How to spend a full day walking York city walls

This locals’ guide to York city walls features several hot spots that make this English city so special. Plus: I include some insider tips about the off-wall places you shouldn’t miss.

You could walk the 3.4km around York city walls in an hour or so. But, take in sights and the occasional pub en-route, and that hour could easily stretch into a day – and night.

York city walls at Lendal Bridge

Yes, the walls even have in-built coffee shops. This one’s The Perky Peacock under Lendal Bridge.

Start with a good breakfast

If you’re going to be on your feet all day, give yourself a good dose of fuel to start with. Begin your York city walls walk with breakfast at the Brew and Brownie on Museum Street. Their all-day pancakes are to die for. Get there at opening time though, as tables are in demand. The visitor information centre is a couple of doors down.

[box type=”info”]To help you get the most out of your time in York, pick up the Insight Guide to the city before you arrive. Help the site by buying the guide through this link; it won’t cost you a penny more![/box]

Start your York city walls tour at Bootham Bar

A “Bar”, in York city walls terminology, is not somewhere to buy a lovely glass of wine or a fancy cocktail. Oh no. It’s the ancient term for a Gatehouse. In the case of York, the gatehouses are stone structures or towers the size of several houses. They were used as tollhouses or defensive positions to guard what was once England’s second city.

There are four large and two small Bars around the walls, and they’re all pretty photogenic. Start your York walls walk at Bootham Bar, which is next to the De Grey Rooms.

If you were hoping a bar was secret code for “pub”, more of those later!

Go clockwise to York Minster

You’ll soon look over the beer garden of the rather fine Lamb and Lion pub; overshadowed by the Gothic splendour of York Minster looming before you.

The Minster’s current exterior dates from the 13th century. There’s a fee to get in for non-residents, but the views from York’s walls are free.

Continuing, you’ll overlook gardens and fancy houses galore. York St John University (on your left), the Treasurers House and the Quilt Museum (on your right), before arriving at Monk Bar. The tiny Richard III Experience is located inside this Bar (joint ticket with the Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar).

Sadly, the walls aren’t continuous (boo, hiss), so – about 10 minutes after Monk Bar – you’ll need to get off them at a particularly unattractive road junction opposite a carpet store. Walk with the waterway on your right and the entirely unglamorous retail units of Office Outlet and Halfords on your left, before rejoining at Red Tower.

Walmgate Bar

After rejoining the walls at Red Tower, you’ll reach recently-restored Walmgate Bar after only a few minutes. If you fancy a restorative cuppa you’re in luck, as it’s home to the rather fine Gatehouse Coffee.

York Gatehouse Coffee - York city walls walk

Yes, it really is a coffee place in a “bar” – one of my fave places for a brew in York

Clifford’s Tower and the Castle Museum

Moving on from Walmgate Bar, you’ll pass the Barbican – a venue for concerts and the occasional snooker championship – on your left, before arriving at York’s former castle, just past the Travelodge. Clifford’s Tower is the old Castle Keep. It’s run by English Heritage and offers fine views of York from the top.

Clifford's Tower York - York city walls walk

Clifford’s Tower – even if you don’t pay to go in, it makes for a good photo 🙂

York Army Museum - York city walls walk

At York Army Museum
– who can resist dressing up?

From here you can also detour to the fascinating Army Museum (one of several York attractions focusing on military history), and to a York favourite, the Castle Museum (all have entry fees, though there’s a discount at the Castle Museum for local residents with a York Card).

In the Castle Museum you can get locked up in the old city jail, and wander the streets of a very plausible Victorian York. It’s the kind of place you can have fun for hours. It also makes for a brilliant stop if the weather isn’t kind to you.

From the Castle, cross the river over Skeldergate Bridge, where you can rejoin the walls or keep going straight ahead for a minute or two for a little off-piste detour.

You’re in locals’ territory here. This is Bishy Road – Great British High Street of the Year and a slightly gentrified but very lovely little row of shops, mostly of the independent variety. It’s also round the corner from my home; so I admit I’m rather biased in loving it!

For a bite to eat, I can highly recommend Sicilian bistro and gelateria Trinacria, the bustling Pig & Pastry or the fabulous Robinsons. If you’re after something stronger, The Swan pub is a good bet.

[box type=”info”]For somewhere to stay near the walls in York, try Middletons Hotel on Skeldergate. Middletons also does a very nice Sunday lunch and owns the neighbouring gym (which I go to). Or there are plenty more accommodation options, including cosy B&Bs and budget hostels. Booking through these links doesn’t cost you any more and I receive a small commission which helps me run this site. Thank you :)[/box]

Micklegate Bar

Rejoining the walls at the end of Skeldergate Bridge, continue to Micklegate Bar, which houses the Henry VII Experience.

York city walls - Micklegate Bar

Micklegate Bar. Not bad for a city entrance.

If you didn’t have a Bishy Road lunch stop, another option here is Your Bike Shed Café, just below the Bar. Brigantes, slightly further down the hill into town on your left, is a fine pub/bistro option; or you could mix it up with a tasting and/or tour at York Brewery.

York Brewery - York city walls walk

The York Brewery tour – you get a tasting at the end of it 🙂

Keeping on the walls, you’ll soon see York’s magnificent railway station on your left. You can detour here – it’s a ten-minute walk (signed through the station) to the free and fun National Railway Museum. Like the Castle Museum, there’s entertainment to be had for kids and big kids alike.

Finish your tour of the walls with a beautiful vista of York Minster straight ahead with you. At Museum Gardens grab yourself an ice-cream, and sit in the sun (optimistic here, this is England, after all!) under the remnants of St Mary’s Abbey to enjoy it. Bliss!

the view down to York Minster from York city walls

Looking towards the Minster on the home stretch of this York city walls walk

Best time to visit York city walls

York city walls - March daffodils

Don’t miss the March daffodils

March, without a doubt. Spring is in the air and the daffodils are in full bloom. There’s no finer sight.

York city walls tips and practicalities

  • They’re free! You don’t need a ticket – just find the nearest entry point and enjoy.
  • The walls are open every day from 8.00am until dusk, except on Christmas Day and days when there’s snow or ice.
  • They can be busy, especially during weekends and school holidays. A great time to walk York city walls is just before they close at dusk – you’ll have them pretty much to yourself.
  • Many stretches of the walls have sheer drops to one side; not to be tippled over when tipsy. There are also steps galore.
  • York is half way between London and Edinburgh. If you arrive by train, you can enter the city walls at Micklegate Bar, which is to your right if you exit the train station’s main entrance.

Have you walked York city walls? Did you manage to complete the circuit without stopping at a pub? Tell us all about it!

What to see on a self-guided Berlin architecture walk

Wow, Berlin’s got a tonne of fantastic buildings! Here’s my self-guided Berlin architecture walk that shows off the city’s eclectic side. There’s a load of glass, brick and render out there …

1. Modern Berlin architecture at the Hauptbahnhof

A homage to glass, the multi-storey central train station (Hauptbahnhof) combines style and function and has itself become a Berlin landmark since opening in 2006. Wander amongst its many levels, try not to get lost by mixing up your S-Bahn with your U-Bahn (or was that just me?), and admire the precision of its sleek design as well as its punctual train departures.

Berlin architecture walk Hauptbahnhof

Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (central train station), a homage to glass

From the Hauptbahnhof, walk south for 2km through Tiergarten to Potsdamer Platz, where you’ll find the very cool Spy Museum, some Berlin wall remnants, and another next piece of fancy Berlin architecture, the Sony Center.

2. The Sony Center’s wondrous glass roof

The Sony Center is home to a wondrous glass roof that reflects and refracts in the multitudinous glass edifices below.

It inspires lot of staring upwards. And plenty of picture-taking.

The Sony Center is also home several places to eat, some funky big screens, and a random pond.

Berlin architecture walk Sony Center eating

Plenty of places to eat and admire the roof

Enough of the glass, the next stop is one of Berlin’s rapidly changing neighbourhoods, Prenzlauer Berg. It’s a good hour away from the Sony Center on foot, so you can let the train take the strain for this next stretch of Berlin architecture, by hopping on U-bahn (Underground) line U2 from Potsdamer Platz to Eberswalder Straße.

3. Prenzlauer Berg

Part shabby chic, part gentrified, Prenzlauer Berg isn’t big on major Berlin landmarks, but it IS the place to go for renovated 19th century Berlin architecture. Think a fusion of pastel-painted facades, and you’re there.

Berlin architecture walk Prenzlauer Berg

It’s painted. It’s pastel. It’s in Prenzlauer Berg!

One building that’s escaped the swooping of the paintbrush is the red-bricked Kulturbrauerei, a former brewery turned arts/museum/cultural complex.

Berlin architecture walk Kulturbrauerei Liebe

Wir lieben Berlin!

The Kulturbrauerei also houses a Sunday street food market. Yum.

Plus, there’s this rather convenient Liebe (love) sign. Now if that’s not an invitation for a self-timer photo, I don’t know what is 🙂

Comfy shoes at the ready for this next bit … the next part of your Berlin architecture walk takes you 3km south and east of the Kulturbrauerei through Prenzlauer Berg, via the Volkspark Friedrichshain, to the boulevard of Karl-Marx Allee.

4. Karl-Marx Allee, Friedrichshain

Karl-Marx-Allee is the example of Berlin architecture that made me decide Communist-era apartment blocks were the epitomy of cool. OK, maybe not ALL Communist-era apartment blocks, but definitely these.

The first seven- and eight-storey apartment buildings went up in a matter of months in the 1950s, a feat of labour-intensity designed to show Communist engineering and construction prowess.

Berlin architecture walk Karl-Marx Allee

uniformly incredible apartments on Karl-Marx Allee

The grandeur and uniformity of this 2.3km tree-lined boulevard has stood the test of time, and the high-ceilinged apartments are as much in demand now as they were back in the 1950s. A tenancy on Stalin Boulevard (as Karl-Marx Allee was then known) in that era signified you as a mover and a shaker in the former East Berlin.

Berlin architecture walk Frankfurter Tor

Frankfurter Tor – there are two identical blocks on either side of Karl-Marx Allee

Karl-Marx Allee ends at  Frankfurter Tor. If you’re hungry by now (I know I was!), walk right from here into the bustling streets of Friedrichshain, with cafes, bookstores and bike shops galore. I can recommend Fine Bagels at the Shakespeare & Sons bookstore on Warshauer Strasse.

Keep heading towards the river for the final stop on this Berlin architecture walk – the Oberbaumbrücke, East Side Gallery and surrounds.

5. Oberbaumbrücke and surrounds

The Oberbaumbrücke over the River Spree is another red brick wonder of Berlin architecture. Walk across the bridge under its uniform arches, ride over it on a bright yellow U-Bahn train (yup, that is an oxymoron), or under it on a river cruise.

Berlin architecture walk Oberbaumbrücke

the double-decker red brick Oberbaumbrücke

Back when Berlin was divided, the bridge marked a checkpoint between East and West. Nearby is the longest stretch of remaining Berlin wall, now the East Side Gallery arts project.

During the time of my visit (July 2016), one side of the wall had a tear-inducing temporary exhibition on Syria, featuring powerful images and stories from a land blighted by war.

Berlin architecture walk Syria exhibition

powerful images of Syria in this temporary Berlin Wall exhibition

The area either side of the Berlin Wall was once a no-mans land, but is now a property developers dream.

With fancy new apartment blocks, a new music arena under construction, and a bright turquoise office building, it’s all going on in this part of town.

Berlin architecture walk turquoise building

turquoise office? Check. Crane? Check? This must be Berlin …

If you’re the kind of person who likes to take pics of cranes criss-crossing the skyline, this is where you need to be.

[box type=”info”]I stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Berlin (££ discount off your first Airbnb stay with this link) and used the Lonely Planet Pocket Guide to Berlin for my trip. Help the site by using these links, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Berlin architecture summed up: diverse

There’s seemingly a gazillion architectural styles and projects in Berlin. The forthcoming Humboldt Forum promises to be another exciting development, which means only one thing: I’ll need to go back!

Which are your favourite examples of Berlin architecture? Share your know-how below 🙂

What to expect when hiking Gran Canaria

Discover vistas and varied landscapes when hiking Gran Canaria – from pine forests to green valleys to semi-desert, rocky crags, and mesa-style mountains.

Browsing some cool travel hiking photos online, I came across one of a mountainous landscape that was reminiscent of the American South-West.

Curiosity peaked by my “love of large landscapes” nature, I pointed my mouse and click-clicked away.

Those images were of Gran Canaria. I duly company with the princely sum of £90 (€114 / $141) for the four-hour return flight from the UK.

It turned out to be a good choice.

What to expect when hiking Gran Canaria

Vistas and varied landscapes ranging from the pine forests of Parque Natural Tamadaba to green valleys to semi-desert, rocky crags, and mesa-style mountains north of Mogán, that reminded me of Mesa Verde in South-West Colorado.

Super-helpful signposts marking the trails.

Hikes ranging in length from hundreds of metres to around 25 km. I did four walks ranging between 7 and 14km.

Whitewashed villages with local bars/cafes for good value post-hiking nourishment on soups, pork dishes and more. Don’t miss the papas arrugadas con mojo – “wrinkly” potatoes in a spicy sauce.

Trails with plenty of ascents and descents. The highest point of the island, Roque Nublo, sits at more than 1800 metres above sea-level.

hiking Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo

At Roque Nublo. It was a tad breezy. And chilly.

Winding (very winding) and narrow roads. There are buses, but with car hire being so affordable it can make life a lot easier to hire some wheels for a few days.

Four days car hire cost me only £27 (€34 / $42) plus fuel through Holiday Autos. A car also gives you the freedom to stop at the numerous view-points round the island for those all-important photo-opportunities.

Changeable weather and some cloud, especially on the north side of the island. I was hiking in early December, and at altitude I needed a sweater, and even gloves and a hat on occasion. If the weather’s looking naff in the north, head for the trails in the south, for example around San Bartolomé de Tirajana.

hiking Gran Canaria San Bartolome

This is San Bartolome. Not bad, eh?

Where to stay when hiking Gran Canaria

If you’re using public transport for hiking Gran Canaria then you’re not restricted to circular walks. Yay!

The best hubs for bus connections are the capital of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the north (cultural but not as warm), or the resort of Maspalomas (a lot less cultural, but warmer) in the south.

hiking Gran Canaria Tejeda

The village of Tejeda – a handy base for walking

If you have your own wheels, then a central village such as Tejeda is a good bet. Before moving to an AirBnB place in Las Palmas for my last couple of nights on the island, I went up a grade from my usual flash-packing style and stayed at the Hotel Fonda de la Tea in Tejeda. Fina the owner is a fab host, as is Armando at the Casa del Caminero, which is both an authentic dining choice and a gallery for his Esher meets Miro meets Picasso-style paintings.

Resources for hiking Gran Canaria

As well as decent footwear, warm layers, sun cream, food and drink; a map and walking guidebook will prove invaluable for all but the shortest “picnic stop” walks.

[box type=”info”]I used the Gran Canaria Car Tours and Walks book (which includes bus route information), and the Gran Canaria Tour & Trail map. Help the site by buying through these Amazon links, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Gran Canaria surprised me. In a good way. My view of what the resorts would be like had overshadowed everything else that I found the island had to offer.

Me and my hiking boots will no doubt return.

Have you been to Gran Canaria? Where in the world has surprised you, either in a good way, or not so good?

Things to do in Montejaque, Ronda

The gorgeous white-washed village of Montejaque has Ronda and a national park on its doorstep. Here’s why I found it to be a great base for a holiday in Andalucia.

things to do in Montejaque Ronda

Mountains and rooftops: The pretty vista over Montejaque

Montejaque sits way up in the mountains above Málaga and the resorts of the Costa del Sol. Past the beautiful crag-perched city of Ronda, it’s a pretty village perched on the edge of Grazalema National Park.

The National Park is a haven for walking, and is home to villages filled with white-washed buildings and geraniums.

things to do in Montejaque Ronda

Beautiful Grazalema National Park near Montejaque

Locals gabble away in stupifyingly fast Spanish in local bars that serve yummy tapas for a Euro, and more-than-palatable house red for two.

This part of Spain is a world away from the brashness of the Costas, where multi-millionaires languish in their hotel-sized yachts in Puerto Banus harbour, and do a second-gear shuffle down the Gucci-lined promenade in their Ferraris and Lamborginis.

Things to do near Montejaque

things to do in Montejaque Ronda

Crag-perched Ronda, near Montejaque

Ronda – a picture-postcard bullring and memorable vistas of the new bridge. It’s a mere 15 miles to Ronda.

Ubrique – with more leather shops than you could shake a stick at- handbag buying is obligatory!

Marbella/Puerto Banus – escape the worst of the brashness with a wonderful walk between these two towns. There’s free gym equipment en-route for the super-keen. Or just eat ice-cream 🙂

Grazalema National Park – stunning viewpoints, mountain walks around craggy peaks. Walks form the village are well signed.

Malaga – a great city to visit for a day or two. Two large hilltop citadels are ripe for exploring, along with a Picasso museum and some fine shopping streets.

Tips for travel in Montejaque

Getting there. You can fly into Málaga on the Costa del Sol. Car hire in this part of the world is great value, and it’s about a two-hour drive from Málaga airport. Expect it to be slow coming up the mountains from the coast – you’ll probably get stuck behind a lorry or three.

Food and drink in Montejaque. The village has a couple of bars on the main square, offering excellent value local tapas and wine (you can be well fed and quite drunk for less than 10 Euro). There are a couple of restaurants as well – La Casita was my favourite.

Accommodation in Montejaque. House rentals are a popular accommodation option. I stayed in this lovely little town house, which has a five-night minimum from £200.

Montejaque is a peaceful hideaway from the hustle and bustle of Ronda and the bright lights of the Costa del Sol. There’s also lots to do! Where else near Montejaque would you recommend visiting?