Citybase Apartments tried and tested: A family city break in York
A family city break in York By Roisin Hine, Senior Client Support Citybase Apartments
My husband Scott and I decided to take a weekend city break in the UK with our four-year-old son Freddie. We picked Freddie up from school on Friday afternoon and took a leisurely drive across the Pennines to the historic city of York.
We were staying at the Staycity Aparthotel in York, which was really easy to find. We just put the postcode in the satnav and, despite being a busy and ancient city centre, York is very easy to navigate around.
We’d been advised to park in the Q Park directly opposite the apartment so we just dumped the car there; it was no problem, it felt really safe and I think it cost about £24 for the whole weekend. A short hop across the road – Freddie on his trunkie – took us straight into reception.
The reception that greeted us had a real wow factor, really quirky and loads of really cool design features – Freddie loved the sideways bike. It has a lot of personality.
In reception there is an adjoining bar, café and restaurant where you can have a coffee and enjoy the hustle and bustle, there were some people enjoying a glass of prosecco.
The atmosphere they’ve created makes you feel like you’re arriving somewhere special, helping you get that holiday vibe.
The reception staff were genuinely happy to see us, they were so friendly and smiley. Everyone seemed happy to be working there, the guys and girls behind the counter were really efficient and professional.
They asked us if we had been to York before, I hadn’t, so they got out a little map with a few suggestions of things to do, including the nearest park for Freddie, and he showed us exactly where we were and how to get into the centre of town, as well as the railway museum which he recommended we visit.
They gave Freddie a little fun pack, which was super cute, a bag you could colour in, kinder eggs, stickers, crayons and bits to keep him occupied while we settled into our apartment.
As we went up in the lift, it was nice to see that you have to use your key card to get the lift to work so it felt really secure, and you wouldn’t be able to get into the apartments unless you were actually staying there, unlike some hotels where you can just wander in and get up to the rooms.
So that was really reassuring as well and just gave it a nice secure feel.
Our home for the weekend
We had a one bedroom apartment that was compact but really well conceived, brilliantly designed and laid out. There was the lounge area with a yellow Fatboy™ bean bag, which Freddie said was his favourite part of the apartment, it was the perfect level for him to do his colouring on and eat his supper off the coffee table.
Shortly after we checked in, we had a call from reception to see if everything was ok with the apartment and if we needed anything. It was really lovely service and, even though there wasn’t anything we needed, it was a nice touch that made us feel looked after.
In the bedroom, the bed was huge and really comfy with loads of extra towels and bedding in the wardrobe, which I love as we always need them.
The décor was really striking, with loads of quirky touches that made it feel like we were just in a cool city pad – a million miles from an identikit hotel room. There was cute artwork on the walls, none of the chairs on the dining table matched and there were striking lamps. It was perfect.
There was a sofa bed that pulled out in the sitting room but we all ended up sleeping in the bedroom because the room was big, so we had plenty of space for Freddie’s ready bed.
The practical stuff
The apartment was absolutely immaculate. I am totally OCD and will literally run my finger across picture frames. But it was perfect, not a speck of dust on anything.
We had floor to ceiling windows which had a great view from the lounge area. There were blackout curtains as well as net curtains so you could potentially sleep in there and it could be really dark. Great if there was a small group using the sofa beds too.
The thing that also really struck us was how quiet it was.
When we checked in they did tell us that there were groups in the apartments as it was the weekend. There were lots of people milling about but once we’d closed the door to our apartment, we just couldn’t hear anyone else.
The bedrooms are internal, with the sitting room and kitchens on the outward-facing walls, we just couldn’t hear anything, no doors slamming, no walking down corridors – nothing. This is a major thing when travelling with a four-year-old, you really don’t want them being woken up in the night.
We had considered going out for an early dinner; there were loads of places to eat fairly nearby, but after we’d settled in, we were all a bit tired. So, we popped down to the big Co-op right next to the apartment and picked up some snacks, some pizzas, a nice bottle of wine to put in the fridge and drink out of proper wine glasses. We gave Freddie a bath, got into our pyjamas and snuggled up on the sofa watching movies.
It’s these little touches where apartments come into their own when travelling with kids, there was everything we needed to have a really low-effort, great value meal around a proper dining table and then a really chilled evening, refreshed and ready for our adventures in the morning.
Good morning York!
We had a really good night’s sleep but, as is often the case with young children, we had an early wake-up call from Freddie. But, one of the great things about having an apartment was that Scott could take Freddie into the lounge, put Cbeebies on and I could have a lie in undisturbed!
Freddie had chosen some breakfast that we’d brought with us from home and he could sit in his pyjamas and eat it with no distractions.
We all got up and ready and headed out for the day. The reception staff were super friendly and smiley, asking us if we’d had a nice sleep and whether there was anything they could help us with.
Just down the road from the apartments there was a really nice, informal restaurant-slash-pub. Scott and Freddie had a full English and I had salmon on a muffin with rocket and a glass of prosecco! A perfect start to our holiday.
We were only a few minutes’ walk from the city centre, there is a pedestrianised area with bollards which is really safe and child-friendly, so Freddie could wander around without me worrying that a car was going to come.
We walked through the Shambles Market, it was beautiful with loads of fresh fruit, flowers and food; it was so interesting for Freddie, all the colours, sights and smells.
We then headed into the really old part of the city through cobbled streets and passed traditional shops, there were bakeries and a fudge shop where we watched a lady making fudge. There were some really nice clothes shops too… The city feels really old-fashioned, so much for all of us to see and enjoy exploring a new place!
It was bustling and a lovely atmosphere, lots of people enjoying the sunshine and just there to have a really nice time. We walked on to York Minster, we went to the park which was a little further down and was beautiful in the spring sunshine. The park leads down to the river which is a lovely place just to walk along. It’s all really accessible and can easily be done with a buggy or children in tow.
Is York a child-friendly location?
Yes, although there is a lot for adults, it is a really child-friendly location.
Freddie loved seeing York Minster, spotting all the gargoyles; The Viking Museum Jorvick was closed following the floods in December 2015 but it is due to reopen in April 2017 and wherever you go there is lots to see, the ancient city alongside newer buildings, a lovely mixture of architecture and places full of character.
We walked to the National Rail museum which was free to enter, although you can leave a donation, which we did. It was fantastic value as we were in there for hours! There is so much to see and do, and they have a really nice café set out like you’re on a train – a dream come true for our little boy! There is also a kids’ playground and another building where there are activities for children. When we went, they were doing a science exhibition for kids and Freddie really enjoyed that.
When we were finished, we thought we were going to have to walk back into the city centre (it was about a mile), but there was a little road train that took us back to the centre, it cost about £1 so we took that. It was a lovely way to get back into the city centre.
What about night life?
Well, as a family, we weren’t expecting much in the way of nightlife and we were all pretty tired after all that walking. Having said that, there are loads of lovely pubs and restaurants, the usual high street brands, but also a host of quirky independent wine bars, a gin café and lots of cute brasseries and restaurants. I can’t wait to go back again – maybe child free next time!
We popped into Marks & Spencer on the way back to our apartment, Freddie chose a kids’ meal and we had a cheeseboard, hummus, olives, and a nice bottle of wine.
Then we went back to the apartment and cooked Freddie his supper; it was so nice to sit at the table together and have a proper meal as a family in the privacy and comfort of our own space. And our meal came to less than £20 which is another great thing about an apartment – the money you can save when eating in.
We settled Freddie to bed and then relaxed in the sitting room. The floor to ceiling windows gave us a great view over York and we enjoyed seeing all the lights coming on as evening fell. We had Netflix on the smart TV and a really good Wi-Fi signal in the apartment. It was very reliable and there were no problems using all our tablets and phones at the same time.
Rise and shine
After our busy day, we were hoping for a lie in, but sure enough, Freddie was up at 6am! Luckily, my husband is a morning person so they went down to reception in their pyjamas – which Freddie found totally hilarious – and got a coffee from the café in reception where you can get drinks 24 hours a day.
As we were leaving later that day, check out was at 11am, but there were large lockers where you could keep your luggage for free and pick it up later. So we did this and headed out for the day.
We walked along the canal, it was another beautiful spring day and we enjoyed a nice breakfast.
Freddie wanted to go back to the Shambles; he loved all the traditional shops and market stalls, it’s a perfect place to walk around, exploring the tiny alleyways that we had missed the day before. We then went to York Chocolate Story, there is a tour you can take and a really nice café where you could get the most amazing hot chocolate, chocolate fountains and chocolate fondue.
We couldn’t leave York without a visit to Betty’s Tea Room, but after lunch it was time to head home.
On the way back we went to the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet, it was an amazing shopping centre with a fabulous children’s play area and a Krispy Kreme, perfect for keeping the boys happy while I picked up some amazing bargains!
We had an absolutely fantastic time in York, and I would totally recommend it, either for families, couples or groups of friends.
What were the three best things about the apartment?
1. The staff: they were just so lovely and genuinely interested in what we were doing. Nothing was too much trouble for them.
2. How quiet it was, being close to the city centre but being so peaceful.
3. Really simple, striking décor and high-quality furniture.
What were the best things about York for a family mini-break?
1. The history, variety, museums, things to do, loads of places to eat and drink – literally something for everyone.
2. How pedestrianised it was, very safe and child-friendly.
3. The amount of green space: a lovely park and gardens, walks along the river and canal.
Roisin, Scott and Freddie stayed in a one bedroom apartment at Staycity Aparthotels, Paragon Street York. A typical rate for a weekend in April is between £130 and £215 per night. Call us on 01524 544 244 for the best rates.