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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect 24 hours in York Itinerary. Some of my Internet Strangers reading out there might be surprised to hear that I have always wanted to try a 24 hours in York itinerary. But what could make more sense? After all, I am a native of New York City! Why wouldn’t I want to visit Jolly Old York and discover my roots? I assumed that New York and Old York were pretty similar, but the name is where the commonalities end.

Trying a 24 hours in York itinerary is like traveling back in time. A time when highway robbers, hauntings, and the like were commonplace. Plus you’ll get to meet my new boyfriend!

24 hours in York itinerary

Where to Stay?

I visited York as part of a terribly expensive trip around Northern Europe. Ireland has gotten expensive. The United Kingdom is expensive. And Scandinavia is insanely expensive. So I needed to stick to a budget when I could.

That’s why I chose to spend my 24 hours in York itinerary at the hostel YHA York. My room was comfortable and big because I opted to pay more and get a private room with my own bathroom. But you can really save your pennies and share a room with some strange ladies. This is York, so probably they’ll be Vikings or witches. But that will just add to the charm!

If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here. And if you want to explore great deals on over 800 other hotels in York, click here!

24 Hours in York Itinerary

What to Pack?

The United Kingdom, as you may have heard, is on the rainy side. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of the UK. I hear they’re strong enough to carry a nanny up into the sky like a kite, but that could just be a rumor.

For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them to tea without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.

Finally, if you’re not from the UK, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. UK electrical outlets don’t work with either American or European plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.

24 hours in York itinerary

24 hours in York itinerary

Morning: White Rose Walking Tour

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. The best way to get an introduction to a city is to take a walking tour. Because York is a smaller city, there aren’t regular public paying tours available. That’s why I opted to start my 24 hours in York itinerary on a pay-what-you-wish walking tour of York from the White Rose Walking Tour.

I was intrigued by their reputation of delivering historical information in an entertaining way. Even their name is historical because the white rose was traditionally the symbol of the House of York. (Our guide began the tour by telling us he was a pirate, so I’m going to call him Arrrthur.) I’m pleased to report that White Rose Walking Tours are as edutaining as reported. And I’ll prove it to you by sharing…

approximately top 5: 24 hours in York itinerary

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1) Gates of York

York is one of the oldest cities in the entire United Kingdom, which is really saying something. Lucky for tourists, the medieval walls of the city have been extremely well preserved. But the walls aren’t just gorgeous piles of stone. They remind the visitor of York’s violent history.

The walls were needed to keep out invaders from exotic lands from Scotland. Arrthur said that even today, it is technically legal to kill a Scottish person wielding a bow and arrow in York city limits. Well, that just seems eminently logical. As my grandmother always said, “It’s as untrustworthy as a Scotsman with a bow and arrow.”

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2) Rome if you want to

As I mentioned, York is so old that it makes Wilford Brimley look like a mere babe in arms. In fact, York was born about 2000 years ago, and I think Mr. Brimley isn’t even half that old. It was founded at the Roman city Eboracum. Above you can see the actual ruins from a Roman military camp.

Eboracum was definitely well connected to the rest of the Roman Empire. In fact, two Roman emperors even died there. One of the Roman emperors who died in Eboracum/York was named Septimius Severus. I assume that’s where JK Rowling got the name for Severus Snape, controversial potions master. I’ll also assume that Emperor Severus was secretly a wizard. All history is better with wizards.

york medieval ruins

Roman ruins weren’t the only ruins hanging around York. There are also walls that date back to the medieval period. These walls are popular settings for performances of the York Mystery Plays, which are a series of medieval plays portraying the medieval Christian view of history beginning with creation and ending with the Last Judgment.

None other than Dame Judi Dench got her start here. I have a hard time imagining that Judi Dench was ever not a famous actress. I’m just picturing all the teenage girls in Yorkshire saying, “You take the lead role Judi! After all, you have an Oscar!”

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3) York Minster

One of the best tips Arrrthur gave us was when he showed us how to putter along York’s medieval walls until we found a great spot from which to view the famous York Minster church without being surrounded by crowds. He said the view was even better in winter because the leaves aren’t there to block the church. But then you need to be outside in Northern England in winter, so I’ll pass on that.

While we were on the walls, Arrrthur took the time to tell us about two men who are beloved in York. One was the current Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. He hails from Uganda originally, and now he has found a warm welcome in Yorkshire. Being an archbishop is a big deal in the Church of England, as there are only two and the other is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Why doesn’t London get an Archbishop? Is the Queen instead of the Archbishop of London? This is what happens when you let someone found a church because they want a divorce. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the Episcopal Church, which is the American branch of the Church of England.)

The other beloved man in York is Shakespeare’s greatest villain, Richard III. But don’t you let people in York hear you call him a villain! Shakespeare insisted that Richard III murdered his two young nephews so that he could become King of England. But in York, they say, “He wuz framed!!!” You see, Richard was Duke of York before he was King, and apparently he had a reputation for being kind and generous to his people. Isn’t that typical! You work hard all your life and then you murder two kids and suddenly you’re the bad guy…

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4) The Vanilla Cafe

In the middle of the tour, we stop and have a restroom and snack break at the cozy Vanilla Cafe right near York Minster. It’s possible that the free walking tour makes money because it encourages their clients to eat here. But I don’t really care because a) you don’t have to buy anything. Arrthur did not pressure us. And 2) the cakes are delicious. I had a moist raspberry cupcake, and I especially admire how they managed to get the fresh raspberry right in the center of the cupcake. It looks like the cupcake is wearing an adorable beanie.

the shambles
5) The Shambles

The Shambles is the most famous street in York. In fact, it might be one of the most famous streets in the world because it was JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series. In fact, I don’t know why they bothered to make a Harry Potter theme park, when York is basically Harry Potter Land.

You can’t have a 24 hours in York itinerary without a stop at the Shambles. The houses on this street date all the way back to the 14th century. Unfortunately, it’s crazy crowded during the day, so I suggest coming back here in the evening after the shops close when you won’t be overwhelmed with tourists.

York Castle Museum

24 Hours in York Itinerary

Afternoon: York Castle Museum

We’ve spent the morning of our 24 hours in York itinerary on a walking tour, so I suggest that we spend the afternoon indoors in one of York’s finest museums. The York Castle Museum is dedicated to artifacts from York’s seriously spooky history.

It was the brainchild of a man named John Kirk who was a collector of Historical Objects. But he wanted his objects to be presented in a setting that recreated their original time period. That’s why the York Castle Museum is full of replicas of homes, prisons, and even an entire Victorian street.

The name of the museum is somewhat confusing because there’s no castle anywhere near it. The building is a former prison that was located on the former site of York Castle. We’ll delve more into the history shortly. But first, as my favorite saying goes, lunch!

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24 Hour Treat: Cafe No. 8

The name of this cafe is almost as confusing as the name of York Castle Museum. Where are Cafes Nos 1-7? But fortunately the food at Cafe No 8 is much less confusing than the name. I suggest getting one of their seasonal salads to take advantage of their use of local produce. My shrimp and heirloom tomato salad was tangy and refreshing. But keep in mind I was visiting during the summer. If you go at another time of year, you’re probably not going to get heirloom tomatoes.

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Of course I needed to get dessert at Cafe No 8. You might want to ask me if that is healthy because I had just eaten a raspberry cupcake. Obviously that was breakfast dessert, and this is lunch dessert. Only one dessert with every meal. That’s my motto when I’m on vacation.

This dessert was a rhubarb and ginger meringue with lashings of warm custard. Even in the heat of summer, all English desserts need to be served with lashings of warm custard. That’s just science. And if you’re looking for even more science, off we go to the museum for…

three fun facts: york castle museum

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1) Made glorious summer by this son of York

The York Castle Museum begins with an intricate display of replica houses from different times periods. York has been a major commercial center of England for large parts of its history, though now it’s more known for tourism. So some of these replica rooms are tres chic, as they would have belonged to the wealthy Victorian businessmen.

Apparently some of these Richie Riches were nervous about getting robbed by pirates or highwaymen or whoever was robbing people in Yorkshire in the 20th century. That’s why they would put this bizarre, flat, cardboard, bewigged gentleman in their windows to scare off burglars. I personally think that no one who is brazen enough to break into the homes of wealthy Victorians is going to be put off by a Flat Man. But maybe that’s why I’m not a 19th century English housebreaker.

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2) Made Glorious summer by these smells of York

Even better than the replica Victoria house with the replica replica Victoria man is the replica of a Victorian street. It is called Kirkgate after the museum’s founder, John Kirk. They even pipe in fake smells of horses and whatnot so you can really imagine what York would have smelled like back then. (Spoiler alert! It smells better now.)

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Don’t forget to walk down the small allies! This is the only opportunity you’ll get to see a strange Victorian lady’s panties.

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And be sure to enter as many of the buildings as you can. That’s how I was able to pretend that I am a mean Victorian schoolteacher. I was so scary, I even frightened this ghost child away. Look how fast he is running!

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But my favorite fact about Victorian York is that it was a center for chocolate production. There’s even a museum in York called York’s Chocolate Story. But that will have to wait for another 24 hours in York. However, you can still buy one of these adorable chocolate mice at the York Castle Museum. He was almost too cute to eat! (I said almost.)

24 hours in York itinerary
3) Now is the winter of our discontent

As I mentioned, the York Castle Museum is located in a former prison. They very thoughtfully left parts of the prison open for tourists, such as the jail cells and the yard. Dick Turpin, the most famous highwayman that England has ever known, was imprisoned here. When William the Conqueror built York Castle back in the 11th century, there would have been a prison in the castle. So it’s actually possible to say this area has been a prison for almost a thousand years.

Just be very careful when you are visiting. I accidentally went in the wrong area, and they said I could choose my punishment. Either I could go in the stocks or I could be hanged by the neck until I was dead. I chose the stocks, even though it made me late for my dinner reservation.

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24 Hours in York Itinerary

Evening: York Terror Trail

Each city in the world is known for certain industries. In my hometown of New York, we’re known for theater, fashion, and finance. Some cities might be known for coal, others for wool. But I would guess that the number one industry in York is ghost tour production. There were so many ghost tours to choose from, I hardly knew where to start. But I knew I needed to try one during my 24 hours in York itinerary

But eventually I settled on the York Terror Trail, as they promised historical accuracy. The guides are pretty much all professional actors, so you know you can trust them. I like to keep it 100 on my ghost tours, thank you very much. As always, I share what I learn with my favorite Internet strangers, so here are…

three horrible facts…york terror trail

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1) Margaret Clitherow

Our first stop was at the house of Saint Margaret Clitherow. No matter what ghost tour you choose, I promise La Clitherow will make an appearance. Margaret Clitherow was a Roman Catholic during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. This was unfortunate, as according to the Catholic Church, Queen Elizabeth was illegitimate and therefore not the rightful ruler of England. So Elizabeth refused to allow Catholics in her kingdom.

Mrs. Clitherow continued to practice Catholicism and hide priests from the authorities. Eventually she was caught and executed. (This is the gruesome part, so the squeamish may want to skip it.) Even though she was pregnant, she was murdered by the state by being crushed to death. GAH!

I’m really glad I don’t like during Elizabeth England no matter how cool their neck ruffs are. Queen Elizabeth later wrote a letter to the city of York apologizing for the execution, but we’ll probably never know if she was actually sorry or not.

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2) Guy Fawkes

And this masked gentleman you see pictured on the sign above was another troublesome Catholic: Guy Fawkes. He was part of a conspiracy to assassinate King James I of England and restore Catholicism to England. In fact, the assassination plan was called the Gunpowder Plot because the conspirators were planning to blow up Parliament. (So all you budding anarchists out there who think Fawkes is your hero, he is not. Stop wearing his mask.)

Fawkes got caught and horribly tortured until he confessed. He was supposed to be executed by being hanged, removed from the scaffold while still barely arrive, castrated, then have his guts cut out, then beheaded, and then cut into four pieces, which I don’t think he would have felt because he would have no head at this point. However, Guy “cleverly” jumped off the scaffold before they could hang him and broke his neck. So at least he got to be buried with his genitals and bowels intact.

You might be asking what the York connection is. Well, Fawkes was from York and even went to school in the city. In England, they celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on November 5th, the day of the failed Gunpowder Plot, by burning a stuffed Guy in effigy. The one school that refrains is Fawkes’s old school in York because they don’t want to burn their old student. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

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3) Clifford’s Tower Massacre

We didn’t actually get to walk past Clifford’s Tower on the tour, but our guide told us the story anyway. It’s one of the most tragic in the history of York, perhaps the most tragic. There used to be a thriving Jewish community in York during the Middle Ages, and anti-Jewish sentiment was widespread in the city. Much of the anti-Semitic feeling was stoked by a small group of Christian businessmen who wanted to avoid having to pay back money that they owed to some of the Jewish members of the community.

In 1190, anti-Jewish riots broke out and the Jewish community in the city was forced to hide in Clifford’s Tower. The angry mob told the Jewish people that if they left the tower and agreed to be converted they’d be spared. This was a lie, and anyone who left the tower was immediately murdered.

Eventually, the people left in the tower felt that suicide was their only option. Most of the men killed their wives and children and then set fire to the tower, burning themselves alive. Even in medieval England, this pogrom was considered shocking by many contemporary writers. But King Richard I responded only by fining the city of York. No one was ever imprisoned for the crime.

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24 Hour Treat: House of the Trembling Madness

It feels very strange to go from those tales of murder and woe to a restaurant review. But even with all the sadness in human history, we still have to eat. And my favorite pub in York is The House of the Trembling Madness. It’s the perfect place to conclude our 24 hours in York itinerary.

How often can you get the chance to eat in an authentic medieval building? If you’re from the United States, the answer is literally never! I started off with some ghost beer after the ghost tour. (It’s a marshmallow stout. You can see a picture of the Stay Puft man on the label.)

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This was accompanied by an outstanding steak and ale pie served with real English mushy peas, mashed potatoes, and the best, richest house made gravy I have ever had. Just look at that amazing, thick crust. You can tell that pie was made by real human hands, not by no ghost.

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I think I drank a little too much marshmallow beer because I ended up going home with this guy. In retrospect, I think he was a little too old and hairy for me. Oh well! What happens in York, stays in York, as my grandmother always said.

That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in York Itinerary!

What would you do with a 24 hours in York itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in York? Would you ever consider crushing a pregnant lady to death, even if she was harboring priests? And what do you think of my new boyfriend? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a 24 hours in York itinerary. If you have time for another 24 hours in York itinerary , try this itinerary.

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