York insider tips

The tips below plus all of the advice found on my York Expert pages and the quality content located on Simonseeks specialised York Community pages, should provide plenty of help for getting the best out of this fantastic city. With all of this stored for your visit, on arrival head to the friendly folk at the Visitor Information Centre (1 Museum Street, York YO1 7DT; daily Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-4pm) for maps, attraction passes, transport information and a gift shop.

Eating and drinking

  • Many eateries in York have lunchtime and early bird specials on their menus. If you’re happy to eat earlier than normal and want to get a taste of restaurant that may normally be beyond budget then these offers can be a financially and gastronomically rewarding way to eat. See J Baker's Bistro Moderne, D.C.H and Melton's for some of the quality restaurants offering such deals.
  • For an even cheaper bite to eat at lunchtime, make for one of the numerous bakeries such as Thomas the Baker for a calorific picnic lunch. Then pasties, pies and buns in hand head down the riverside bordering Museum Gardens, Dean’s Park behind the Minster or Tower Gardens opposite Clifford’s Tower for a place to sit and eat.
  • Tipping in York is like the rest of Britain and averages around 10-12 per cent on top of the bill, though it is discretionary and the amount should of course reflect the service you’ve had. Some places do add a service charge to the bill total. This does not have to be paid and you should check with the staff to see if they actually get a share of this, or it completely bypasses them and instead goes straight into the company coiffeurs.

Getting around

  • There is no need for motorised transport to journey through the compact city centre. It’s mostly traffic free and ambling around under your own steam is without doubt the best way to appreciate all that York has to offer.
  • Those who require public transport to skirt the centre or get out into the suburbs and beyond should take advantage of the comprehensive Bus Services available. See my How to get around York page for more information and contact details.
  • Anyone spending the night at one of my accommodation choices found on or near the suburb of Bootham and Clifton and tired after a day out in the centre should take the numbers 2 or 14 bus from the city centre.
  • Many of the bus fleets feature low, easily negotiable floors and are wheelchair accessible.

Sights and attractions

  • Getting to see York’s attractions and museums can be an expensive business so it’s well worth considering getting yourself a Yorkshire Pass to help save on entry costs. They come in a variety of guises - one-day through to six-day options and start at £30 for an adult and £18 for children (three-16 years). Buy either online (www.yorkshirepass.com) or from the good at people at the Visitor Information Centre (See above for details). Once bought, you also get a voucher book with discounts at selected gift shops and cafés.
  • Some attractions come with free return visits for the following 12 months after entry has been paid, though they will require your name and address for you to take advantage. Don’t worry though as there is no subsequent bombardment of marketing material once home. See individual listings on my York Things to do for participating venues.
  • That said, it is possible to spend a day in York and not once dip into your pocket. Simply ambling the medieval streets and Snickleways are a joy in themselves, as is taking to the free of charge York City Walls encircling the city. For an informed stroll, take advantage of the gratis York Guided Walks of the city. Another rewarding walk is to the south of the city centre along the riverside New Walk, a lovely tree-lined avenue starting at Tower Gardens and forming part of a circuitous route that should take around an hour to complete.
  • The City Art Gallery (Exhibition Square, York YO1 7EW; +44 1904 687 687; www.yorkartgallery.org.uk) is free to enter as is the more often than not bewildering art space within St. Mary’s Church (Castlegate, York, YO1 9RN; +44 1904 687 687; www.yorkstmarys.org.uk).
  • York also has a fine collection of medieval churches that don’t require any payment to enter (do make a donation though to help with their upkeep). St Denys on Walmgate and St Michael-le-Belfry on Petergate) where Guy Fawkes was baptised are just two of the highlights.

Other useful tips

  • York’s Theatre Royal (visit  York nightlife for contact details) is currently running a great offer for the under 25s. Simply visit their box office with proof of age and register on their system to become eligible for free performance tickets. Numbers are limited per performance and tickets are allocated on a first-come first-served basis.
  • For forthcoming gigs, club events and theatre programmes visit www.yorkgigguide.com for information and ticket purchases.
  • Get into the streets and green spaces early for some tranquillity and atmosphere before the tourists starts to arrive.
  • See my When to go to York for tips on when the city is at its busiest and try to secure accommodation between Sunday and Thursday to get the best rates. Also, if you are not planning on attending, avoid visiting during York Race Meetings at all costs. Advance warning should also be given on the habit of some accommodation to insist on minimum two-night stays over weekends. Culprits practising this are mentioned in their individual listing found on the York Things to do page.
  • Public toilets are scattered throughout the city centre, though ‘spending a penny’ is not what it used to be - the most central facilities on Silver Street currently charge 40p. For free public conveniences, head to either the walls opposite St. Leonard’s Place, Castlegate, close to the Hilton York or the Nunnery Lane Car Park for free.
  • If you are taken ill or are the victim of a minor accident and you can make it, head to the NHS Walk-In Centre, (31 Monkgate, York, YO31 7WA; +44 1904 725 401. Daily 8am-6pm).
  • The people of York are some of the friendliest folk on earth so don’t be afraid to ask for advice.