If you are visiting the UK be sure not to miss out on a visit to York, an ancient walled city in North-East England founded by the Romans. It has an incredible history and showcases architecture from Roman ruins to medieval streets and Georgian townhouses to modern glass buildings. It truly is one of England’s most beautiful and interesting cities.
When the husband had to go there for a work function recently the kids and I jumped at the chance to tag along too. We had just over 48 hours to explore the city and barely scratched the surface.
The morning after our arrival the husband headed off to work and the kids and I made our way across the river towards York Minster. As it was still early, we walked through the Shambles and found it pleasantly uncrowded.
The Shambles is York’s oldest and most famous street, dating back at least 900 years, and has many interesting buildings. It used to be full of butchers shops, up to 26 at a time. The butchers would flush away the offal and blood down the channel in the middle of the street. Nowadays the street is full of souvenir and chocolate shops and can be absolutely heaving with people so time your visit right as it is worth a look.
Taking a 3 year old into York Minster? Was I mad? Possibly, but the gothic cathedral is so spectacular inside that the Cub really enjoyed it and behaved herself. Allow plenty of time to walk around on the ground floor and don’t forget the underground historical display which shows the history of the building from Roman times to the present. There were plenty of interactive things for kids to play about with down here. You can also go up into one of the towers but I couldn’t manage this with a baby as well.
We met up with the husband and had a wander around the streets, trying not to buy too much fudge. Many of the streets are pedestrianised which adds to the old-world feel. After some lunch in Wagamama (the one thing the Cub is guaranteed to eat at the moment is rice) we decided to take a Red Bus Tour which is a good way to orient yourself in the city. The Cub is obsessed with buses so we climbed on board and got the front seats at the top. Great view! The Cub, however, started to shriek and ask to sit downstairs – the open feeling of the big windows really upset her and she was worried about falling out. She was happy as a pig in muck downstairs but the husband and I couldn’t really see much. Never mind!
The children were far too small for the York Dungeon but older ones made of stern stuff and adults will love the interactive experience. The husband and I have been to the Dungeon on a previous visit – the actors are great and the exhibits suitably gruesome. I’d have hopped off the bus here, and recommend you do too.
If you’re not travelling with small children then there’s plenty of nightlife in York. Bars and restaurants line the river so I’d have started there if I could have. Or if you’ve not had your fill of the macabre in the York Dungeon, you could join a ghost tour after dark (there are several companies which run these).
Unfortunately for us, the husband and I had to pass all the revellers and head back to the hotel for the kids’ bedtime. Such is the glamorous life of parents to toddlers…
Know before you go
We stayed in the Premier Inn on Blossom Street which was a 10 minute toddler walk from the city centre. By booking a couple of weeks in advance we got a good price of £80 for a family room with a king-sized bed and two smaller beds for the kids. When we extended our stay at the last minute we paid £120, so book in advance to take advantage of best prices. We couldn’t fault the Premier Inn – you know what you’re getting here. Basic but clean, comfy beds and good location. There was plenty of room for the four of us.
York is easily reached by car from the M1/M62 motorways. If you’re travelling from London the train is the quickest way, taking only 2 hours. Again, try to book your tickets in advance.
Before you go, try to plan what you’d like to do and see if the York Pass is worth paying for. It depends on how many paid attractions you think you’ll visit. We didn’t bother as with such young children we couldn’t be sure that we’d be able to stick to a plan. The York Pass is not worth buying for children under 5 as entry is often free for them.