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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 looking for the best 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, if that’s your preference, or try out York’s pubs on your way!
Where is York?
Historic York is one of the most popular places to visit in England, with Roman and medieval treasures enticing visitors. Located in North Yorkshire, York is approx. 2 hours by train from London and 2 1/2 hours from Edinburgh.
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 at night.
Cultural Things to do in York at Night
1. Take a 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 fun and quirky things to do in York at night, then booking yourself onto one of these tours is a must-do!
2. Join a Comedy-Horror Ghost Bus Tour
Touring around York in an old Routemaster bus decked out with velvet curtains, and spooky lamps is super atmospheric. The best part about the tour is the hilarious deadpan commentary from the guides!
Pro Tip: Grab a seat upstairs, as you’ll get a much better view of the city.
3. Attend Evensong at York Minster
Even if you’re not religious, evensong at York Minster is deeply spiritual. You get to soak up the atmosphere, marvel at the vast stained glass windows, sit in the incredibly intricate choir stalls (right next to the choir), and listen to spell-binding singing. It’s one of the most entrancing things to do in York at night.
Pro Tip: Choral Evensong is at 17.15 every day except Sunday, at 16.00. Enter for free from the South Transept door, but do donate when you leave. Excluding restoration and conservation projects, it costs £20,000 daily 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, ranging from the huge 3-ton tenor bell to the smallest, 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 centuries. It’s a joy to listen to masters of the art of change-ringing, and it’s magical to hear them ring out all over this beautiful city.
Pro Tip: Ringing practice is on Tuesday evenings from 19:30 to 21:00. For the full effect of the bells, stop for a drink in the Guy Fawkes pub, almost opposite York Minster, and revel in the sound,
5. Take Fabulous Photos in Snickelways
With its snickelways (tiny pedestrian alleyways between buildings) and historic buildings, Medieval York 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 one of the best things to do in York.
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 makes it 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 exposed Moors after sunset. Here’s a handy guide for 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’s high-quality entertainment venues make it easy to see all the latest shows and some 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, 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 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 delighted audiences with an extensive entertainment programme 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.
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 evening cruise on the River Ouse. 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.
The River Ouse floods regularly, damaging property in York. You can see the levels the floodwaters rise to from your cruise boat!
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 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, you will find 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 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 city’s outskirts 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 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.