York is known for being historic, full of landmarks and attractions that are centuries-old. That’s why most inspiration guides on what to do in the city are all about York’s past. BUT – while some of these old attractions might make our list – we’ve found all the fun and romantic things to do in York for couples that are perfect for a date idea that isn’t boring or too touristy. York is a popular student city after all so it’s not all about the older generations! There’s also lots of great things on offer that are free or budget-friendly at least, meaning there’s a lot of date ideas in York that you can do without using all your student loan in one go.

Why York is perfect for couples who want to do something fun and romantic

romantic things to do in york for couples

Just to get you in the mood – here’s why York is actually one of the top romantic places in the UK for student couples – in our humble opinion anyway. It’s the dim-lit cobbled streets and snickelways (that’s York-speak for narrow lanes) that give it a kind of old-worldy feel. It’s the cosy independent cafes and wine bars, which have more intimate feels than the type of bars you find in huge cities. And it’s the range of fun things you can enjoy doing together too like ghost hunts and street art tours – York definitely isn’t boring.

Plus you can do lots of the romantic stuff in York on a student budget. The city is beautiful, from its cobbled streets to architecture, which makes it easy to just enjoy with your partner by wandering round (when the weather lets you). It’s also not that big. So while it’s got everything you need, including nightlife, shops, entertainment, etc., it still feels like a world away from big cities like Manchester, Leeds or Liverpool for example.

26 fun and romantic things to do for couples in York

From walks and strolls to picnics and movie nights and ghost hunts, here’s our favourite date ideas for York couples to try. Some of them you might have done before, but if you live here, it’s easy to run out of inspiration for romance. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of 28 things to do for every couple, so hopefully this will keep date night that bit easier (at least for a while).

1. Romantic walk through The Shambles

romantic walk through the Shambles in York - things for couples to do

The Shambles, often hailed as one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval streets, is a dreamy setting for couples. As you meander through this narrow lane, you’re transported to another time (or a world like Harry Potter if that’s your thing). It is a bit of an obvious thing to do in York, but if you go in the evening with your partner it can feel really romantic.

2. Visit the Cat Gallery

The Cat Gallery York things to do
Source: The Cat Gallery York Facebook

If you or your partner love cats, then the Cat Gallery is a bit of quirky date idea in York to try out. Obviously it’s not for everyone, but it is something that can be fun and a bit different to say you’ve visited together. This unique shop is dedicated to all things cat-related, from gifts and accessories to home decor. Browsing through the store, you’ll find funny little cat-themed items so you can treat your partner to something odd but fun.

Address: 45 Low Petergate, York YO1 7HT

3. Explore York’s independent bookshops

Little Apply Bookshop York
Source: Little Apply Bookshop York Facebook

There’s something about bookshops that are really romantic. Maybe it’s from movies like Notting Hill where they meet in a bookstore? But they’re also just a bit sophisticated, calming and give off intellectual date vibes, making a browse around them one of the top things to do in York for couples. So on your next date why not go to one of York’s independent bookshops. Places like The Little Apple Bookshop are great for digging around to find books – why not pick one out for each other?

Address: The Little Apple Bookshop, 13 High Petergate YO1 7EN

4. Attend a lecture or talk at the University of York

University of York
Part of the Undergraduate Prospectus shoot in autumn 2016

I know we’re all probably sick of lectures, but it can actually be fun to learn something new together. Each term the University of York hosts free public lectures that anyone can go to and they’re not part of some compulsory part of your course. They can be about anything, such as history, sport, how the body works, culture, film and more. It could be a great way to share something with your partner – especially if you’re at that stage where you’re running out of things to say (it happens to us all!).

5. Climb to the top of York Minster

York Minister romantic things to do

York Minster is that towering masterpiece of Gothic architecture that you’ll have seen plenty of times no doubt. But if you go with your date then you might actually realise how romantic and beautiful it is. It’s got stained glass windows and low lighting. It’s quite spiritual too. It’s a bit of a touristy date idea in York, but why not make the most of what the city offers but do it in a fun and romantic way. One of the best things to do in York for couples climbing up the Central Tower for a panoramic view of the city.

6. Take a picnic to the Museum Gardens

Museum Gardens York
Source: Wikicommons, Dmitrij M

The Museum Gardens are beside the River Ouse and are perfect for a picnic date in York (again…weather dependent). It’s quite relaxing to sit here and eat food together, all next to the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey. The gardens also provide a picturesque backdrop for romantic and Instagrammable photos, making it a memorable spot if you want to spend quality time together. Keep reading to find an alternative picnic spot in York too!

7. Ghost walks for thrill-seeking couples

Original Ghost walk of York
Source: Original Ghostwalk of York Facebook

For a more fun and exciting date idea in York, take a look at York’s ghost walks. These guided tours take you through the ancient, narrow streets of York, unveiling the city’s spooky and mysterious past. As you listen to tales of ghosts and haunted spots, you’ll be able to cosy up with your partner – or do the comforting if one of you is a bit freaked out. Try ‘The Original Ghost Walks of York‘, which take place every night at 8pm outside The Kings Arms pub.

8. Take a River Ouse cruise

The River Ouse, York

A cruise along the River Ouse is a really romantic activity for couples in York. This is a particularly great thing to do in York for couples where one of you is visiting the other, as you’ll get to show off York. The cruises typically sail along the river where you can see all the historic landmarks in the city. It’s a bit of a different date idea than your normal dinner and a movie night, although you can often find cruises that offer dining or drinks too. Why not pick one that offers a glass of wine and takes place at sunset for the ultimate romance – although word of warning – river cruise, sunset and wine combined screams imminent-wedding-proposal so be sure to manage expectations beforehand!!

9. Climb up Clifford’s Tower with a bottle of wine

Clifford's Tower

One of the best free things to do in York for couples is to head to your local supermarket, grab a bottle of wine and climb up Clifford’s Tower. Ok this might not be ideal during storms let’s say, but it is a romantic thing to do with your other half. It’s the site of old battles, kings and sieges, but best of all it’s got some of the most stunning views of York, with a 360-degree panorama that you can share together.

10. Enjoy a movie night at City Screen Picturehouse


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A post shared by City Screen, York (@cityscreenyork)

City Screen Picturehouse is a nice date idea in York for film lovers, or if you want something a little less quirky and more date-typical. But the City Screen Picturehouse is a bit nicer than just heading to mainstream cinemas as it offers a selection of indie, arthouse, and classic films in a quaint and intimate setting. The cinema also features a bar where you can enjoy a drink before or after the movie, adding to the relaxed and cultured atmosphere. It’s a perfect spot for a cosy and unconventional-meets-conventional movie date.

Address: St Martins Courtyard, 13-17 Coney St, York YO1 9QL

11. Take a selfie tour of York’s street art


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York’s vibrant street art scene provides a colourful backdrop for a fun-filled selfie tour (make sure you charge your phone beforehand). You and your partner can spend a day discovering and capturing photos with the city’s diverse range of murals and graffiti, and also getting a good snap of yourselves together in the process. It’s one of the most playful things to do in York for couples that gives you freedom and flexibility to go wherever, but also with a purpose and not just wandering around aimlessly.

12. Treat yourselves with an afternoon tea experience

No.1 by GuestHouse, York fun things to do in the city for couples
Source: No.1 by GuestHouse, York Facebook

There’s something inherently romantic about the British tradition of afternoon tea, and York offers some of the most charming settings to enjoy this experience. Picture yourselves in an elegantly decorated tea room, with the clink of fine china and the aroma of freshly brewed tea in the air. It’s a little posh but it is fun to do together – plus the food is usually amazing. Who doesn’t love sandwiches, scones, cakes and coffee/tea?

13. Walk the city walls

York city walls is a romantic activity for couples

You’ve probably done it before given it’s one of the most iconic things to do in York for students and visitors to the city. But it’s a romantic thing to do with your partner, where you can go hand-in-hand along one of the city’s historical landmarks. The walls, which date back to Roman times, provide not only a glimpse into the past but also stunning views of York too. Head out early morning and then grab a coffee or hot chocolate to cosy up with after.

14. Visit the York Art Gallery

York Art Gallery
Source: York Art Gallery Facebook

If one of both of you are into art, then make a date of visiting The York Art Gallery together. With its diverse collection spanning hundreds of years, the gallery offers a romantic environment to explore and appreciate art. From Renaissance masterpieces to contemporary works, you can bond over which art you love the most and which you’d hang up in your imaginary mansion together. It’s an ideal date spot for those who enjoy immersing themselves in culture and art, and want to find fun things to do for couples in York indoors.

Address: Exhibition Square, York YO1 7EW

15. Be scared together at the York Dungeon

York Dungeon
Source: York Dungeon Facebook

The York Dungeon offers a unique blend of history, horror, and humour, making it an entertaining and unusual date spot. As you go deep into the Dungeon, you’ll meet live actors and see special effects and hear gripping storytelling that bring York’s murky past to life. It’s an interactive experience, so you’ll definitely be laughing or scared jumping most of the time, coming out of it on a high. That’s the perfect date experience. You’ll always remember it too so if you want to be THAT person to your person then take them here.

Address: 12 Clifford St, York YO1 9RD

16. Get fancy and dine in a riverside restaurant

The Waterfront Cafe romantic places to eat in York for couples
Source: The Waterfront Cafe Facebook

Dining in a riverside restaurant in York is all about getting dressed up and enjoying food with a view (oh and your partner). The restaurants by the River Ouse are quite fancy, so it’s not one of the cheaper things to do for couples in York, but it is a really nice treat. There’s Lil’s on The Waterfront, or The Waterfront CAfe (pictured). If you do need a more budget-friendly option, the Slug & Lettuce is a great option and they do good cocktails to match.

17. Watch a show at York Theatre Royal

A night at York Theatre Royal is another fancy date idea for couples in York. This historic theatre is really elegant so it can feel really romantic to be sitting there with your partner. They generally show all the big touring West End shows, as well as other plays and pantos. Why not go for a drink at the bar at the interval too for extra fanciness?

Address: St Leonard’s Pl, York YO1 7HD

18. Learn about and eat lots of chocolate

York's Chocolate Story things to do in York for couples
Source: York’s Chocolate Story

If you’re hoping to take it to the ‘next level’ with your date, this is for you. Chocolate is considered a bit of an aphrodisiac as it contains phenylethylamine, aka the ‘love molecule’, which releases endorphins in the brain to generate sensations of pleasure and euphoria. At York’s Chocolate Story, you can go on a guided tour takes you through the story of chocolate and its importance to the city, from the ancient origins of cocoa to the modern-day chocolate-making process. You can also take part in their interactive chocolate-making demonstrations, taste different types of chocolate, and even make your own chocolate treats. It’s definitely one of the romantic and fun things to do for couples in York.

Address: 3-4 King’s Sq, York YO1 7LD

19. Go on a treasure hunt

Treasure Hunt York
Source: Treasure Hunt York

What’s more fun than playing a game together that reminds you of being a kid? But for adults. A treasure hunt around York is a fun, playful and adventurous way to spend time together. You’ll also get to know York more if you’re new here. Companies like Treasure Hunt York offer self-guided tours that turn the city into an exciting game, complete with clues and puzzles to solve.

20. Have a laugh together at The Basement

The Basement York Facebook
Source: The Basement York Facebook

The Basement is one of York’s go-to venue for live comedy, music, and theatre. It offers a casual and vibrant atmosphere for a night out, perfect for if you want a low-key date idea but also do something fun together. It’s located at the City Screen Picturehouse, so could be a great spot to hang out after seeing a film. They host different types of events so be sure to check their website to see what’s on.

Address: City Screen Picturehouse, St Martins Courtyard, 13-17 Coney St, York YO1 9QL

21. Wander around Rowntree Park

things to do for couples in York

Keep things cheap and cheerful by going on a picnic. You’ll be able to choose your own food and buy your own drinks from the supermarket and then just head out for something simple but very romantic. One of the best places in York to go for a picnic is Rowntree Park because it’s a bit less studenty than Museum Gardens, so you won’t have everyone watching you attempt to flirt (or make out depending how successful the flirting is). There’s a lake and lots of space here too.

22. Get your nerd on at the Yorkshire Museum

Venus Roman goddess of love, Yorkshire Museum
Venus Roman goddess of love, Yorkshire Museum

Heading to a museum together might sound a bit like something you when your turn 30, but The Yorkshire Museum actually has a lot of interesting things. There’s lots about York’s Roman and Viking heritage if you enjoy history, or you can look at the interactive displays and immersive experiences. Make sure you check out the Roman goddess of love Venus while you’re here. You never know – she might bring you love luck.

Address: Yorkshire Museum Museum Gardens York YO1 7FR

23. Go on a pub crawl

pub crawl in york - things to do for couples

Heading out on a pub crawl in York is a fun way to experience the city’s renowned pub culture. York’s historic pubs, each with its own unique character and story, offer a warm and inviting atmosphere for couples to enjoy. As you hop from one pub to another, you can sample a variety of local ales, ciders, and craft beers, along with traditional pub fare. The pub crawl is not just about the drinks; it’s about soaking in the history, engaging with locals, and enjoying the lively ambiance. It’s a fun and laid-back way to explore York and create memorable moments together.

24. Take a bike ride around the city

ride around York in your couple

Imagine you’re in Amsterdam, but in York. You can easily cycle around York to see everything in the city or even venture out of it for a little trip. This makes a date day in York really flexible because you can just stop off wherever and whenever you want. Why not go alongside the river for something scenic and peaceful and then head to a park for a picnic (see some of our romantic things to do for couples in York above).

25. Have a cosy hot chocolate at Betty’s Café Tea Rooms

bettys york things to do for couples
Source: Bettys york

Ok we know that Betty’s makes all our list of things to do in York. It’s because it’s famous. And it’s just that good. Whether you want to go for a date, with mates, or you know…by yourself…Betty’s is a great place to go to. But it’s one of our favourite romantic spots for couples in York because it’s quite charming, It has Art Deco interiors and silver service. Oh and cake and chocolates.

26. Visit the Cold War Bunker

York Cold War Bunker unusual things to do in York
Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)

Dive into a unique piece of history at the York Cold War Bunker. This preserved relic of the Cold War era offers an intriguing glimpse into a time of global tension and technological innovation. The bunker, originally designed as a monitoring post in case of nuclear attack, now serves as a museum. Couples can take a guided tour to learn about this fascinating period in history, making it an ideal date for those interested in modern history and looking for something beyond the usual tourist spots.