A Summer Day Out in York

A group of people sat on the grass in Museum Gardens in front of the Yorkshire Museum.
60 years

A walk around Museum Gardens, ice cream by the River Ouse, and sightseeing along the City Walls. What’s not to love about a summer day out in York? We take a look at some of our alumni’s favourite things to do in the city, along with our own recommendations for if you’re planning a trip back to York…

Walk the walls

Many alumni will remember scaling York’s City Walls. If you’re planning a trip back to York the entire circuit can be completed in 2 hours. What might convince you are the various stops for fuel along the way – notably Bean & Gone at Bootham Bar, and Gatehouse Coffee (where you can stop for a drink on a medieval barbican!).

“My favourite way to spend a sunny day in York is walking the city walls, stopping for a few drinks or an ice cream along the way, and ending up in Museum Gardens watching the world go by. It’s something we used to do as students (although it involved tins of warm lager and frisbees back then), and I still do it with my children and visitors as you get great views of the city.”

A close up of the city wall. Three students are sat on it, smiling at each other.

Visit York Minster

If you studied at York, chances are you encountered the Minster at least once during your time in the city – whether you actually stepped inside the magnificent 800 year old cathedral or simply snapped a picture of its stunning Gothic architecture.

Although it’s busy, summer makes a great time to visit. The serene ‘Dean’s Park’ next to the Minster is the perfect place to relax and read a book in the sun. If you get too hot, you can pop inside to the cool cavernous arches of the Minster and spend an hour absorbing the rich history of the building. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take a tour up the Minster’s central tower to the highest point in York, where you can view the city in all its glory.

My favourite thing to do on a day out in York is a visit to York Minster. It’s packed with 2000 years of history and is a beautiful place to take some time out in the centre of the city


Stroll through the parks

A day out in York isn’t complete without a walk through Museum Gardens. Thousands of York students have visited this iconic spot over the years to catch up with friends and family. Nestled in the heart of the city-centre, the gardens boast an array of vibrant flowers and lush greenery among the medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey.

We couldn’t forget Rowntree Park either, mainly for its multitude of ducks and ponds (if you weren’t tired of seeing them on campus!). And if you are planning a trip back to York, the gardens at the Treasurer’s House and Merchant Adventurers’ Hall are picture-perfect spots in the centre to stop and soak up the sun.

 “Aside from York Minster, when I was at uni my favourite day out was Museum Gardens and Yorkshire Museum – which is where I work now (I used to volunteer there during my undergrad!)”


Cruise the Ouse

What better way to see the city than to set sail on the River Ouse? Perfect for summer, take a boat tour and glide down the river while listening to tales of the city’s history. If you prefer to stay on land, you can stop for an ice cream at one of the ice cream boats dotted along the river instead!

“I remember staying in York over the summer one year and my younger brother coming up to visit. We went on one of the boats along the river and it was a really lovely way to see the city at sunset”


Bask in the sun at Spark

If you’re a recent graduate, you probably remember spending summer evenings at Spark. The quirky venue is a mish-mash of vibrant upcycled shipping containers featuring various street-food vendors and bars. After opening in 2018, the site quickly became a favourite for York students to grab a drink and a bite to eat. In summer, the venue is open air too!

“I still remember meeting with my master’s class at Spark. We all shared nachos and discussed our upcoming assignments. It was the best way to get away from the stress of uni!”


Discover something new at a museum

Unfortunately, the most reliable aspect of British weather is the rain. Many a day out in York has been spent sheltering from the weather in one of its various museums (usually with family who came to visit!). Whether you went trainspotting at the National Railway Museum, became an art critic at York Art Gallery, or took a trip back in time at Jorvik Viking Centre, York has a host of museums for when the weather isn’t quite as summer-y as it should be.

My aunty & two little cousins came to visit me in halls in my first term at uni. They were so excited to visit Jorvik Viking Centre and we had a great day and we all learned a lot, even with the famous smell!


Attend the hot air balloon fiesta

Did you know that every year York is home to a hot air balloon festival? While you may have missed it as a student, this three day long annual event in summer features a star-studded lineup of live music acts and of course, hot air balloons. The event takes place at Castle Howard this year across the August bank holiday weekend, and tickets can be booked online.

Other events happening across the city this summer

A man riding a kart down a street with the title 'the island', it has a beach themed frame and inflatable palm trees sticking out of it. A crowd is watching.
Image courtesy of the Micklegate Soapbox Run

York River Art Market (Three weekends: 5th-6th, 12th-13th, and 19th-20th August) – This award winning open air arts market features over 30 independent artists exhibiting their work along the riverside. 

The Micklegate Soapbox Run (29th August) – Watch makeshift go-karts race down Micklegate in a bid to raise money for charity!

We hope reading this has prompted you to plan a trip to York this summer! And if you can’t make it back to the city, we hope it has stirred fond memories of days out in York. Why not add your own memories to our virtual memory map?

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