When you’re looking for things to do in York and places to go, it can seem a bit overwhelming! York is choc full of hidden gems, due in no small part to the fact that it can be so tricky to navigate if you’re not familiar with it that literally everything seems hidden. So to help you out, here are my top picks of the perhaps lesser-visited but truly worth a visit bars and restaurants.
Tucked away just off Stonegate, you’d be forgiven for missing this little wine bar and bistro which is probably often overlooked in favour of the massive Slug and Lettuce it neighbours. Well worth a visit for it’s cute and rustic décor as well as the simple but satisfying menu (including to date the only salad that I’ve ever not been able to finish eating because I was too full), Wilde’s gets huge bonus points for being a safe bet on a Friday or Saturday night when other places are packed and all you want is a quiet (or not so quiet) drink without having to fight through hordes of hen parties for a seat.
Low down: Great food, great drinks, ridiculously friendly service and a charming atmosphere.
Sotano Charcuterie and Bar
This stylish tapas and cocktail bar is hidden away down a set of stairs next to Kennedy’s and amongst some much rowdier and slightly less cool bars. Dark and distinctly wood-y, Sotano’s has a great brooding atmosphere that feels at once romantic and also a bit like an illegal speakeasy, serving up a delicious selection of (pretty fancy) cocktails and gins, along with Spanish bar snacks and tasty tapas. It’s pretty small and can get busy on weekends and when they have DJs or music nights on, but if you can visit on a quieter day or sneak a spot on a busier one, you’re in for a special experience the type of which is not always easily found in York.
Low down: Moody underground tapas bar with a great selection of drinks, great for dates or just something a little different.
Café by day and bar by night! Pay this cosy little corner a visit for midday fuel or to get merry on cheap but sweet cocktails with friends and either way you won’t be disappointed. This place strikes the rare balance of feeling hipster but friendly and welcoming at the same time, with stellar service to boot. The atmosphere is warm and the decor simple but artsy (think pine tables and fairy lights); nab the window seat if you can for a little nook of your own and to watch the world go by on the cobbles outside.
Low down: Cosy café and bar, perfect for a chilled coffee or cocktail (or two…or three) day or night.
The Black Swan
Supposedly one of the oldest and most haunted pubs in York, this olde style pub sits slightly outside the usual hustle and bustle and shmustle of the inner city but is worth the extra amble. A proper log fire heats one of the rooms in the winter and with very decently priced 35ml spirit measures it’s the kind of place you can easily settle in for a night and not move from. If you get peckish there’s a great range of delish and massively-portioned food to choose from too.
Low down: Classic pub with some history to it, if you’re looking for a place that falls under ‘cosy’ and ‘hearty’, this is a must.
This one’s for the more upmarket of you out there (let’s just pretend for a moment anyone upmarket would read my ramblings, shall we?). Sitting just off the river near Lendal Bridge, the Whippet has in my opinion one of the best bars in York, with an amazing selection of spirits (I’m looking at you, gin) and super friendly, knowledgable and snappily dressed bar staff. The decor is on the charming side of hipster with a small bar area and slightly larger dining room; the surroundings only compliment the food which is some of the best classic British food I’ve ever eaten.
Low down: Upmarket but down to earth at the same time, go here for stylish drinks and fancy fodder.
Now I know there are more that could have made the cut; do you have any favourite finds or local haunts in York? Let me know your picks – maybe they’ll make it into another ‘Hidden Gems’ post!