Life in York

York is a wonderful place to live. It is a city where ideas come to life and where every day you can find something new to explore. But we know it can be different to the life you are used to, so here are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most of your time here and always feel at home.


Things to See and Do

A modern city with a dramatic past, York has plenty of stories within our historic city walls. Our cobbled streets have hosted sieges, festivals, protests and parties and today, over 25,000 students call them home.

York is a city full of pride. We have a unique history showcased in our stunning architecture, museums and theatres as well as through daily city tours hosted by characters dressed in costume from bygone days. If you want to walk some medieval city walls we have the best persevered ones in the county. If you prefer shows or performances we have dozens of theatres, cinemas, halls and play houses.  When it comes to museums our small city is home to about 30, plus National Trust houses, art galleries and exhibitions. In fact, York has more attractions per square mile than any other city of its size.

Our city centre independent market and outside food quarter are open daily and throughout the year we have an amazing calendar of events from festive markets and a number of food fairs to Viking festivals and Shakespearean theatre. The odd ghost pops up too!  Once a year our resident’s festival will give you free or heavily discounted access to most of York’s cultural and social treasures – it’s just the city’s way of saying thanks for living here!

We are also very much an outside city. From walking the city walls to strolling along the river or kicking a ball around on one of our gorgeous parks, you can enjoy the glory that York has to offer all year round. Where else could you cycle a scale model of the Solar System laid out along the route of an old train line? It may get cold in winter but Yorkshire folk are hardy and nothing can stop us if we have on a jacket and maybe (just maybe) a flat cap!

Here are just a few suggestions for places for you to visit:

  • York Minster
  • Jorvik Viking Centre
  • National Railway Museum
  • York Art Gallery
  • Yorkshire Museum
  • York Castle Museum
  • Clifford's Tower
  • York Dungeon
  • York's Chocolate Story
  • York City Sightseeing bus
  • City Cruises York

Visit York has all the information you need about what to do, locations, prices and opening times!

We are also really lucky to be located close to many different and interesting places int he UK, which are easy to get to on public transport. Have a look in our UK section for ideas on Yorkshire and the rest of the country. 

Places to Eat

The British love food and also variety.  From good old fashioned English roasts and traditional fish and chips to local delicacies and interntional cuisine, you will have no problem finding something you will enjoy in York. 

The city is home to many indpendent coffee shops, serving excellent coffee, cake and light lunches. We also have a number of traditional tea rooms. Afternoon tea is a lovely (and very British) treat - it comes with a pot of tea, a selections of scones, cakes and sandwiches. There are plenty of places to choose from with Betty's Tea Rooms being the most famous. Get in line early though as you can't book and the queue gets very long!

York's huge choice of English pubs serve up British pub classics like sausage and mash, fish and chips or a Sunday roast. If you are  looking for something more specific York is home to many larger restaurants, both chain and independent, with everything from vegan to steak house, buffet to tapas, Chinese to Jaimaican, or  French, Polish, Caribbean, Brazilian, Korean, Thai... there is no shortage of international cuisine for you to try something new, or find places to eat that remind you of home!

Here are a few of our suggestions for international cuisine International restaurants map (PDF, 8MB)

For more information and up to date restautant listins check out the Eat & Drink page at Visit York

Festivals and Events

There’s always something exciting going on in York, whatever the time of year. Here are some of our top picks form the city’s vibrant events calendar (dates may change and events may be cancelled.)


York Residents’ Festival is your chance to explore the city and be a tourist for the weekend – for free!


Europe’s biggest Viking celebration, the JORVIK Viking Festival celebrates York’s illustrious Viking heritage and includes lectures, guided walks and exciting battle re-enactments.  Can you compete for the best Viking beard?

The York Ice Trail is two days of fun as you search for over 50 ice sculptures across the city.


York Literature Festival celebrates York’s rich literary and cultural heritage. Performances, workshops, poetry, theatre and cinema will be hosted by various venues across the city.

York Fashion Week is made up of local business owners developing the vibrant fashion community in York.


York Open Studios is an annual community arts event celebrating the best artists and makers living in York.


Tour de Yorkshire is one of the biggest cycle races in the UK and is an outstanding event, happening right on our doorstep! Get out across Yorkshire to see the action in the hills and dales of our fine county.

The Eboracum Roman Festival  loves to invade our city with living history camps and demonstrations, bringing the Romans home to York.

Fossgate is one of York's oldest streets alive with independent shops, cafes and bars, and home to the beautiful Merchant Adventurers' Hall. The street celebrates its character with a party like no other that residents and tourists long look forward to.


York Pride takes over the city, with loads of activities, a parade and a party to celebrate all things LGBTQ+ at the Knavesmire, next to York Racecourse.

York Festival of Ideas is an award-winning festival of thoughts featuring world-class speakers, exhibitions, theatre, music and films, most of which are free to everyone.

York Festival is York's own music celebration with a tune for everyone. 2020's line up included legends such as Lionel Richie, British icons Madness and Irish heroes Westlife.


Bloom celebrates horticulture and flowers in York, with incredible installations popping up everywhere across the city.

The York Early Music Festival is the UK’s largest festival of classical music written before 1750.

The York Proms is a delightful outdoor concert with music from the classical world, film, musicals and more. Picnickers relax in the Museum Gardens and enjoy fireworks at Dusk. This is a ticketed event that sells out fast


Yorkshire Day is a day of celebration for those living in ‘Gods own country’! Why not try a traditional Yorkshire pudding, put on a flat cap and drink some good old Yorkshire Tea?

York Walls Festival is a weekend of events dedicated to showcasing York’s heritage.

York's Micklegate Run Soapbox Challenge is one of the most exciting and wackiest events in York's festival calendar as homemade carts hurtle and race down the cobbled streets!


York Food and Drink Festival is the biggest of its kind in the country. For ten days the city centre becomes a magnet for foodies from all over the world.

The York Balloon Fiesta fills the skies of York with hot air balloons, from all across the country, quite the spectacle.


York Mediale is an international media arts festival, which celebrates York as the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.


York St John University Graduation is an unforgettable experience for all of our students who will graduate in York Minster, one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals.

Aesthetica Film Festival takes place annually showcasing some of the world’s greatest short films, including drama, music video, fashion, comedy, documentary, thrillers, animation and children’s screenings.


York Christmas Festival is a chance to soak up the city’s medieval charm and scents of spiced mulled wine this season, as York is transformed into a Christmas fairy tale.

Find more information about what's on at Visit York. You will also find a York tourist guide in your free welcome pack when you arrive at York St John!




When it comes to shopping, York really has it all. The heart of the city is home to ancient cobbled streets brimming with independent shops. Whilst only small, the city has its own little districts, each with it’s own speciality. From boutique to designer and historic to pop up there is a unique shop for everything, amongst our winding streets. Despite our wealth of independent shops, we've also got the brands you know and love (just in quirky little buildings with wonky staircases). Everything in York is a little bit more interesting.

In the UK shops are usually open 9.00am – 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday, with slightly shorter hours on Sunday, normally 11.00am to 4.00pm. It's a good idea to check opening times before you go.

When it comes to getting everything you need for your every day student life, including household goods such as clothes hangers and kitchen equipment, there are plenty of affordable places in the city centre such as Boyes (Goodramgate) or Poundland (Low Petergate) and Barnitts (Colliergate).

More information on shopping.



Big supermarkets are usually open from 7am until 9 or 10pm on weekdays, and 11am-4pm on Sundays - at the weekend it's best to check the opening times before you go.

Tesco at Askam Bar or Clifton Moor is open 24 hours (except Sunday), but it's a long walk so you will need to go by bus, car or taxi.

If you need a large shop, or a group of you need food, it may be worth ordering online. Most large supermarkets allow you to do this, and for around £2-£5 your shopping is delivered to your house.

Here are some of the bigger supermarkets that are close to York St John:

  • Sainsbury's: Foss Bank, York, YO31 7JB 
  • Morrisons: Foss Islands Retail Park, Foss Islands Road, York, YO31 7UL 
  • Lidl: James Street, YO10 3DW
  • Asda: 77 Layerthorpe, York, YO31 7UZ 

 There are also small supermarkets in the city centre which stay open until 11pm, even on Sundays:

York has many international and specialised supermarkets:

  • Regency Chinese Supermarket: George Hudson Street, York, YO1 6LP
  • Sunshine oriental Supermarket: Walmgate, York, YO1 9TJ
  • Red Chili Supermarket: George Hudson St, York, YO1 6JL
  • Oriental Express: Hull Road, York, YO10 3JW
  • Bua Yai Thai Supermarket: Hull Rd, York, YO10 3JL
  • Makkah International Food: Hull Rd, York, YO10 3JW
  • Amma's Oven: Lowther St, York, YO31 7NB
  • Rafi's Spicebox: Goodramgate, York, YO1 7LW
  • Baltic Shop: St Thomas' Pl, York YO31 7NB
  • Polski Sklep IZA: Walmgate, York YO1 9TL

Food shops map (PDF, 8.1MB)

The Shambles market is located between Parliament Street and the Shambles in the city centre. It is great for cheap, fresh produce, and is open Monday to Saturday all day.


Night Life

The York social scene is thriving and day or night you can enjoy cool cafes, unique bars, lively clubs and all manner of events. York is a student city so you'll find the variety needed to keep a huge student population satisfied. If you're someone who loves a night out, you can pick from three-floor clubs with basement tiki bars and gig venues where you'll see your idols take to the stage, or more cosy candlelit alehouses with winding staircases and weird and warped taxidermy. We even have our own ice cream boat that sits riverside from spring to autumn.

If you want to meet locals you will have no problem finding groups of likeminded individuals. From book, craft or writing clubs to free thinking groups, special interest gatherings and simple social meet ups, York has something for everyone, every day.

If you are more into movies, York has two city centre boutique cinemas as well as two major out of town cinemas at Clifton Moor and Monk's Cross. Check their websites for listings.

When it comes to live ation, we have an abundance of theatres, including  York Theatre Royal for plays, the Grand Opera House York for comedy and touring broadway shows, Joseph Rowntree Theatre for amateur productions and York Barbican for comedy and music.   We also have plenty of smaller venues such as The Basement and The Crescent which have regular music, comedy and cabaret shows, often from local artists.

Britian is a country of pubs and York has enough for you to visit a different one every day of the year. Many of the pubs in York host regular quizzes, open mic nights and live music.  We love the Snickleway Inn, The Habit or the Eagle and Child. There are plenty of options depending on your drink and atmosphere of choice. Brew York and Pivni have a selection of local and international ales, go to The Attic and House of Trembling Madness (Lendal) for a great selection of gins, or Valhala for authentic Viking mead!

There are also plenty of alcohol free options.  Although most pubs serve a selection of soft drinks you can check out our T-total nights out map (PDF, 8MB) for our top suggestions!

UK Way Of Life


The UK is rich with culture and customs, and although some of these may seem different and unusual we hope you will be able to experience and enjoy as much as possible during your time at York St John.

The UK council for International Student Affairs have lots of useful information and advice on all aspects of living and studying in the UK. Check out their page on UK traditions and culture.



British Etiquette

Being Polite

The British use expressions such as ‘please’, ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ a lot more than other nationalities. It is easy to occasionally misunderstand and interpret something as impolite; it might be a gesture, a different way of addressing someone, looking someone in the eye when you speak, expectations around offers of hospitality, etc.


In the UK it is polite to queue and wait your turn in a café, bank, shop or anywhere that you receive a service. You will be seen eventually, you just have to wait.

Time keeping

It is important to be punctual in the UK. Lectures and lessons will start at the scheduled time and you will interrupt the session if you are late. Punctuality is also important for appointments, for example with a doctor. If you know you will be late or if you will not be attending (a lecture or class for example) it is important that you phone or email beforehand to let the person know.


Smoking is not allowed in public buildings, including restaurants, bars, pubs and on public transport. You are also not permitted to smoke anywhere on the University campus. If you smoke in university accommodation you could receive a fine.

Gender and relationships

You may experience differences from what you are used to, for example displays of affection in public, how people (especially women) dress, degrees of openness around sexual orientation, how men and women relate to each other.


It is perfectly natural and understandable to look for other students of your own nationality to mix with socially. To help you make the most of your university experience it is good to meet British students too. British students might meet up for a cup of coffee/tea and a chat, or they might go to a pub for a drink, which does not have to be alcoholic.

Joining societies and clubs is an excellent way of meeting other students, developing your skills and hobbies and, of course,  having fun! Have a look at what's on offer on the YSJ Student Union website.

Come along to our Global Cafe every Monday evening to hang out with students of all nationalities. You can also join our  YSJ Global Campus forum on Facebook. This is a space for you to meet, talk and plan. You might want to ask for tips from UK students, give advice to students coming from your home country, or even meet exchange students who have studied at your home insitution. 

Be sure to get involved in our Global Campus forum


Another aspect of UK life which could be different, confusing or surprising is the UK weather and Bristish people love to talk about it! Weather in the UK is famously difficult to predict, as it is always changing.

Semester 1: September to December/January

In September it can be quite sunny and pleasant whilst in October the weather usually stays mild but starts to cool off. November and December can be very misty and cold and there is a chance of frost and snow from late November onward. It is best to dress in layers at this time of year and make sure you have a hat, scarf and gloves.

Semester 2: January to May

January and February remain very cold and there is still a good chance of frost and snow. March is the start of spring, but it can be be very unpredictable and might be both chilly and warm on the same day! No year is the same! April and May are when it generally starts to warm up and the city comes alive with spring flowers coming into bloom. There is a good chance of rain throughout the year, but especially in the spring, so be prepared with a light rain coat and umbrella.

For the most up to date weather forecast see the York BBC Weather website.


Walking through the city streets when it's very rainy or snowy can be a challenge so it is a good idea to invest in a good pair of walking boots or rubber "wellies" when you arrive in the UK.

Make sure you bring at least a couple of nice dress-up outfits for evenings out, or for events like Summer Ball in May. Dress shoes are important also, because some pubs and bars in York do not allow trainers/sneakers during evenings at the weekend.


Culture Shock

"Culture shock" describes the impact of moving from a familiar culture to one which is unfamiliar. This can affect anyone and is quite normal. Your fellow international students will share the experience but so will many UK students who are away from home for the first time.

If you experience culture shock it does not mean you made a wrong choice in coming to York.  Our dedicated international student support team is here to help you , in all aspects of support you may need and UKCISA also provide useful information about facing culture shock. Our wellbeing team includes mental health, welfare and counselling professionals, here to offer you a confidential service to help you achieve your academic and personal potential.

We also provide you with a busy Welcome Week programme, which takes place at the start of each semester.  This will help you settle in easily, with advice on everythig from accommodation issues to opening a bank account and from registering with the health centre to finding your way around the campus and city.

We are here to guide and support you.

Wellbeing Support

At York St John we want to help you to look after yourself!

Wellbeing is how able a person is, or feels, to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others and contribute to their community.

On our website, you can find lots of information about wellbeing, what it means and how to look after yourself during your time at York St John. This could be helpful if you are experienceing culture shock or home sickness.

Our wellbeing team are also available to help if you need emotional and psychological support. You can find more information including drop-in times on the wellbeing team website.

We are also part of TogetherAll, a 24/hour a day / seven days a week support community, that all students can register free with, using your YSJ email address. 


Studying in the UK and study support

Studying in the UK could be different to studying at home, from teaching styles to class sizes to exams, it can take some getting used to. Just remember, you are not alone! UKCISA offer a good introduction to studying in the UK witch explains key terms and gives useful information. They also have lots of tips to help you prepare for success.

You can also talk to your academic tutor or contact International Student Support for advice.  Our Study Development team can help if you are having trouble getting used to studying in the UK - whether you need help with your planning process, your study strategies or avoiding plagarism. They do not offer a proofreading service but can help you develop your proofreading skills. Sessions are available to all students and are delivered through workshops, short writing courses, individual and small group tutorials. These can help to identify ways to improve the quality of your academic work and offer advice and tuition on study and writing strategies.

York St John also offers a range of Study Skills Software free to all students, such as a note-taking app and Global AutoCorrect software. 



Language Support

The Language Development team can help you improve your English language skills. Their webpage offers lots of advice and tips, as well as online study materials. You can also contact the team to make an appointment. 

Report and Support

York St John University values the social and cultural diversity of our community. We expect all our staff and students to treat each other with kindness and respect.

York is one of the safer cities in the UK but incidents can happen and we want to make sure students can access support if they need to. You can find out more information about hate crime, how to report it and the support available on our website.

You can also access support, as well as information and training opportunities, through All About Respect, a student led project which aims to safeguard students.

The UK

Discovering Yorkshire

York is a very well located and well connected city - you can visit many different interesting, historical and beautiful places on public transport.

The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors are National Parks with incredible scenery. They are accessible by public transport and are a great day out!

The historic market towns of Harrogate and Knaresborough are just a short train ride from York, and just 30 minutes away is Leeds, a much bigger city with plenty of shops, restaurants and museums. There is always something going on!

The seaside resorts of Scarborough and Whitby also make the perfect destination for a day out. There are beaches, beautiful views, ice-cream and fish and chips! Scarborough is easily accessible by train from York. Whitby is a little harder to get to, but well worth it. The bus journey takes you over the open moors and past steam railways. Of course you can always join our Global Campus Trip to Whitby in semester 2!

Find out more on places to explore and information on things to do at Beyond York 

The Global Campus programme runs trips arund the North of England every semester - find out what we have planned and get tickets here.

Exploring further in the UK

York’s public transport is well connected to many major UK cities.  Trains run regularly to other Northern cities which you can visit in a day or overnight. Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool are around one and a half hours away and are full of culture, food and stories.

You can get from York to London in just two hours or to Edinburgh in two and a half hours - both of these capital cities deserve a weekend visit.

Visiting Mainland Europe

The UK is close to mainland Europe so you might want to spend some time visiting other famous cities.  If you would like to cross over to mainland Europe, a quick ferry from Hull or Newcastle or the Eurostar trains run from London St Pancras to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. There are also many cheap airlines that fly from nearby airports, including Manchester and Leeds Bradford, to many destinations across Europe.

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