This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read the full disclosure policy here.
Here’s my one day in York itinerary, featuring the best things to do in York over 24 hours.
During my visit to the UK in 2019, I knew I wanted to visit historically beautiful York. However, with limited accommodation options, I could only swing two nights and one day in York. Fortunately, you can fit a lot into one day in York. This itinerary includes suggestions for places to eat in York, plus the best things to do in York. If you’re looking for free things to do in York, head to this post.
General travel tips for your one day in York
How to get to York
Firstly, I got a National Express bus to York from London and then left York on a train bound for Edinburgh. Besides driving, this is the easiest and cheapest option to get to York, as the closest airport is Leeds Bradford, which is about a 50-minute drive away.
Where to stay in York
I stayed at Astor York, which is located in a Grade II-listed Victorian building about a 10-minute walk from York city centre. While not in the centre of town, there were shops and dining options moments away and I was able to walk to the train station, which is a win in my books. There are pros and cons to staying at Astor York. Firstly, the staff were friendly and there were a couple of spacious and comfortable common areas. My one con was the metal bunk beds, which I think should be banned from hostels as they’re so unstable and squeaky! Nonetheless, if you’re searching for affordable accommodation in York, I recommend Astor York.
As for hotels, top recommendations on Booking.com include the five-star Grand Hotel and Spa in the city centre and Grays Court. Located beside York Minster, it’s the former home of King James I (that’s all 😏). Finally, if you have a thing for Scandi interiors, please click this link and take a moment to appreciate Jorvik House.
Is York a good place for solo female travellers?
In my opinion, York is a great place to visit alone. Firstly, it’s a compact city so it’s very easy to walk everywhere. There’s also cheap accommodation available and plenty of things to keep you busy. I definitely recommend visiting if you’re a solo traveller – even if it’s just to spend one day in York. The city is worth it 😁.
One day in York itinerary
Wake up early during your one day in York to take photos
Okay, these were pre-COVID times, but York was positively heaving with people when I visited. I mean, my one day in York did coincide with the weekend, but still, the crowds were intense. If you’re like me and enjoy taking photos, I highly recommend waking up just a little bit early. I was able to peacefully take photos of York’s cute shops and streets like the Shambles without bustling crowds.
If you’d prefer just a peaceful morning walk without photo-taking intentions, I suggest heading along the river. It was positively golden when I visited in autumn.
Enjoy a York breakfast
When you only have one day in York, you have to start with a delicious breakfast. I cannot for the life of me remember where I had brunch in York. I usually write everything down in a travel journal, but apparently not that X. Anyway, here are the most popular recommendations: Brew and Brownie, Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms and Cosy Club. Just take a moment to appreciate Brew and Brownie’s Instagram page? Those pancake stacks! Those brownies! YUM.
Do a free walking tour
When I only have limited time in a city, I like to do walking tours to see (and learn) the most in a short amount of time. I did a Footprints Tour in Oxford, so I decided to do the company’s free two-hour walking tour in York as well. My tour actually turned into a private one, as I was the only person. But it was great to be able to converse easily with the guide and ask questions. He told me a lot about York’s long history and we saw popular York attractions like Clifford’s Tower, St Mary’s Abbey, the York City Walls and York Minster.
Have lunch at the Shambles Market
Located in the centre of town (coincidentally next to the Shambles), the Shambles Market is open every day. Its 70-plus stalls sell everything from vintage clothing to handmade gifts and fresh produce. At lunch, I made a beeline for the food court, which has so many street food options to choose from. I decided on a pulled pork toastie from Dark Horse and it was a very wise decision.
I must also draw attention to the cake stall that sells the most amazing homemade treats. I highly recommend both the huge meringues and the Maltesers tiffin (it was SO good).
Choose your adventure
For a small city, there are plenty of attractions to enjoy in the afternoon during your one day in York. One of the best free things to do in York is to visit the National Railway Museum, which just so happens to be known as the world’s greatest railway museum. Other options include stepping inside York Minster, visiting York Dungeon or indulging at York’s Chocolate Story. My final suggestion is the world-renowned Jorvik Viking Centre, which takes you back in time to Viking-era York.
Have a pub meal for dinner
For a small city, York sure has a lot of pubs. To choose the best spot for you with only one day in York, check out these guides via TimeOut and CN Traveller. However, my recommendations are The Kings Arms because of its waterfront location, The Habit for its roof terrace and House of the Trembling Madness because hello, what a cool name!
See a show at the Grand Opera House
My final suggestion for your one day in York itinerary is to spend an evening at York’s Grand Opera House – England’s largest fully-operational theatre. It hosts touring theatrical productions, local musicals and internationally-renowned musicians and comedians. To see what’s on during your stay, visit their website.