York by Day


Let’s face it – at some point, you will definitely need to escape the bubble of campus life at York. The 60s concrete, dirty lake and evil black swans do certainly have their charms but there’s a whole other world out there down the road from Vanbrugh Palace, not least when there is an essay to be avoided. So when you do stumble out of campus, wide-eyed in shock at seeing people older than 22, here is a quick guide to what York and the surrounding area has to entertain the procrastinating student during the day.

“Oh, York, it’s a lovely place!” is the ever-common refrain when one’s chosen university is mentioned to people of a certain age. Indeed it is. Unfortunately, legions of tourists have also come to appreciate this, and thus it is wise not to rock up to town’s main attractions on a Saturday and expect immediate entry. The Minster is York’s most impressive landmark, and entry is free with your student card – students from other universities are forced to pay. Unsurprisingly, the history of York is exploited to a heavy degree for the tourists, with the Castle Museum, Jorvik Viking Centre and the York Dungeons all being popular. You can also visit the Shambles (apparently the oldest medieval street in the UK), go ice skating on the outdoor rink before Christmas, walk the walls, go on a Ghost Tour, visit Clifford’s Tower (or perhaps just roll down it naked like our new YUSU President apparently did once) or go for afternoon tea at Betty’s (bring parents or a rich friend to foot the bill if you don’t want to kiss goodbye to the loan before the end of Freshers’ Week; the scones are pretty pricey).

For those who find cultural nourishment in the acquisition of a bargain from the sales rather than even attempting anything more high-brow, the town centre provides the usual high street shops, albeit with the lack of a Primark. Head there during the week and you can have a nice huge Topshop almost to yourself, which makes a £3,000 fee for five hours contact time a week almost seem like a good thing. You can also venture further to Monks’ Cross for similar things, although it’s a bit of a trek, especially if you don’t have the good fortune to make friends with someone with a car (Halifax is good for this one thing only). Over this way is also Clifton Moor, which has a Vue cinema. York itself has a City Screen, making it much more accessible for the standard student, but with prices to match and a relatively small capacity, it cannot always be relied upon for the most popular of films.

Day trips to the seaside are certainly within the realm of possibility (cue excitement), with various coastal resorts being roughly an hour away on the train. Scarborough is good for a fill of arcades and other rather tacky shenanigans, but does have a decent-sized beach, whereas Whitby is geared towards the more elderly of seasiders. Harrogate and Skipton are also within reach, but the bright lights of Leeds are probably the most obvious destination. With a Harvey Nichols and various other designer shops and general city vibe with everyone rushing about doings lots all at once, it’s a nice little excursion if the relatively sedate York ever seems a bit claustrophobic.

Alternatively, you could just stay in halls and do that essay. But we didn’t come to university to work, did we?

(Betty’s photo by HeyWayne – Creative Commons BY-NC-SA)

One comment

  1. For cinemas, don’t forget the old Odeon cinema on Blossom Street (past the station on the south side of the river) which closed 3 years ago has been reopened as the Reel Cinema – mainstream films for less than City Screen all week, no Orange Weds but £3 all day Mon and Fri.

    Also, Whitby is lovely especially if you visit the Abbey and Castle (if that’s your thing), but I would mostly recommend Knareborough, just this side of Harrogate – on a fine day, there’s nothing like it. For exploring the Moors and the Dales, the Outdoor Soc is a good springboard to get inspired, I went for the first couple of terms and then made my own way around after that.

    You also didn’t mention my one major gripe about exploring York (especially for getting to Clifton Moor or Monk’s Cross, or the Designer Outlet at Fulford which you missed out) – the First buses are inadequate and a rip-off and the staff are rude, so avoid if at all possible.

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