The Grand, York: Five-Star Splendor in Historical York

Two thousand years of history and contemporary culture collide in York, making it a most interesting stop-over midway between London and Edinburgh. The ease of visiting is merely a bonus; the medieval walled city is chock full of treasures, from the stunning York Minster, one of the most beautiful gothic cathedrals in the world, to Roman ruins, Viking remains and charming English architecture seemingly from every era, with ghost stories and fantastical tales woven throughout every brick and beam. 

Located just inside the stone city walls is the 207-room five-star, The Grand, York. Part of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, the hotel is an ideal home base to explore the city’s many delights. Just prior to the pandemic, The Grand added a new wing of 100 guestrooms and a state-of-the-art “Bake Off” style cooking school; it was already home to an award-winning spa, restaurant and bar. When we visited last month, “staycations” were still the main option for Britons and the forecourt was pleasantly busy with a mix of families, retirees and a jubilant wedding party arriving in a vintage Rolls Royce (it is one of the most sought-after event spaces in Yorkshire).

Heritage Suite - 454 - Bedroom - Roman House

The Heritage Wing has 18 suites, each with a unique layout and views of the city.

The Grand, York is one of the city’s most iconic buildings; the vast and impressive Edwardian brick structure was built during the heyday of rail travel in 1906 as the former headquarters of the North Eastern Railway. In 1990, it was lovingly converted into a hotel, retaining the original grand proportions with tall windows, impossibly high arches, wide-open corridors, and period details (think: intricate wrought-iron balustrades, luscious garland ceiling plasterwork and polished oak paneling.) In 2019, the “Roman” wing (named for ruins unearthed during construction) was added, tucked just behind the historic building, with 100 new rooms.  

Executive Double Room

The Executive Rooms are approximately 398 square feet in size and include complimentary spa access.

Rooms in both the Heritage and Roman wings offer views overlooking the city. The main difference is that the guestrooms and 18 suites in the Heritage building have unique layouts while rooms in the new Roman wing are uniform and there is only one suite. Top Heritage digs: The Penthouse Suite, which clocks in at nearly 700 square feet, has a large bedroom, sitting area, a bathroom with his and hers walk-in showers, and a stunning roll-top bath with views across the York skyline. We also liked the Grand Heritage Suite 202, which has a big separate sitting room that can be used as an office. Grand Heritage Suite 230 is another beautiful space, often used for brides as it has a large bathroom with a freestanding tub. In the Roman wing, ask for Suite 454, which has floor-to-ceiling windows across three of the four walls. For families, there are designated Grand Family Suites, approximately 400 square feet, with ample space for roll-aways to sleep four (best of these are rooms 401, 402 and 404) and many interconnecting room options.

White Rose Lounge

The Afternoon Tea is served at the White Rose Lounge.

Dining & Cooking School 

The hotel’s Rise Restaurant Terrace & Bar features locally sourced ingredients—just the kind of modern English comfort food you want—Scotch Eggs, Smoked Mackarel, Venison, Pork Belly, and plenty of veggie choices, freshly prepared in the open kitchen. Definitely do not miss The Grand’s Afternoon Tea, from the delicate sandwiches to the fluffy scones, it holds up to the finest in London. The hotel has partnered with a local distillery, Masons of Yorkshire, on a “Tipsy Afternoon G & Tea,” which begins with the Afternoon Tea in the hotel followed by a trip to the distillery to discover the history and process behind Yorkshire’s most awarded gin range; guests sample some of the gins and leave with a personalized bottle of their favorite. For more tipples back in the hotel, the cozy 1906 cocktail bar offers more than 50 whiskies from all over the world.

Opened in early 2019, the state-of-the-art Cookery School at The Grand, York is reminiscent of the "Great British Bake Off" ("Great British Baking Show" in the U.S.) set with 16 complete cooking stations and a raised station for the instructor—head chef teacher Andrew Dixon. Choose from a range of courses and workshops, everything from British to Asian cuisines for just an afternoon to a three-day “basics to brilliant” covering knife skills to advanced techniques, plus classes for parents and kids to do together. Good to know: The cooking school is in high demand and popular for private events. Enquire and book early to avoid disappointment. Look out for guest chefs and a new program with Bon Coeur wines. 

The Rise Restaurant

The Rise Restaurant serves modern English comfort food, freshly prepared in the open kitchen with locally sourced ingredients. 

Set within The Grand’s former vaults, the Spa at The Grand offers a range of therapeutic face and body care treatments. Thick stone walls and cast-iron doors shut out the city creating a hushed, tranquil environment. Spa Manager Christina Carbury ([email protected]) told us that massages are the most popular treatments. Options range from deep tissue to hot stone, but the “raindrop” caught our attention with a combination of massage and a slow drip of essential oils along the spine and backs of the legs, ideal for people who suffer from backaches. Other amenities include a heated 45-foot pool, a spa whirlpool, a Nordic dry sauna, an aromatic steam room, a relaxation lounge and a gym with a good range of Cybex equipment.

Jacuzzi - Spa

The spa has a heated pool, a spa whirlpool, a sauna, a steam room, a relaxation lounge and a gym.

Dark Skies & Families 

The skies of the nearby North York Moors are one of the best spots in the world for stargazing, so much so that last December the area was named an “International Dark Sky Reserve,” a designation awarded to fewer than two dozen places in the world. The hotel recently launched guided packages, with Astronomer Richard Darn, which include transportation to the moors and dinner at the hotel. Good to know: Since introduction all Dark Skies packages have sold out, so book a few months ahead. 

For families, during summers and school holidays, the hotel has a special kids check-in and offers activities including movie nights, balloon making, chocolate, parent-and-child cooking classes, children’s afternoon tea and mini spa treatments.

Getting to York

York is two hours from London by train, or literally, the halfway point of the seven-hour drive from London to Edinburgh. A car is handy as the surrounding countryside of Yorkshire is one of the most stunning in England. To give you an idea, the area was the real-life inspiration for the books/TV series “All Creatures Great and Small.” It is also home to Castle Howard, one of England’s most impressive stately homes, which will be recognizable to fans of “Bridgerton” as Clyvedon Castle, the family seat of the fictional Duke of Hastings (Season two of “Bridgerton” airs on Netflix in January 2022!)

Luxury travel advisors should contact Louise Gee ([email protected]), director of sales and marketing, The Grand, York, for more information or VIP bookings.

The Grand, York

The Grand, York is one of the city’s most iconic buildings. The vast Edwardian brick structure was built in 1906 as the former headquarters of the North Eastern Railway.

What to Do in York

In York, a city of such extraordinary historical and cultural wealth, it is really a matter of prioritizing between the 30-odd museums, well-preserved medieval sites, and burgeoning dining scene that ranges from Michelin-star to century-old pubs. The best bet is to consult head concierge Jodri Vaca ([email protected]); tell him your interests. Definitely arrange a guide for the walled city and the breathtaking York Minster, which took 250 years to build; the Roman ruins; and the Snickleways (little alleys) and the Shambles, one of the best-preserved medieval streets in Europe, an uneven cobbled lane lined with crooked overhanging buildings, all of which is learned about from the fabulous Sarah Cowling ([email protected]).  

Other sites we loved: York Minster; the Jorvik Viking center, which is more like a theme park ride through Viking history and great for kids and the informative and delicious York Chocolate Story, as sweets have long been a big business in the area (though surprisingly NOT home of the Peppermint Patty). York claims to be the most haunted city in Europe and has embraced its spooky past with nightly guided “ghost walks” (  

For eating: York spoils for choice but two not-to-miss spots that must be booked ahead: Roots, by beloved chef Tommy Banks, who became famous for being the youngest British chef to earn a Michelin star in 2013, offers a tasting menu using produce from his family’s nearby 20-acre farm and three-acre garden; and the incomparable Betty’s for tea. It’s been a York institution since 1936, go for Afternoon Tea. Unfortunately, there was plenty we didn’t have time for in York, which is an excellent reason to go back!

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