across York. The Food and Drink Festival runs around the start of term in September, filling Parliament Street with stalls and demonstrations. Make sure to stop by Brown and Blond for the best brownies you’ll ever have!
Something close to my heart as an archaeology student is the JORVIK Viking Festival. York has a rich Viking history, showcased every year in February when craftspeople and reenactors descend on the city, demonstrating everything from nålebinding (an early form of knitting) to sword-fighting.
I’m a big fan of the mead stalls. It’s an acquired taste but there are plenty of free samples to try if you’re not sure.
York has some fantastic independent shops. One of my favourites is Hebden Tea, with shops on The Shambles and Low Petergate, which sells loose leaf teas. There are literally hundreds of flavours and the staff are always ready with recommendations!
If you’re looking for some non-course-related reading, make sure to visit The Portal Bookshop on Patrick Pool (near Shambles Market). The Portal specialise in sci-fi, fantasy and LGBTQIA books. They have an incredible range and are partly responsible for my low bank balance at the end of the month!
Food and drink
There are reportedly enough pubs in York to have a drink in a different one every day of the year. Whilst that’s not really my cup of tea, I could very easily go to a different café each day instead.
Lucky Days has several sites across the city centre and does amazing tea and cake, as well as lunches. A good place to take visiting relatives for a break from sightseeing.
Another great option, just around the corner on Stonegate, is Plush, a quirky three-storey café with themed rooms including garden room (complete with swings!) and Moroccan room.
If you don’t fancy going all the way into town, options closer to campus include Little Asia on Lawrence Street. The restaurant itself is quite small but the food is fantastic and inspired me to try some Korean recipes at home (spoiler alert – mine is nowhere near as good).
We’re totally spoilt for choice in York when it comes to museums – they really are one of the best hidden gems of York. The big sites like the JORVIK Viking Centre and the Yorkshire Museum are must-sees, but my personal favourite is Barley Hall. A reconstructed medieval townhouse just off Stonegate, it has an incredible atmosphere and really feels like a place out of time. If you get a chance, try to visit around Christmas to see the Great Hall decked out for medieval celebrations.
York Theatre Royal is very active and the drama sometimes spills out onto the streets. The York Mystery Plays take place every four years, telling Biblical stories in their own inimitable style from the backs of wagons which travel around the city. The tradition dates back to the productions put on by medieval Guilds. It brings the streets to life with colour, spectacle, music and some truly incredible costumes (like the terrifying locust pictured).
My final recommendation is just to go for a wander! I’m always finding new places to explore and there are some great walks around the city, especially along the river. And, in the unlikely event that you get bored of York, you can always hop on a train and go on adventures further afield…