York Minster among other buildings in York

London To York Day Trip – A Guide

Visiting York from London on a day trip is not only possible, but it’s a must!

York, a historic city in the heart of England, is a treasure trove of ancient architecture, fascinating museums, and charming streets.

Founded by the Romans in 71 AD and later invaded by the Vikings, York’s rich history is evident at every turn, making it an ideal destination for history buffs, culture enthusiasts, and families.

You can reach York from London in under two hours, allowing you enough time to immerse yourself in a world of medieval marvels and enchanting attractions.

From the awe-inspiring York Minster to the narrow, cobbled streets of The Shambles, the city’s unique charm will captivate you and leave you with unforgettable memories.

In this guide, we’ll explore the best ways to get to York from London, highlight the top attractions and experiences, and provide tips for making the most of your day trip.

Get ready to embark on a timeless journey through centuries of history and vibrant culture!

Looking for inspiration? Check out our complete guide to day trips from London!

How To Get To York From London

If you are visiting York on a day trip from London, taking the train is the only method of transport we recommend, all other modes will take too long.

Direct Trains From London To York

Direct trains operated by LNER (London North Eastern Railway) and Grand Central connect London King’s Cross Station with York Station.

We caught the train from King’s Cross early in the morning!

Trains run frequently throughout the day, making finding a suitable departure time easy.

Approximate Travel Time and Cost

The journey from London to York typically ranges from 1 hour 50 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes, depending on the service.

Ticket prices can vary depending on the time of day, how far in advance you book, and the class of service. Standard class fares usually start at around £25 for off-peak hours when booked in advance, while last-minute or peak-time bookings can be significantly more expensive.

Booking Train Tickets In Advance

Booking your train tickets in advance is highly recommended to secure the best fares and ensure seat availability.

We bought our tickets directly with LNER

You can purchase tickets online through the train operators’ websites, such as LNER and Grand Central, or through third-party booking platforms like Trainline or Omio.

Booking up to 12 weeks in advance often results in the most significant savings.

Remember to keep an eye out for special offers, railcards, or group discounts that may further reduce your travel costs.

We arrived in York at 9.30 am, ready to explore the city!

When we visited York on a day trip from London, we caught the 7.06 am train from London Kings Cross and arrived in York at 9.30 am.

We left York on the 8 pm train, arriving in London around 10 pm.

Inside York Train Station

This gave us about 10 hours of exploring time in York. We managed to see loads but still wanted to see more (yes, York is that amazing!)

Tips For Making The Most Of Your Day Trip To York

We had a rough plan of the places we wanted to visit in York. But it was really tough choosing the attractions we wanted to see – there are so many appealing ones!

On the train journey from London to York, we took another look, changed a few things about it, and figured out it would be cost-effective to buy a York Pass.

What Is The York Pass?

The York Pass is an excellent way to save money and make the most of your day trip to the city.

The pass offers entry to over 40 top attractions in York, such as York Minster, JORVIK Viking Centre, and Clifford’s Tower.

Additionally, you’ll receive discounts on guided tours, shopping, and dining.

The York Pass comes in 1, 2, or 3-day options, with adult prices starting at £55 for a 1-day pass, £70 for a 2-day pass, and £85 for a 3-day pass. Prices for children are lower, starting at £32 for a 1-day pass, making it a great option for families.

Is The York Pass Worth It?

It was worth it for us as we wanted to squeeze in as many attractions as possible into our one day.

The best way to be sure is to list out all the things you want to do in York and add up the entry costs. Buying one is a no-brainer if the total comes to more than the York Pass.

Our other reasoning was this – if we were paying for individual entry to each attraction, we would probably feel more obliged to stay longer in each one to ‘get our money’s worth.’

With an all-in-one pass, we could leave when we wanted without feeling like we’d wasted an entry fee – if that makes sense!

How To Buy A York Pass

You can purchase the York Pass online at the official website (www.yorkpass.com) or in person at the York Visitor Information Centre near York Minster.

Purchasing online gives you a digital pass, which can be downloaded to your phone, providing an easy and convenient way to access all the benefits.

Booking Attractions and Tours

While some tours and attractions are free, others require advance booking and have set entry fees.

Unless you are visiting at a very quiet time of the year, I recommend you book online before you go to avoid disappointment on the day.

If you are visiting York in the quieter months of the year, some attractions open later and close earlier, so remember to check this before you go.

Allow For Leisure Time To Explore

While having a plan is essential, don’t forget to allow some leisure time to wander the city and discover its charm at your own pace.

York is filled with picturesque streets, hidden gems, and quaint shops best enjoyed without a strict schedule.

By allowing some time for spontaneous exploring, you’ll have the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the city’s unique atmosphere and make lasting memories.

York’s Top Attractions

Take your pick from the top things to do in York, or follow our suggested one-day York itinerary.

York Minster

York Minster is one of Northern Europe’s largest and most magnificent cathedrals.

With a history dating back to the 7th century, the current Gothic-style structure was built between 1220 and 1472. The cathedral has played a significant role in England’s religious history and remains an important centre for worship and events.

The Minster boasts intricate stonework, breathtaking stained glass windows, and a soaring central tower. The Great East Window, Britain’s largest expanse of medieval stained glass, and the intricate West Front are particularly noteworthy.

Consider joining a guided tour to appreciate the Minster’s history and architectural details fully. Tours typically last about an hour and cover the cathedral’s highlights, including the Undercroft Museum, where you can explore 2,000 years of history.

There’s also the option to climb the Central Tower for panoramic views of York.

The Shambles

The Shambles is a historic, narrow street with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back to the 14th century. Originally a street of butcher shops and slaughterhouses, The Shambles is now a popular destination for shopping and dining.

Today, The Shambles is home to an eclectic mix of independent shops, including boutiques, souvenir stores, and speciality food shops. The street offers a unique shopping experience in a charming medieval setting.

Just a short walk from The Shambles, you’ll find attractions like York’s Chocolate Story and Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. The area is also home to numerous cafes, tea rooms, and traditional English pubs, making it the perfect place to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a leisurely afternoon tea.

Clifford’s Tower

Clifford's Tower in York
Clifford’s Tower in York

Clifford’s Tower is the last remaining part of York Castle, originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068. The tower has a fascinating history, having served as a royal mint, prison, and military stronghold throughout the centuries.

A visit to Clifford’s Tower offers stunning panoramic views of the city from its ramparts, making it a must-see for photographers and history enthusiasts.

Clifford’s Tower is open daily, with varying hours depending on the season. Admission fees for adults are around £8.10.

York’s City Walls

York’s City Walls have a history spanning over 2,000 years, with the current walls built mainly during the 13th and 14th centuries.

The walls stretch for 3.4 kilometres, making them England’s longest and best-preserved medieval city walls.

Exploring the walls on foot is a fantastic way to take in York’s history and enjoy views of the city. The entire walk takes around 2 hours, but visitors can also walk in shorter sections.

The walls have several access points, including Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar, and Fishergate Bar.

The walls are generally open daily from 8 am to dusk, but hours may vary depending on the season and weather conditions.

JORVIK Viking Centre

The JORVIK Viking Centre is an immersive, interactive museum that transports visitors
back to the Viking Age. Through innovative technology, archaeological exhibits, and reconstructed scenes, visitors can experience what life was like in Viking-era York.

The centre offers live demonstrations, such as coin minting, pottery making, and special events throughout the year, providing an engaging and educational experience for all ages.

Adult admission is around £15, and child admission is approximately £10.50. The JORVIK Viking Centre is open daily, with hours generally from 10 am to 5 pm, though it’s advised to check their website for the most up-to-date information.

National Railway Museum

entrance to Railway Museum in York
National Railway Museum in York

The National Railway Museum in York is home to an impressive collection of locomotives, rolling stock, and railway memorabilia. Key highlights include the famous Flying Scotsman, the Mallard, and a replica of George Stephenson’s pioneering locomotive, Rocket.

The museum regularly hosts special exhibitions, workshops, and events that delve into the history and future of rail travel, offering a fascinating experience for train enthusiasts and casual visitors alike.

Admission to the National Railway Museum is free, though donations are appreciated. The museum is open daily, usually from 10 am to 5 pm, but confirming the hours on their website before visiting is best.

York Castle Museum

View of York Castle Museum from Clifford’s Tower

York Castle Museum showcases the city’s social history, featuring exhibits on everything from the Georgian era to the 1960s. Displays include recreated period rooms, interactive exhibits, and thousands of historic artefacts.

The museum’s most famous exhibit is Kirkgate, a recreated Victorian street complete with authentic shops, houses, and even the sounds and smells of the era. Visitors can stroll down Kirkgate and get a glimpse of life in 19th-century York.

Adult admission to York Castle Museum is around £13 (in advance), while children under 17 enter for £6.50. The museum is open daily, typically from 9:30 am to 5 pm, but be sure to check their website for the latest information on hours and special events.

Eating and Drinking in York

There are so many places to eat and drink in York, far too many to cover in one guide – but here we have rounded up some of the most popular places!

Traditional English Pubs in York

York is home to numerous traditional English pubs where visitors can enjoy a cosy atmosphere and classic British meals.

Some local favourites include The House of the Trembling Madness, Ye Olde Starre Inne, and The Golden Fleece, which also claims to be the most haunted pub in the city.

These pubs often serve classic British dishes like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and steak and ale pie. Don’t forget to try a pint of local ale or a refreshing glass of Yorkshire cider to complete your authentic pub experience.

Tea Rooms and Cafes in York

York is famous for its tea rooms, where visitors can indulge in a quintessential afternoon tea.

Exterior of Bettys Cafe Tearooms in York
Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms in York

The city offers a variety of options, from historic establishments like Bettys to charming spots like The Countess of York at the National Railway Museum (currently closed due to refurbishments).

Other popular tea rooms include The Garden Room at The Principal Hotel and The Vintage Rose with views of York Minster.

When enjoying afternoon tea, be sure to sample traditional treats such as scones with clotted cream and jam, finger sandwiches, and an assortment of pastries and cakes.

For a local speciality, try a Yorkshire Fat Rascal, a delicious fruit scone unique to the region.

Local Food Markets In York

York’s food scene is diverse and vibrant, with food markets offering an excellent opportunity to sample the best local produce and street food.

entrance to the Shambles Market with flowers and plants stall and people browsing
Shambles Market in York

Popular markets include the Shambles Market, which features over 70 stalls, and the York Farmers’ Market, held monthly in the city centre.

When visiting York’s food markets, be sure to check out popular stalls such as Los Moros for North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, KREP for delicious sweet and savoury crepes, and The Taylor Made Kitchen for gourmet burgers.

You’ll also find stalls selling local cheeses, artisan bread, and fresh fruits and vegetables, making it easy to enjoy a taste of Yorkshire’s finest offerings.

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