Rewind 150 years and you can imagine the swish of bustle dresses that would have swept through this grand hotel, built to accommodate the aristocracy of the North.
Opened in 1878 in the shadow of the imposing York Station, The Royal York Hotel, hailed as one of the country’s great railway hotels, mirrors the Victorian grandeur of its neighbour - and then some.
Towering ceilings, palatial columns and windows offering vistas of York Minster make this one of the city’s finer hotels.
Its air of old school glamour remains in the detailed ironwork of its sweeping central staircase which artfully circles a heavyweight chandelier, as well as the original electric doorbell system which would have been used by guests in Victorian times and is still in use today.
Much like the railways, however, times have changed and while the Grade II-listed venue still doffs its cap to the aristocracy who once frequented the site with its equine statues, portraits of noble figures and sleek Art Deco lines, it’s also been brought bang up to date with a multi-million pound renovation which took place over the course of 2015 and early 2016.
Dozens of plush chairs with freshly plumped cushions pepper the grand hall, inviting you to recline, reminding you that this is a place for elegant relaxation.
A Garden Room, which overlooks the quintessentially English gardens, has blossomed into the perfect place to indulge in a traditional past-time that’s enjoying a renaissance all of its own: afternoon tea.
This fancy, yet informal, food offering extends into The Refectory kitchen and terrace, which was launched at the end of last year as part of this new chapter in the site’s history. The owners are aiming to put the hotel back on the map and The Refectory may well have the recipe to do just that.
Its menu pays tribute to its locality with a firm focus on Yorkshire produce, such as Yorkshire Dales lamb, Yorkshire cheeses and stem ginger parkin.
Seafood-wise, Whitby crab is the poster child for such fare so, when in Rome...
In keeping with the hotel’s new stylish chapter, it was served picture perfectly: a mound of beautifully flaky crab with a hint of mayonnaise and sieved egg.
It was a light introduction to the denser main: cod and squid ink risotto.
A plump black risotto, which was just the right side of al dente, held up a moist slab of risotto wrapped in Parma ham.
We sat in the conservatory-style eatery but, in warmer months, there’s a pretty courtyard festooned with bunting where you can watch the hullaballoo of the comings and goings of the station.
For post-dinner drinks you don’t have to look very far for a bar. Just in the next room, in fact.
The Chapter House bar harks back to the speakeasys of the jazz era: all leather studded chairs, dark walls, copper and mahogany hues and moody lighting, which helps to inject it with an identity separate to that of the hotel.
It’s been designed by architects Michaelis Boyd, whose clients range from London’s Groucho Club to Soho House Group, and they’ve certainly stamped their swish trademark style on the place.
From its well-stocked bar, staff in braces serve craft ales and cocktails, from the ubiquitous espresso Martini to more unusual tipples, such as a lavender martini.
The Refectory and Chapter House have certainly upped the site’s ante for nonresidents, making it a destination in its own right, rather than somewhere you walk past en route from the station into the centre.
Of course, York throws up a myriad of tourist destinations and The Royal York, with its grand Italian facade overlooking Lendal Bridge, is the perfect place from which to explore them.
On this visit we enjoyed one right on the hotel’s doorstep, literally. Prepare to have your goosebumps gripped by the Ghost Bus Tour, which departs daily at various times outside the hotel.
It’s a fitting tourist attraction for a city named the most haunted in the UK, with more than 500 spooks reputedly calling it home.
A former funeral bus, this tour on wheels takes you around some of York’s greatest, and most ghoulish, landmarks such as Clifford’s Tower, Terry’s chocolate factory, the race course York Minster and Dick Turpin’s grave.
But don’t be fooled by thinking this is like a regular tourist bus: there’s a host of surprises along the way delivered by a hilarious conductor.
He was a star and had us spooked and chuckling in equal measure.
•For details visit http://www.hotelroyalyork.co.uk
•We’ve teamed up with Visit York to give away three family York day passes, two adult and two children’s passes, worth £116 per family.
With your York Pass you can enjoy free entry to over 30 attractions in and around York. Climb into history at Clifford’s Tower, bask in the Gothic splendour of York Minster or discover the city’s long association with sweet treats at York’s Chocolate Story.
And it’s not just the city centre - get out and about with attractions including Castle Howard, Yorkshire Air Museum and even a steam-hauled trip to Whitby on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
With your York Pass you also have a number of exclusive discounts at your disposal. Hungry? Your York Pass gives you discounts at a range of restaurants and cafés.
For getting around, your York Pass gives you a free upgrade with Europcar, and money off cycle hire from York Cycle Tours and your taxi fare with Streamline Taxis.
If a spot of retail therapy is your thing, then your York Pass provides you with exclusive discounts at a number of shops across York. •For details visit
To be in with a chance of winning a York Pass for your family, answer this question?
Which of these is a bridge in York?
Fill in your answer and full contact details on a postcard and return it to York Passes Competition, Katy Wheeler, 2nd Floor, Alexander House, 1 Mandarin Road, Rainton Bridge Business Park, Houghton, DH4 5RA.
Alternatively, email you contact details and answer to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk Closing date: July 14