With an abundance of historical sites and places to see, York is one of the most popular tourist hotspots in the UK outside of London, seeing visitors come from up and down the country and from abroad all year long.
While there are many incredible things to do in York for kids, families, couples, and other explorers, one of the best things this beautiful city has going for is its location.
Nestled in the heart of Yorkshire, not too far from the coast, two gorgeous National Parks, and other fun cities, there are dozens of places that make for great day trips from York.
One of the most picturesque towns close to York is Knaresborough, known for the scenic River Yidd that cuts through it and is spanned by the iconic Victorian viaduct.
In addition to taking a walk along the river, take a stop by Knaresborough Castle and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area – Old Mother Shipton’s Cave.
Knaresborough is also located very nearby to Harrogate, another popular location for day trips from York. Both can be visited in one day, so don’t skip one if you’re dropping by the other!
A short distance from Knaresborough is Harrogate, a spa town well known for Betty’s Tea Room, one of the most famous attractions in Yorkshire.
As arguably the most popular day trip from York, the historic streets of Harrogate offer the perfect escape for those looking to step back in time and explore somewhere that captures the feel of Regency-era England.
If you’re trying to decide which day trips from York should be prioritised, a visit to Whitby should be at the top of your list. Taking the train for a day here is one of the best things to do in York for couples because of the interesting setting and cool streets to explore.
This small town on the coast provides a classic British seaside experience, along with some of the best fish and chips in the country.
Whitby is most well-known for the ruins of the Gothic monastery that overlooks the town from the cliffs above and creates a unique atmosphere. The abbey is surrounded by myths and stories from local folklore, and was famously inhabited by the eponymous vampire in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The atmosphere created by the abbey standing over this seaside town makes it surprisingly romantic, and you can read about the many things to do in Whitby for couples for more ideas of places to go.
Further down the coast from Whitby is Scarborough, another popular destination for tourists looking for a quintessentially British time by the seaside, with arcades, ice cream, and seagulls eager to steal your chips!
The beach at Scarborough gets busy in the summer with people flocking to the coast for sun, sand, and sea, and as the nearest seaside resort from York it’s the easiest to get to for a day trip.
You’ll also be able to explore Scarborough Castle, an English Heritage site that is still partially intact and offers amazing panoramic views of the town and surrounding coastline.
As an impressive stately just 15 miles from the city, Castle Howard is one of the best day trips from York for those who don’t want to travel far.
With large gardens to explore and the impressive 17th-century country house that you can walk around, there’s plenty to discover and spend time seeing.
The multiple gardens that cover 1,000 acres of parkland are worth spending hours looking around, no matter what time of year you visit.
North York Moors National Park
To get away from the city and into the countryside, there are two National Parks not far from York that give you plenty of nature to explore. The closest of the two is North York Moors National Park.
Although the various National Parks in the UK receive millions of visitors every year, the North York Moors are expansive enough that you can always find a quiet spot or a serene walk a little further off the beaten track.
There are plenty of beautiful little villages worth discovering within the National Park too, including the picturesque Helmsley.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway
If you’re after a unique experience and you’re already planning on visiting the Moors, consider going to see the North Yorkshire Moors Railway as part of a fun day trip near York.
Book a trip on this steam railway and you’ll be able to the see the National Park through a completely different perspective.
Even if you don’t have time to hop on board, it’s worth stopping by one of the stations, such as Levisham as part of a day trip in the North York Moors to see a steam train pass through.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park
Take a slightly longer drive and you can visit another National Park as part of a day trip out from York – The Yorkshire Dales National Park.
In addition to some beautiful towns and villages, there are plenty of places to go for a walk with incredible views of the Dales.
Stop at one of the villages such as Grassington and you’ll find great routes for hikes in all directions. Exploring these beautiful British landscapes is also one of the most romantic things to do in Yorkshire for couples.
Take a day trip into West Yorkshire and you might find Haworth, arguably the most picturesque village in the UK.
With the iconic cobbled Main Street that winds down a hill, providing views of the beautiful moors in the distance, tourists visit Haworth for some of the best photo opportunities around.
It was also home of the Brontë sisters, making it a great destination for literary enthusiasts.
If you take a drive through the Yorkshire Dales National Park, it’s worth dropping by one of the best historic landmarks in the area – Bolton Castle.
Among the most well-preserved countries in the country, the structure is impressive and a great sight to see and explore for history buffs eager to learn about the castle’s 600-year history.
Despite the name, Bolton Abbey isn’t located right by Bolton Abbey, but it’s still within the Yorkshire Dales and is another top spot that many tourists flood to.
The beautiful ruins of this abbey provide great photo opportunities, but the location is also known for the stepping stones that cross the River Wharfe.
South of the the Yorkshire Dales you’ll find another perfect location for a hike. Ilkley Moor is covered by heather moorland that provide the backdrop for some great walks.
Park at the nearby Ilkley or get a train to Ilkley Railway Station and you’ll be set to head up to the top of the moors, where you’ll be met with spectacular views.
Another option for a day trip from York that takes you near the Yorkshire Dales is to visit Skipton, a town that’s popular for tourists to visit.
The canals that cut through Skipton provide picturesque settings to walk around and explore, with lots of great places to eat in the area too.
You can also visit Skipton Castle, a 12th-century fortress that’s one of the best-preserved medieval castles in the country.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park
For animal lovers, Yorkshire Wildlife Park is one of the best options for a day trip from. Located, near Doncaster, it’s about an hours drive into South Yorkshire, but it’s worth the visit.
From polar bears and lions to wallabies to meerkats, there’s over 60 species of animals that you can see. You can even book on to an animal experience for an even more special day out!
Best Cities for Day Trips from York
Situated in the heart of northern England, there are multiple cities close enough to make exciting day trips from York.
The closest city to York is Leeds. Taking little over half an hour by train, it’s perfect for a day out that doesn’t require a long travel commitment.
Leeds feels very much like the metropolitan heart of Yorkshire, and as such it has plenty to offer, from great shopping options to fantastic museums.
We recommend exploring the riverside area as well as visiting Royal Armouries Museum which hosts some amazing displays of weaponry – and it’s free!
Travel further north from York and you can get to Durham, one of the most beautiful cities in England and one of the best city break locations by train.
Durham is similar to York in how it’s a relatively small city that’s packed with history and cute cobbled streets to explore, as well as a fantastic castle.
For a day trip into South Yorkshire, Sheffield is a thriving city will many things to see and do.
The industrial history of the city is worth discovering more about in one of its many museums.
As one of the biggest cities in England, Manchester offers everything you could want from a bustling urban hub.
With art galleries, museums and shopping centres, as well as a rich football heritage, you’ll have to pack in a lot for one. To make the most of the city, it deserves a weekend break away!
Other places to go on a day trip near York
This rather unassuming village a short drive east of York doesn’t have a lot to see, but it is the sight of the eponymous bridge which was the famous location of the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.
A small market town south of York, Selby has a beautiful town centre and a historic abbey that should be on your list to visit if you’re passing close by.
Wharram Percy Deserted Medieval Village
One of the hidden gems in the area surrounding York, the Wharram Percy Deserted Medieval Village is worth dropping by if you’re passing by. It’s a short detour off the road if you’re heading to somewhere along the coast like Bridlington or Scarborough.