Solo in the City: The ultimate solo traveller guide to York

Fancy a solo trip to this northern gem? 👑

Packed with exciting history, cosy cobbled streets and enough charm to make you weak at the knees, York is a dream for solo travellers.

Whether you’re a history buff, foodie fanatic or someone who loves a good wander, York has something for everyone. Read on to discover the best things to do in York solo from must-see sights and hidden gems to the tastiest spots to grab a locally produced sweet treat.

1. Discover York Minster’s gothic architecture

York MinsterA trip to York wouldn’t be complete without setting eyes on York Minster’s magnificent gothic architecture. This grand cathedral features pointed arches, intricate stonework and stained glass windows shimmering with stories.

Wandering around York Minster solo is a fantastic way to soak it all in. Take your time to marvel at the towering ceilings that feel like they reach for the sky, or get lost in the details of the carvings that tell tales of saints and mythical creatures. Don’t forget to look up! The stained glass windows are like giant works of art, casting colourful light that dances across the floor.

2. Wander the Shambles

York ShamblesNext on your solo tour in York is an absolute must-visit – the Shambles! This narrow, historic street feels like stepping right into medieval times. With 14th century timber-framed buildings with overhanging upper floors and wonderfully wonky cobblestone paths, the Shambles is home to a fairytale-like atmosphere.

The Shambles is also a fantastic place to explore at your own pace. Browse the quirky shops filled with everything from delicious fudge to handcrafted souvenirs. Don’t forget to check out the famous York Ghost Merchants – home to an everchanging range of handcrafted ghost mementoes.

3. Walk the York City Walls (free!)

York City WallsReady to stretch your legs and see York from a whole new perspective? Discover the incredible fortifications of the York City Walls. Built way back in the 13th and 14th centuries and completely encircling the city centre, the York City Walls offer picturesque views of York’s rooftops, charming streets and gothic architecture rising majestically in the distance.

So take your time and enjoy this walk with plenty of spots to stop and soak in the scenery.

4. Enjoy an evening cruise along the River Ouse

River Ouse in YorkNeed a break from all that exploring on foot? Treat yourself to a relaxing evening cruise along the River Ouse and discover York bathed in the warm glowing sunset. York offers plenty of cruises along the River Ouse, bookable online in advance or on the day – it’s truly the perfect way to unwind after a busy day.

Choose a sightseeing cruise with live commentary to learn more about York’s history. Or opt for a unique experience like a floodlit evening cruise or even a ‘Fish & Chips Cruise’ where you’ll set sail whilst enjoying tasty fish and chips. Find a comfy spot on the deck and enjoy the gentle rhythm of the boat as you cruise down the River Ouse.

5. Make your own treats at York’s Chocolate Story

York's Chocolate FactoryCalling all chocoholics! No solo trip to York would be complete without a visit to York’s Chocolate Story. Unleash your inner chocolatier at this real-life Willy Wonka’s factory (minus the Oompa Loompas, of course!). As one of the best things to do in York, you’ll learn all about the history of chocolate, from its Mayan beginnings to its starring role in our favourite desserts and sweet treats.

Witness the chocolate-making process firsthand and then – the moment you’ve been waiting for! Craft your very own chocolate treats and choose your favourite toppings, from crunchy nuts to tangy fruit. It’s the perfect delicious souvenir.

6. Peruse stunning art at York Art Gallery (free!)

Tucked away in the heart of the city is the fantastic York Art Gallery, and guess what? Entry is completely free! Get your culture fix and discover a stunning collection of paintings, sculptures and ceramics spanning over six centuries without putting a dent in your solo travel budget.

Explore works by famous faces like J.M.W. Turner and L.S. Lowry, or get lost in world-famous exhibitions. Ponder over the intricate details of captivating portraits or let your imagination run wild with an abstract sculpture. It’s a totally free way to spend an afternoon, and who knows, you might just discover your new favourite artist!

7. Climb the grand Clifford’s Tower

Clifford's Tower, YorkEager to learn more about York’s medieval history on your solo travels? Then look no further than Clifford’s Tower, home to one of York’s most prettiest views for nearly one thousand years.

As one of the largest remaining parts of the historic York Castle, Clifford’s Tower is an epic viewing point for spotting all the sights of this majestic northern city. Dive into the history of Clifford’s Tower with a tour, or check out the multiple displays and exhibitions highlighting this English Heritage site’s significant moments in England’s history.

8. Explore St Mary’s Abbey at York Museum Gardens

One of the best things to do in York, visit St Mary’s Abbey at York Museum GardensIf you’re looking for a break from York’s bustling streets, head over to the York Museum Gardens for a delightful surprise – the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey. This once mighty Benedictine monastery, founded in 1088, is now a beloved garden spot in the city of York.

Wander through the ancient ruins at your own pace, take artistic shots of the crumbling remains and soak in the serene atmosphere amidst York’s urban buzz. Plus, with gorgeous gardens bursting with colourful flower beds and shady corners, this York spot is perfect for a solo picnic lunch or a quiet moment with a good book.

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9. Jump on a spooky York ghost tour

Ghost walk signage in YorkAfter a day of conquering castles and cobblestone streets, why not jump onto a spine-tingling adventure on a York ghost tour? York’s rich history and labyrinthine streets are also packed with spooky ghost stories waiting to be told. These tours are a fantastic way to explore the city after dark, all while hearing the legends and folklore that have haunted the streets of York for centuries.

Don’t worry about braving the night alone – ghost tours are a great way to meet other curious travellers. So, grab a cosy beverage and get ready for a chilling yet thrilling solo adventure through the hidden corners of York’s ghostly past.

10. Grab a lunchtime snack from Shambles Food Court

Our next stop on our solo tour of York is sure to satisfy your foodie cravings. Check out the Shambles Food Court, a bustling indoor food market jam-packed with scrumptious stalls and delectable creations.

Whether you fancy a steaming box of Thai noodles, crave a delicious smokehouse sandwich or are after a cheeky sweet treat, Shambles Food Court has it all. Grab a seat at one of the communal tables and savour your delicious finds.

11. Immerse yourself in the works of Van Gogh

If you’re looking for a unique solo experience in York, look no further than the Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience York. This isn’t your typical art gallery exhibit – Van Gogh York is a mind-blowing visual adventure through colour, light and mesmerising art that will have you feeling like you’ve stepped right into Van Gogh’s paintings.

From swirling brushstrokes dancing on the walls to towering sunflowers and starry skies stretching across the ceilings, this immersive Van Gogh experience is a feast for the senses. Wander through at your own pace, get lost in the details and let Van Gogh’s gorgeous works wash over you. You might even find some unexpected inspiration, so grab a sketchbook and channel your inner artist!

12. Join a Harry Potter guided walking tour

The Shop That Must Not Be Named in YorkWhile none of the movies were actually filmed here, York’s medieval streets and hidden corners are the perfect Hogwarts doppelgängers. And what better way to dive into the city’s magical potential than by joining a Harry Potter-themed walking tour?

These tours are a fantastic option for Potterhead solo travellers. Explore places reminiscent of Diagon Alley (the Shambles is a perfect lookalike if you hadn’t noticed), test your knowledge with fun trivia challenges and discover wonderfully designed Harry Potter-themed shops – our favourite has to be ‘The Shop That Must Not Be Named’. It’s a great way to see the city from a different perspective, so grab your wand (or at least some comfy walking shoes) and get ready for a solo adventure filled with magic.

13. Travel back in time at the York Castle Museum

York Castle MuseumFeeling like you need a history fix after all that exploring? Head over to York Castle Museum, a treasure trove waiting to be explored by solo time travellers like yourself. But this isn’t your dusty old museum – at the York Castle Museum, history comes alive!

Stroll through recreated Victorian streets complete with shops and houses decked out in 19th-century decor. Dive deeper and you’ll find fascinating exhibits exploring everyday life centuries ago and the city’s intriguing Roman and Viking past. There’s even an exhibit dedicated to York’s infamous castle prison. Traverse the prison cells if you dare and discover the stories of its most notorious residents.

14. Join a cookery masterclass at The Grand, York

Ever fancied whipping up a gourmet dish fit to impress your friends? Well, York is home to a spectacular selection of cookery courses, great for perfecting your cookery skills. The Cookery School at The Grand offers a whole host of classes, from artisan bread making and mastering the Barbecue classic to exploring the ancient art of Sushi making.

Choose from evening, half-day and full-day cookery workshops – and the best part? Joining a cooking masterclass is a fantastic way to meet other travellers and locals who share your love for food. Cook alongside friendly faces, learn new techniques from expert chefs and devour the delicious creations you make together!

15. Catch a movie at City Screen Picturehouse

City Screen Picturehouse York

Ready for some movie magic? Wind down after a packed day of discovering York at the City Screen Picturehouse. This charming arthouse cinema is a film buff’s haven with a splendid selection of flicks to end the evening.

Previously the Yorkshire Herald press building, this riverside cinema venue isn’t your average multiplex. With plush seating, a contemporary café-bar to grab a pre-movie drink or snack and a programme featuring everything from the latest blockbusters to cult classics and indie films, it’s the ideal way to relax after a day of exploring. So, grab your ticket, sink into your seat and prepare to be whisked away by the screen!