As I was doing my research on York, it became apparent that I couldn't possibly see all of York in one day, I ended up scrapping a visit to the National Rail Museum, cutting short my visit to the York Castle Museum, not taking one of the organized walks and not stopping at Betty's for tea which is probably for the best anyways as every other visitor to York seemed to have it on their list of things to do. If you have the luxury, plan to spend at least a couple of days here and see York in a more leisurely fashion.
Betty's tea-rooms on St. Helen's Square are hugely and rightfully popular. However, this does mean that there are often very long queues for a table. The one in the picture was on a Saturday (around 12.30) in early September, in a year when the number of US and Japanese visitors seemed to be fewer than usual.
So be warned. You may have a long wait. Alternatives are to either buy a fat rascal (or whatever) to take away, or to wander round the corner to 'Little Betty's on Stonegate, which is the same company in a smaller place, often less crowded but offering the same gorgeous cakes/teas etc.
Update from a grim, foggy November Sunday. Time: 11.30am. Was there a queue at Betty's? Yes, there was...see the grim, gloomy queue photo.
Allow yourself enough waiting time (and dress warmly for the wait if it's a winter visit!).
An ancient unrepealed law (there are rather a lot of UK laws which have never been taken off the statute books!) states that a citizen of York may kill any Scotsman within the city walls.
Fortunately for the chap in this photo, they may only do so if he is carrying a bow and arrow.
York is not a car friendly city. It is a nightmare to drive and park in. Car parks operate 7 days a week and the Wardens do too. If you think you can park somewhere for free, even for just a few minutes, forget it. You will be fined and/or clamped. There is no holiday from this misery. Car parks are frighteningly expensive as well. If you plan on driving to York, take a lot of coins with you.
The only good thing is you can now pay via a mobile phone if your time starts to run out and you are not near the car. You need to set up an account here:
Beware this man! He will lead you a merry dance around York, indulge in copious flag waving, make you Walk the Wall and give you numerous opportunities to stuff your fizzog with unresistable goodies.
He also picks the windiest place in Britain to pass on his pearls of wisdom and then you get chilblains as he leads you into a pub to warm up.
He leads you past roast meats which HAVE to be sampled.
He yells at passing Pedestrians *I'M ON THE TRAAAAAAAAIN* causing fits of giggles.
He holds up buildings with flags.
Like most cities which attract large numbers of tourists, there are beggars in York and their numbers seem to have increased over the past few years. You will see far fewer, of course if you visit out of season.
Some are drug addicts; some have mental health problems.
Some are alcoholic; some are homeless.
Some play instruments; some don't.
Most sit quietly and just ask if you can spare any change.
You are unlikely to encounter any aggression, and whether you give them money or ignore them is your choice.
This is a Reliant Robin. Yes it is a car. Yes it is a car with 3 wheels. Invented in the 1970’s this odd little vehicle has a reputation for killing small, cute, little hedgehogs. Just think about it. With a 4-wheeled car Mr. Hedgehog may actually be passed OVER by the car instead of squished into road pizza by the tyres. Mr. Hedgehog doesn’t stand a chance with these little cars. The front wheel will mash anything the rear tyres don’t manage. Bummer for Mr. Hedgehog.
By the way these things can do 80mph (129 kph)! Not necessarily a grand idea on a vehicle that could flip more easily than a normal car. Before you laugh at these odd cars or react in horror at the wildlife killing abilities – consider this:
They pay less road tax because of the small engine and they can have air-conditioning and good stereo systems. They also will cost you less to buy than a nice new 4-wheeled car, get VERY high road mileage and petrol costs more than $8 a gallon here.
Hmmm…..maybe I won’t kill THAT many.
The York Tourist Information will not tell you this, but you could be caught up in a hostile invasion of York during your visit. The city has a long history of being invaded!
The Romans invaded York in AD43, At the time the area was ruled by a confederation of Celtic tribes called the Brigantes. In AD71, the Roman
invaded "Brigantia" and set up a permanent fortress called "Eboracum". This was just the beginning of trouble.
Around AD400 the Roman legions were withdrawn to protect Gaul. A little over 100 years later the Germanic tribes (Anglo Saxons) showed up looking for trouble. They followed tradition and conquered York. The city was renamed "Eoforwic", seat of the kingdom of Northumbria, and ruled by Anglo-Saxon warlords. The Warlords decided to get into a bloody civil war.
The Vikings lead by Ivar the Boneless took advantage and captured York in November 866. The Viking King Halfdan renamed the new city "Jorvik".
King Eadred of Wessex decided he too wanted to attack York. He ejected the last Viking ruler of York, Eric Bloodaxe, in 954. In the years 1056-66 York changed hands after a local rebellion, Norwegian invasion and finally the defeat of the Norwegians by King Harold II of England. Harold took York. Unfortunately he died 3 weeks later trying to stop the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.
William captured York in 1069 and built 2 timber castles to keep on eye on the locals.
In 1297 William Wallace (Braveheart) of Scotland DID NOT capture York.
Although the York fought in the Wars of the Roses (1453 - 1487) there was not a great impact on York. Its wall are still intact. Lancaster’s walls are missing. Guess who won.
York supported King Charles I in the English Civil War when it started in April 1644. Bad choice. The Parliamentarian army laid siege and the city surrendered in July 1644. Fortunately the town was not burned to the ground.
It has been quiet for the most part since then, but just watch out for invaders while you are here.
UK residents will not be surprised to see York is no different when it comes to Friday and Saturday night that the city centre becomes a rather lively and seemingly wild place with hoards of young people doing the rounds of Yorks pubs before heading home on the last bus or going to a club. The young people appear more wild than they actually are - in truth most will have good jobs and responsible lives but will let their hair down at the weekends. Do not be surprised to see young ladies wearing very little on cold winter nights or carrying giant adult toys for a joke. Ignore them and they will ignore you.
Violence is rare but it does happen - the centre is heavily policed and as a tourist I doubt you will be involved - the fights will be people who probably know each other. Just be careful - if you want to try a local pub do not be put off - just look who is going in and avoid flashing disco lights andloud music ( unless you like that kind of thing).
Just a word of warning if you are expecting to be able to walk pretty well straight into Tourist Attraction's!
Even on a wet day, we found queues for nearly everything. I can understand this, as York is a very popular spot, and I imagine even more so, in the School Holiday's.
Many of the visitors to York are there on bus trips or daytrips from London and the city virtually shuts down around 4:30-5:00pm. All of the museums close, all of the shops close, even many of the more casual restaurants seemed to close down so don't wait until after museum visiting hours if you want to pick up a souvenir or a gift because you just might find yourself out of luck.
However, you might use this afternoon lull to your advantage if you want to eat dinner early, many of the restaurants seemed to be offering early bird specials between 5pm and 7 pm.
York is not the best place for wheelchair users. The streets are mainly cobbled and rather bumpy. The shopping centre and area around the Minster is generally good but we always found that moving over to the Cliffords Tower area can be difficult as the pavements can be narrow and cobbled.
Please ask me for guidance if visiting York with a wheelchair.
The photo is not anyone known to me - this is a small section of a larger photo that illustrates another VT tip.
Shopmobility is situated on level 2 of the Picadilly Multi Storey Car Park. Wheelchairs cost £3 per day and electric scooters £5 to hire. UK users will be aware of what identity is needed to hire these but I think overseas visitors can hire chairs - ring on 01904 679222 before visiting.
York has a tendency to flood at least once a year. However, this can make the city more interesting from a photography point of view. The floods are confined to certain parts of the city and don't cause serious disruption to the everyday running of the city.
Flooding doesn't affect most of the shops, hotels and obvious tourist attractions.
The city centre experiences flooding problems almost every year. The recent floods have been some of the worst in living memory.
This pub, the Kings Head is one of the first places in the city that gets flooded. The electrical sockets are now placed at ceiling level almost. It also has stone floors which assist in rapid reopening after flooding.
Despite what one person has written in here, John Smiths (part of Scottish and Newcastle Group) beers are some of the worst in England, and not to be confused with SAMUEL SMITHS! Sam Smiths are far better beers and proper REAL ALE, unlike the awful John Smiths Smoothpull and other tasteless concoctions. You only have to read what CAMRA and other real ale enthusiasts have to say! York has a fine range of real ale pubs, with the local YORK brewery having three pubs - Last Drop Inn, Three Leggeg Mare, and Yorkshire Terrier, and other real ale pubs that have a decent range of beers are the Blue Bell, Golden Ball, Golden Lion, Maltings, Minster Inn, all very different and worth exploring. See the Camra Good Beer Guide for more details.