2021 is set to be another summer of outdoor entertaining. While the slow crawl to normality continues, one of the things many of us (me included) are looking forward to is the opportunity to get back to the great British pub. As I write this one of the few things approaching certainty is that outdoor socialising will be on the cards before we crowd ourselves into boozers, so I thought it would be the perfect time to revisit my look at the best beer gardens in York. I would STRONGLY encourage you to get in touch with individual venues to check their opening and booking arrangements before making firm plans. Please bear in mind that some businesses that rely more heavily on indoor than outdoor space may not be able to open viably in April.
The Lamb & Lion
Often held up as the one of the best beer gardens in York and for good reason, the Lamb & Lion is a lovely pub that always has good quality cold lager as well as a few well kept handpulls, but the view from the garden really is the real draw. There’re few better places to absorb the admiring glances of tourists walking the walls while taking in the Minster’s majesty.
After years of neglect, the Phoenix received a wonderfully sympathetic refurbishment in 2009 to become a beacon of jazz and real ale just inside Fishergate bar. After a couple of changes of management, the jazz continues and the range of beers is still diverse, while the paved courtyard catches the sun nicely to look inviting from the walls.
The terrace here is another place to absorb the majesty of the Minster. The Habit offers live music, good beer and a relaxed atmosphere from its home on Goodramgate.
Whilst mainly known for its fantastic steaks, the Whippet on North Street functions just fine as a bar too and has a small but perfectly formed outdoor space. With artificial grass and a non smoking area, it makes a calm refuge from some other city centre bars.
Feeling active? Why not hop on your bike and head south on the cycle path to Selby where you can find this garden at Naburn. After taking in the scale model of the solar system along the path, this is a superb spot to take on sustenance before tackling the comfortably flat ride back to York.
After its extensive renovation a few years ago, the Judges Lodging on Lendal has been transformed and now offers two fantastic outside spaces. While the area at the front can get extremely busy at weekends, it’s worth making your way through the bar to check out the terrace at the back of the building.
The Star Inn the City
Similarly to the Whippet, the Star’s status as a restaurant draws attention away from the fact that it has a bar available regardless of your dining plans. The terrace overlooking the River Ouse is one of the best beer gardens in York to inhabit while you enjoy Czech lager from the stunning copper tanks on show in the bar.
The City Screen
A York institution, the City Screen has been keeping us in culture and food for a couple of decades while offering performance spaces and a cosy terrace overlooking the river just off Coney Street. Competition for a table outside can be fierce so don’t relinquish one lightly! A particularly good spot to digest a mid-afternoon film viewing over a drink.
In June 2017 Dyls reopened after flood damage, bigger and better than ever with a new three-floor capacity inside. The terrace that overlooks the Ouse by Skeldergate Bridge can lay claim to being one of the best beer gardens in York.
Brew York Tap
Brew York has really made a mark since its opening, winning awards for its superb beers and quickly becoming a buzzing place to meet up, but its plans to open up the area in front of its building represent an exciting development. With Yuzu on food duties this is bound to be one of the hottest tickets this summer.
A little out of the centre of the city in Holgate, The Fox has a large garden served by an outside bar that’s family friendly while also attracting workers from the local offices. Occasionally you’ll find streetfood such as pizza (pictured from Dough Eyed Pizza) available too.
The Fossgate Social may not have the largest outdoor space in York but it has plenty of character tucked away at the back of this hipster hangout. The coffee served here is top notch too as is the craft beer selection.
A train station might not be the first place you think of to enjoy a drink outside, but the outdoor area at The York Tap has a pleasing bustle of travellers with plenty of passing trains to catch the eye. It also features a huge range of well kept hand pulled ales.
In 2020 Churchill’s Hotel on Bootham installed a series of domes in its garden to facilitate socially distanced dining. With or without them, it’s a lovely building to enjoy a drink in the shadow of.
Built on the former Clifton Aerodrome, The Lysander has a family focussed garden complete with play equipment to keep the kids busy while you eat.
Pitcher and Piano
With a terrace offering river views, The Pitcher and Piano is a happy neighbour to The City Screen and a great place to chill and relax. Keep an eye out for their bottomless brunch offers at weekends.
The very definition of an outdoor drinking and eating space, Spark York offers a family friendly place to enjoy the weather in the company of great food and drink. The range of food and drink traders mean that there’s bound to be something for everyone.
Merging into the activity in The Shambles Market, the outdoor space at The Shambles Tavern puts you right in the heart of the action in the city centre.
Shambles Food Court
The Shambles Food Court features some of the best streetfood traders in the city. It’s a great place to loiter with a snack and a drink. Be sure to check out food from Krep, Shambles Kitchen, Nana Noodle bar, The Taylor Made Kitchen, Los Moros and Dark Horse.
Predictably found on Gillygate, this traditional pub features a sun trap beer garden that’s a secluded place to kill time and enjoy the summer.
Waggon and Horses
Serving some of the best real ale in York, a stroll out of the centre through Walmgate Bar will help you enjoy a visit to this friendly locals pub. The Waggon also offers bed and breakfast if you need a place to stay.
The White Swan
Affectionately known as The Mucky Duck, The White Swan is a fixture in central York for weekend drinkers. Its courtyard can be a lively place to visit on hot days!
The Deramore Arms
Being in Heslington, this pub is well positioned to service the academic and student population attached to the nearby university. A visit to the Deramore is made more attractive by delicious pub food on offer.
The Fulford Arms
While primarily functioning as a music venue, The Fully also boasts an enviable beer garden that attracts plenty of local families when the weather cooperates. This inclusive, welcoming space is a real asset to the York music and events scene.
The Golden Ball
This community run, traditionally laid out York pub is a Bishophill institution with good reason. The welcoming outdoor space only adds to its appeal. Keep an eye out for works from local artists that can be purchased.
Serving the local population of Bishopthorpe Road and Clementhorpe, The Swan is a welcoming pub with community at it’s heart and a secluded outdoor space to enjoy.
A few steps from in Clementhorpe, The Slip Inn is a tempting place into which to slip for a pint. Top notch beer, welcoming staff and an attractive outdoor space mean this isn’t one to miss.
Size doesn’t necessarily mean character, something that The Ackhorne has plenty of. Its diminutive outdoor space offers a real bolthole away from the Micklegate crowds.
Walmgate Ale House
The beer garden is a relatively recent addition to Walmgate Ale House, expanding its appeal with a secluded gravel covered area in which to enjoy its range of drinks and top notch bar snacks. The same building is also home to The Chopping Block restaurant, offering classic French dishes in this memorable former rope and tackle merchant.
Often overlooked as an outdoor venue, 1331 is a friendly spot on Grape Lane spread over several floors that also offers an outdoor area from which to watch the world go by. The hotdog menu gives you something to get your teeth into.
The Sun at Colton
While it’s built its reputation on top notch food, that’s not all this pub a few miles from York has to offer. This award winning pub is a true family business, including a renowned chocolatier, Ashley McCarthy, who’s shown his skills on a number of TV programs.
Langthorpe Farm Shop
When things reopen, Langthorpe Farm Shop, near Boroughbridge, will be serving up rotisserie chicken in their garden from April 17th along with a BBQ menu.
The Keystones, just outside Monk Bar, may not offer high end fine dining, but it’s certainly a buzzing and affordable place to eat and drink. Its garden is noteworthy thanks to being home to the remains of a Georgian ice house.
Malmaison Roof Bar
Anyone who was lucky enough to go through a training session in the board room in this building during its use as offices can attest to the quality of the views. We may be waiting for an opening date but this is bound to be a showstopper when it’s accessible.
The Saddle Fulford
The Saddle in Fulford has responded brilliantly to the events of 2020 turning itself into a grocery shop and serving its community, earning praise from none other than Tom Kerridge. Why not show your appreciation with a pint in their garden?
Tank and Paddle
This sports and craft beer bar is perched just above the Ouse by Ouse bridge, its terrace overlooking the river is a great place to unwind with a bite to eat.
Set back from Skeldergate, this historic collection of buildings isn’t just a lovely place to stay when visiting York. It’s also a picturesque, and generally unflustered place for a moment’s quiet contemplation over a pint and a newspaper.