On a London to York day trip you can explore lots of York's tourist attractions, including York Minster, The Shambles, Yorvik and more

How To Have The Best London to York Day Trip: Tips From a Local

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London and York, in North Yorkshire, are two of the most iconic cities in the United Kingdom, offering a unique blend of history, culture and entertainment. While each city has its own charm, it’s possible to experience them both in one day with a London to York day trip.

Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient architecture, discovering thousands of years of history dating back to Viking and Roman times, indulging in traditional English cuisine or shopping at independent boutiques, there’s something for everyone on a London to York day trip.

In this article, we’ll look at the best ways to make the most of your London to York day trip and discover what makes York one of England’s most beautiful cities.

How to Take a London to York Day Trip

I lived in London for years and in Yorkshire for the last decade, so I know both cities well. I’ve used this knowledge to share the best things to do in York when you only have one day to squeeze everything into!

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

How to Get to York from London

I’ve commuted from central London to York often, and I have to tell you that while there are several ways to get from London to York, only one is a real option (unless you are a total masochist or you want to spend most of your precious day trip travelling).

London to York Day Trip - York Train Station
York Train Station. Photo CL-Medien

London to York by Train

The train is the only realistic option for a London to York day trip. With frequent services and comfortable trains, it’s easy to make the journey in just over two hours.

Here’s what you need to know about the rail route from London to York:

Departure station

Trains to York depart from London Kings Cross station – the biggest interchange on the London Underground network.

You can reach Kings Cross on six London Underground lines – Circle, Piccadilly, Hammersmith & City, Northern, Metropolitan and Victoria.

London to York train times

Frequent trains run on the London North Eastern Railway between London and York throughout the day, with some services running every 30 minutes during peak times.

Book your ticket

It’s always best to book UK train travel in advance, as prices typically increase closer to the travel date. Booking early is the best way to find cheap train tickets.

Reserved seats are usually included with train fares when you purchase your train ticket online.

If you buy tickets at the station on the day of travel, you’ll need to hunt for a free seat when you board – if there is one 🙁

Arrive early

Kings Cross is a large, busy rail station – especially during the morning and evening rush hours. Aim to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure time to allow plenty of time to navigate from the Underground, buy snacks and find your platform!

Top Tip: If you don’t have a seat reservation, arrive extra early and board the train as soon as possible. Look out for seats marked as “available” and bag them fast!

London to York by Bus

Put simply; this is a crazy idea if you’re planning a day trip to York from London! While National Express and Megabus operate excellent services to York from London Victoria Station, the journey time is more than 6 hours – each way.

A bus ride is the cheapest way to get from London to York, but you might feel like you’ve been welded to your seat by the time you arrive, and you’ll have precious little time for exploring.

London to York by Car

Driving between the two cities for a day trip will take longer than the train, but it will save you money if you travel as a couple or in a group.

Whether you choose the M1 or A(1)M motorway from London to York, you’ll need to plan for a road trip of more than 4 hours (probably more like 5). These are two of Britain’s busiest motorways, so you should also expect heavy traffic and all the usual shennagins that come with driving in the UK.

You won’t need a car in London or York; however, driving can give you more flexibility in your trip, allowing you to break your journey or divert to other places of interest.

If you need to rent a car while in the UK, Rentalcars.com is a great place to look – this platform compares car hire rates across all major companies, giving you the best deal on your rental car.

Don’t forget to factor in the cost of parking in York – depending on which city-centre car park you choose, it could be more than £20 per day.

Guided Tours to York From London

A guided tour is a great way to make the most of your one day in York. Once you have made your way to York, you’ll find plenty of tours available in York – with various ways to see this fascinating city.

Take the weight off your feet for a while with a Hop On Hop Off bus tour on an open top bus (perfect for taking photos), get active with a guided cycle tour, or pick a great guided walking tour.

York Comedy Ghost Bus Tour is a fun way to see York

If you’re a Potterhead, you’ll love this Harry Potter walking tour, while you really shouldn’t miss the chance to go on a ghost walk during your day trip to York from London, as York is the most haunted city in Europe!

Prefer to explore York independently? The best way to save money on admission charges to York’s key attractions is to buy a York Pass before you arrive

➡️ Save time when you arrive – buy your York Pass here.

What should I wear for a day trip to York?

As York is almost 200 miles north of London, temperatures in Yorkshire tend to be a few degrees cooler, so you’ll always want a warm layer – even in the summer.

You’ll want to wear walking shoes, trainers or sturdy sandals. York has many quirky cobbled streets that can be lethal slippery. It’s absolute torture in heels (believe me, I have the bruises to prove it!)

READ NEXT: What to Pack for a Trip to Yorkshire – Your Ultimate Guide

York Day Trip Itinerary

Now you know how to get to York from London, and what to wear, let’s look at some of the best things to do in York in one day!

1. Walk the Medieval City Walls

Take a stroll along the York City Walls and get the best view of York Minster
York Minster viewed from the York City Walls – one of the most photographed spots on the walls!

No trip to York would be complete without a walk along Europe’s most complete medieval city walls, and it couldn’t be easier to do.

The walls pass directly in front of the York train station, so you can take a short but scenic walk on these ancient fortifications on your way to York city centre.

If you visit York in the spring, you’ll also enjoy the hosts of golden daffodils planted along the old Viking embankment the walls are built on.

2. Wander Through The Museum Gardens

The ruins of St Mary's Abbey, York
The ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, York

Take 10 minutes to nip into the Museum Gardens to see the romantic ruins of St Mary’s Abbey – a Benedictine Abbey built in 1088! Many tourists don’t see these beautiful gardens, which is a shame, as it’s perfect for dreamy photos and picnics

Visitors can wander through what remains of the walls of the nave and crossing of the abbey church, where the monks sang and prayed, through to the cloister, where the monks did their laundry, contemplated and were allowed to speak. It’s a very serene spot.

3. Photograph a Medieval “Bar” (Gatehouse)

Mickelgate Bar, York in Winter

York’s city walls have four imposing main gatehouses – known as “bars”.

These bars (Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar) were used as toll houses or to provide a defence to what was once England’s second city.

Fun Fact: There’s no connection between these bars and public houses (or bars)!

4. Visit York Minster (+ Take The Tower Tour!)

York Minster is an essential part of any
Beautiful York Minster

York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, with 56 bells in the two magnificent bell towers – more than any other English cathedral. When they are ringing, you can hear the bells all over the city!

Aim to spend at least 60-90 minutes exploring the Minster, seeing the famous Rose Window, which commemorates the end of the Wars of the Roses, the organ, and the intricate ceilings.

Don’t miss: The tower tour (book this when you arrive) for the ultimate view over the rooftops of this medieval city!

If you’re wondering, “Is there a dress code for York Minster?” the answer is no, there is not. However, you’ll want a warm layer as the Minster can be chilly throughout the year – especially in the crypt!

Admission to York Minster is included with your York Pass, which you can buy here to save precious time on your day trip 🙂

4. Browse The Shambles

The Shambles in York, Yorkshire
The medieval Shambles is the perfect place to explore!

The medieval street, known as the Shambles, is one of the places most people visit on a day trip to York – especially Harry Potter fans.

the shop that must not be named - a wizarding shop in the medieval streets of York
The wizarding supplies shop in the York Shambles

The narrow street with its overhanging Tudor buildings looks like Diagon Alley from Harry Potter and there’s a great wizarding shop to visit – it even has somewhere outside to park your broomstick!

5. Climb Clifford’s Tower

Is York worth visting? You get to see Clifford's Tower - a huge stone fortified tower on the top of a hill, standing guard over the City of York

Standing high above the city, Clifford’s Tower is the only remaining part of York’s great Norman castle, built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror to subdue the “rebellious north”.

The recently refurbished displays inside this monumental tower give a real insight into the history of the tower and how it has been used as a royal mint, a medieval stronghold and a Civil War garrison.

Visitors also learn about a terrible antisemitic massacre in the tower in 1190. When York’s Jewish community became trapped in the tower, many chose to commit suicide rather than be murdered by the mob

A brand new roof deck also gives sweeping views over York’s historic skyline, while new walkways and staircases have opened up parts of the tower that were off-limits for centuries.

Admission to Clifford’s Tower is included with your York Pass, which you can buy here to save precious time on your day trip 🙂

6. Step Back in Time at JORVIK Viking Centre

Admission to Jorvik is also included with your York Pass.

7. Take A leisurely River Ouse cruise

London to York day trip riverboat cruise

Put your feet up after a busy day of sightseeing with a riverboat cruise. It’s a great way to relax and see York from a different perspective.

You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy this early evening river cruise before catching your train back to London.

8. Stop for Afternoon Tea at Bettys

Visiting Bettys Tea Rooms is the perfect thing to do on a London to York day trip
The beautiful window at Bettys Tea Room

Bettys is probably the best afternoon tea experience ever! People flock to Yorkshire and queue around the block for the chance to have a full “silver service” afternoon tea with delicate china, crisp white linens, and the tastiest cakes.

With five locations across Yorkshire, Bettys has been a real draw for visitors for over 100 years. If you don’t have time to queue for a table, you can always pop into the shop and buy goodies to take home (or eat on the train).

9. Pause At A Historic Pub

Visiting a historic pub on a day trip to York from London
The rather fabulous House of the Trembling Madness pub in the City of York

York has a wealth of atmospheric, historic pubs to drop into before making your way back to the train station.

I love the Guy Fawkes Inn, moments from York Minster, where the welcome and the fire are as warm and inviting as the traditional Yorkshire food.

Fun Fact: This old pub is the birthplace of the notorious traitor who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the Gunpowder Plot!

10. The National Railway Museum

Chinese steam train at the National Railway Museum, York
Chinese steam train at the National Railway Museum, York

If you go on your London to York day trip with kids, they will love the National Railway Museum! With trains from the dawn of steam to carriages designed for Queen Victoria to bullet trains, there’s plenty to enthral young (and older) minds.

Even better, the museum is free to visit and only a 10-minute walk from the train station.

Where To Stay In York

If you don’t have to rush back from York to London, York has superb hotels – at very reasonable prices (compared to London!) Why not treat yourself and stretch your London to York day trip into a short break? You won’t regret it 🙂

Here are some of my favourite places to stay in York (tried, tested, and loved!)

1. The Grand, York: Rated 9.0/10. 7500+ top reviews

Stylish and central, with superb facilities, the Grand has an awesome spa and great dining options. ➡️ Check rates and availability at the Grand York.

2. Minster Walk Guest House: Rated 9.3/10. 1200+ stellar reviews

Quirky, comfortable and charming, the Minster Walk guesthouse is perfectly located right next to York Minster. ➡️ Check rates and availability at the Minster Walk Guest House

Winter is a great time to visit York, with Christmas decorations and twinkling lights illuminating the medieval buildings

With so much to do in York, why not book a stay and enjoy more of what this exciting city offers?

FAQs: a Day Trip to York from London

Can you do a day trip to York?

York is one of the UK’s most popular destinations for day trippers, because it has so much to offer, whether you’re visiting with kids, as a couple, or as a solo explorer. It’s well connected by road and rail, and only 2 hours from London by direct train.

Is York a good city break?

Yes, York is a top destination if you’re looking for a great city break – at all times of the year.

Is York, UK, worth visiting?

With over two thousand years of history to explore, York is a fabulous city, with things to see and do to suit every traveller.

Is York a good day trip from London?

With an easy direct train journey of just 2 hours from London and historical, cultural and foodie things to do, York is the perfect place for a day trip from London.

Is York a walkable city?

York is the perfect city to explore on foot. The city’s main tourist attractions are within the city centre, as are many coffee shops, restaurants and hotels.

Can you get around York without a car?

Absolutely! York is a compact medieval city with narrow, winding streets that are best explored by walking! The train station is a short walk from the city centre; however, frequent buses also run from the station to the city centre.

How long is the train from London to York?

The train journey to York from London is just over 2 hours, making York a great place to visit on a day trip from London.

How much time should I spend in York?

York is a compact, walkable city; you can see a lot in one day. You can explore the tourist attractions more if you extend your trip to 2-3 days. You’ll also be able to explore more of the wonderful Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors on day trips from York and can discover what to do at night in York.

How far apart is York from London?

The distance between York and London is 175 miles; however, the driving distance is 211 miles to this beautiful city.

How long to spend in York Minster?

As a bare minimum, aim to spend an hour in York Minster, as there is so much to see, including the famous Rose Window, the crypt and the incredible carved choir stalls. Allow 2+ hours if you want to join a guided tour or take the tower tour.

Is there a direct train from London to York?

Yes, direct trains to York from London depart from London’s Kings Cross station and run directly to York, with no need to change trains.

How long does it take to get from London to York?

The fastest trains from London to York have a typical journey time of just over 2 hours. Driving takes 4-5 hours, and a bus journey is typically 6-7 hours.

How do I travel from London to York without a car?

The best way to travel to York from London is by train. You can also travel by bus/coach; however, this journey will take much longer.

How long is the walk around York City Walls?

The total distance around the city walls is 2.6 miles, with fantastic viewpoints over the city as you make your way around.

Is walking the city walls free in York?

Yes, anyone can walk along the medieval city walls in York during daylight hours. The walls are closed at night for safety reasons.

In Summary: Taking A London to York Day Trip

In conclusion, a day trip from London to York is an excellent way to experience one of the most popular places in Northern England.

It’s easy to make the journey and explore all York offers in just one day, thanks to the relatively short journey by train and the easy walking distance between top attractions.

From the towering cathedral and winding medieval streets to the charming shops and cafes, there is something for everyone in this historic city.

Whether you are a history buff or simply looking for popular day trips, a London to York day trip should definitely be on your UK travel bucket list – it’s one of the best day trips from London!

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