Most people have probably heard that York is said to have 365 pubs; one for each day of the year. I’m sorry to disappoint but I’m not too sure this is entirely accurate. However, there are plenty of high quality venues within the city walls that are all worth a visit. Whether you are in the mood for craft beer, quirky cocktails or a cosy, traditional pub, York’s impressive diversity really does cater for all needs.
If you’re heading to York on a weekend, you’ll want to make sure that you avoid some of the chain bars along the river which are full to the brim with stag and, mostly, hen parties.
Having lived in York for seven years, I’ve sampled my fair share of it’s drinking venues and so, hopefully with my recommendations below, you can enjoy the best that the city has to offer.
Whilst there are only ten places listed below, I could easily have added another fifteen or so which are equally as worthy. These are all within the city walls too so all can be visited in one day if you fancy it.
If I’d written this article a few years ago, I would have no doubt in saying that this was the best pub in York. Maybe going twice a week, every week, meant it’s charm was lost on me but there’s no getting away from the fact that this place is incredible. Situated on Fossgate, which is full of quirky independents, The Hop does not feel out of place. You are greeted with a Victorian-styled bar area complete with tiled walls and floors; leather chairs and stools. There are a good range of real ales from Ossett Brewery (try the Yorkshire Blonde) as well as at least ten different lagers. It’s not just beer though,
The Hop has not only the usual selection of spirits but even prosecco on tap.
Once you’ve ordered a drink, make your way towards the back of the pub where the dark bar area opens up into a grand room bathed in light with plenty of tables to sit at. Even if you’re not hungry, you have to order a homemade pizza; freshly cooked to order in the clay oven. They’re delicious.
Tucked down a narrow, cobbled lane off Micklegate, The Ackhorne is hidden away from the tourists. With traditional ales and Yorkshire ‘tapas’, this is probably my favourite place for a quiet afternoon pint.
The Black Swan
When I lived in York, this was my local; only a one minute walk door to door. The pub dates back to the 16th century with a traditional Tudor exterior. The cosy bar at the rear has a huge roaring fire which will certainly keep you warm on a cold winter’s day. There are plenty of rumours about hauntings so keep your eyes peeled after dark. My top tip is to read the various extracts from the guestbook framed in the hallway; maybe life wasn’t so different in years gone by.
This one will be a little tricky to find but is no more than a five minute walk from the centre of York. Starting at the top of Fossgate, keep walking on to Walmgate until you see a slightly industrial looking opening on the left. Don’t be put off by the location, Brew York is a craft brewery/pub in a converted warehouse. I’m a big fan of the décor in here with the exposed brick and plain wood tables. The vessels where the beer is brewed are within touching distance. If it’s a warm day, head out the back into the small riverside garden.
Pavement Vaults is York’s finest smokehouse serving up slow-cooked meats alongside a wide range of craft beer. Housed beneath the old White Swan Hotel, Pavement Vaults fits in well with its exposed brickwork, vintage lighting and copper details.
It’s a great place to drink whether by the open windows or downstairs where there is a real ‘cellar’ feel. The food here cannot be missed; just order the Beef Short Rib or the Pulled Pork Fries and you’ll see why!
Star Inn The City
Whilst technically a restaurant, owned by the Michelin-starred chef Andrew Pern, there is still a small bar area inside which happily accepts customers who aren’t dining. However, the main attraction is the outdoor terrace nestled alongside the River Ouse and next to the historic Lendall Bridge. On a summer’s day, you could sit here for hours watching the world go by.
It’s not the cheapest place but it’s not uncommon now to pay over £4 for a beer wherever you are. At least here, you’ll be sat in one of the best locations in York with a top view.
An up-market cocktail bar on York’s historic Stonegate, this is one that you’ll keep coming back to. The Botanist is full of quirky items in keeping with the general theme of ‘gardening’. If you’re into sharing, order a cocktail served in a watering can. If not, don’t miss the Apricot and Peach Smash; an incredible bourbon whisky cocktail served in a plant pot.
Only a stone’s throw from the museum gardens, Judge’s Lodgings serves up great drinks; whether in the historic cellar or upstairs in the Georgian bar. Again, when its warm, try and get a comfy seat on the rear terrace or even in the courtyard and you’ll be set for the day.
Duke of York
If you can make your way past the hoards of tourists watching street performers in King’s Square, you deserve a drink. One of two Leeds Brewery pubs in the city, the Duke of York has not only great beer but a good selection of gins. The room to the right of the bar feels extremely cosy, perfect for those cold nights, with a great view across the square towards York Minster.
Lamb & Lion Inn
I haven’t mentioned the York Minster much during this post but the Lamb & Lion’s beer garden sits beautifully in its shadow. The view from the beer garden is almost perfect. The Lamb & Lion is quite a ‘cute’ pub nestled right up to the city walls. Inside, the pub has a real homely feel with a number of small rooms which would be great in the winter. However, even if it is cold, head out the back into the beer garden. If you’re lucky the outside bar will be serving drinks and you won’t have to leave your seat for long.
I’m interested to hear of your favourite pubs and bars so please leave a comment below. If you’d like any more tips or recommendations, please get in touch!