7 Things To Do In York: Student Friendly Activities That Don't Involve Clubbing

You won’t be short of things to do as a student in York, especially if you are living in student accommodation in York which is located within the city’s ancient walls.

If it’s pubs and clubs you are looking for, you’ll find plenty of advice on where to find them elsewhere.  But what else is there to do in York – to explore and broaden your mind? 

Here are some ideas to make the most of your time here, widen your horizons, discover the real city – and perhaps see life in a new light.

And a health warning – some of it includes walking and the great outdoors!  But first…

1. The National Railway Museum

The National Railway Museum. It’s free.  It’s big. It has cafes! If you think trains are boring, think again.  It’s not all trainspotters in anoraks. 

Close up and personal, the sheer scale of the engines will take your breath away. And there is so much else to see.  Open your mind. Let off steam.  Travel back in time.  Set aside half a day.  You will not regret it.

2. A York Ghost Walk

Gather some friends together.  If it is winter, wrap up warm – because the weather and the spine-chilling stories will together make you shiver to your very core.

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York is one of the most haunted cities in the world.  Take a famous evening ghost walk where you will be guided along narrow passageways and dark streets to investigate bloodcurdling tales of scandal and death.  Hopefully you will live to tell the tale.

There are plenty to choose from – and if the idea of walking makes you shudder, there is always the alternative of a ghost tour on a 1960s Routemaster bus – another ghost from the past.

Also Read: Where To Eat In York: 10 Great Places

3. The National Centre For Early Music

Stay with me here. Read on to hear about a really interesting pricing idea that you will just love.

Literally, just across the road from the impressive Abode student accommodation, is the NCEM – the national centre for early music (not to be confused with ELC – The Early Learning Centre – which is something different). It is world-renowned.  Don’t be put off by its rather worthy sounding name. 

Yes – it is there to promote early western music – from 1250 to 1800 – but it does much more than that.  Check out the programme to see just what world-class talent is on show.  Get down there and experience brilliantly inspiring music to stretch your mind, in intimate surroundings.  And here’s the great ticketing bit.  Instead of giving discounts to pensioners, they have to pay full price while students and people aged under 35 get in for next to nothing.  How brilliant is that!

4. Open Mic

Yes – this one involves drinking, but only as an aside to the main event.  York is awash with open-mic venues showcasing some incredible musical talent, home grown and from further afield.  So buy yourself half a pint of Yorkshire’s finest bitter, sit back and be entertained. Or better still, have a go yourself. 

Most venues have a spare guitar (one even has a resident piano) and performers often get a free pint for their efforts.  Of course, audiences have to suffer the occasional dud, but that’s part of the fun of it.  Mostly you will be blown away by the sheer breadth and depth of undiscovered talent on offer in York.

5. Explore the Alleyways & Snickelways of York

Alleyways, ginnels, snickets – York is riddled with them.  A self-guided Snickelways walk weaves you through York’s rich history and takes you into places most people simply miss about this fascinating city. 

You can just download the map from Mark Jones’ 1983 book for free.  But I suggest you club together with friends and splash out on buying the whole book (all of a quid each if six of you chip in) – A Walk around the Snickelways of York – and use it as your wonderfully informative guide.  Mad Alice Lane and Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate beckon.

6. The Museum Gardens

On a busy summer’s day, there is nothing better than people watching.  You can do it amongst the buskers in St Sampson’s Square or King’s Square. But there’s no nicer place to watch the world go by than in York’s The Museum Gardens. 

It was good enough for Henry VIII and his entourage to set up temporary home when they came to subdue recalcitrant northerners in 1541.  (In case you were worried, visitors tend to be friendlier these days.) Relax against the backdrop of the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey with the bustle of the river on one side and the remnants of the city walls on another.  It’s free – and glorious, and there’s ice cream.

7. Volunteer

You are here for a while.  Set aside some time to get involved and see how the real city works to help those in need.  You’ll meet new people, beyond just the student community, and feel the reward of putting something back into the place which, in no time, I promise you, you will be calling home.

There are so many great organisations working hard to enrich the lives of others, often the most vulnerable in society.  And they are always looking for volunteers – maybe just on short-term projects, maybe for the longer term. You’ll choose the one that reflects who you are, what you feel you can best offer.

Here’s a couple to consider:

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