Do you fancy a romantic weekend in York? This ancient North Yorkshire city is packed with historical sites to explore. It has all the oldy-worldly cobbled streets, delicious food, and fabulous places to stay you could ask for. It’s also easy to reach by direct train from London; it’s compact and super easy to explore on foot. With such a variety of romantic things to do in York, it’s the perfect place for a couples break in the UK.
The first thing you’ll notice when you visit York, England, is the perfectly preserved 13th-century city walls that almost completely encircle the city. Within the walls, you’ll discover a fascinating warren of ginnels and snickelways (narrow streets), quirky buildings and funny place names, like Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate (the shortest road in the city).
At every turn, you’ll see evidence of York’s turbulent history, from settlement by the Romans to the Viking invasion and many battles since. And the one building that you can’t ignore is the soaring Gothic cathedral – York Minster, which dominates the skyline.
To help you plan the best itinerary and make the most of your York romantic getaway, here is a roundup of the ultimate things to do in York for couples.
The best things to do in York for couples
1 – Visit York Minster
York Minster is the largest of all gothic cathedrals north of the Alps and the most iconic building in the city. The towers stretch high from almost every street, and you’ll probably hear the impressive bells too.
The minister is the ideal place to retreat from the bustle of the city streets and explore as a couple.
According to local legend, the one thing romantic couples must do when visiting York Minster is kiss beneath the Great West Window. The window is also known as the “Heart of Yorkshire”, thanks to the delicate heart-shaped stone tracery. The legend says that couples who kiss under the window will stay together forever.
Top Tip: Get to the Minster early and book the “tower tour”. The rooftop views from the top of the tower are unmissable!
2- Rent a little red boat on the River Ouse
Nip along to York City Cruises if you fancy renting a self-driving boat to putter along the River Ouse together.
It’s an idyllic and very romantic way to spend an hour taking in beautiful views of the Museum Gardens and the Minster.
3 – Get a fright on a Ghost Walk
York has a reputation as the most haunted city in Europe. Taking a walking ghost tour is one of the best things to do in York at night. What better excuse could you have to hold hands, snuggle up tight with your partner, and sneak a cuddle in the spooky streets after dark?
4 – Discover the York Chocolate Story
The York Chocolate Story is the perfect museum to visit if you love social history and have a sweet tooth.
While nearby Leeds and Bradford prospered during the Industrial Revolution because of the wool trade, York owes much of its success to chocolate! The York Chocolate takes you on a fascinating journey through the history of chocolate and how York became such a powerhouse in chocolate production, employing tens of thousands of people. As part of the tour, you can create a romantic chocolate treat for each other.
5 – Climb Clifford’s Tower
York Castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068, but only one part remains today. Clifford’s Tower is an imposing stone building perched high on a mound where it overlooks the city. It’s one of York’s best-loved landmarks.
The most romantic thing to do is climb right to the top of the tower and take a selfie with the beautiful panoramic view of the city as your background. It’s a beautiful spot to capture memories as a couple.
6 – The National Railway Museum
Railways have long been linked to romantic stories from meeting loved ones under station clocks to steam train journeys. The fabulous National Railway Museum has famous steam trains to explore, including one used by Queen Victoria – and you pose under the museum’s own station clock! It’s one of the most popular places to visit in York and it’s completely free!
7 – The Shambles
The city’s atmospheric streets are perfect for a stroll. You’ll definitely want to try some incredibly romantic walks in York.
The Shambles is one of the most recognizable spots in York. A picture-postcard medieval street with overhanging timber-framed buildings dating back to the fourteenth century, The Shambles is perfect for a romantic stroll and a great place to find a bite to eat.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, pick up “his and hers” matching broomsticks or wizarding wands from the famous Harry Potter shop on your walk.
Top Tip: The best time to visit The Shambles is before 9am, so you can experience the magic of the Shambles without the tourist masses.
8 – Walk York City Walls
There are more miles of intact Medieval wall in York than in any other city in England, and you make a complete circuit of the city in about two hours. Alternatively, walk just one section of the walls to enjoy the splendid city views.
Top Tip: For the most romantic experience, join the walls at one of the “bars” or ancient gatehouses at dusk, just before the walls close, as they will be less busy, and you’ll see the city bathed in the light of the golden hour before sunset.
9 – Museum Gardens
Museum Gardens is a peaceful hidden gem right in the city centre, with the spectacular ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and a lovely park. It’s the ideal location for a romantic picnic and a very popular spot for perfect Instagram shots.
10 – Take a romantic riverside stroll
11 – Capture romantic moments
Hire a local photographer (or ask a passing local) to capture lovely images of your romantic trip to York. There are so many great places you’ll want to share on Instagram! One of the most popular spots is on the city walls, with the Minster in the background.
Romantic places to eat in York
Here are the loveliest places to enjoy a romantic meal in York to round off your visit.
12 – Concierge by Lucia
If you’re looking for the ultimate romantic private meal during your visit to York, the concierge service from the highly-rated Lucia Wine Bar is perfect, with lots of extra touches to help you celebrate in style.
13 – Betty’s Tea Rooms
Betty’s Tea Rooms is York’s most romantic dining experience and THE place to enjoy a delectable afternoon tea! The beloved tea rooms opened in 1936, with stunning interiors inspired by the elegance of the luxury Queen Mary ocean liner. You should expect to queue for a table, but the romantic silver service afternoon tea in this unique setting will be well worth the wait.
Top Tip: If you don’t want to queue, you can book a table for afternoon tea in the very “posh” Belmont Room.
14 – Evening River Cruise and Dinner
Board a cruise boat for a romantic meal while watching the city sail by. You’ll pass Bishopthorpe Palace, the residence of the Archbishop of York and pick up fascinating facts about the history of York.
Top Tip: As most cruises last around two and a half hours and the temperature does drop as the sun sets, don’t forget to take a warm layer with you!
More romantic things to do in the York area.
15 – Step Back in Time at Castle Howard
A grand stately home used as one of the main locations for the Brideshead Revisited movie, Castle Howard is the perfect place for a romantic stroll through immaculate gardens after a fascinating house tour.
Castle Howard is beautiful all year round, but it becomes an enchanting winter wonderland if you decide to visit York at Christmas.
16 – Picnic in a Yorkshire Vineyard
The award-winning Yorkshire Heart Vineyard is only a 30-minute drive from York city centre, through glorious countryside.
The vineyard is an idyllic “away from it all” location for a romantic picnic between the vines. The afternoon tea is delicious, and you’re sure to want to go home with a bottle or two of their outstanding wine!
17 – Take A Trip to Hogwart’s Station
Deep in the North York Moors, you can visit the historic station at Goathland, which is world-famous as Hogwarts Station! It’s also the best place to board the North York Moors heritage railway for a scenic trip to the gorgeous coastal town of Whitby.
Where to stay in York for a romantic trip
Why not extend your visit and stay in one of the city’s fine hotels? Here are some best places to stay in the York city center.
The Grand Spa Hotel is grand by name and by nature. If you’re looking to relax in a luxury 5-star hotel and spa in a beautiful historic building, this is just what you need after a busy day. It’s an idyllic spot to enjoy a special celebration or to treat your loved one.
Another great option is the Judges Court. This four-story 18th-century townhouse is the ideal hotel for couples wanting a quiet retreat. It’s centrally located, and the individually designed bedrooms are beautifully appointed with bespoke furniture, deep Georgian colors, original paneling, and polished wood. It is perfect for couples keen to explore York sights before settling for a cozy night.
How to Travel to York, England
If you are planning a trip around England with a romantic stop in York, check out this guide about the cost of traveling in the UK. You’ll find good info and precious money-saving tips.
How to get around York
From York station, you can walk to the city center in around 10-15 minutes. The best way to explore the city is on foot or by bike, and you can rent a bike from just outside of the train station. If you decide to go to Castle Howard, the Heart of Yorkshire vineyard, or to Goathland, you will probably need a car, or you can book the tours we recommend and don’t worry about transportation.
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Author: Coralie Thornton
Coralie Thornton is an adventurer, packing master, afternoon tea fan, and part-time travel blogger who helps over 50s travelers to travel smarter for longer. She’s been traveling internationally for 40+ years and blogging on Grey Globetrotters since 2018. You can follow her travels on Facebook and Instagram.