Last month I visited York for the first time. The main purpose of my trip was to run the Yorkshire Marathon but I also used it as an opportunity to explore the city, a place I’ve wanted to go to for a while as I’ve heard so many great things about it.
I travelled up to York on the Saturday and, as I was running the marathon on the Sunday, I only really had one day to sightsee. My train from Norwich got into York train station at mid-morning and the hotel I had booked was only a short walk from the station, which meant I could quickly drop my bags off at reception (it was too early to check-in) and head off to explore York.
Getting to the centre of York was unbelievably easy, I simply had to follow one main straight road so that even I, with my terrible sense of direction, could not get lost. Before leaving home I had done a little research on what I wanted to see during my visit. I knew that I wouldn’t have a lot of time in the city and I didn’t want to waste energy walking too much with the marathon the next day, so I thought a bit of pre-planning would help me make the most of my time in York.
My first stop was The Shambles, a series of old narrow streets that date back to the Medieval period and which were apparently the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter novels. These streets are the perfect place to spend some time wandering through, each building is unique and closely packed together so it feels like walking through a different world. The Shambles is a must for any Harry Potter fan as local business owners are cashing in on the Harry Potter link with many wizard and magic themed shops and even though I’ve never read any of the books they were fun to see and added to the uniqueness of the area.
Along with independent shops there are also lots of cafes and restaurants scattered throughout The Shambles. I decided to stop at one with an outdoor seating area opposite a market for a coffee, to people watch and to decide what to do next.
York’s Chocolate Story
As a chocoholic, and using of the excuse of needing to carb load for the next day, I decided my next stop had to be York’s Chocolate Story. This is a chocolate museum that had been recommended to me by another chocoholic. I had been warned that the outside of the building didn’t look like much and the museum was easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it – I walked past it twice before realising. The museum can only be visited as part of a tour, but the tours are run regularly and I only had to wait about 5 minutes before the start of the next one.
In all honesty I visited the museum for the free chocolate, but the tour turned out to be really interesting. I didn’t realise so many of the everyday chocolates we eat originated from chocolate businesses in York and also the important role women had in running these businesses. The museum was fun and at the end of the tour we were taught how to properly taste chocolate and were able to make our own chocolate. If you love chocolate and are in York this should definitely be on your list of places to visit.
York Minster Cathedral
Last on my list of must-see was York Minster Cathedral, mainly because it is so famous and one of the most iconic buildings in York. The Cathedral was only a short walk from the chocolate museum and it’s easy to see why York Minster is so famous as even from the outside it is incredibly impressive. As it was already getting late in the afternoon and I didn’t want to be out too long, the next day’s marathon was on my mind, I decided not to go inside. Instead I explored some of the streets surrounding the area as I slowly made my way back to my hotel so that I could check in and relax before Sunday’s race.
York was a fantastic city to visit. Even though I visited outside of the main tourist season there were still loads of tourists around, both from the UK and abroad. Throughout the city centre there are lots of independent restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs with outdoor seating that creates a vibrant atmosphere. This, along with the museums and shopping makes it a great UK city break destination and hopefully I will be back one day to discover more.