York is a fantastic city and a great place to live, as you’ll quickly learn being here. One of the best things about it, without a doubt, is its pub scene. It’s an often recited fact that there’s more pubs in York than there are days of the year – so get it on your bucket list that you’ve got to try out each and every one during your three years here.
If spending your time in the company of sweaty, pissed-up clubbers whilst listening to Avicii’s latest hit isn’t your idea of a good time, then there’s a metric tonne of different places to go out in these parts. Here, we take a look at ten of the best…
10. The Burns Hotel
This pub is full of tradition and character, in the heart of the city centre. It was known as the Hansom Cab up until last year, when it was refurbished and has now switched back to its original name (to be honest, we’re still calling it the Cab. Old habits and all that). ‘The Burns’ is a Samuel Smith’s pub, which is a cracking traditional brewery based in Tadcaster which produces fantastic ales. Sammy Smiths is a name you’ll be acquainted with in York as they’ve got a number of pubs throughout the city. It’s also really cheap, which is a nice bonus.
9. The Phoenix Inn
If you’re looking for a proper old-fashioned, welcoming local pub then go no further than The Phoenix. It’s tucked away just inside the City Walls, and it’s a great place to go in the depths of winter when the rain is lashing down and it’s bloody freezing. There’s no fruit machines, no crap pop music and a roaring open fire in the winter months. They serve ‘real’ drinks in here, so don’t do what a visiting mate of mine did and order a ‘Steamboat Cocktail’. We’d have to hurt you.
8. The King’s Arms
The Kings’ is another Sammy Smiths pub, which serves a huge range of ales that happen to be really, really cheap. That’s great for the wallet, but not so kind on the liver. It’s on the banks of the River Ouse, and it’s known as ‘the pub that floods’ because it spends a good couple of months every year under water when the river bursts. But when it is actually open, it’s quite good.
7. The Rook & Gaskill
It’s only a small place, but the Rook & Gaskill on Lawrence Street is well worth a trip out. It’s named after the last two people to be hanged at St. Leonard’s Gallows. (Lovely, isn’t it?) It recently came under new ownership and there’s a cracking selection of drinks behind the bar. They do live music at weekends too, which is ace. Don’t sing along though. Please.
6. The Rose & Crown
Also on Lawrence Street (having lived here, there’s very little but pubs and a nunnery, to be honest), the Rose & Crown is a great pub for a swift pint after a hard day’s work doing bugger all with your time. It was refurbished last year, and it’s been done in a classy way. There’s a good selection of bottled beers to choose from, or there’s also the standard lagers if you like drinking stuff that tastes like cat piss. The food is good, and the best thing about this place is their live music, including an open mic night.
5. Ye Olde Starre Inne
Hidden away down a little alley on Stonegate in the centre of York, this place is great. It’s a good place to go for a quiet drink and they also serve decent food. It’s not the cheapest place to drink in York, but it’s not stupidly expensive either. They also have live music on sometimes, and not the sort that makes you want to scratch your eyes out, thankfully. It’s got a sign that stretches across the road above, and everyone knows that’s the sign of a cracking pub. It’s a good job really, or you’d never know it’s there!
4. The Hop
This is a bit of an unconventional one, but I think it’s well worth its place on this list. The Hop only opened last year, and it’s not actually a traditional pub like the ones above. It’s actually an ale house and pizzeria. Need I say more? Ale and pizza together. Heaven. It’s certainly not a place to go for a quiet one, on the basis that it’s always bloody heaving. They also have live music, and there’s a great unplugged atmosphere because the artists are so close to the punters. It’s a great night out in there.
3. Lendal Cellars
As the name suggests, this place is in a cellar on Lendal. It’s a cracking place to go for really nice food and a few drinks, especially in the summer months, with the dining area downstairs in the cellar area. It also has Sky Sports, so the football and rugby is on at weekends, and it’s reasonably priced, which is always a decent bonus on a student budget. With its brick walls and different areas to sit, there’s a quirky sort of feel that you don’t find in many places. You also can’t get phone signal, so you get a bit of peace and quiet in the company of people that you actually like.
Another place that is a little bit outside the box, there’s no other place quite like Pivni in York. It’s a world beer freehouse, meaning it’s got a large choice of cask ales and bottles from all over the world. Seating is upstairs, with an American diner sort of style where the seating stretches around tables and there’s low-hanging lights. That’s where the similarities end with America though, because the alcohol is actually nice. The down side is that it’s quite expensive, but it’s a brilliant place to visit once in a while, especially if you’re feeling like a heavy night.
1. Trembling Madness
This place, also known as Delirium Tremens, is in my opinion, the best pub in York, and probably the best pub I’ve ever been in. Downstairs is the shop, selling a huge selection of bottled ales, beers, wines and spirits, and an equally-as-big choice of glasses. Then upstairs, the pub, which is fantastic. You can’t swing a cat but it’s bursting with character like no other place; there’s all sorts of stuffed animal heads on the walls. There’s a huge open fire, and their selection of ales and ciders is really excellent, which is what makes it. And the food is amazing too. A lot of the ales have an extremely high percentage, so you can easily get absolutely rat-arsed on three pints. That then poses a challenge when trying to navigate the stairs…
Because it’s so small, Trembling Madness can only fit a handful of people, so don’t steal the seats in mid-week. There’ll be trouble if us grumpy third years can’t fit. It is very pricey in there – two pints will set you back nearly a tenner – but it’s a great place to have a pint of something a bit different.
On a serious note, there is an alcohol exclusion zone within the City Walls of York nowadays, so don’t drink alcohol in the streets. It’s worth adding as well not to take this as a definitive list. There are literally hundreds of pubs in York that are brilliant, and they’re all worth visiting at some stage.
Either way, there’s no doubt that there’s few places better than York to grab a pint and some grub. We do things proper up North.