City break in York | Viking remnants and chocolate cafes in an ever-changing city

“Stepping back in time” often sounds like a cliché, but there’s never been a better phrase to describe wandering through the Grade I listed gates into York. Once inside, though, you’ll discover a city that’s far more fresh and contemporary than expected...

Strolling along the uneven cobblestones of The Shambles, I can’t help but admire how York has managed to uniquely marry the old with the new. The city is jam-packed with classic British attractions, from delightful pubs to enchanting snickleways, but there’s more to it than old world ambiance. Whether you want to admire art by Lowry or sample sensational modern street food, Yorkshire’s handsome capital also has a myriad of modern allures.

Creaky low-hanging buildings that once housed the city’s butchers now play host to chic boutiques and cosy cafes serving up cold brew coffee and avocado on toast. For Harry Potter fans like myself, the street even has two shops dedicated solely to magical memorabilia.

As one of my favourite locations for a UK city break, I’m excited to reveal exactly how to make the most of York’s classic and contemporary charms.

SEE | medieval masterpieces and modern art

York is undeniably one of the UK’s most fascinating cities. Founded by the Romans in 71 AD, it’s since been the home of fierce Vikings and was later hit hard by the Tudor Reformation. Nevertheless, there’s far more to the city than castles and cathedrals.

STAY | historic inns and confectionary themed hotels in York

From inns featuring rickety staircases and four-poster beds to more modern options with plush amenities, there’s a huge range of hotels in York to take your pick of.

Classic | stay in the birthplace of Guy Fawkes and enjoy incredible city views


As you might have guessed from the name, this hotel has strong ties to the infamous gunpowder plotter Guy Fawkes who was actually born on the same site in 1570. While the current building doesn’t date back quite that far, it’s still awash with beamed ceilings, dark wood flooring and original fireplaces.

Every room at the Guy Fawkes Inn is utterly unique, with many boasting wonderful views of the city. You’ll find the onsite restaurant appropriately atmospheric, too, with its candlelit tables and hearty menu of classic British fare.

Guy Fawkes Inn

8.4 Very good (275 reviews)

Classic | Georgian luxury with four-poster beds and roll-top baths


Tucked away in one of York’s gorgeous Georgian townhouses is Judges Court, a formers judges’ lodgings during the 18th and 19th centuries. Boasting just 15 rooms, they’re all classically yet lavishly decorated, with the largest having king-size four-poster beds and roll-top baths.

Judges Court is proud of its history and you’ll find hints of its former use throughout, from the satirical cartoons of criminals on the walls to rooms named after the judges who once occupied them. There’s no restaurant but you can have fresh breakfast pastries delivered to your room from a nearby café upon request.

Judges Court

8.4 Very good (1935 reviews)

Contemporary | chocolate-themed rooms in a hip neighbourhood


One of the newer options on York’s hotel scene is Hotel Indigo, located in Walmgate, one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods. It’s part of a small chain that tries hard to reflect their hotels’ locations in their décor. The friendly York venue is no exception, and you’ll find many of its spacious rooms are delightfully chocolate-themed. The Smarties print cushions are particularly fun!

Hotel Indigo York is slick and contemporary yet still manages to feel cosy thanks to its warm colour palette, invitingly plump beds and gorgeously tiled bathrooms. 88 Walmgate on the ground floor is a good shout for a quick dinner or drink, but you’ll also find some of York’s best independents restaurants, like Polish Barbakan (brilliant pierogi), down the street.

Hotel Indigo York, an IHG Hotel

Top rated
9.2 Excellent (2060 reviews)

Contemporary | minimalist boutique hotel with a touch of hygge


When you first learn that Jorvik House’s theme is Viking inspired, it may not seem particularly contemporary. Once inside its elegant Georgian building, though, you’ll discover a chic boutique hotel with oodles of modern luxuries, from deluxe roll-top baths and Cowshed toiletries to bespoke mini bars.

The décor at Jorvik House is stylishly minimalist and mostly an ode to Nordic living with a few subtle historic throwbacks thrown in. An old map of the city adorns the reception and cushions sporting stag motifs lie on the beds. Contrastingly, faux fur blankets and potted plants infuse the hotel with the trendy Scandi concept of hygge.

Jorvik House

Top rated
9.0 Excellent (802 reviews)

EAT | quintessential tea rooms and quirky pubs

York’s dining scene is pretty cosmopolitan to say the least. As well as boasting over 200 pubs to sample a pint and a roast, it’s also possible to savour global cuisine from Poland to Nepal.

DRINK | cosy coffee shops and chic cocktail lounges

From creative cocktails to some of the best craft beer in the country, there’s no shortage of good drinking holes in York.

DO | shopping down snickleways and fun after-dark activities

Besides from York’s unrivalled portfolio of historic attractions, there’s multiple other options and excursions on offer that provide a true taste of the city’s contrasting ancient and contemporary cultures.