A city inseparable from its storied past, York’s dazzling architecture has long spoken to the history fanatics. It has, however, undergone something of a renaissance of late. Under the imposing gaze of York Minster, the city’s distinctive narrow streets, now catering for two universities, are lined with a fantastic selection of bars and clubs. Its modest size means that these quirky hotspots are packed tightly together, making navigating its nightlife a doddle.
York at a glance:
- Brimming with haunted watering-holes, traditional beer houses and peculiar bars
- A university city that offers plenty of nightlife perfect for a weekend away, including cheesy clubs with cheap-and-cheerful drinks deals
- Offers intimate and hip hangouts that showcase the best of a thriving live music scene
- Some of England’s most stunning landmarks are contained within York’s crumbling City Walls, from the remains of York Castle to The Shambles, an authentic medieval shopping street
- Hangovers can be washed away with a visit to some of the country’s most lavish tearooms or hearty gastropubs
Stonegate - the destination for all things out of the ordinary Formerly the province of craftsmen of all kinds and residency of creatives, Stonegate, overlooked by York Minster, combines old world allure with a diverse range of drinking establishments. Adding an kooky element to the city’s nightlife, these bars are a hangover from the eccentricity that makes York so ruddy, bloody British and neighbour each other in this squashed-in street, mapping out a weird and wonderful pub crawl that will start with you getting liquored up under sloping roofs and may end with you party to a skin-crawling ghost tour.
Swinegate - cocktail central By day, Swinegate is one of York’s busiest business districts. But by night, as if by magic, this stuffy atmosphere is transformed and the street becomes a haven for partygoers. A small hop from Stonegate, the after-dark entertainment here has much in common with the nightclubs that sit across the River Ouse on George Hudson Street, with swanky hotspots Vudu Lounge and Bora Bora good places to begin (or last) the night.
The Shambles - a chocolate-box reminder of the past One of the best preserved medieval streets in England, The Shambles further forces home York’s aura of quaint. A mere jaunt from Stonegate, the compact nature of the street, coupled with its rudimental architecture, means that its skyline is made up of roofs that nearly meet in the middle. Its several extravagant tea rooms, restaurants and eateries only increase its strength as a magnet for gushing tourists.
Toft Green - the future capital of clubbing York A short stumble from the train station, Toft Green is an up-and-coming section of the city abuzz with clubs, live music venues and interactive, beer-swilling tours. Whilst visitors must make the (walking) journey cross-river to reach the twin destinations of Stonegate and Swinegate, Toft Green, rammed with hotels, is usefully placed for those who want to get their time in York started early. The location of the York Brewery, a working brewery that offers an in-depth look into the beer-making process and some enticing taste tests, Toft Green is also the new dwelling of hipper-than-thou indie club Fibbers and multi-room, multi-taste nightclub, Tokyo York.
George Hudson Street - a taste of Asia with lashings of cheesy pop music Further on than Toft Green and almost touching the banks of the River Ouse, George Hudson Street is the place to be if all you’re after is a night of shameless (and shameful) debauchery. If mingling with hens is on your to-do list, then this is the street to head for as it seems to cater especially for hen parties with Club Salvation and Popworld brimming with deals, free drinks and discounts for the gaggles of girls, the street is also stuffed with exotic eateries, with visitors able to fill up on Chinese, Thai, Indian or Turkish cuisine before painting the town red.
York Minster - historical York at its finest. Constructed over the course of two centuries, the city’s stunning cathedral is the second largest Gothic building of its type in northern Europe. If you’re venturing over to Stonegate, Swinegate or The Shambles, take a quick detour here to drink in one of the most resplendent examples of medieval architecture in the country. A fantastic photo opportunity.
Best pubs and clubs in York:
Ye Olde Starre Inne, Stonegate This historical inn, said to be the city’s oldest licensed premises, is home to locally-brewed beers, inexpensive grub and the odd ghost. Substantially extended since its time as a bustling 17th century drinking site, the pub manages to marry rustic charm with a modern dining experience. If you’re seeking a traditional pub, look no further than here. Providing you can brave its haunted reputation, of course.http://www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub/ye-olde-starre-inne-york/c1731/
The House of Trembling Madness, Stonegate As out there as its name suggests, this cramped and antiquated pub has a charm that few can rival. Hidden away above an off-licence, those that make the effort to locate it are rewarded with a vast selection of drinks, from the most terrific local tipples to universally-admired beverages, all of which can be enjoyed in the shadow of some rather wacky wall decorations. Often packed, get there early or you will be forced to share a table.
Evil Eye Lounge, Stonegate Far removed from the abundance of traditional British boozers that York has to offer, this one-time internet cafe has slowly morphed into one of the hippest bars in town. With a huge choice of cocktails and a menu comprised of delicious Asian cuisine, it’s proudly contrary vibe has drawn in many celebrity patrons, from funny man Ross Noble to Hollywood A-lister Johnny Depp.http://www.evileyelounge.com/
The Golden Fleece, Pavement A stone’s throw away from The Shambles, this 600-year-old pub is rumoured to be one of the city’s most haunted locations. Complete with sloping floors and low door frames, it certainly doesn’t shy away from trading on these chills and frequently hosts interactive ghost-hunting adventures into the early hours. For those who prefer to get their frissons from less paranormal activities, top-notch music nights featuring both local talent and a spectacular house band are also part of the pub’s entertainment calendar.http://www.thegoldenfleeceyork.co.uk/
The Black Swan, Peasholme Green Rivalling The Golden Fleece for the accolade of York’s Most Haunted Pub, the Black Swan’s black and white visage strikes the perfect balance between old and new, serving up authentic beers and meals that can be consumed in a thoroughly modern beer garden.http://www.blackswanyork.com/
Bora Bora, Swinegate A sleek cocktail bar-cum-nightclub, Bora Bora is a stylish destination for fun-seekers of every designation. After sampling an extensive list of bargain cocktails, visitors can round off their night by letting it all out on the dancefloor.http://www.boraboracocktailbar.co.uk/
Vudu Lounge, Swinegate Sitting on the backstreets of Swinegate, this swanky cocktail and champagne bar is the preferred haunt of many a student. Furnished with glitzy disco balls and sparkling wallpaper, it’s advised that you book a booth before choosing from over 150 (2-4-1) cocktails and dancing the night away.
York Tap, York Station Enclosed within the train station, this pub contains one of the most eclectic ranges of ale available in the city. The perfect place to pop in as soon as you arrive.http://www.yorktap.com/
Best clubs in York:
Revolution, Coney Street Standing on the banks of the River Ouse, the interiors of this bar have a tendency towards the strange. Home to denim sofas, gaudy chandeliers and stylised graffiti, when it comes to drinking, its main concerns are cocktails and shots. Complete with a cocktail workshop, this spot is favoured by students who take advantage of its plethora of happy hours and cheap deals.www.revolution-bars.co.uk/bar/york/
Popworld, George Hudson Street Abandon all taste ye who enter here! This club’s focus on outrageously cheesy pop music is matched by an aesthetic that’s equally cheesy, including a revolving dancefloor, pulsating LED lights and brightly-coloured seating areas. If you’re planning to set up camp here for the evening, book a table bedecked with balloons and you’ll be able to sip on the club’s delightfully original luminous ‘poptails’ in style.www.popworldyork.co.uk/
Food: eat like a local:
There’s a lot of choice when it comes to getting food in York, whether you want a cute cafe, pub grub, something more luxurious or a tasty take-out. Playing up to its classical vibe, a lot of these dining options pride themselves on being quintessentially English.
Minster-adjacent cafe-by-day/restaurant-by-night Bennett’s Bistro (www.bennettscafeandbistro.weebly.com/) features a homemade menu, The Star (www.starinnthecity.co.uk/) at the Inn puts a sophisticated twist on traditional classics and The Hole In The Wall, specialising in Sunday dinners, is home to the finest Yorkshire Puddings in the region.
If eating on the go is more your bag, you can always call in the York Roast Co (https://www.theyorkroastco.com/) , which has two locations (one on Stonegate and one on Low Petergate) for a quick meat-filled sandwich or Yorkshire Pudding.
For those seeking an escape from York’s excessive Englishness, Cote Brasserie’s (https://www.cote.co.uk/brasserie/york/) exclusively French menu and city staple, Jamie’s Italian, are on hand to spice up your palette.
A walkable city small in size and with plenty of city centre accommodation, getting around shouldn’t be an issue. If needed, public transport is always pretty reliable and both City of York buses and taxis are frequent and easy to use.
The best times to visit:
A bustling destination, York stages many festivals throughout the year. These range from musical gatherings to Illuminating York, an annual festival that sees specially-commissioned artworks adorn some of its most famous landmarks.