Stepping into the chocolate-box city of York, rich in medieval architecture, it’s like turning back the clocks of one of England’s oldest cities. Enclosed in the limestone City Walls, erected back in the 13th century, York has had a few changes since then, yet still manages to retain its endearing essence. Nestled within this picture postcard town you’ll find noteworthy places to stay, eat, shop and tons of wellness-y activities too! Here’s our H&H Guide To York.
No.1 York Guesthouse is the revived Georgian Townhouse, that couldn’t be more perfect for a city staycation. Upon arrival, the facade brings clarity to its rich heritage, as if it’s been plucked from the pages of a Dicken’s novel. Leaving much of the interior structure in its original form, the Grade II listed building is brimming with character and charm from its erstwhile regency, with restored ornate plasterwork, lived-in oak flooring, swoop staircase, sash windows and statuesque ceilings. The tonal minimalist bedrooms, 38 in total, are fit for comfort and style, a plush four-post bed, freestanding bath and Crosley record player amongst other more modern amenities, make the stay as laid-back as can be. Free to raid whenever guests are feeling peckish, the pantry is stocked with baked goods, local ice cream, old-fashioned sweets and popcorn to squirrel back to the rooms. Head to the honey-hued ‘Marmalade Lounge’ to sip on a strong Yorkshire brew as you flick through the papers in the morning, or later in the day for a spot of afternoon tea accompanied by sandwiches and scones, in true British fashion. Contemporary touches and Yorkshire nods create a cool ambience in the hotel, from the sporadic scattering of violins on the walls, the retro steam train set that chugs around the cornices of the bar and the mix of board games to get stuck into over a nightcap or two. Striking the balance of cosy and chic, whilst letting the time-honoured townhouse remain the spectacle, this boutique stay is York’s No.1 hotel.
Adopting a French bistro feel, The Pearly Cow favours locality, with a ‘land meets sea’ menu. Grab a cosy table for two on the quilted blush bench or on a round table perfect for dining en mass. Saluting farm-to-fork culinary, The Pearly Cow works in conjunction with nearby farms to present to best quality produce…glazed shoulder of Yorkshire lamb accompanied by Caesar aioli with sweet and sour peppers being a popular choice amongst diners. With famously rich fishing waters on the coastline south of York, the seafood is stellar, you’ll find garlic-baked oysters, roast scallops and yellowfin tuna on the menu! Embellished with an array of delightfully executed sides, including chicory salad scattered with hazelnut praline, parmesan spelt risotto with lashings of black truffle and the best (albeit not the healthiest) layered chunky chips!
Tucked beneath No.1 York Guesthouse, is the No.1 Spa, open to all. Cocooned in underground stone vaults, the treatment rooms are snug and organic-feeling, suitable for the holistic-rooted rituals that are on offer. British-based organic skincare brand, Pinks Boutique pairs complementary to the treatments, working in tandem to enrich the mind, body and soul in the secluded wellness coves. Accredited by the Soil Association, the nature-boosted formulas are pure and therapeutic, with scents that enhance your mood. From a top-to-toe glow, blending a body scrub, massage and facial, to their signature ‘Herbal Healer’ which calls upon locally grown Yorkshire Lavender to completely bliss you out, No.1 Spa combines treatments to bring optimum benefit and indulgence.
A must when visiting York is to walk the trail of the City Walls which enclose the centre. Steep in history, the medieval trail is 3.4km long and takes up to two hours depending on how many people are on the paths. Undulating between levels, with towers, arrow slits and sculptures along the way, the preserved City Walls are the longest town walls in England. There are breaks which involve using the pavement to rejoin the walls but the majority of the time is spent high up with views over York. The Bootham Bar is a good place to start and follow clockwise!
Nestled in the basement of Hedley House Hotel is Yogabomb, the home of hot yoga in York. The classes have varying temperature levels to suit all and so you know what to expect! The timetable features a myriad of classes covering detox flow, silence of the heart meditation, yin-yang energy flow and reiki-infused yoga nidra.
Rebalance Studios houses Pilates, yoga and fitness, just ten minutes from York City Centre. Blending three movement disciplines, Rebalances approach is designed for the mind, heart and whole body. The classes are run in small groups to offer personalisation in an intimate setting. From power Pilates, reformer, strength training, yoga and meditation, get your low-impact fix at this friendly wellness hub.
You cannot walk past Partisan without being allured in, even if only to get a whiff of the fresh loaves stacked up along the window! The independent eatery is tiled with vibrant turquoise slabs to create a rustic café-come-arts space, bringing in a cool Yorkshire crowd. Partnering with the best suppliers in the area, Partisan is all about locality, from the award-winning meat produce you’ll find in the breakfast skillets to the flowers that create the wild tablescapes!
Long before plant-based eating was mainstream, Goji Cafe have been baking delicious vegan cakes using natural ingredients without additives, colourings or flavourings. The cafe-come-deli is purely vegetarian and vegan, with the option to eat in or take away. If the sun is shining, pick up a middle eastern picnic box filled with sweet potato boreks, falafels, hummus, beetroot dip, tabbouleh, spiced aubergine and sumac flat bread for an alfresco lunch. Goji Cafe also present a Vegan Afternoon Tea, with a freshly baked fruit scone, jam, berries and coconut cream!
Rise is the all-day brunch spot serving up all the classics. Smoothie bowls, egg dishes, sandwiches and pimped-up toasts make up the menu, with superfood lattes, iced brews and fresh juices to sip on. Millennial pink interiors make this healthy brunch hub popular for insta-worthy foodie snaps! If you want something savoury, the ras el hanout butternut hummus smeared on sourdough topped with crispy chickpeas, pomegranate and a poached egg packs flavour. For something sweet, the roasted peach brioche french toast dolloped with chai creme and sprinkled with almond crumble is devourable.
Upside Down Design is York’s independent concept store, much like a mini Anthropologie. You’ll find quirky home accessories, sustainable beauty, vintage gems, tableware, jewellery and great gifts in this eclectic shop, which doubles as the showroom for the interior designer who owns the shop. With a real eye for sourcing cool, out-of-the-ordinary bits and bobs, there is no way you’ll leave empty-handed.
In the cobbled lanes of the old town, Born Of Botanics has got to be the most divine-smelling shop in York. Beautifully branded, the 100% natural bath and body products are made with no synthetic. Well stocked with their own ‘Born Of Botanics’ small batch product line of candles, body oils, bath salts, fragrances and melts, and a selection of aligned independent brands, wellness lovers will have a field day at this sweet little store.
Kitted out with all your stationery needs, Avorium is the family-run business thats every journaler’s dream. The pastel-adorned shop is notebook galore, with the option to monogram in gold foil. Perfect for gift purchases, Avorium has everything you need to jazz up your desk from coasters, mousepads, plant pots, bookmarks and a multitude of notebooks.
words by Isabelle Shury