York: Best Kept Secrets Revealed

With the Minster, Castle Museum and Jorvik Centre, there’s no doubting York’s historical and architectural clout. Yet, look beyond this and you’ll uncover a cutting-edge scene of trendy pubs, superb but inexpensive eateries and an extraordinary array of unique shopping opportunities. This city will fast become your favourite bolthole.

In a place where the old meets the new, visitors can be wandering cobbled streets one minute then stumbling on a chic, modern bar nestled in an old tavern the next. Sure, the usual chains have made their home here but it’s not hard to find the real York; the York which offers character in a city full of energy, but without the rush and madness of bigger metropolises.

Most importantly, York sports a huge array of watering holes. For the wine lovers among us, Plonkers and Oscars offer a stylish yet relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy the refreshing glass or three. The Golden Fleece and The Black Swan cater for the more traditionally minded; serving pints in tankards which can be sipped in cosy, beamed, treasure-laden rooms. Live music, of the local with his guitar or bagpipes, variety can often be caught and is certainly worth a watch. A word of warning, watch where you tread; sunken ceilings and varying floor levels are commonplace in these centuries old buildings! The Black Swan claims to be the most haunted in York, but then so do most, though the ghost stories are particularly eerie when told on a dark, foggy night. The Evil Eye Lounge is not to be missed. It took several trips up and down the street to find this place, disguised by an alcohol shop no less. A dizzying array of cocktails, from the ‘Bumble Bee’ to the ‘Acid Frog,’ can be devoured whilst reclining on a four-poster bed. Make sure you get here early, it doubles as an Asian restaurant and space fills up fast. If you’re feeling brave, try the ‘Shed 7.’ The barman will raise his eyebrows as he prepares the rum and absinthe infused concoction which many have attempted, but few have survived.

Swinegate is the ideal area to catch a bite to eat. Unless you opt for a MacDonald’s, you’ll be hard pressed to find a bad meal in York. Restaurants and pubs fill every other building, including the renowned Punch Bowl, which offers fantastic meals or deliciously posh bar snacks, such as Haloumi bites. Wander down any old alley and you find a whole stash of hidden restaurants. Take Lucia, where tapas can be eaten al fresco (Don’t panic, they do have outdoor heaters for the all too common, nippy evening). A must try is El Paradiso del Chibo. This little family run Italian is so tiny with tables crammed into every available space, but they will never be empty. The food is embarrassingly cheap, but so incredibly popular you’ll need to make a booking to ensure a seat. Finally, after that big night out, keep your eyes peeled for one of the many hog roast kitchens selling larger-than-life hog rolls. After a visit, a kebab just won’t quite cut it anymore.

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