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Best hotels in York 2023: Where to stay in one of the UK’s friendliest cities

Chintz-free stays in the historical centre 

Historic tours and wild weekends await
Historic tours and wild weekends await (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A medieval walled city, packed with genuinely unique sights – it’s no wonder York is one of the UK’s most popular city breaks.

It may be a compact city, but boy does it deliver. It’s a city for history buffs, film fanatics and foodies alike. Why’s that? Well, there’s many a Roman building to see, and, of course, you can walk along the famous walls that line its borders. For fans of the wizarding world of Harry Potter, a stroll down the shambles – supposedly the inspiration behind Diagon Alley – is sure to add some magic to your visit. And there’s many an independent cafe, bistro and restaurant in which to wet you whistle while you explore. Plus, York has even featured on many lists af one of the friendliest cities to visit. Who can say no to that?

Of course, with all this to explore you’re going to want to at least make a weekend of it, and for that you need an equally exciting place to bed down in. Enter our list of the best hotels in York.

Most of those featured on our list can be found in the heart of the city centre – but even those situated further afield are an easy, and enjoyable, walk into town. Historic properties abound here, with accommodation for travelling judges’, centuries-old mansions, and elegant townhouses just some of the options available.

Best hotel for location: Judge’s Lodging

Neighbourhood: City Centre

The exterior of The Judge's Lodgings (H Webster)

The huge beer garden and cellar bar with vaulted ceilings and Roman foundations lure you in for a drink, while the rooms upstairs in this Georgian townhouse-turned-inn invite you to stay over. Matching the grace of its 18th-century exterior, rooms are smartly elegant, dressed in greige with statement wallpapers. Original fireplaces and svelte restored plasterwork hark back to the time when travelling judges would stay here as they stopped off for a few days to preside over criminal courts. Here for more frivolous pursuits? It’s midway between York Minster and The Shambles medieval shopping street, each five minutes away.

Best hotel for a flutter: Hotel du Vin

Neighbourhood: Mount

Dining at Hotel du Vin, York (Hotel du Vin)

Chain hotels don’t have to be horrid; the York outpost of the lush Hotel du Vin chain sits outside the city walls between Micklegate Bar and York Racecourse. The cheapest rooms are business functional, with oak wardrobes and rose-hued wallpapers. But the suites take on a decidedly romantic vibe, with roll-top freestanding bathtubs, wallpapers with bold floral prints, sleigh beds and black-tiled showers. Downstairs, the cocktail bar is one of the sexiest in the city – with, as you’d expect given the hotel name, an excellent wine list – while the bistro bustles at all hours, serving up French fare to a mix of racing fans, families and business people.

Best hotel to impress: The Principal York

Neighbourhood: City Centre

The elegantly furnished Garden Room at The Principal (The Principal)

Steps from the platform at York railway station and around the corner from the National Railway Museum, this hotel gleams with grand Victorian splendour. Given a major facelift in 2016, it has won a raft of design awards. The soaring, light-filled central atrium leads to a long colonnaded drawing room with leather sofas, ornate cornicing and pale wood floors. With its red leather chairs and green velvet curtains, the Chapter House bar recalls an old gin palace, while the pale grey rooms are subtly sumptuous, with tactile suede, velvet and linen soft furnishings. Bonus: many rooms have views up to York Minster.

Best hotel for beer-lovers: Trembling Madness Apartments

Neighbourhood: City Centre

The Haunted Chamber apartment boasts a four-poster bed

After a few pints at the House of the Trembling Madness pub, you won’t feel like walking far, and with the two psychedelic apartments which sit above it, you won’t have to. Set in a 650-year-old Tudor house, these two self-catering flats each have a very different feel. The one-bedroomed Haunted Chamber claims a ghost and uses dark woods and rich hues to evoke the feeling of an old Tudor home, while the two-bedroomed Old Gallery wows with psychedelic decor and a 1970s time warp look.

Best hotel for design: The Churchill Hotel

Neighbourhood: City Centre

Hot pink bed sheets and a mural of you-know-who (The Churchill Hotel)

A stately Georgian mansion built in 1827, this house was owned by the War Department for a century – hence the Churchill reference. The impressively designed rooms are among the most beautiful in the city, with even the smallest winning on the style stakes with murals of a relaxed Churchill and black-tiled bathrooms. Refreshingly bold splashes of hot pink and turquoise give a fresh, modern feel throughout, from rooms to the wood-floored restaurant and bar.

Best B&B: The Tower House

Neighbourhood: Clifton

Each room at Tower House has its own unique look (Tower House)

Named best B&B in 2019 by Visit York, it’s easy to see why when you’ve checked into one of the Tower House’s eight spacious bedrooms. Each has an entirely different look – one all-white rococo frilliness, another four-poster romance, another featuring a Japanese aesthetic with sliding paper doors and black lacquer furnishings. And the hearty, well-made breakfasts – eggs Benedict, full English or scrambled with mozzarella and basil – set you up for the 10-minute stroll to the Minster.

Best hotel for old-world glamour: Middlethorpe Hall & Spa

Neighbourhood: Middlethorpe

The National Trust property was built in the style of Hampton Court (Middlethorpe Hall)

It’s a walkable two miles to the city centre from here, but this feels like a tranquil country retreat, located on a huge swathe of parkland near the far end of York Racecourse. A National Trust property, it exudes stately home glamour, from the huge four-poster bedrooms to the immaculately landscaped gardens. Built in the style of Hampton Court – but on a much smaller scale – the three-storey red-brick mansion and adjacent courtyard wing contain 29 rooms, a comfortable drawing room and one of the city’s best fine dining restaurants. Walk across the front lawn to an annexe, and you’ll find a small spa with a swimming pool, sauna, whirlpool and steam room.

Best hotel for city buzz: The Fort York

Neighbourhood: City Centre

The Fort York Boutique Hostel rooms have UV lighting (The Fort York)

You’ll need breadcrumbs (and Google Maps) when searching for this funky sleep, hidden amid the cocktail lounges and tapas bars of the warren-like ‘Quarter’ district. It’s not so much a hotel as a hostel. But while you may not want to bunk up with the backpackers in a shared dorm, you’ll have no reservations about its four private en-suite rooms, each of which has its own unique design features, such as UV lighting, monochrome murals, and Banksy-esque street art.

Attraction wise, you couldn’t be closer to all the big hitters here, as the dreamy rooftop views of York Minster attest. But unless you consider the city’s nightlife as much of a draw as the nearby cathedral, Shambles and Bettys tea rooms, you might want to stick to a midweek visit; the downstairs bar is the place to be on a Friday and Saturday night.

Best hotel for Instagram: Judges Court Hotel

Neighbourhood: City Centre

Judges Court is perfectly positioned for exploring York

Not to be confused with the more-famous Judge’s Lodgings (reviewed above), this 15-room boutique hotel is where visiting 18th-century magistrates stayed when trying York’s murderers and highwaymen. Full of original features – Georgian panelled walls, grand balustrade staircase – the Grade II-listed building, tucked in a courtyard off the main high street, has been given a Punch Magazine-style makeover.

It now has satirical frescoes on the walls, and the sort of roll-top baths, retro four-posters and medallion chairs that wouldn’t have felt out of place when the JP who convicted Dick Turpin stayed here. Slightly less in-keeping, the Nespresso machines and iPod docking stations are, nonetheless, suitably indulgent additions to the rooms. Even the soap-dodging Georgians wouldn’t have been able to resist a splash in the all-white bathroom, with its drench showers and Molten Brown toiletries.

For more information take a look at our full review of the Judges Court Hotel.

Best hotel for yoga-lovers: Hedley House Hotel

Neighbourhood: Bootham

Hedley House has stylish bedrooms and a hot yoga studio (Hedley House)

Don’t let the garish carpet that greets you in the downstairs lobby bar put you off this family-run hotel, a few minutes from the Minster. Head upstairs and you’ll discover rooms are surprisingly stylish, combining a palette of greys, greens and browns with plaid soft furnishings and velvety throws. Unusually for a 26-room hotel, there’s not only a hot-yoga studio, with hour-long classes, but also an on-site spa.

Best hotel for local grub: Hotel Indigo York

Neighbourhood: City Centre

Hotel Indigo York shakes off the chain vibe (Hotel Indigo York)

It might be part of a chain, but this new-build, 90 seconds’ walk from the city walls in one direction and the pavement cafes on Fossgate in the other, is no soulless clone. Its restaurant, No.88 Walmgate, pairs Shoreditch-y tiling and bleached oak, with a menu chocked full of regional ingredients like Yorkshire rhubarb, Wensleydale cheese and locally sourced chocolate, beers, breads and meat. The rooms themselves feature graffiti-style murals of the Minster, and a hotchpotch of historic etchings and streetscapes above their king-size beds. The fact the hotel has a gym, as well as mini-fridges stocked with complimentary snacks and water, is also a pretty big positive.

Best hotel for a stroll in the park: Jorvik House

Neighbourhood: City Centre

Jorvik House has cool, Nordic style (Jorvik House)

It’s just a few minutes’ amble through a river-side park from this mid-18th-century townhouse to the Minster. Having said that though, it might take you a hell of a lot longer, given the number of attractions you’ll pass en route; the park is home to a ruined abbey, a Roman fortress, and a gorgeous 13th-century manor house that once acted as the parliament of the north.

As the name, Jorvik, implies, it’s York’s time as the capital of Viking Britain rather than northern England that the hotel channels, with funky Nordic touches, including chandeliers made from wooden “antlers” in reception, and Moomins socks on sale at the front desk. Rooms are pure Scandi-chic, featuring brushed leather headboards, faux-fur runners and the sort of roughly-hewn wood and touches of taupe you’d find in a Swedish design magazine. The view from the Loft Suite – of the Minster rising above the abbey ruins – on the other hand, couldn’t get more quintessentially English.

Best hotel for agitators: Guys Fawkes Inn

Neighbourhood: City Centre

Guy Fawkes Inn (Guy Fawkes Inn)

Anarchists and rabble-rousers will relish the opportunity to stay in the birthplace of the man whose face has come to symbolise revolution and protest around the globe: Guy Fawkes. The ringleader of the Gunpowder Plot was born in 1570 in a cottage behind the hotel, a tall redbrick building sitting in the shadow of the city’s picturesque minster.

Downstairs, the bar and restaurant area is all dark walls and gas-lighting, creating an atmospheric ambience on even the sunniest days. Upstairs, 13 individually decorated rooms continue the olde worlde theme complete with wonky staircases, original wooden beams and antique furniture. Negotiate the low ceilings and doorways to one of the peaceful rooms at the back of the house – unusually silent considering its city centre location. Like many buildings in this ancient city, ghost sightings have been reported here; request the Belfry Suite if you’re a fan of things that go bump in the night.

Best hotel for foodies: Clementine’s Townhouse Hotel

Neighbourhood: Bootham

(Clemetine's Town House)

What was once Marmaduke’s Townhouse Hotel has been reborn as a 28-room establishment with a decidedly boutique feel. The rooms are all different but share a boldness of design as well as a focus on comfort. The After Eight Suite is the quirkiest of them all, clad entirely in wood and boasting its own private area of decking that gives onto the hotel’s garden.

Best hotel for bling: The Grand

Neighbourhood: City Centre

The spa at The Grand hotel (The Grand)

Less than a minute’s walk from the railway station, York’s first five-star hotel is grand in both name and nature. From the moment you reach its commanding stone entrance, doormen in top hats and tails relieve you of your luggage and whisk you to the grandiose reception complete with chandeliers, original black and white floor tiling and pale stone arche.

This vast building was once the Edwardian headquarters of the North Eastern Railway Company and its current owners have made excellent use of the plentiful fixtures and fittings, such as wooden columns, parquet flooring and sweeping stone staircases (check out the lavish Grand Ballroom for a party venue with bar walls views and plenty of class). All 207 bedrooms include marble bathrooms bathtubs, Bose multi-room speakers, fluffy robes to sprawl in front of flat-screen TVs, and excellent lighting.

Downstairs, guests can luxuriate further in the spa, which includes a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, 14m pool and fitness room. Once home to the company vaults, original armoured doors and iron bars contribute to the sense of splendour that permeates throughout the building, while sumptuous velvet and leather wing-backed armchairs and sofas in the 1906 bar and whisky lounge upstairs provide an ideal spot for a post-dip tipple.

Best hotel for opulence: Grays Court York

Neighbourhood: City Centre

Grays Court (Grays Court)

The oldest continuously inhabited house in England, dating back to 1091, this tranquil boutique hotel is a few steps from York Minster, right in the heart of the city. Grays Court somehow manages to combine opulent, expensive decor with a homely atmosphere. Silk wallpapers, reproduction Louis XIV furnishings and crystal chandeliers wouldn’t naturally make you think “child and dog-friendly”, yet both are welcome.

As you flop on your four-poster or pad along the medieval hallways, you’re unlikely to encounter staff – this isn’t a five-star hotel, even if it looks like one – which leaves you free to poke around the various nooks, crannies and lounge areas of this Grade I-listed building. Add to this the peerless views of the Minster, a beautifully manicured garden, and the only private access to York’s city walls, and you may not want to leave.

Best for long weekends: The Parisi

Neighbourhood: City Centre

The sitting room at The Parisi self-catering holiday let (The Parisi)

Not far from the end of buzzy Fossgate – a street filled with vintage shops and cafes selling craft beer and coffee – this small holiday let is a charmer. A revamped 19th-century rectory overlooking the medieval church it once belonged to, past the stern red-brick exterior is a tiled Victorian hallway with vases of flowers, freshly cut from the small garden. Bedrooms are simply furnished, though with high-quality bedding and splashes of colour to give them a lift.

Price: From £475 per night

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