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This Sober City Guide of York, UK is guest-written by Alison Wilson.
Situated in the North of England, the historic city of York is well worth a visit. Steeped in history from Roman and Viking times, I would recommend going in the week and out of season if possible to get the most from the city. (It gets pretty busy!)
Whatever the time of year, York always has a fun vibe. The streets are often filled with buskers and other artists and there are plenty of things to do. This Sober City Guide of York includes my favourite places to visit.
Sober City Guide of York, UK:
These gardens right in the heart of York are so beautiful.
The park has loads of beautiful trees and plants and is next to the River Ouse. It also has oodles of history with the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and York’s oldest working observatory. The gardens are home to the Yorkshire Museum which is worth a visit.
One of my favourite things to do is to buy a picnic (there are loads of great takeaways in York) and sit in the museum gardens eating it, people watching. Bliss!
The medieval walls date from the 13th century and surround most of the city.
They are accessible via various ‘bars’ that surround the city and also from a couple of other access points (Lendal Bridge is probably the easiest one).
You can walk around the wall in one go or take it in sections. My favourite section is from Bootham Bar to Monkgate. The views of the minster are stunning from this section of the walls.
York has two amazing Theatres, the Theatre Royal and The Royal Opera House.
The Barbican is another brilliant venue on the edge of the city walls. It hosts classical music events and plays, along with more contemporary music and also films.
For eating out pre-show I would recommend Totos Italian restaurant. The Italian ice-cream for pudding is divine!
No trip to York would be complete without a visit to the historic Minster. Standing outside of it and looking upwards always makes me feel full of awe!
Try to go in when there is a tour. These run from Monday to Saturday between 10 am and 3 pm
The tours are included in the entry fee and are well worth joining to learn about the history of this 800-year-old building.
Even if you aren’t religious, going into the Minster for a service is atmospheric. I would particularly recommend going on a festival such as Easter or on Christmas Eve.
The York City Cruises travel up and down the River Ouse which runs through the centre of York.
The guided commentary points out landmarks along the way and it’s a great way to see the city from a different angle.
The sightseeing cruises last about an hour and the ticket also gets you discounts to some other York attractions.
The company also runs special cruises, mainly during the summer months, such as lunch cruises and afternoon tea.
Don’t think you have to go on a city cruise in summer though, I enjoyed a lovely trip up the river once in January, the sun shone and it was very pleasant!
The company also has small self-drive motorboats which you can hire.
Guided Walking Tour
This amazing guided walk runs all year round and is entirely free. Volunteers have run the walk since 1951, amazing! It’s a brilliant way to learn about the history of the city.
Highlights of the walk include The Museum Gardens and St Mary’s Abbey, Monk Bar, Bootham Bar, The Treasurer’s House, The Shambles and York Minster.
York has literally hundreds of fantastic places to eat out!
One of the benefits I’ve found from kicking the booze is that I can pretty much eat what I want when I go out without putting on weight. I also have more cash to spend on the more expensive restaurants instead of always going for pizza!
Not that there’s anything wrong with pizza, there are some fab Italian restaurants in York including my current favourite D’Vine.
Some other favourites of mine include:
No trip to York would be complete without a trip to the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms. Be warned if you go on a weekend, particularly in summer, you will need to be prepared to wait in line!
You can also book for afternoon tea and then feel smug as you go in a side entrance skipping in front of the queue.
The oldest streets in York such as Stonegate, The Shambles and High Petergate are packed with shops you won’t find anywhere else.
Here are some of my favourites.
Tons of cat-themed gifts for you and the cats and cat lovers in your life!
Situated on the famously narrow street, The Shambles, this shop has fantastic pies to take away and sausages to cook at home.
Yummy deli and cafe selling all manner of lovely things! I particularly love the bread and the cheese selections.
There are quite a few shops selling old and second-hand books in York. One of my favourites is The Minster Gate bookshop which is right next to the Minster itself. Fun to spend some time browsing.
You can easily spend a full day at this FREE museum. It sits behind the railway station and it is easy to get to on foot or there is also a road train that runs from the city centre.
Home to The Mallard, a replica of George Stephenson’s rocket and the only bullet train outside of Japan, it also has many special exhibitions. For example, a couple of years ago Tim Peake’s space capsule visited the museum. It was also where the renovation of the Flying Scotsman took place.
Cold War Bunker
The Cold War Bunker is a very different experience. This small attraction hidden away on the outskirts of York is fascinating.
The bunker was in active service during the 1960s–1990s and was designed as a nerve-centre to monitor fallout in the event of a nuclear attack.
If you didn’t know it was there you could easily walk past and not realise. I found it a little bit scary as I lived during the Cold War, but also grateful that it was never used in practice and hopefully now never will be.
The Cat’s Whiskers
The Cat’s Whiskers, a new cafe in the centre of York is such a relaxing place to visit. Home to around 15 cats and kittens it’s fun to spend an hour playing with and stroking them. The cake and scones are also lovely.
You can book your slot online although they do also allow walk-in bookings if it’s not too busy.
Enjoy visiting York alcohol-free!
I hope you enjoy this Sober City Guide of York: all things to do in the city which don’t involve alcohol. I’m sure you will find it as I do, a vibrant and interesting city. Enjoy!
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Hi, I’m Alison and I created the Little Blog of Positivity because I wanted to help others live a more motivated, positive, inspired and healthy life.
In December 2017 I decided to take a short break from alcohol. I wouldn’t have called myself an alcoholic (how do we define this anyway?) What I didn’t like was the control it had over me and how tired and anxious I felt most of the time.
I quickly saw the benefits of not drinking and my short break has become a longer-term life change. I seriously can’t see myself going back but will never be complacent.
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