Do you fancy a romantic weekend in York, England? 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 this charming 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.
So here is our guide to the fun things to do in York for couples, tips that will help you plan your itinerary and enjoy your York romantic getaway to the fullest.
The best things to do in York for couples
1 – Visit York Minster Cathedral
Did you know that York Minster is the largest of all Gothic cathedrals North of the Alps and the most iconic building in the city? It’s also one of the most important landmarks in the United Kingdom. It’s impressive and 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 at York Minster is to 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. They don’t keep the marriage records from all visitors but let’s believe it’s true.
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 Ouse river together.
It’s an idyllic and very romantic way to spend some quality time together while taking in spectacular views of the Museum Gardens and the Minster.
Here are some boat tours in York that are worth checking out:
3 – Enjoy a romantic and spooky night in York
York has a reputation as the most haunted city in Europe. You may want to visit the famous York Dungeon, join a Whitch & History Walking Tour, or even a Ghost Bus Tour (check it out here!)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. And don’t forget to indulge yourselves with hot chocolate and buy sweet gifts to take home.
For all the (chocolate) lovers out there, here are some delicious tours you can try:
5 – Climb Clifford’s Tower
Built in 1068 by William the Conqueror, only one part of York Castle 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 great spot to capture memories as a couple.
If you are in the mood for English Heritage you can also visit the York Castle Museum and the Jorvik Viking Centre.
These attractions are included in York City Pass. The pass gives you access to 20 attractions in York, boat experiences, cycling tours, and discounts on taxi fares.
Top Tip:And if you want to learn more about the historical attractions, you can buy a York Audio Guide here, it’s affordable and will give you a better understanding of the city’s history. Or you two can go on a 5-star private York walking tour, which can be a unique and insightful experience.
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 can pose under the museum’s own station clock!
Top Tip:It’s one of the most popular places to visit in York and it’s completely free!
7 – Stroll around 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.
This romantic York spot is said to be the inspiration for Harry Potter’s fictional Diagon Alley. One more reason to visit York, don’t you think?!
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. Another unmissable thing to do in York is the Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour.
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 – Enjoy the views from 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 – Yorkshire Museum Gardens
Museum Gardens is a peaceful hidden gem right in the city center, with the spectacular ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, a lovely park, and botanical gardens. It’s the ideal location for a romantic picnic and a very popular spot for perfect Instagram shots.
10 – Take a romantic riverside stroll
Looking for romantic places in York? Then go wander along the River Ouse from Rowntree Park to Bishopthorpe, and stop for lunch at the Woodman pub or head to the idyllic Bosuns Restaurant for a unique riverside dining experience.
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
Our list of things to do in York for couples wouldn’t be complete without a romantic meal recommendation. So here are 3 unique places to enjoy a romantic meal in York.
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. It’s the perfect place for your York date night.
13 – Betty’s Tea Rooms
If you are looking for a romantic dining experience in York, then Betty’s Tea Rooms is the place to enjoy a delectable afternoon tea!
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. Not to mention the marvelous interiors inspired by the luxury of the Queen Mary ocean liner. This place breathes elegance and history since 1936.
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.
For a unique and unusual date dinner, have a look at this York: Fish and Chips Cruise!
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. You can buy your tickets to the Castle Howard Gardens and Grounds here!
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 center, 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! Definitely, one of the top fun things to do in York for adults.
17 – Take A Trip to Hogwart’s Station
Deep in the North York Moors, you can visit the historic railway 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.
The most romantic hotels in York
With so many things to see in York, you should extend your visit and stay longer in one of the city’s fine hotels.
Here are some of the 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 romantic 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.
This is the best hotel in York for couples who want to make the most of their time, as it’s close to all the sights, and perfect for a lovely night.
How to travel to York, England
Getting to York in England is a breeze, as it’s on the East Coast mainline train service from London to Edinburgh. Another option would be to fly to Manchester and then get a train to York. You can search for the best flights to the UK here.
Also, depending on where you are coming from, you can plan a 1-day trip to York instead of a romantic weekend break.
Are you planning a trip around England with a romantic stop in York? Then check out this guide about the cost of traveling in the UK. You’ll find good info and precious money-saving tips. For those planning a road trip, don’t forget to add a stop at Yorkshire Dales National Park, which is just 1 hour and a half from York.
Don’t forget your Travel Insurance! You don’t want anything to ruin your trip, right? So don’t take the risk! Reliable travel insurance can help you in case of travel issues, from accidents to health problems, travel delays, and lost luggage.
There are many insurances in the market, our picks are HeyMondo and SafetyWing. We used both and always had a good experience. Click on the insurance names to get a quote.
How to get around York, UK
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 (check the rental car prices here), 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.