York’s hidden gems: What you only know if you’re from York

It is the historic alleyways and small side streets which hold the best of the city, according to residents.


Sign up to our daily newsletter

“The Snickelways are one of the best ways to get around York, ” said Janette Ray as she weaves in and out of the busy streets and through these hidden alleyways on her way to work.

York’s Hidden Gems

She said: “There’s lots of small snickelways, joining the streets together.”

The Secret York website describes these snickelways as alleys, ginnels, snickets and lanes.

It says: “Many of them ancient, that run between York’s streets. First coined by author Mark W. Jones in 1983, snickelways are often hidden and require some effort to discover.

“Jones’s specific definition of a snickelway is:

“…a narrow place to walk along, leading from somewhere to somewhere else, usually in a town or city, especially in the city of York.”

People who aren’t local often misspell them as Snickleways.

avoiding traffic

Janette owns an independent bookshop on Bootham. She said around 65 percent of shops in York are independent.

Nearby the shop is the junction between Bootham and Gillygate, which locals say is synonymous with accidents, so “cross carefully.”

One way to avoid traffic, but not the busy tourist zones, is York’s City Walls.

The accompanying moats have largely disappeared and the slopes of the ramparts are known “for the display of daffodils in March and April,” explains the York Walls Website.

Secret, free walks

Another well-known touristy haunt with hidden features is The Shambles.

“The Shambles is believed to have been the inspiration behind Diagon Alley from the movie adaptation of the Harry Potter series,” says the Visit York website.

It is one of York’s most famous landmarks and one of the best-preserved mediaeval shopping streets in Europe, according to the website.

“Just wandering around seeing how the buildings are crammed together or sagging and how they’re built – that’s my jam,” added tourist Maxwell Paule who did a walking tour of the city. .

Visit York says the original shop-fronts have survived from mediaeval times, some properties still have exterior wooden shelves, reminders of when cuts of meat were served from the open windows.”

There’s a range of Guided tours but there is a lesser known one where people can spot cat sculptures old and new, York Cat Trail.

York blogger Louise Rose Railton, of Louiseroserailton.com, said: “York Cat Trail is something which a lot of people don’t realise exists.

“It’s free to do and self guided, you can download the leaflet online or get it from certain shops including the cat gallery on Low Petergate.”

Lesser known facts

But a lesser known fact is that York racecourse used to be a prisoner of war camp called camp 11, explained resident Jon Beech.

Food and drink favorites

For food and drink York-local Jill Wood recommended the Micklegate area for its bars and restaurants.

For food on Micklegate, she recommends Partisan Cafe, SKOSH and Roots which are pricy but “brilliant.”

Jill, who has lived in York since she was nine, said she “loves it.”

Micklegate Bar itself is a mediaeval gateway to the city and is now home to the Micklegate Run which is a nine-pub bar crawl.

But a newer initiative around the corner which draws locals rather than the big touristy landmarks is Refill, a community cafe, community fridge and meeting space.

Volunteer Jamie Howell said his wife volunteered him to help at the pay-as-you-feel community hub but he loves supporting the space which is also zero-waste.

Other locals recommended Bishopthorpe Road or as it is affectionately known as “Bishy Road” which is another place known for its food and drink.

Bishopthorpe Road is a short walk from the city centre.

Another foodie haven off the beaten track is Yahala Mataam. Based inside the Salvation Army’s The Citadel is this Pop-Up Syrian Restaurant and Cookery School, run by refugees.

Founder Rob Ainsworth said: “It provides opportunities, builds confidence and dignity for refugees and asylum seekers.”

Lesser known family activities

When it comes to family activities there is of course York’s Chocolate Story but a lesser known place is a new magical crazy golf.

“We are Harry Potter mad and have chosen the city’s latest Harry Potter themed attraction The Hole In Wand Wizard Golf, the kids really love it,” said Emily Pickard of York Mumbler site.

What promises to be the ‘most Magical Golf Course in York’s Coppergate Shopping Center’ with nine magical golf holes.

Emily added: “This attraction is fairly new,so not many people know about it yet,but it will be popular soon.”

Leave a Comment