How To Plan a York Day Trip from London

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by Maggie Turansky

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Planning a York day trip from London is one of the best ways to get away from the capital city and to see more of England while not taking a huge amount of town out of your already packed itinerary.

This historic walled city in the north of England is the perfect place to get out and explore for a day and, though it may seem quite far, it is actually within easy reach from London.

If you’re interested in visiting this city and you’re curious about how to spend one day in York, you’ll be pleased to discover that there are lots of things to do! From walking along to the city walls to gazing in awe at one of Northern Europe’s largest gothic cathedrals, York has a ton to offer visitors and its compact nature makes it ideal for a day trip.

How to Get to York from London

There are several ways to get to York from London for a day trip including train, car, bus or guided tour!

By Train

Getting from London to York by train is the easiest, quickest and most straightforward way to get to the city from the British capital.

There are several trains that leave from London Kings Cross Station per day and the journey time takes about two hours. This means that if you leave London early in the morning and return in the evening you can have a full day to explore and enjoy York.

Train tickets in the UK can be quite expensive, however, you will be able to get a much lower price if you book tickets as far in advance as possible.

York Train Station is a short walk from the city centre.

View of the York Minster from the City Walls
View of the York Minster from the City Walls

By Car

Another viable option for getting to York for a day trip is to go by car. The drive from London to York takes about three hours and the majority of it is along one main motorway (the A1).

While you certainly do not need to have a car in London or in York, driving can give you more flexibility to make some stops along the way and not be at the mercy of train timetables.

If you need to rent a car while in England, we suggest browsing This platform aggregates car hire prices across major companies to ensure that you get a great deal on your rental car.

By Guided Tour

If you want to spend one day in York on a guided tour, you have a few options available, but most will require you to get to York on your own first, though there is this full-day tour that includes train tickets.

If you can’t spend all day on your feet, for instance, you may be interested in a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city.

Alternatively, you can see the city centre on your own two feet on this guided walking tour or by bicycle on this guided cycling tour.

There are also some themed tours you can take like this Harry Potter tour and this evening tour of York.

If you’re a fan of getting out on the water, then you’re sure to enjoy this cruise on the River Ouse which allows you to see a different side of York from the city’s main waterway.

By Bus

Travelling in the UK by bus is typically a lot less expensive than travelling by train and the same is true for the bus from London to York, however, it is also a lot longer of a journey. In fact, it is basically impossible to do a day trip to York from London via bus.

There are a number of buses that leave from London Victoria Coach Station per day, but the journey takes about 6-7 hours one way.

So the bus is really only a good option to visit York if you want to go for more than a day trip. Like with the train, however, it is also possible (and recommended!) to book your tickets in advance.

Exploring York by Foot
Exploring York by Foot

York Day Trip Itinerary

Now that you’ve figured out how to get to the city, it’s time to plan out how to spend one day in York!

The city has a lot to offer visitors and it is compact and easy to navigate. However, we recommend following the order listed here as it is laid out with efficiency in mind.

Also, if you’re planning on visiting a lot of paid attractions in York, it can work out to be well worth it to invest in the York City Pass. This sightseeing pass gives you access to 25 different attractions in York including the York Minster and the JORVIK Viking Centre, among many others.

Museum Gardens

Begin your 1 day in York itinerary at the Museum Gardens, lovely botanical gardens in the centre of the city situated on the banks of the River Ouse. These gardens are lush and lovely to stroll through, but the real highlight is the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey.

At one point the richest abbey in Northern England, this ruined Benedictine abbey was originally established in 1088 and grew to prominence over nearly five centuries until it was disestablished in 1529.

Though the site is ruined now, it is impossible not to gaze in wonder here at what was once a site of grandeur and it allows one to really appreciate just how deeply historic the city of York really is.

Entry into the Museum Gardens is free, as are the grounds surrounding the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey.

Ruins of St Mary's Abbey
Ruins of St Mary’s Abbey

York Minster

Officially known as the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York, the York Minster is one of the top attractions in the city and it isn’t hard to see why.

This imposing Gothic cathedral is one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe and it is a truly spectacular building, complete with incredible facades and gorgeous stained glass.

Steeped in history, the cathedral was completed 1472, however, it took several centuries to construct it. Today, it is the seat of the Archbishop of York, which is the third-highest ranking office in the Church of England, after the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Queen.

You can tour the York Minster and admire its interior Monday through Sunday, but keep in mind that there are reduced hours on Sundays due to worship.

Entry fees are £18 for adults, with discounts available for students with a valid ID. Children under 16 enter free. Entry into the cathedral is included on the York Pass.

The back of the York Minster
The back of the York Minster

City Walls

From the York Minster, it’s time to enjoy another activity that is iconic in York, and that is walking along the city walls! York boasts the longest intact walls of any city in England and no visit to this historic northern city would be complete without seeing the city from its former borders.

Originally constructed under Roman rule in the year 71 CE, the walls have been damaged, repaired, added to, and restored for countless centuries since then.

Walking along the city walls gives visitors a perspective on just how old York is and how much this historic city has seen as well as some fantastic views of the city.

Entry onto the city walls is free of charge.

Walking York's City Walls
Walking York’s City Walls

The Shambles

From the city walls, it’s time to venture into the old city of York and to take in one of the most historic and beautiful streets in the centre, The Shambles.

This street — which is reminiscent of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter (though there is no confirmation that this is where the inspiration was drawn from) — is so-called because it used to be York’s meatpacking district. Shambles is an old term for an open-air slaughterhouse.

Today, the street is packed with boutique shops and tourists and it looks absolutely magical. With overhanding windows and a winding quality, it looks quintessentially English and it is the perfect place to snap a number of photos.

If you’ve worked up an appetite after all of your sightseeing thus far, consider grabbing a bite to eat at the Shambles Market.

This street market is open seven days a week and has numerous food trucks and local artisan stands to browse through. It’s a great place for a unique and affordable lunch!

Shambles Market
Shambles Market

York Castle Museum

After you’ve satiated yourself at the Shambles Market or have grabbed a bite of lunch elsewhere in the city (York is full of quaint and cosy pubs!), it’s time to head to the York Castle Museum.

If being in this city has prompted you to want to learn more about its vast and fascinating history, then this is the perfect stop for you.

Located at the site of the former York Castle, which was built by William the Conqueror in 1068, this museum is perhaps most famous for its Kirkgate: Victorian Street exhibition.

This exhibit is a historically accurate recreation of what a typical street in York would have looked like during the Victorian era of the 19th century, complete with actors and shop fronts.

The museum has a lot more to offer than just that, however, and has countless exhibits that cover the history of York from its founding to the present day.

Like most state-run museums in the UK, entry into the York Castle Museum is free of charge.

Clifford’s Tower

From the York Castle Museum, it’s time to head to one of the most iconic landmarks in York, Clifford’s Tower.

Once the keep of the York Castle, this monumental tower was originally constructed in 1068 following the Norman Conquest of York by William the Conqueror, however, it has been reconstructed many times since.

Clifford’s Tower has a dark and troubling history and it is perhaps most infamously known for being the site of the 1190 Jewish Massacre, where 150 Jewish residents of York tragically lost their lives in a pogrom. From the mid-18th century until 1929, the tower was used as a prison.

Entry into Clifford’s Tower costs £8.50 for an adult ticket, with discounts available for students, children and seniors.

Clifford's Tower in York
Clifford’s Tower

JORVIK Viking Centre

And finally on this York day trip itinerary comes one of the top attractions for children (and the young at heart), the JORVIK Viking Centre!

This fascinating museum sits atop 10th-century Viking ruins that were excavated in York in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Since then, the museum has recreated what York would have been like during that time and, at the museum, you can take a ride through a typically Viking-era York and feel as if you’ve been transported back in time, all while learning more about the diverse history of this fascinating city.

Adult entry into the JORVIK Viking Centre is £15 for adults, with discounts available for students with a valid ID, children and seniors. Entry is also included on the York Pass.

Have 2 or 3 Days in York?

If you have loved your day trip to York so much that you would rather spend more time in the city, you will not be disappointed.

Though most of the tourist sites and attractions in the city can be seen in just one day, there are some spots like the York Dungeon and the York Chocolate Story that can be visited if you have more time.

Alternatively, there is so much to see in surrounding Yorkshire that you will not regret spending longer in York.

For instance, nature loves and Brontë fans alike will delight in a visit to the hauntingly beautiful Yorkshire Dales National Park. This is a great independent day trip from York (especially if you have your own vehicle), however, you can also visit on this guided day tour.

If you want to see another of Northern England’s most noteworthy national parks, then you absolutely cannot go wrong with visiting the Lake District, which is also within easy reach from York, though a bit further than the Dales.

And if you want to explore some more towns of Yorkshire and venture out, then consider going on this day tour. This is a great way to experience more of Yorkshire without having to deal with the public transit system. You can also easily visit all of these places independently.

York Theatre
You can also catch a show at the York Theatre if you stay the night

Where to Stay in York

If you’ve decided that you want to experience York as more than just a day trip, then you’re going to want to find the perfect place to rest your head.

The Queens Hotel — If you’re looking for a quaint and classy boutique hotel, this is a great option. They have a range of comfortable rooms available, a central location, and an option to include a fantastic breakfast in the nightly rate.

The Grand, York — If you’re looking to add a bit of luxury to your stay in York, then this is the hotel for you. Centrally located within easy walking distance of all of the city’s top attractions, they have countless plush rooms available, a luxurious spa on site and numerous other amenities that will make your stay a great one.

Astor York — Perfect for budget and solo travellers, this is one of the highest-rated hostels in York. Located about ten minutes walking from the historic centre, they have a range of both dorm and private rooms available and great self-catering facilities.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more York hotels!

Banks of the River Ouse
Banks of the River Ouse

Planning a York day trip from London doesn’t have to be a difficult task as the city is compact and easy to navigate yet has so much to offer visitors. If you’re interested in seeing a historic and different side of England away from the capital, you can’t go wrong with a visit to this city!

Are you trying to see York in a day? Have you visited the city before? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

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