Whenever friends come to visit me in Yorkshire, the first thing I do is drag them round the city of York and point out all the beams and jetties. However, once you’ve visited all the main places recommended by the Tourist Information Office, it’s often difficult to know where to go next. I won’t go so far as to pretend to be a local (I’ll leave that privilege to those who have lived here a little longer than fifteen months) but here are a few suggestions for those who want to explore the city a little more.
Start the day with a walk around the city walls. Built originally in the Roman times (although very little of the existing stonework actually dates back to that age), walking along the wall is the perfect way to see the city. The circuit is approximately two miles in length and punctuated by several historic gatehouses. From the walls you can gain a panoramic view of the city, admire the landmarks from a distance, and get a little exercise. And the walkways, which at various points are extremely narrow and without barriers, provide a more exciting route round the city that of an ordinary, street-level hike.
Stop for a rest when you reach Walmgate bar. The gatehouse has been converted into a quaint two-story coffee shop, with the upper floor often taken over by students, who spread their textbooks across the large study table and pretend to work (while instead staring the brickwork, admiring the wall full of old, leather-bound books, and drinking very reasonably priced coffee). The gatehouse is owned by an evangelical Christian society – hence the Christian rock playing from the speakers and huge number of Bibles adorning the shelves) but that aside, it is one of the most interesting and cosy coffee shops in York.
Next head to the Museum Gardens (if it’s not raining), and wander around the ten-acre botanical gardens. Pay particular attention to the York observatory (built in the 1830s), the medieval timber building of the Hospitium and the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey (dating from 1088). You should still be buzzing from your coffee so, when you’ve finished in the gardens, take a trip through the city centre to Clifford’s Tower. This fortification was once the keep of the medieval Norman castle and has since been used as a royal administration centre and a prison. Particularly beautiful in the spring, when the hill is covered in daffodils, Clifford’s Tower sits on a Motte and is best to visit during the day when the tower is open for visitors, and before students start thinking it’s a good idea to roll down it.
End your day with drinks and a meal at the incredible Evil Eye Lounge. Prime seating is on the first floor, with two beds covered in oriental cushions being the most popular place to sit. The Indochinese food is delicious but the drinks menu is even more special; with an enormous choice of cocktails and shooters all made by baristas who view drinks preparation as an art rather than as a job. The menu includes a drink called the Hellshot (a shot of Hapsburg absinthe 89.9% and Balkan vodka 88%) which is now banned by the authorities, and I recommend instead settling for a Lychee Martini.
York is amazing place to visit. At the moment the city centre is bursting with craft and food stalls. It’s dark by late afternoon, the snow is refusing to melt, and the streets are lit up by Christmas lights and displays in shop windows. It’s one of the only cities in England (at least, it’s the only place I’ve been) where it’s normal to see men walking around on stilts advertising Ghost Tours, where you can visit a different pub every single day of the year (allegedly) and where you can find a Vivienne Westwood but not a Primark. Definitely worth a visit.