The charming county town of the beautiful and wild English county of Yorkshire, York is filled with pubs and bars overflowing with character, from quirky, contemporary cocktail bars to historic, cosy inns. Here, we profile York’s 10 best drinking spots.
The Black Swan, York | Courtesy of the Drawing Board
Located on the site of an old water meadow used to grow peas, The Black Swan dates back to the 15th century. Then, it was used as lodgings for the Sheriff of York, before being transformed into a pub in the 16th century. The building is charmingly historic, with a classic Tudor half-timbered façade, a maze of rooms within, low-beamed ceilings and roaring open fires. Thanks to its historic nature, there are persistent rumours that the Black Swan is haunted, with regular sightings of a workman wearing a bowler hat and a young lady in a flowing dress. These rumours only add to the pub’s character, and there are regular ghost tours and candlelit ghost dinners held for paranormal enthusiasts.
Evil Eye Bar and Restaurant | Courtesy of Evil Eye Bar and Restaurant
The Drawing Board is a bar based entirely on creativity and innovation. Its walls are covered with chalkboard paint, and visitors are encouraged to doodle, sketch and scribble to their heart’s content. This makes each night’s decor entirely unique, and gives the bar a quirky, fun atmosphere. The drink selection is equally creative. Cocktails are made-to-order from an impressively large array of spirits, liqueurs, and fresh ingredients. They range from classic favourites to carefully crafted new inventions. The Drawing Board is open Sundays to Thursdays, making it the perfect destination for a mid-week evening off in a unique atmosphere.
Stepping into the Evil Eye Bar and Restaurant feels like stepping out of York and into another world filled with warmth and mysticism. A far cry from the medieval cobbled streets just outside, the interior is bright and unusual. Vivid wall paintings, unusual carvings and colourful textiles inspired by South-East Asian design fill the space. Upstairs, the bar has several carved wooden beds covered with cushions, perfect for lounging in with a drink after a long day. The drinks menu is equally eclectic, featuring a range of crafted shots, classic cocktails, and signature ‘Evil Creations’ for the more adventurous.
Just a few steps away from the stunning York Minster, The Guy Fawkes Inn is built on the very spot the legendary conspirator was born. The current Grade II-listed building dates back to the 18th century. It reflects its impressive heritage in every single aspect of its interior; exposed, original wooden beams, timbered floors and authentic gas lamps feel like a step back into the past, and give the inn a cosy yet dramatic atmosphere. The inn serves a number of real cask ales and draught beers, as well as a selection from local breweries. It also offers a delicious menu of Yorkshire pub classics, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Restaurant, Gastropub, Bar, Pub, Pub Grub, Vegetarian, $$$
House of the Trembling Madness
Named for the Latin term delirium tremens – or shaking frenzy – which denotes the extreme symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, the House of the Trembling Madness lives up to its striking, unnerving name. Parts of the site’s original medieval drinking hall still remain. The timber beams are made from an 800-year-old ship and the array of unexpected animal heads are mounted on the walls, including a stoat, a kangaroo and a badger, making for an unusual and eye-catching environment. The bar is also noted for its excellent range of draught beers and ciders from local and guest breweries, as well as its hearty cheese boards, hunter platters and juicy meat pies.
Aiming to bring its customers a collection of the best beers from all around the world, Pivni prides itself on its eclectic and varied range of craft beers, whether from keg, bottle or cask. The pub has a selection of more than 70 beers, from local brews on tap to real ales from the other side of the globe. Its impressive collection has won Pivni several awards, including a place in the 2014 CAMRA Good Beer Guide. Located in a quirky 16th century building with a cosy bar downstairs and two large rooms upstairs, Pivni is the perfect place to relax for an afternoon of sampling.
Although it only opened its doors in 2014, the Stein Bier Keller has already become one of the most popular places to grab a pint in York. Owned and run by German brothers Armin and Nils Diederich, the Stein Bier Keller is the realisation of their dream to build an authentic German beer hall in the UK. The interior features traditional Bavarian decor, with long wooden tables and benches, stacks of barrels, and drinking memorabilia filling the space. As might be expected, the Stein Bier Keller offers a large and impressive range of beers, with nine draught beers on tap. This includes the specially brewed house Stein Keller Bier, and an even larger number of bottled international beers.
Ideal for the music lover, the Stone Rosesbar in York perfectly marries a vibrant rock theme with an excellent pub atmosphere and menu. Stepping in, the decor is immediately fun and inviting, with posters of classic rock bands, photographs from concerts and a range of eclectic memorabilia – including an old-school motorcycle – covering the walls. This complements the rock and indie music playing over the sound of voices and the occasional pool game. Stone Roses also holds regular live music nights, making it the perfect place to soak up the local music scene over a few drinks with friends.
Famous for its 18th-century sign spanning across the medieval street of Stonegate, Ye Olde Starre Inne is York’s oldest continuously licensing pub, having reportedly opened in 1644 when York was under siege by the Roundheads. Today, Ye Olde Starre Inne is one of York’s most charming and character-filled pubs, with a wonderful selection of real ales, fine wines, and a wonderful view of the York Minster. The inn also has a delicious menu filled with traditional pub classics, perfect for anyone who wishes to sample local Yorkshire cuisine. Try the freshly baked venison pie or the hand-battered fish and chips with a local beer for an authentic taste of the area.
A charming bistro bar situated in the very heart of York, 1331 is the perfect spot for a quiet romantic dinner with drinks, or for a round of cocktails with friends. The interior is cheerful and cosy, creating a relaxed, intimate atmosphere, while a beautiful courtyard provides outdoors seating for warm summer evenings. The drinks menu is largely classic, with a large variety of vodka, gin and rum cocktails on offer. Try the Forbidden Fruits with gin, Chambard, strawberry, raspberry, lime and ginger beer for a colourful twist on an old favourite. 1331 also has a small private cinema in a quaint attic room above the bar, which can be hired to screen your favourite film over a meal and drinks.