We have lots of love for London, but there’s much more to England. If you’re looking to explore further, consider York, less than two hours away by train. Given its proximity, this historic walled city can easily be a day trip — but with its affordable B&Bs, free activities, and other cheap thrills, we suggest thinking about an overnight.
Taking the train is easy and affordable. For the best savings, book ahead online. Although the first class carriage offers free WiFi and drinks, we suggest that you save your money for the short journey to York and book a regular fare.
What to Do
Once you’re in York, start by getting oriented with a free walking tour by the volunteer city guides. You’ll get a sense of how York fits into the history of England — from Roman times to the War of the Roses — walk the city walls, and visit famed medieval shopping street the Shambles.
Dominating the city center, of course, is York Minster cathedral, one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe. It’s £10 (about $16) to enter the cathedral and £5 more to get to climb the tower, but once inside you’ll find free guided tours that are particularly informative on the impressive sculptures and stained glass that adorn the space. If the latter especially interest you, stop by the Orb showcase of restored panels up close. Be sure to also make time to visit the Roman and Norman ruins in the undercroft — a former emergency excavation site — beneath the cathedral.
For train enthusiasts — or for rainy day fun — the huge National Railway Museum is the dream. Visitors can spend hours upon hours climbing on steam engines, peering into Queen Victoria’s royal coach, and exploring the other endless locomotives. Admission is technically free, with a £3 ($5) suggested donation, but you can always make up for it by picking up some train-themed souvenirs in the fantastic gift shop.
Where to Eat & Drink
Reward yourself with a meal at The Masons Arms pub, which serves up generous portions of local cuisine like stilton pie, Yorkshire pudding, and steak with pepper sauce. Craft beer enthusiasts can head to Pivni, which has more than 80 draught or bottled beers, or try the small but atmospheric medieval drinking hall Trembling Madness. For dessert, pop into the LICC (Luxury Ice Cream Company) to soothe a sweet-tooth.
Where to Stay
Close to York Minster and the train station, Bowman’s is a cozy B&B that offers a delicious full English breakfast in a social common room. At £43-45 (around $70) per person per night, it’s certainly very fairly priced — but the real reason to stay is the attentive owners who make you feel like you’re visiting friends. The complimentary chocolate bar at check-in doesn’t hurt, either. Looking to save even more? Gregory’s Guest House has bright and colorful rooms at £36-38 (around $60) per person per night. Yes, the location is a longer walk to town, but it’s a scenic one along the River Ouse.