night life in York

Nights in York: What to do when the sun goes down

This medieval city starts to get even more interesting after dark.

Whether it’s night or day, York is a stunning city to explore. However, once the sun starts to set and people leave work, that’s when York really comes alive as the pubs fill up and locals head out for a night out on the town. If you’re looking for what to do in York at night, here are a few of our favourite suggestions.
Have a pint at the pub
There’s nothing more English than heading straight to the pub, and in York you certainly have a choice of watering holes! Most of the pubs date back centuries and they all have their own interesting story. Ye Olde Starre Inne claims to be the oldest pub in town – it was first established in 1644 and was used as a temporary hospital (and morgue) during the English Civil War, where Royalist soldiers were treated in its dark cellars. Another popular pub, The Punch Bowl, got its name as it was a favourite meeting place for the Whig Party, who were known to love their punch. The Golden Fleece is another spot that’s quite literally full of character – it’s known as the most haunted pub in all of York.
Dare to be scared
York’s long history pre-dates even Roman times, so it should come as no surprise that there have been many supernatural sightings over the years. One of the best (and spookiest) things to do at night in York is go on a ghost tour. Ghost walks give you after-dark access to sites such as York Minster, the Shambles, Coppergate, Cliffords Tower and Jorvik, all while telling you real-life tales of torture, death and gruesome goings on. You’ll hear about Mad Alice, a 19th century ghost who haunts the lane where she lived before she was hanged at York Castle, and Roger de Clifford, who was hanged in the town centre and his body left on display for a year. Not even the pubs are safe – many of them are said to be inhabited by ghosts, especially The Golden Fleece, which is home to five different spirits!
Catch a show or two
York’s two most famous theatres are the Theatre Royal and the Grand Opera House. The Theatre Royal has been in business for over 250 years and is an impressive building with a Victorian façade, Georgian interiors and remnants from its previous use as a 12th century hospital. The top plays and shows come to the Royal so it’s worth checking online to see what’s on when you’re in town. The Grand Opera House was once a picture theatre but now hosts travelling musical productions, comedy acts and live music gigs.
See the lights
York is known as England’s ‘City of Festivals’ and runs a variety of fun events throughout the year. Every October, the city hosts Illuminating York festival, a dazzling display of light shows and after-dark artwork. If you’re in town at the right time, it’s definitely one of the best things to do in York at night – the whole city comes to life with light projections on the city’s landmarks, pop-up art exhibitions and installations, late night food markets and other incredible shows. The 2016 programme is yet to be released, but if it’s anything like last year’s, it’s sure to be a hit.
Walk the Shambles
Located in the heart of the city, the Shambles is one of York’s most famous streets. You’ll recognise it immediately by its narrow pavement and overhanging timber-framed buildings that date all the way back to the 14th century. Previously the street was full of butchers’ shops but today you’re more likely to find chic boutiques, friendly restaurants and souvenir shops. The best way to see York at night is with a cosy dinner in any of the fine restaurants in the Old Town, then take an evening stroll down the Shambles and its medieval neighbour Stonegate. Make sure you stop in at one of the old pubs for a nightcap!
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