Cool and quirky things to do in York

  • City guides
3 min read

You’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with snapping tourists in the  Shambles and ticked York Minster and Yorvik Viking Centre off your to do list, so what next? When you’re staying at Roomzzz in York, there are loads of cool, quirky things you can do on your stay that will take you off the beaten track.

We’ve pulled together our pick of this beautiful city’s more unusual attractions to help you get the most out of your stay. Phones at the ready – you’re going to want to take lots of pictures!

1. Going underground at the York Cold War Bunker

Tucked away on the edge of a modern housing estate, this English Heritage attraction isn’t exactly what you’d expect to find in an ancient city like York. But this stark underground bunker offers a rare insight into an intriguing period in recent history that’s bound to stay with you. In use from the 1960s to the 1990s when the threat of nuclear war was ever-present, this was the place the authorities would retreat to, to plan for the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Packed with original features like crowded staff bunk rooms and a control-centre packed with period tech, it tells the story of the Cold War in a detailed and sometimes chilling way. Tours are on the hour and are limited to 20 people, so make sure you get there early! 

2. Get a different view of the city on the York Cat Trail

If you want to tick off all the big attractions in a morning, the York Cat Trail is a great way to nail it. Download a map and navigate your way around the city using sculptures of cats as markers on this free walking tour. Cat sculptures started appearing on York buildings hundreds of years ago – apparently to scare away rats carrying the plague – and have been added to over the years, on walls and windowsills near all of the city’s most famous landmarks. The tour takes you through the Museum Gardens and along the city walls (hello Instagram stories) and ends at The Cat Gallery, where you can buy your own lucky cat to take home.

3. Take a break at the Two Hoots ice cream boat

Been on your feet sightseeing all day? Definitely time for an ice cream and a nice sit down. And York has one of the cutest ice cream spots you could hope for – the Two Hoots ice cream boat moored on the River Ouse next to Millennium Bridge. Just look out for the boat covered in flowers with the giant pink ice cream on board! Choose from a selection of locally made ice creams and cold drinks, then just grab a bench, sit back and watch the world go by.

4. Go off the beaten track with York’s Snickelways

What do you call those little cut-throughs that aren’t roads or proper paths? Snickets, ginnels, alleys? Well, in York they’re Snickelways, and if you blink, you might miss them. These medieval passageways can be found all across the city and are a great way to escape the crowds and see York as it was centuries ago. With quirky names like Mad Alice Lane and Hole in the Wall, they often end in striking city views that make great photo ops, plus they link lots of the city’s major attractions. Grab a map, steel yourself with a drink in the Hole in the Wall Inn, then get exploring!

5. Discover secret medieval drinking den House of Trembling Madness

York isn’t short of pubs and bars, so if you’re in the city for a hen or stag do, or just catching up with friends, you won’t have to go far to get a drink. But if you fancy visiting a bar that’s a local institution, you need to visit the House of Trembling Madness. Set in the heart of the old city on Stonegate, on first glance it looks like a bottle shop (and you can buy craft ales, gin and absinthe to take back to your Roomzzz aparthotel if you like), but it’s the hidden bar upstairs that’s the real attraction. Billed as ‘a medieval drinking hall’ and decorated with stuffed animals and exposed timber, it’s quirky and crowded, so prepare to get cosy – you’re sure to make some new friends while you’re there.  

6. Uncover hidden treasure at DIG

Got some budding archaeologists in the family? They’ll love getting stuck in at interactive attraction Dig. Run by the same people who run the Jorvik Viking Centre, it’s got four dig pits, themed around different time periods, where kids can grab a trowel and get digging. Each pit includes items that have actually been found in excavations in the city, so they’ll get a little history lesson while they get their hands dirty. It’s a guided activity and takes an hour, so it’s a perfect pitstop when they’re getting tired of walking, or if the weather takes a turn for the worst. Covered in mud by the end of it? Just stick their dirty clothes in the laundry when you get back to your Roomzzz.

7. Freak yourself out on The Original Ghost Walk of York

A city as old as York has to have a few horror stories up its sleeve, and you’ll find plenty on The Original Ghost Walk of York. Set up back in the ‘70s, this guided night-time walk doesn’t have props or staged frights hiding in the shadows – it’s all about the stories, all told by guides with ‘degrees in Yorkshire history’. Past celebrity guests have included Morgan Freeman, the cast of The Mighty Boosh and Richard Dreyfuss, and only costs a fiver for adults and £4 for kids.  It runs every night at 8pm, from The King’s Arms down by the river. Don’t have nightmares…

Sound like your kind of city break? Check out availability at our York aparthotel now.

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