Why book The Grand?
As York‘s only five-star hotel, this is the place to come for the royal treatment, perfectly placed in the middle of the city but just out of reach of the busy Shambles and Minster crowds. It’s the type of hotel where everyone knows your name – even people you don’t know know your name. And it all starts with doorman Wayne Brady, the friendly face who greets loyal locals returning for more tip-top service at this grande dame. It’s not somewhere to book and then spend all day out and about, but rather the place to sit back, relax and fall deep into the city’s northern hospitality.
Hotel address: The Grand, Station Rise, York YO1 6GD
Phone number: +44 1904 380 038
Price from: From £149
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Set the scene
The Grand is just a five-minute walk from the striking Grade II-listed train station, and only a leisurely 10 minutes from the Minster and the city’s main attractions. While it is an appealing place to stay for out-of-towners, it’s equally a favourite of the Yorkies. You might very well find yourself in the whisky room with locals rather than tourists, reuniting with their favourite bartender, porter or smiling waiter. The hotel was once the home of the thriving North Eastern Railway Company and much of that Edwardian splendour has been retained today – the stone staircase, lofty arches and high ceilings, plus that gorgeous terracotta-coloured exterior.
Rich in locomotive history since the days of the Industrial Revolution, the building was constructed in 1906 as a ‘palace of business’ for Edwardian England folk to meet and greet. The railway route stretched from Leeds to the Yorkshire Coast, and from York up through the North East to Berwick. The original design, built to impress, was crafted jointly by William Bell (the chief architect of North Eastern Railway) and London-born architect Horace Field, who added all the bells and whistles – intricate wrought-iron balustrades, luscious garland ceiling plasterwork and skilfully carved stone flourishes, plus oak-panelled boardrooms and an eye-catching octagonal central hall on the first-floor landing. It was then transformed into a 107-bedroom hotel plus spa in 2010, and while some interiors can feel a bit dated, the more modern extension (there’s even a fancy cooking school) brings in a more contemporary look, following a £15 million renovation, completed in 2018, which added another 100 rooms.
As Edwardian design goes, there’s no systematic format to the architecture so each room, dining space, and lounge features its own distinct layout. Rooms in the modern extension include large jewel-toned headboards, cushy beds, walk-in showers and baths (how often do you see that bathroom combo?) and twin sinks. If you’re staying in the original building, rooms are slightly less fresh in style and design but are equally spacious and large. For those splurging on a special weekend, the Penthouse Suite is the way to go and has one of the best views over York’s skyline.
Food and drink
You’re spoiled for choice for wining and dining here. The hotel’s main restaurant, The Rise, is its beating heart. Kick off with cocktails on the terrace – The Grand Sbagliato is the drink to order, blending homemade sweet vermouth, Pampelle (a grapefruit aperitif) and fizz – before dining on starters of crispy Scotch eggs made with duck eggs and spiced apple ketchup and mains of wild halibut or fillet of beef. For a fancier affair, book in at Hudsons, the fine-dining restaurant that specialises in using Yorkshire ingredients with hand-picked wines to match. To drink, make for The 1906 Bar – ask the bartender to guide you through the whisky list – it happens to be one of York’s largest collections of single malts from countries including the USA, Japan, Sweden and Wales. If you’re too tired from a day walking the Wall, there’s always room service, which is 24 hours a day.
Down amid The Grand’s former vaults – formerly used to store millions of pounds of rail revenue – lies the spa. And it’s quite a big one at that. You’ll find a fully equipped gym, heated 14-metre pool, spa whirlpool, Nordic dry sauna, an aromatic steam room and a relaxation lounge for pre-treatment chilling. Try the Drift Away massage, which lives up to its name – they use a blend of Mediterranean essential oils including frankincense, lavender and patchouli.
York is on The Grand’s doorstep, and it’s entirely walkable. Heading out of the hotel, grab a morning coffee from Partisan around the corner before heading over the River Ouse towards the Minster, which is worth popping into for the stained-glass windows alone. Next up, shop at the Shambles and its market stalls – expect quirky collectables, knick-knacks and local produce. Vintage shoppers should go to Dog & Bone and SPARK:York, a buzzing independent outdoor spot in repurposed shipping containers with street food, vintage finds and Aperol on tap. Low-key neighbourhood Walmgate feels more Edinburgh than York, with wine bar Cave du Cochon, plant shop Botanic, tap room Brew York and Flori Bakery leading the pack. For foodies, Skosh and Roots are the tables to book, while a mandatory trip to Betty’s tea room for a famed Fat Rascal (a fruity scone made with butter, currants and citrus peel, decorated with glacé cherries and almonds) won’t go amiss either. Then there are the City Walls – venture out early to have it all to yourself.
White-glove through and through – which might be the biggest draw here. From the doorman to the porter to the front desk and turn-down service, you’re made to feel like royalty. They know where you are and what’s on your agenda, and have valuable insider knowledge about the city. Arrive with the idea that everything will be taken care of, from start to finish.
With so many rooms on offer, all family sizes can be accommodated via adjoining rooms, cots, and sofa beds. Plus, if you need a break from the kids, the pool and hot tub in the spa should do the trick.
The hotel started the process of removing all single-use plastic in 2019, so far reducing usage by 86 per cent as part of its Grand Goes Green project. There are beehives on the rooftop that produce honey and the kitchen uses local suppliers and produce that’s grown nearby in order to cut down on transport costs and food miles, while still supporting small businesses – meat comes from R&J farmers and butchers in Ripon, seafood from Fowlers of York and sustainable micro-herbs from Wild Greens, based just outside York.
Accessibility for those with mobility impairments
Almost all areas of the hotel are wheelchair accessible – with lifts dotted throughout.
Anything left to mention?
If afternoon tea is what you seek, The Grand is up there with the best. Make time for an afternoon of roast Yorkshire chicken Caesar sandwiches, sultana scones, Taylors of Harrogate coffee, hazelnut choux, all the classic teas – and fizz, of course.
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