Spend a weekend in York, England

Spend a weekend in York, England

Vikings, Romans, breweries, a wonderful cathedral – it’s all on the table for a weekend in York adventure.

Want more things to do in York England?

Think churches, chocolate factories, innovative old schools, mansions, museums, trains, rivers, castle ruins, history, and haunted hotels in York!

Spend a weekend in York, England

York is one of those extraordinary cities in England. York is romantic, like Bath. And full of history, like Hastings.

Anyone who has been to York in England knows there’s plenty of cool things to do here. It’s a charming northern English city, and I’m definitely glad to have stopped by, even if just for a weekend.

York England, is a perfect weekend trip from London

We wanted an adventure outside of London. York is feasible being that trains take only a couple of hours between the cities.

The journey ends as it did from around 1841, at the beautiful York transit centre. Incidentally, also revealed to us as the largest Roman burial area in York.

While just two hours between London and York today, back in the 1800s the train journey took 14 hours! I wonder how long it was originally between some of our other favourite destinations accessible by train, like Northampton or Kent?

Things to do in York: getting around

We’d recommend booking tickets for the big red bus ‘hop on hop off’ tour.

Just £10 each (at time of writing), with a stop right outside the train station, this proved to be an effective and informative orientation to the city for a pair of wanderers short on time.

Exploring all the things there are to do in York over a weekend

For just £7 more we also enjoyed an hour-long river expedition, worthwhile given the city’s former prominence as a major port of trade.

Weekend in York: what you’ll learn

Throughout the day we learned about the old Tudor building, The King’s Manor, where many a monarch has stayed. Legend has it that Anne Boleyn walks through the courtyard in the evenings, head in her arms.

Old Roman and medieval walls and ruins surround the small city, standing testament to centuries of intriguing history, dating back beyond even 2000 years ago when York held as a Roman fortress.

Explore Tudor York during your weekend away

Coming into contemporary times (by comparison), several closed-in windows were pointed out to us, still remaining barred from when the land owners refused to pay a new tax on sunlight in the eighteenth century. It’s where the term ‘daylight robbery’ comes from.

The famous Gothic York Minster Cathedral – one of the biggest of its kind in northern Europe – is of course beautiful, and stands as the tallest building in these parts.

York is traditionally a very religious city, evidenced by many churches.

We were told of a local saying that dates back hundreds of years:

“You can go to a different church every week and different pub every night”

…because both types of establishments are plentiful within the small space.

York walls - travellivelearn.com

Haunted hotels in York

Appropriately, we dined for lunch at The Red Lion pub, allegedly the oldest and most haunted pub in the area! 👻

There are – by many accounts – lots of haunted hotels in York.

The Red Lion’s owner Becci Turner turned out to be a lovely young Aussie (we are everywhere!).

She verified “strange happenings” for the first few months after she took up lodging upstairs at the pub. But, she said it has all settled. They’ve “come to an understanding”.

Shopping and exploring

We discovered many carvery shops and even old cobblestone lanes that used to be filled with butchers stores (mostly now tourist shops); meat was big business around here.

Even more amusing were the delectable (to non-Vegans of course) looking meat stores on the old Viking Street of ‘The coopers/wood and barrel workers’ – how appropriate, Cooper does love his meat!

There was another pub called Cooper’s Place – evidently  ‘coopers’ (barrel and tub makers) were very important to the Vikings and also residents throughout medieval times.

Ruins in York - there's plenty of things to see and find on your weekend away

Can’t go past a bit of history in amongst beer and a bite to eat.

Aside from churches and pubs there are many amazing Viking exhibitions and museums, Roman wall walks and all sorts of cool events on year-round in York. Set yourself up with a schedule before visiting.

It’s quite extraordinary, being from Australia, and wandering the streets of cities that exist amongst fascinating historical ruins and relics. I do somewhat envy those locals who probably take it all for granted.

Caves in a shopping centre? Who knew!

Caves in a shopping centre? Who knew!

I type this rather wearily as we make our way back towards London from Nottingham on the M11, but am happy to report that yet another long awaited ‘to do’ has been fulfilled.

Mates Nicole and Iain, along with Cooper and I drove out for a weekend of  swashbuckling adventure on Friday night. Iain had actually gone to University in Nottingham, so offered to be tour guide. Turns out that Nottingham is a city that’s easy to get around on foot, and I’d probably liken its size to somewhere like Townsville (Queensland) although the CBD has more contemporary buildings and facilities like Brisbane (Queensland). We scored a cheap deal on a terrific and sizable two-bedroom apartment at Premier Apartments Nottingham which is perfectly situated for a weekend of sight-seeing.

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After breakfast on Saturday morning we ventured out through the still quiet main street mall towards Nottingham Castle. There is a cool statue of Robin Hood at the foot of the entrance way, along with some plaques providing historical details, and a couple of old medieval homes and pubs in the same area. The castle itself is beautiful, very romantic architecture surrounded by lovely sweeping gardens, but aside from some old gates, rocks and doorways, the structure there now was actually rebuilt about 200 years ago (following a fire), so there’s not much chance Robin stepped foot inside.

The intriguing thing about Nottingham is its underground caves and tunnels. Around the castle and all throughout the city we notice the familiar rock and stone evidence of where people may have disappeared underground, down alleyways, next to old churches and public inns. Looping back into town via Maid Marian Way (love it!), we ventured into the now bustling shopping district, took a look around the area known as The Lace Market (an industry the city was famous for) and enjoyed a coffee at Carluccio’s before being directed towards The City of Caves Tour– which is hosted from the top floor of the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre!

The City of Caves Tour takes visitors on a small underground adventure for a taste of how people used to live and work under the city. The labyrinth of tunnels has been used for over 750 years for everything from smuggling illegal cargo, as the only underground tannery in the UK, as a bomb shelter for up to 30,000 people during WW2, as a lovers’ hideaway and as accommodation for the very unfortunate.

For those of you who like a spot shopping on your weekends away, there’s plenty of options here as you walk your way through two primary shopping malls, a vast ‘high street’ equivalent of open mall shopping with the usual M&S, Accessorize, New Look, French Connection etc. as well as numerous independent stores and eateries located down charming old side streets and winding alleys. Wear comfortable shoes here though – Nottingham is quite hilly.

All this exploring had made us hungry and thirsty, so by the time Saturday night rolled around it was time to let our hair down and search for the vibrant night life that makes this university town tick.

There’s no shortage of brilliant restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs and cafes in Nottingham, so we were lucky to have guidance on some fun options. We’d dined at Jamie Oliver’s lovely contemporary Italian restaurant for lunch (I had actually Tweeted about the good service and food and was re-tweeted by a ‘London buzz’ group which was cool), so decided to start ‘old-school’ in the evening – Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. The oldest pub (inn) in England is located quite close to the castle and is even nestled into some of the caves. If you are early and really lucky, you may score a booth within one of the cave structures in the pub. Unfortunately by the time we arrived ‘The Trip’ was already brimming with Saturday night revellers. Nonetheless, it is surreal to be drinking in a bar so old, and I was interested to learn that its name derives from way back when soldiers were leaving for the Crusades, this would be their last stop for a rest (otherwise known as a ‘trip’) before leaving for war.

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Moving on for dinner, we realised it would have been clever to book somewhere. Our party had expanded to 7, so we chose to pursue a ‘buffet’ option. An original choice that we happened across looked amazing but being new and popular it was evidently impossible to get in. We then headed towards a cinema and dining precinct called the Corner House

, which offers options like TGI Fridays, Wagamama, Mexican and Chinese. While waiting to dine at the Chinese buffet (which turned out to be quite nice, although lacked options for the vegetarian diners among us) we popped up to the top floor where there was a lovely cocktail bar, Saltwater, with an outdoor terrace lit up by fairy lights and boasting a sparkling view of the city and The Wheel of Nottingham (like London Eye). Very nice – definitely stop here.

Over the next couple of hours we stopped in at The Canal House (funky bar on the water with a small bridge and canal through the middle) and the fabulous Pitcher & Piano club set within an old church. Other spots of interest are also the chic Brass Monkey bar and Nottingham Contemporary art gallery, bar and cafe – all within comfortable walking distance, although if you don’t have a guide carry a map with you.

As someone who has always loved the romantic mythology and stories surrounding Robin Hood, his merry men and of course Maid Marian, I was particularly excited to be venturing out to the famous Sherwood Forest, about a half hour’s drive from Nottingham. The countryside becomes green, dotted with horses, lambs and beautiful old estate and farming homes. Childlike excitement rises as I see the signs into the heritage area – not only is it historically significant because of folklore but this forest contains some of the oldest trees in the UK. We stopped on the edge of Sherwood Forest where there is a Visitor Information Centre brimming with books, gift souvenirs, a Robin Hood museum + exhibition (complete with Hollywood photo wall featuring Kevin Costner hehe), restaurant/coffee stop and many other points of interest that explain the stories, history and significance of the area. The park itself is alive with visitors as well as locals and their dogs – walking, enjoying family barbecues, exploring and kids playing ‘bows and arrows’ (when in Rome…).

All in all, a lovely weekend had by all. Nottingham offers contemporary pleasures along with medieval marvels all within a friendly, clean and well-kept city space.

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Brighton’s beachside charm

Brighton’s beachside charm

As the evening train sailed down the southern route from London towards the sea, all I could see was stark white snow lumped atop cars, buildings and air planes (all ground to a halt at Gatwick Airport). It was only 4.30pm mind you, but dark already; and snow had just fallen heavily from the sky. Britain was about to be shut down again because of the big white, but we did manage to make it to our seaside weekend escape, and our very first visit to famous Brighton.

The salty sea air was evident from the moment we stepped out of the train station: a change from industrious London. Brighton is hillier and larger than we had expected, bustling with bright lights and activity – the abundance of chic shops, clubs and eateries obvious and exhilarating.

I jumped excitedly out of the cab as it stopped on the Brighton esplanade outside The Thistle Hotel. Opposite me, sprawled over the ocean that I could hear but not see in the dark, was the romantic spectacle of lights illuminating Brighton Pier through snow-hazed cloud. It was a cold but charming experience, and especially nice for this coastal Aussie girl to be near the ocean again.

Stepping into the lobby of The Thistle (recommended to us because of its proximity opposite the ocean and to almost everything you would want to do in the city) my fiancé and I shared a knowing grin – this looked nice!

The hotel, its facilities and service were superb, offering a fabulous and friendly escape from London, and a walking base to everywhere of interest. Check thistle.com before you travel for excellent deals on accommodation, dining and seasonal events.



By far one of the most unique attractions of Brighton is ‘The Lanes’, a contemporary twist on the back streets of ‘old Blighty’. Once the heart of the fishing town of Brighthelmstone, Brighton Lanes’ historic quarter is a fabulous maze of twisting alleyways showcasing wonderful little stores (designer fashion, jewellery, antiques, pet couture, homewares), coffee shops, restaurants and pubs. Even if you don’t stay overnight in Brighton, go shopping here for a day and experience the best of old world merged with new.



As self-confessed foodies, we were in heaven in Brighton. There’s so much to choose from (fine dining, comedy clubs, tapas bars, international cuisine, pubs, diners…) that it’s difficult to know where to start (and stop) but we would recommend two discoveries, both located in Brighton’s Lanes, not too far from the ocean front.

We found The Mesmerist (Prince Albert Street, Brighton) to be a large, clean, cosy pub with a nice selection of seating, beers and food. It’s described as being an “absinthe inspired wonderland of the weird and burlesque,” and is a perfect spot to sit, indulge in a wine, listen to some music and watch shoppers pass by outside. Conversely, Street Thai (Brighton Square) is smaller, quite modern but very well priced. The food and cocktails here were delicious and I look forward to going back for another Massaman Curry.



A trip to Brighton would not be the same if you missed a stroll on the famous Brighton Pier. We were blessed with sun over our weekend in Brighton, and even though it was cold, there’s something enchanting about wandering around a pier like this, with its ice-cream stalls, game arcade, amusement rides, bar and restaurants overlooking the ocean. Brighton Pier is open all year unless weather is extreme, and photos reflect the epitome of what we all imagine is the quintessential English beach side city scene.

Simply wandering throughout the city and along the esplanade will inspire the photographer within, as landmarks like The Brighton Dome, Royal Pavilion or any number of streets and buildings dating back offer glimpses into Art Deco, Regency or Victorian periods.

It’s easy to see the allure of this charming city by the sea – endlessly entertaining regardless of the weather, and well worth a wander if you’re trekking to this part of the globe.