Here is the definitive guide to your autumn bucket list in York

If you haven’t completed this list, can you really call yourself a York student?


Autumn is well and truly here in York. With so much on offer, from outdoor film screenings to scare mazes, it can be difficult to decide which activities are worth your time. This essential bucket list will help you make the most of the season in one of the UK’s ghostliest cities.

1. Shop on the Shambles

So you’ve been to The Shambles, York’s oldest and most famous street, but have you visited every one of these Halloween staples? With millions of tourists arriving each year, it’s time to take advantage of having The Shambles at your doorstep.

York Ghost Merchants boasts up to three hour queues to see its iconic wall of ghosts. Each ghost is unique, with small, large and rare options to choose from. These symbols of York’s haunted history are ideal souvenirs, each with an independent spirit. Don’t worry too much about the queue – there are plenty of refreshment stalls around the corner, not to mention Roly’s Fudge Pantry next door. If that wasn’t enough, the fully-costumed staff will keep you company. They’re dead funny… Although the queue is all part of the enigma, if you don’t feel like haunting around, you can head to The Dispensary for a smaller scale ghostly encounter.

If you’re into star signs, zodiac charts and magic, The Society of Alchemists is another bewitching location to visit this autumn, with magical creatures that are guaranteed to get you in the Halloween mood. Selling incense, pillar candles, wax melts and bath crystals, this shop is definitely on brand for spooky season. (It’s giving goth aesthetic.)

Unsurprisingly, there is an entire shop dedicated to Harry Potter in the Shambles. Head to The Shop That Must Not Be Named to pick up a Gryffindor scarf, Slytherin notebook or other house-related object from the wizarding world. As one of the most visited shops in the Shambles, you need to go at least once, and prepare for cosy nights watching Harry Potter with your housemates. You can also try a take on Butterbeer at The Potions Cauldron, along with alcoholic or non-alcoholic potions, and even sweets that look like something straight out of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.

Take your pick of the patch at the Shambles Market with mini pumpkins and autumn wreaths that will make a worthy addition to any York photo dump this October. Nearby, there are some smaller craft stalls selling Halloween decorations and candles which you can use to spice up your uni room Gilmore Girls style.

2. Bongo’s Bingo

Feeling bored of Salvos and Flares? If you want to switch up your night out activities and try your hand at winning prizes up to £750, Bongo’s Bingo might be the way to go. Not only is it a good laugh, but you could see your friends humiliated in a dance off or karaoke solo (you’ve been warned.) Plus, you might walk away with a limited edition Bongo’s Bingo Henry Hoover – a necessity really.

3. See a spooky show

For fans of drama, several spooky shows are coming to York Theatre Royal this autumn, including the shapeshifting play Metamorphosis and Shakespeare’s classic tragedy of witches and fateful ambition, Macbeth.

4. Go shopping for books

If all of this isn’t enough for you, why not try a solo or group book shop crawl? Minster Gates Book Shop is an ideal location to start, with quaint rooms and plenty of reduced price texts. It’s located near Oxfam, where you can often find books donated by students and lots of crime fiction. York also has some charming independent bookstores like The Little Apple Bookshop and Portal Bookshop. Of course, there is a Waterstones – located conveniently close to Starbucks – to end your book shop crawl.

5. Explore York’s restaurants and cafés

As a second year student, I’ve tried my fair share of cafés in the city. Here are some of the best brunch and coffee spots to add to your bucket list.

Brew and Brownie is a popular brunch spot with modern interiors, homemade cakes and – you guessed it – brownies. This is a relatively small café, so be prepared to queue. They have a separate bakehouse with take out options if you’re searching for a treat to enjoy in front of Bake Off. (We’re proud of you for getting to Pastry Week Rowan, but you really should have made a Long Boi cake.)

Rise is another must visit brunch location for smoothie bowls, avocado toast, and Pinterest-worthy coffee. This is the ideal place to catch up with friends over comforting food and good music. Plus, they sell possibly the best iced coffee I’ve ever tried. It’s giving 10/10.

If you’re a fan of colour and Instagrammable décor, Plush is another option for you, with a garden, neon and bohemian room to mix up your coffee trip routine. I’ve yet to try the signature rainbow bagels, but if the rainbow lattes are anything to go by, they won’t disappoint. Plush is set to host pumpkin carving with cocktails or Halloween milkshakes this October.

6. Do the absolute most for Halloween

York is well known for its ghost tours, but have you actually been on one? With so many to choose from, day and night, it’s time to go a-haunting. If you don’t fancy walking, there is a Ghost Bus Tour to transport you around York’s eeriest sights.

Even more gruesome is York Maze Hallowscream, a live action, immersive horror for fear loving personalities. The maze incorporates live actors and effects to bring a range of nightmarish stories to life. Rated as one of the UK’s top Halloween events, this attraction is not for the faint of heart.

To get the most from Halloween films this year, why not attend an outdoor screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas at Howarth Castle? Seating is provided with Premium tickets, but you can take your own chairs, blanket or picnic to enjoy with general ones.

7. Enjoy the spirit of Bonfire Night

You can visit the birthplace of the famous Bonfire Night figure this autumn, located close to York Minster. With a traditional and atmospheric interior, the Guy Fawkes Inn is especially suitable for more formal occasions. With more pubs than days of the year here in York, this one is an apt choice to get into the Bonfire Night spirit.

Now that you have this bucket list, you’re more than ready to do one of the things York does best: Autumn. Enjoy!

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