The Weekender: York, England
by Alessandro Ferrara
Quel Homme checks into luxury hotel The Grand in York, discovering a city of extraordinary cultural wealth and history
When it comes to culture and history, there are few places in England as rich as York. With a heritage that goes from the Romans to the Vikings, featuring narrow streets and Snickelways that evoke the city’s Medieval era, a buzzy art scene and entertaining attractions, the Northern destination makes for a fantastic late summer weekend escape.
It all starts at The Grand, a five-star hotel & spa in a beautiful historic building from the beginning of the 20th century, ideally located in the heart of York. From the very first step inside the hotel, an attentive and kind team is ready to satisfy any demand and provide all the information and tips necessary to make the most of the Yorkshire town.
207 exquisitely designed bedrooms, ranging across seven categories, welcome guests with high-quality furnishings and an attention to detail that makes it clear why the luxury hotel has been recognised as one of the best structures in the UK by luxury travel network Virtuoso. For those looking for a
truly home-away-from-home experience, The Grand boasts 19 suites offering double washbasins and walk-in showers, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows providing the brightest ambient and displaying some of the best views in York. The Penthouse Suite is the ultimate in luxury, with a separate lounge featuring expansive sofas, a spacious bedroom with a super-king-sized bed to rest like a sultan, and a roll top bath carefully positioned to provide views of the city’s skyline, calling for that glamorous Instagram moment.
The Spa at The Grand, set within the building’s former vaults, is a haven for active travellers who are determined to close their daily Apple Watch rings wherever they are, thanks to an air-conditioned gym with Cybex equipment and a heated 14m pool. To rejuvenate the body and soul, a Nordic dry sauna and an aromatic steam room make for the best post-workout. But what makes the Spa at The Grand so special is a team of first-class therapists who provide guests with tailored made treatments through personal questionnaires and consultancy sessions. These include soothing body wraps and holistic massages, and a selection of beauty therapies with product recommendations for every skin type.
Despite its size, The Grand offers the feel of a boutique hotel thanks to a crew of people available 24/7, genuinely passionate about ensuring guests have the best stay possible. From the loveliest doormen to the kindest and most expert concierge, down-to-earth spa therapists and friendly receptionists – it’s the people that make staying at The Grand a truly luxury experience, where every guest will feel just like at home.
Rates start from £149 on a room-only basis.
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In York, past and present merge to create a modern-day cultural hub, filled with historical sites, designer shops and contemporary art galleries.
The York Minster is a must-see to fully appreciate the city’s heritage. Over 800 years old, it’s considered one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, made in stained glass and stone, and featuring the Great East Window – the largest single expanse of medieval stained glass in the country. For the more active tourists there’s a 275-step spiral stair which takes to the York Minster’s Central Tower, the city’s highest point where to enjoy breath-taking views.
Another gem that’s worth visiting is the Clifford’s Tower, which dates to middle-age England, boasting beautiful panoramic views of York and the Yorkshire countryside.
When it comes to art, York has nothing to envy to bigger urban centres with dozens of indie galleries and exhibition spaces. The York Art Gallery is the city’s most popular spot, with a total of seven exhibition spaces featuring national and international exhibitions, and two galleries, one of which is home to the Centre of Ceramic Art, with vast walls of pots representing York’s long history through ceramics, starting from the Romans to the present day.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a trip to York without visiting the popular Chocolate Story, offering a unique interactive journey through the making of chocolates, with indulgent tastings and cooking classes. A real paradise for everyone with a sweet tooth.
Drink & Dine
Led by internationally acclaimed Executive Chef Nicolas De Visch, The Rise Restaurant at The Grand is our first dining choice in York. A contemporary space that echoes the building’s former railway origins with a relaxed service; diners at The Rise can expect modern British dishes prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The Jerusalem Artichoke Velouté with Chive Cream and Artichoke Crisp makes for a comfort starter, leading the way to a variety of gourmet main options, including the vegan-friendly and gluten-free Wild Mushroom Risotto, made with Aged Parmesan, Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms and Red Vein Sorrel; or the star of the menu, Rump of Lamb, with Pommes Anna, Girolles, Smoked Aubergine and Jus. For more relaxed options, The Grand Burger is the one; Beef Burger, Pancetta Relish, Yorkshire Cheddar and Brioche Bun. Among the vast dessert offering, the Coffee & Hazelnut Praline Bar and the decadent ‘Strawberries & Cream’ standout.
Before or after dinner, guests and diners at The Grand can hit the stools at The 1906 Bar, where young talented bartenders serve expertly crafted cocktails and an impressive list of Champagnes, wines and beers by the glass. The signature Mandarin 1906 is a must-try; a warming balance of Rum, Mandarin Liqueuer, Cherry Luxardo and rich Chocolate Bitters. When the attention to detail is so well curated that your cocktail garnish comes finely marked with the bar logo, you know you’ve hit the right spot in town.