Literary York: The Perfect Trip for Readers and Writers

Literary York: The Perfect Trip for Readers and Writers

Fancy yourself a budding Bukowski? Or do you just love curling up with the latest Colleen Hoover? York is the perfect staycation destination for readers and writers. With a rich literary history and a scene that’s booming with great events and inspiration right now, there’s no better place in the North to be for literary fans. 

At Hotel Indigo York, we’re experts in our neighbourhood. Today, we’re sharing our insider knowledge of York for readers and writers. If you’re searching for the best spoken word night or bookshops to grab gifts to take home for all your bookish pals, we have you covered.

York's History with Writers and Writing

The city of York has a rich literary history. Books have been produced in York since the 8th century. Looking around the city you can spot lots of remnants and nods to the history that shaped the city. 

The statue of Minerva on the corners of High Petergate and Minster gates marks the former site of the bookshop owned by John Foster from 1580-1607 which was the meeting place of one of Britain’s first ever book clubs. The statue was created by Francis Wolstenholme who hosted the York Book Club as well as sold books in Minster Gates from 1820-1855. 

A visit to York is never complete without a trip to York Minster, but did you know even the Minster plays a role in York’s literary history? The Minster is home to the largest cathedral library in the country with over 90,000 volumes. This includes The Wicked Bible, a reprint of the King James Bible which accidentally omits the word ‘not’ from the Ten Commandments.

Patron of the Arts and writer Elizabeth Montagu lived at Treasurer’s House in York during her early childhood before going on to lead The Blue Stockings Society. 

Everywhere you look in York there are literary connections that span out, making it the perfect place to spend a booklover’s weekend.

A photograph of literary York showing the old buildings, shops, and cobbled streets.

York Bookshops

In 2020 there were over 15 bookshops in the city alone. It’s an impressive feat. York is home to some incredible bookshops. Here are some of the greatest: 

  • The Minster Gate Bookshop – This shop is a book lover’s dream. It’s a tall winding building with books in every nook and cranny you can spot. They even have a great collection of rare and vintage editions. 


  • The Little Apple Bookshop – This quirky little gem specialises in children’s books and is the most adorable bookshop in the entire North. 


  • The Portal Bookshop – One of the few LGBTQ bookshops in the UK, Portal is a welcome retreat in the city. With hot drinks and nibbles for store browsers, and incredible events, it should definitely be on your list. 


  • Travelling Man – Specialising in comic books, graphic novels, zines, and board games, Travelling Man is one for the geeks. 


  • Janette Ray Booksellers – If you’re looking for the perfect gift for your arty other half, then Janette Ray Booksellers is the one for you, specialising in rare books on architecture, design, and photography

A photograph of antique books to demonstrate the literary scene and bookshops of York.

York Literary Events

With the city of York being so rich in culture and attracting so much talent, it’s no surprise that there’s a variety of literary events that take place over the year that readers and writers would love. From poetry nights to book clubs to festivals celebrating writing – there’s definitely something for you. 



While a relatively new event in the York literary scene, Howl Poetry Night is making waves, inviting poets from across the North including March’s headline poet, Manchester-based,  Rebecca Phythian. The open mic usually has slots on the night so if you’re interested in sharing some new poetic musings, you’ll likely be in luck. Based in the award-winning independent wine bar and charcuterie cafe Howl, it also makes the perfect setting for a date night or excursion with friends. Audience members are always welcome, so head down for their monthly spoken word night. 


Say Owt

This poetry collective, Say Owt, run experimental, inclusive events in York regularly. From slams to workshops to open mics and beyond, they’re the go-to group for all things gobby and political in the Northern poetry scene. The collective is comprised of spoken word artists like Henrty Raby, playwrights, and community activists. Keep an eye on them for some of the coolest and most innovative events in the literary world. 



While York is home to some incredible open mics that allow you to get your voice heard, there’s also plenty of space for celebrating standout performers in the spoken word world. Rise! Is a new event held at Bluebird Bakery that brings together exciting performers once a month. 


The Spoken Word 

Hybrid events are an incredible innovation in the modern world, allowing access to people who are housebound, disabled, or otherwise unable to attend in-person events. The Spoken Word is a hybrid in-person/Zoom event that takes place in the Exhibition Pub in York. It runs monthly and is an open mic that truly does serve everyone. They showcase poetry, prose, monologues, and music, meaning you’ll be in for a delightful variety of performances all night. Take a look at The Spoken Word website for more information on their next events. 


Literature festival

The York Literature Festival is a yearly occurrence, taking place in March this year. With dozens of events spread throughout York, it’s one of the biggest literary events the North has to offer. 

This year some of the incredible highlights on the festival itinerary included a folk horror day with a talk on Thomas Hardy and the Folk Horror Tradition with Rob Edgar and Alan Smith, and a creative writing workshop called Writing Horror Fiction. The workshop is led by Naomi Booth, author of the short story collection Animals at Night, and is sure to be incredibly inspiring for any budding horror novelists out there. 

But if poetry is more up your street, you must catch Lemm Sissay: Let the Light Pour In on 30th March at the Grand Opera House. The show features BAFTA nominated, award-winning writer and broadcaster as he shares his morning routine and the remarkable poems he’s written as dawn breaks over the last decade. It’s not a show to miss. 

As the festival is uniquely located in the historic city of York, it makes sense that it would highlight some of the fantastic literary backgrounds of its surroundings. David Holt will be taking visitors on a Literary Walk of the city on the 23rd of March if you’d like to get up close and personal with the city’s history. 

If you’d like to keep up to date with the York Literature Festival and check out what they do, visit the York Literature Festival website. 


Other events 

York is a city literally bursting with incredible cultural nights and events. The best way to find an event you might like is to find a venue that regularly hosts the kind of events you’re looking for. You can check the venue’s website regularly or sign up for their newsletter to see what’s on. Or you could follow your favourite writers and creatives to see when they’re coming to York. For example, in spring, TikTok’s famous poet Isabella Dorta is heading to Impossible York as part of her UK tour. If poetry about situationships and being too sad to get out of bed sounds like your cup of tea then it’s time to book your ticket ASAP


Check out our social media @hotelindigoyork as we love to shout out what’s going on right in our neighbourhood too. 

Photograph of the reading nook in Hotel Indigo York, perfectly suiting the literary fans.

Hotel Indigo York's Reading Nook

At Hotel Indigo York we love York’s literary scene and want to play a role in it too. That’s why you’ll find a hidden gem in our hotel. Tucked away on the bottom floor, you’ll find our mini library. Here you can browse the book selection and if you’re feeling it, drop off your well-loved novels. It’s a mini community library to encourage sustainable reading practices. Next time you plan a visit to York, make sure you’re not neglecting Hotel Indigo York’s role as a top literary spot. 

Yorkshire's Literary Scene

Yorkshire’s Literary Scene 

If you’re visiting York for a book lover’s holiday then don’t neglect the wider world around the city. Yorkshire is one of the most important counties in the UK in terms of its connection to literature. The Brontë sisters, J.B. Priestley, Ted Hughes, Simon Armitage – what do they all have in common? They were all born and lived in Yorkshire at some point. York’s train station has links all around the county, allowing you quick access to visit famous sites like the Brontë parsonage or head through to Leeds and Sheffield to attend some great Creative Writing Courses and literary events. York is only an hour and ten-minute drive to Whitby too, making it an ideal base for gothic fans to follow in the footsteps of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. 


Those were the top spots in literary York, perfect for a bookish trip to the city. Whether you’re a reader looking to enjoy grabbing some second-hand editions or a writer excited about the chance to share your voice on stage, the city really does have it all. Book your next trip with us now and join the great tradition of York’s readers and writers. 

Food & Drink in York

Sip on local gin, craft ales, familiar favourites, and creative cocktails at No.88 Walmgate. Pair with one of our delicious Rustic Pizzas.

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We proudly stand in the historic neighbourhood of Walmgate, just a short walk from all the city has to offer.

At one point Walmgate had 20 pubs on the street, today it is a cool mix of independent restaurants, bars and shops and continues to Fossgate – which boasts even more independent shops, delis, bars and restaurants. Walmgate Bar proudly stands at the end of the road. It is the only existing bar in York with a Barbican and forms part of the York City Walls walk.

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York Hotel's Chocolate Story

Discover the history of chocolate, how to make it and how to taste it like an expert at the York’s Chocolate Story.

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Hotel Indigo York's Latest Special Offers

Chocolate Package

Sweet dreams are made of this! Enjoy an indulgent stay in York and explore the city’s confectionary history. Snack on a complimentary box of chocolates, and wake up to a full English breakfast.

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