Despite the fact that traveling in the United Kingdom is one of the most expensive things to do (train tickets are just not affordable at all) and I’m on a tight student budget, I still try to see as much as possible while I’m studying abroad. I actually do have an article about how to travel on a student budget, if you’re looking for some budget travel tips. During my Easter break, I took the chance to spend two lovely days traveling with a friend of mine. This article gives you an overview of the main things to do in York and Sheffield. Those two cities are not the first ones I’ve visited in England, but especially York has found its way into my heart.
How To Get to Sheffield
Sheffield is in South Yorkshire and is located approximately 300 km from London and 62 km from Manchester. The city is easy to reach by train and bus. The bus is, of course, cheaper. You can also try to get a car-share, which is fairly popular in England (try, for example, BlaBlaCar).
My friend and I took the bus from Leicester (where we live) to Sheffield. We had luck, got a special offer ticket from National Express and went to Sheffield for only £4.5. The bus ride takes about two hours. On average, I would say that a ticket costs around £12 from Leicester, £17 from London and £9 from Manchester.
What To Do in Sheffield
Sheffield, which name derives from the River Sheaf that runs through the city, is one of the largest cities in England. It’s especially known for its industrial roots and also gained an international reputation for steel production. With this in mind, it’s to expect that Sheffield is not one of those little cosy historical towns (like York). Still, my friend and I had a lovely day, the sun was shining and we walked around the city centre for several hours.
Our first stop was the Sheffield Cathedral for the Church of England diocese. Wikipedia says that the cathedral was originally a parish church, but elevated to cathedral status in 1914 when the diocese was created. The cathedral is a Grade I listed building. You can find four more of those in the city, including the Town Hall, and the churches at Ecclesfield and Bardfield.
Our next stop was the Millennium Gallery, a museum about art, craft and design. Entry is free and we spend some time strolling through the current exhibitions. A huge part of the gallery is formed by the metalwork exhibitions, which made the city world famous. However, there are also some contemporary art and design exhibitions.
When you walked through the Gallery, make sure not to miss the adjoining Winter Garden. If you want, you could have an ice cream or coffee there. My friend and I went to the Peace Gardens, just across the road instead. Because it was such nice weather (a rare occurrence in England) we spend some time enjoying the sunshine at the Garden with a view at the Town Hall. We also had a coffee at Cafe Nero, situated at the corner of the square overlooking the Peace Gardens. I’m usually not a fan of chain coffee shops because I really like the atmosphere in independent cafés, however, the location was just so convenient!
All in all, these are the main “attractions” in Sheffield. If you want, you can also go shopping in Sheffield. My friend and I had a nice dinner at an English pub, which name I, unfortunately, forgot and apart from that, we spend the evening relaxing in our hostel.
How To Get To York
The next day we woke up super early to catch a train to York as we got a really cheap offer here as well. The ticket was £11 and we were in York in about an hour. The easiest way to get to York is to get to Leeds first and head over to the town from there. There are several local buses from Leeds to York, running every few minutes. It takes around an hour by bus to get from Leeds to York. Leeds is also accessible by train and bus and is, by the way, also worth a visit. You can read more about my day trip to Leeds here.
What To Do in York
York is a tourist city. Keep that in mind when you go there. The benefit of that: They are very well prepared, you can do lots of things there, from organised bus tours to river cruises etc. etc. The drawback: This all comes with a price tag and crowds. If you don’t mind a few more people, then definitely go for it. York is a really cute and interesting historic town with a rich heritage. My tip: Try to visit during the week, there are definitely fewer people.
The first and most important thing to do in York is to marvel at the famous York Minster. Also know as the church of St. Peter, the cathedral is one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. If you’re into architecture, the York Minster is definitely a highlight, as the Gothic style is really breathtaking! Also, the York Minster features the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world. Who would have known? However, you do have to pay an entrance fee to get inside and see the interior as well. My friend and I chose not to do this, but I’d recommend it for everyone who can afford it. I also heard that if you pay something extra, you’re allowed to climb up the Minster where you’ll have a panoramic view over York.
Next stop on our list was the famous Betty’s Tea Room. The Bettys story began in Harrogate, a spa town in North Yorkshire, in 1919 and is now one of the most famous tea houses in England! They make all their cakes, biscuits, macarons and other delicacies by hand and those things almost look too pretty to eat. The shop itself is worth a visit but if you have some time and don’t mind waiting for a table for (at least) half an hour, sit down in the swish room and indulge in some traditional Afternoon Tea, an English treat you won’t forget. It is a bit pricey but totally worth the money. Just look at the tea and cake – yummy!
What more is there to wish for? Seriously. It was delicious. And very posh, indeed. Next thing you shouldn’t miss in York is The Shambles, an old street in the heart of the historic town. There are dozens of little shops in the timber-framed buildings, which partly date back as far as the fourteenth century. Historically, the street was known for the many butcher shops that were located along the street. This is why the street was also formally known as The Great Flesh Shambles. In 1872, twenty-five butchers’ shops called The Shambles their home, but none remain today. Instead, there are bakeries, chocolate factories, souvenir shops, clothing shops and more. It’s just really nice to walk along there and explore some of the goods. In case you didn’t have enough Afternoon Tea, have a look into this shop:
This gives you a good impression of the rest of York as well. Doesn’t it look adorable? I love towns like this! Other things you can do in York include The National Railway Museum, The Viking Centre, the York Castle Museum or explore York’s Chocolate Story. You can also simply take a walk across the old town wall! I really enjoyed my day in York and it’s definitely one of the cities in England that are worth a visit.
York and Sheffield are both perfect for a day trip, and a few hours are enough to see most of the main attractions in those cities. If you want to continue your journey from either of those towns, I recommend going to one of the National Parks nearby. That’s the North York Moors National Park for York and the Peak District National Park from Sheffield. It’s a bit easier to access those parks by car but there are buses as well.
Have you ever been to one of these places in England? What were your favourite things to do in York and Sheffield? Let me know in the comments below!
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