A York shopping and sightseeing guide

Saturday, March 05, 2016

I lived in York for five months from September 2015 to February 2016 while attending university. It's such a magical city with breath-taking sights and I am eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to live there. I've put together this little shopping and sightseeing guide for anyone thinking about visiting - I haven't included any eateries because I'm not a foodie person; I only ever went to the same few high street places (because I'm a picky eater and was always skint) but I have included a couple of recs at the bottom. Anyway, let's begin with...


Give the Dog a Bone, 17 Fossgate
Every time I walked to and from town I would always pass this shop and I would always go in, whether I had money to spend or not. It's one of those shops where you see something different every time you go in. They stock tons of cute pop culture gifts ranging from Doctor Who, to Minecraft, to Moomin. I love this store for the Pop! figures they stock - I picked up Daenerys Targaryen for £11.99 last year when HMV were stocking them for £14.99. They also have the best occasion cards ever - if you want something funny, vulgar, and unique, pick up a card from GTDAB. You will find all sorts here from mugs, stationery, jewellery, collectables, clothing, prints, keyrings, cushions, bags... the list goes on.

There are a couple of these stores in the UK - Pylones sells weird bits and bobs you never thought you needed. I bought a solar powered dancing flower from there last year and it's honestly one of my favourite things I own. My step-dad bought a rice spatula from there. Honestly quite a weird shop but so wonderful too. It's colourful and fun and worth a visit.

This bookshop is a gem. It's a 5-floor Georgian town-house filled from top to bottom with books. What's not to love? It stocks second-hand and antiquarian books of every subject known to man and doesn't charge an arm and a leg. A must-see if you're a book lover. The first time I went here I spent about two hours in the history section alone. The building itself is so narrow and full that if you're wearing a big backpack or have lots of shopping bags you're advised to leave them near the till because you genuinely won't be able to move around the shop if you don't.

Straight across from the Minster Gate Bookshop is Shared Earth. You can't miss this great big green building on the corner. This shop stocks ethical, Fair Trade gifts including jewellery, bags, stationery, candles, and homeware. Really lovely shop if you're looking for some unique, hand-made gifts. I bought a couple of Christmas presents from here last year and they went down a treat. I really love their jewellery and rugs - they stock beautiful rag rugs in various colours and sizes that I'm dying to get my hands on.

If you're a fan of vinyl, please visit The Inkwell. This little treasure stocks all sorts from jazz, to hip-hop, to movie soundtracks, as well as books, CDs, and record players. I got a bright orange Steepletone from here and it's a solid piece of kit, way better than what I had before. It's dinky, it's portable, and has a handy built-in speaker. The owner is fantastic too and is always playing something foot-tappingly catchy while you're browsing, plus he really knows his stuff. Give this shop a visit! P.S. Gillygate is often overlooked because it's outside the city walls but is a corker of a street if you're in dire need of a coffee or some tunes.

This quirky vintage shop and cafe on the picturesque Shambles is a must-visit. Sadly I haven't visited the cafe but I can vouch for the vintage shop. It's a great little place for a mosey around if you're a fan of cute florals and shabby chic furniture. It's also a very Instagrammable shop, so make sure you have your phone ready. The cafe sounds amazing as they use locally sourced ingredients plus the cakes and sandwiches are all homemade so I'd love to give it a try one day.

There are a lot of Oliver Bonas stores in the south (mainly in London), but there's only one in the north of England and it's in good ol' York (will soon be rectified - OB are coming to Leeds). It's a new arrival too - the York store opened its doors in October 2015 on Stonegate, nestled among big names like Cath Kidston, Jo Malone, Kiehl's, and The White Company. I love OB's fresh, innovative designs. They tend to do a lot of geometrics, copper, and pastels which I quite like. If you're looking for statement furniture or glassware with a bit of pizazz, OB is the place to be.

Places worth a quick mention: The Little Apple Bookshop, 13 High Petergate (tiny independent bookshop under the Minster's nose) | Urban Outfitters, 26-27 High Ousegate (gorgeous interiors, nice vibe) | Travelling Man, 54 Goodramgate (graphic novels, comics, and games galore) | Burgins Perfumery, 2 Coney Street (niche fragrances in a 19th century building)


York Minster
This is a given. You don't go to York and not visit the Minster, even if it's just to stand outside and take photos. If you can, I'd suggest getting tickets and going inside. Nothing will take your breath away quite like the ceiling in York Minster - make sure you don't make yourself dizzy looking up. If you fancy it, pay a bit extra and go up on the roof to see sweeping views of the city. Not done this myself but it's on my list.

The Yorkshire Museum is chock full of Roman and Viking relics, worth a visit if you're interested in York's history. At the moment, the YM has an 11,000 year old early Mesolithic pendant on display which you can read more about here. The York Museum Gardens (featured here) makes for a lovely walk - in the summer you'll find residents and tourists alike sprawled out on the grass reading in the sun. Whatever the weather, St Mary's Abbey ruins are always a sight to behold. If you're visiting York in the summer, take a picnic to the gardens and sit in the shade. Keep an eye on your food because the squirrels will pinch it when you're not looking.

Monk, Bootham, Micklegate, Walmgate. The four bars are all pretty impressive. Monk Bar houses the Richard III museum, while Micklegate Bar houses the Henry VII museum (same link as before). Not visited either (despite being a weird Richard III fan) but I've heard they're fun if you're into the history. If you fancy the trek, walk the city walls and stop off at each bar for photos. Walmgate Bar has a cafe in it so you can enjoy a coffee and admire the sunset.

Obviously if you're looking for more typical tourist attractions, you've got Jorvik, NRM, Barley Hall, York Dungeon and plenty more if you put 'York sightseeing' into Google. If you're looking for something a little less full on or you want to save your money, wandering around York's streets and snickelways is an alternative way to soak up the atmosphere and history. You've got the historic Shambles (go before 10am on a weekday if you don't want a crowded photo) and all the back streets around Stonegate and Davygate. If you want something a bit spookier, go on a Ghost Walk and see York's creepy cobbled streets in the dark.

There we go. I hope this proves helpful for some of you. In terms of eateries, I can recommend Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Bill's, Sutler's (their eggs are to die for), and Pizza Express (go to the one on Lendal Bridge - it's prettier inside). I've been told the Guy Fawkes Inn is nice too. York is full of cafes and restaurants so if you're looking for something more unique, click here. If you have any queries, feel free to drop a comment below and I'll respond when I can.

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