York is regularly named one of the best places to live and visit in the UK. With a population of 200,000, it’s big enough to feel lively but small enough to feel like home.
If you're coming to an Open Day, be sure to explore the city while you're here.
Take the tour
Explore York in your own time with our self-guided campus and city tours.
Hot spots and hidden gems
These top picks, suggested by students and staff, will give you a good idea of city living in York.
From quirky pubs to popular clubs, York has a diverse mix of venues that showcase aspiring musicians and established acts. Venues across the city showcase everything from national names to local talent.
- Listen or play! There are acoustic and open mic nights happening most days of the week in York, including Sunday nights at , Wednesday nights at , and .
- If it's local artists and DIY/punk bands you're after, is the place to be. Similar bands often perform at other small venues in the city such as .
- Practice your jazz hands at , with live jams on Wednesdays and Sundays, which are usually free!
- For grassroots music, tribute acts and more, try .
- If you're into roots, reggae, dance hall and dub, check out the nights at , a community venue with other regular, independent gigs and events.
- The biggest venue in the city, , puts on mainstream and nationally acclaimed artists.
- And you're only 20 minutes away from Leeds (by train) which has a number of larger venues including the and the .
Purple Flag accreditation
The Association of Town and City Management have recognised York as a safe, entertaining and thriving destination after dark (2022).
York is a true foodie heaven. The city boasts a thriving food scene with independent restaurants and quirky coffee shops on every corner. With eateries for halal and vegan diners, you’ll find first-rate restaurants and cafes to suit.
- Visiting at least once is a must as a student in York. The tea rooms and their spectacular interiors are a great choice for when your parents or family come to visit.
- has turned old shipping containers into a community venue full of amazing local street food retailers, with regular events like gigs, quizzes and arts-and-crafts drop-ins.
- Get your chocolate and caffeine fix at , known for its tasty brunches, pretty pancakes and delicious pastries. You could also try one of the many other cosy cafes York has to offer including , or .
- Get a view of the Minster from the roof terrace at over brunch or lunch with friends.
- Taste authentic flavours from around the world - try traditional Nepalese cuisine at the , North African street food at or Thai-style tapas at .
- For a tasty curry (including Halal options) you could try or check out Indian street food from at Shambles Market, among many others.
- Sample some authentic Italian food at , or . The gelatos at are also hard to resist on a sunny day.
- For vegetarian and vegan food try for their organic sharing platters.
For more information, see (visityork.org).
Festivals: citywide culture and national celebrations
York’s lively cultural scene offers lots to get involved with. With a major event happening every month, there is always something unique and exciting to discover in York. Whatever your interests, you’ll find plenty of entertaining cultural events to enjoy.
- A city-wide celebration of our rich Norse heritage, sees York transported back to the Middle Ages with living history encampments, markets, workshops, talks and dramatic combat performances.
- For film fans the is an annual celebration of independent film from around the world. Featuring emerging talent and established filmmakers, you can even yourself.
- With inspiring speakers from all over the world, exhibitions, theatre, music, films and family-friendly activities, offers a huge range of events at venues across campus and the city.
- There's something particularly magical about York at Christmas. Soak up the festive spirit at and find unique crafted gifts, or get cosy at a pop-up alpine bar with a warming mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.
- The annual celebrations paint the town all the colours of the rainbow with a parade and musical performances to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community.
- Nearby Leeds is well known for big music festivals such as , and . Each year, they also host , the UK’s largest annual arts and light festival allowing you to explore art in the dark.
Art, cinema and comedy
There are plenty of options to soak up some media and arts culture in York! A haven for art lovers, film buffs and theatre fanatics, York is also a .
- has a great collection showcasing 16th-century masters through to modern art, or for something more cutting-edge, try the .
- Theatre-goers can enjoy productions at or the , while film fans will love our array of cinemas across the city including the cosy, riverside .
- For comedy, check out for well-known names and for local talent. Also try out for regular live comedy events.
- York's streets are filled with entertainers and buskers like , or violinist , who was a supporting artist for David Bowie and Bob Dylan.
- run art related events, exhibitions and installations around York.
- is converting a reclaimed river barge into a quirky arts venue, showcasing music, comedy, poetry and more.
Discover more about culture and entertainment on campus.
Shopping: superb independents and chain favourites
York’s iconic medieval streets are lined with the major fashion retail chains, independent stores and market stalls, so you’ll have plenty to choose from.
Explore the world-famous , York's very own Diagon Alley and one of the best preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe. From ghost merchants to Greek food, this charming cobbled street offers you a unique shopping experience. Around two-thirds of York’s businesses are independent, so you can find one-of-a-kind bargains while supporting the local economy.
- Music fans can build their vinyl collection and swap music intel at or at , a cafe bar and record store.
- There are several quirky clothing stores such as and to keep you kitted-out throughout the seasons.
- York is a city filled with excellent indie bookshops like or .
- in the heart of the city is the bustling home of York’s largest group of independent traders.
- There are plenty of Harry Potter-themed shops, including .
- Buying gifts or indulging in local products is an absolute pleasure in York, where there are intriguing speciality stores like , and .
- Or catch the regular bus up to the for discounted prices on designer products.
Read more about .
Museums and attractions
York offers museums and galleries galore - from Vikings to trains and ghosts to chocolate. When you start your studies, you can get a for discounted (and sometimes free) entry to many York attractions.
- You can't miss the - the grand and Gothic highlight of the city.
- For a haunting experience check out , hop on a ghost bus tour or dare to do a ghost walk.
- Come face-to-face with a Viking and take a tour of the sights, sounds and smells of 10th-century York at .
- You don't have to be a trainspotter to enjoy the . Their impressive collection tells the story of 300 years of railway history.
- - take a tour through York's history of chocolate and learn how to make it and taste it like an expert.
- Explore or the to take in the history of the streets of York and Yorkshire. When visiting the Castle Museum, don't forget to take a look at , with stunning views over our ancient city.
For more information, see
You can travel between campus and the city centre using our regular bus service, which takes between 15 and 30 minutes. You can also cycle which takes about 15 minutes and by foot it's around 30 minutes.
Lots of York students use bikes. There are plenty of cycle paths and bike lanes, and not many hills! There is also a riverside route between the University and York railway station, which is a cycle-safe route into the city and takes about 20 minutes. You can buy a second-hand bike on campus or from many cycle shops in the city. Our on-campus Bike Doctor offers free bike safety checks once a month, and there are lots of places to lock up.
York is also home to an e-scooter scheme from TIER. You can rent an e-scooter or e-bike for as little as 18p per minute (£1 to unlock) and shuttle across campus or into the city.
from Cycling UK for being a cycle-friendly employer and campus.
Nowhere in northern England says 'medieval' quite like York, a city of extraordinary cultural and historical wealth.
Why our students love York
You don't have take our word for it. Our student bloggers will happily tell you about why they love their city.
Explore life on campus
Your Students' Union provides over 200 societies and 65 sports clubs. Find your interests, find your people!
Sport and fitness
Choose from over 65 sports clubs, play for your college team, or sign up with the fitness centre.
Culture on campus
Whether you want to play, watch, listen or perform, there are lots of ways to enjoy culture on campus.