Entertainment in York

Things to do in York | Entertainment

York rivals Manchester as the second most visited city in England after London and, with all the thrilling entertainment on offer, it’s easy to see why. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll be able to catch world-class comedy, theatre or musical performances. This is also a city that knows how to put on a good show, with a year-round calendar of events that have earned it the title of England's ‘City of Festivals’. There’s the Viking Festival, a popular Christmas fair and even a festival dedicated to horse racing that turns York Racecourse into a riot of colour each August. But whatever brings you to this highly entertaining city, rest assured that there’ll be a Premier Inn hotel in York ready and waiting to get your visit off to a great start.


Although most people visit York to soak up the medieval magic of its quaint, winding streets, it also has vibrant live music scene - if you know where to look.

has been a popular venue for more than 20 years. Once a dive bar, it now has a new home on Toft Green which means it can book bands like The Fall and We Are Scientists. But it still has a place in its heart for indie bands and local boys, Shed Seven.

York Barbican is the city’s largest venue and the place where the biggest names in music tend to play. It’s hosted everyone from Paul Weller to Russell Watson, has a standing capacity of 1,900. So rock out to a band then head back to recover from the ringing in your ears at the blissfully quiet Premier Inn hotel near York Barbican.

Hidden away under art house cinema City Screen, The Basement is an intimate live music venue. With its low ceiling and capacity of just 100, you’ll really feel up close and personal to the acts - everyone from up-and-coming local bands to touring artists who like to play atmospheric venues.


Whether you’re after top dramas, plays or musicals, you’ll find them all here. York has a world-class theatrical scene and some fantastic venues to watch actors treading the boards.

After a £6 million refurb (and the discovery of some important medieval remains) York Theatre Royal is more impressive than ever. It’s one of the country’s top stages and is vital in York’s arts and cultural life. And the Christmas panto here is legendary. Oh yes it it!

Whereas you’re more likely to see Shakespeare and adaptations of classic novels at the Theatre Royal, the Grand Opera House York focuses on musicals and West End productions direct from London.

Jorvik Viking Centre

Bootham Crescent


If classical and opera are music to your ears, York has that covered too.

From Madama Butterfly to Swan Lake, York Barbican regularly shows operas and ballets from touring productions when they’re in town. The annual Festival of Remembrance, the Lord Mayor’s Carol Concert and performances from the Guildhall Orchestra are also regular parts of its well-respected classical programme.

Dedicated to the promotion of ‘early music’ the National Centre for Early Music is a converted Grade I medieval church. Treat your ears to sounds they may have never heard before from Russian folk singers to the strumming of guitar virtuosos, the Yiddish Twist Orchestra.


Think of sport in York and one thing may immediately spring to mind - horse racing! But the city also offers footie-mad visitors the chance to watch some tasty Division 2 games at a traditional-as-it-gets stadium.

York Racecourse
attracts 350,000 racegoers each year, thanks to exciting fixtures such as the Juddmonte International and the Ebor Festival in August. It offers some of the biggest prizes in racing, while the listed buildings and floral displays make it the perfect setting for a day at the races.

York City FC play their matches at Bootham Crescent and, when it comes to English football grounds, the stadium is as traditional as it gets - so enjoy it while you can! Surrounded by terraced houses, it’s about a 15-minute walk from our York City (Blossom St North) hotel. The team play in Division 2 and are famous for giant-killing victories over Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton.


With a major event taking place almost every month, it’s no wonder York is known as the City of Festivals. While they’re all different, each one has something inspiring to offer the city.

York Racecourse
has fixtures throughout the racing season, but the real attraction is the Ebor Festival in August. Over four days, the city is at its exuberant best and full of brightly dressed racegoers. Our hotels near York Racecourse (Blossom Street North and Blossom Street South) are only a 15 - 20 minute walk away - it’s possible to drive but traffic can be pretty bad.

Over 1,000 years ago, York was under Viking rule. Every February, the Vikings would celebrate ‘Jolablot’, a feast to mark the end of the winter and the coming of spring. Today, the Norse tradition has been revived and for the last 30 or so years, Vikings from all over the globe (and 40,000 visitors) descend on the town every February for the Viking Festival, full of family-friendly events, battle reenactments and the popular ‘Best Beard’ competition.

St Nicholas Fair, York’s popular Christmas market, kicks off mid-November with its big lights switch-on. After that, its 100 wooden stalls are open for business, selling handcrafted goods and delicious local farm produce. But it’s not just market stalls - you’ll find carol singers and buskers, plus chestnuts roasting on street corners. You can even meet the big man himself in his grotto. The fair’s hub is on Parliament Street, with stalls flowing onto Coppergate, St Sampson’s Square and The Judge’s Lodging.


Fancy a laugh when you’re in York? Our guide to the best comedy venues in the city will point you to all the venues that will well and truly tickle your funny bones.

Comfy, modern and stylish, not only does York Barbican offer live music, it also hosts professional comedy shows from all the biggies. The likes of Greg Davies, Rob Brydon and Sarah Millican all perform here when they’re in town.

Big-name comedy stars regularly bring their national tours to the Grand Opera House. Recent highlights have included Jimmy Carr and Tim Vine and while it’s an intimate venue, the comfy seats with lots of legroom mean you can concentrate on the one-liners.

The Basement hosts the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club every Saturday night. Featuring four professional comedians, the venue’s known for booking ‘acts off the telly’ - expect familiar faces from shows like Mock The Week and 8 Out of 10 Cats.

Looking for a hotel in York?

We've got plenty of hotels in York to choose from. Our  Blossom Street North and Blossom Street South hotels are right in the city centre. And our York North hotel is a mile further out and our Premier Inn York North West hotel is a few miles from the train station and is close to handy road connections.