A thriving, exciting city, York is both a historic architectural treasure trove and a stylish destination for shopping, dining and entertainment. York buzzes by day and the fun doesn’t stop after dark, so if you’re checking out things to do in York at night, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
While York has more than its fair share of excellent, quirky pubs, you can do most of the things in this post without touching a drop of alcohol! (You could always try out one of our favourite York pubs afterwards).
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Here’s my vote for the top 14 things to do in York at night
I’ve lived in Yorkshire for more than five years and I adore York because there’s so much to see and do – even if you’re only visiting for a weekend break. I’ve used local knowledge to curate this list of 14 awesome things to do in York after dark.
CULTURAL THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT IN YORK
1. Ghost Walk
York is famed as one of the spookiest places in Europe, and it’s not difficult to see why it’s earned this reputation. With a history stretching back over two thousand years, there are plenty of spooky tales of things that go bump in the night (and worse). Joining an organised ghost trail around the city is one of the best things to do in York at night (especially in the months when your walk will be in the dark).
During the tour, your entertaining and theatrical guide will tell you all about the mad, the bad and the sad whose souls refuse to rest in this ancient city. If you’re looking for something fun and a little bit quirky to do in York at night, then booking yourself onto one of these tours is a must-do!
The most entertaining tours depart daily from the West Door of York Minster at 7.30 pm. Wear flat shoes, wrap up warm and take a torch as some of the streets are not well lit.
2. Comedy-Horror Ghost Bus Tour
Touring around York in an old Routemaster bus decked out with velvet curtains, and spooky lamps is a bit mad but super atmospheric. The best part about the tour is the hilarious deadpan commentary from the guides!
Pro Tip: Make sure you get a seat upstairs, as you’ll get a much better view of the city.
3. Evensong at the Minster
Even if you’re not religious, go to an evensong service at York Minster to soak up the atmosphere, marvel at the vast stained glass windows, sit in the incredible intricate choir stalls (right next to the choir), and listen to spell-binding singing.
Pro Tip: Choral Evensong is at 17.15 every day except Sunday when it’s at 16.00. Entrance is free, from the South Transept door, but remember to make a donation when you leave. Excluding restoration and conservation projects, it costs £20,000 every day to keep the Minster open to the public!
4. Listen to bell ringing practice at York Minster
The bells at York Minster are massive! The South West Tower holds the 4th heaviest set of change-ringing bells in the world. There are 14 bells in total, ranging from the huge 3-ton tenor bell to the smallest, which is known as the treble. When the bells are ringing, you can hear them all over the city!
The bells ring on Sundays, calling people to worship for the 10 am service, just as they have for hundreds of years. As a practising bell-ringer, it’s a joy to listen to masters of the art of change-ringing, and it’s quite magical to hear them ring from all over this beautiful city.
Pro Tip: Ringing practice takes place Tuesday evenings from 19:30 to 21:00, allowing the ringers to hone their many intricate ringing patterns.
5. Take Fabulous Photos in Snickelways
Medieval York, with its snickelways (tiny pedestrian alleyways between buildings) and historic buildings, is a photographer’s dream location. It almost feels impossible to take poor photographs in this beautiful city, and capturing atmospheric shots after dusk is very rewarding.
Get your bearings during the day, then return to your favourite spots at dusk to capture the city in a completely different mood.
6. Roman Bath Museum
A modest little museum tucked away in the cellar of the Roman Bath pub; this is the spot where archaeologists discovered the remains of the original Roman baths in York. Open until 23:00 daily; it’s worth a visit to hear about York’s Roman history – perhaps on your way out for dinner?
7. Go Star Gazing
One of the rather different things to do in York at night is to visit Yorkshire’s spectacular national parks to admire the glorious night sky. While Yorkshire has several excellent places for a spot of stargazing, Sutton Bank National Park Centre at Hambleton, North Yorkshire is less than an hour from York by car.
Yorkshire vet and author James Herriot loved the view from Sutton Bank over the Vale of Mowbray and the Vale of York and called it the “Finest in England”. The lack of light pollution in this official Dark Sky Discovery Site means this is a superb place to go stargazing. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of meteors or the Aurora (the Northern Lights).
Pro Tip: Even in the summer, it can get pretty cold in Yorkshire, especially once you’re out on the open and exposed Moors after sunset. Here’s a handy guide to what to take with you for an unforgettable evening of stargazing, and a guide on what to pack for a trip to Yorkshire.
8. A Night at the Theatre
York is blessed with high-quality entertainment venues, making it easy to see all the latest shows and old favourites. A night out at the theatre is one of the most popular things to do in York at night.
The historic Theatre Royal was built in 1744. As popular as ever, there’s a packed year-round programme to choose from including live shows from big productions to fringe theatre, dance, opera, musicals and a world-renowned traditional family pantomime.
If nothing at the Theatre Royal catches your eye, the Art Deco Joseph Rowntree Theatre might be more your cup of tea. This community theatre has a special place in the hearts of many people in York and also offers a varied programme of plays, musicals and a show-stopping pantomime.
The Grand Opera House building started life as York’s Corn Exchange in 1868. After the Corn Exchange failed in 1902, William Peacock converted the buildings into the 1,000 seat Grand Opera House which has been delighting audiences with an extensive programme of entertainment ever since.
Top Tip: Going to the pantomime (or ‘panto’) is a real British family tradition. In the winter, it’s one of my favourite things to do in York at night. Pantos are always popular, so make sure you book your tickets before you arrive.
9. Barbican – Live music and comedy
The Barbican is the largest music and arts venue in York, attracting some of the biggest sell-out touring acts in the country, including The Specials, Russell Brand and Little Mix.
If you enjoy live snooker, the Barbican is the venue for the UK Snooker Championships and you can also enjoy a diverse programme of comedy, sports, family shows and community events.
10.Ouse River Evening Cruise
One of the best ways to see the sights of York from a different perspective is to take a leisurely cruise on the River Ouse, which wends its way through the city. As you sail along the same river that brought the Romans and Vikings to York, you’ll learn about York’s prosperity as an inland port and the trades that made the city flourish.
On a regular basis, the River Ouse floods, damaging property in York. It’s only from a cruise boat that you can appreciate the levels the floodwaters rise to!
Early evening cruise boats sail at 19:30 from King’s Staith Landing in the city centre, returning an hour later to the same location. The boats are warm and comfortable and have (cash only) bars stocked with drinks and snacks. If you’re going to sit on the top deck, be prepared for less comfortable school-type plastic seats, as the deck is exposed to the elements and has to cope with the vagaries of British weather!
Recommended cruise: York: River Ouse Early Evening Cruise
Pro Tip: Arrive early for your cruise and enjoy a quick drink in one of the nearby riverside bars while you wait to depart.
FOOD AND DRINK
11. Enjoy an incredible dining experience
Food is something that York does phenomenally well, with incredible places to eat for all tastes and budgets. This diversity makes eating out one of the best things to do in York at night. From fine gourmet dining to hearty Yorkshire fare, delicious street food and everything in between, there’s something for every palate and budget.
Don’t forget to try out Yorkshire pudding while you’re visiting York!
12. Find a good pub
York has several hundred pubs (bars), some of which are centuries old.
York pubs are not bland, run of the mill operated-by-a-chain pubs, but gloriously individual, ever so slightly bonkers, quintessentially British pubs and they have more going on than just drinking.
Some pubs, especially those on the outskirts of the city and beyond, are more like cultural hubs. The excellent Golden Ball is a “community co-operative pub” a few minutes from the city centre. There’s a packed events schedule, with something happening most evenings from pub quizzes, open mike and open vinyl nights, art exhibitions and craft fairs. Check out the current programme at the Golden Ball here.
It would be neglectful to mention some of York’s most famous “watering holes”, as for many visitors, chilling out or meeting friends in a great pub is one of the best things to do at night in York.
Favourites include the unique medieval-themed House of the Trembling Madness, gin and cocktail emporium The Evil Eye, and the cosy King’s Arms, with its unbeatable riverside location.
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Have you been to York? What did you enjoy the most? Did I include your favourite things to do in York? Do let me know in the comments if you’ve got more recommendations!