York has so much to see and do that it would be impossible to fit it all into a quick weekend break. I’m so happy that we live here now and that I’ve been slowly ticking off everything that I wanted to do from my “York” list.
So here, I give you my 15 things to do in York.
When people think York, and the have a picture in mind, that picture is usually of the shambles. The gorgeous higgledly-piggeldy narrow streets and colourful independent shops make days out shopping in York truly special. It’s one of the oldest shopping streets around and it’s the best preserved in Europe.
York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, which is a pretty awesome claim to fame. Because it’s a living church and not just a historical monument, you’ll need to time your visits around services and events. York Minster holds 60% of England’s medieval stained glass.
Entrance cost: £15 (or free with your York card)
Clifford’s Tower is almost all that remains of York Castle built by William the Conqueror, and has served as a prison and a royal mint. Hurry and visit the tower now whilst you still can. It closes this fall (Sept 2017) for a refurb and you never know how long it will be until it re-opens!
Entrance cost: £4.50
Jorvik Viking Centre
First things first, “Jorvik” is just the Viking name for York. It perhaps took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that. The museum was originally started by the York Archaeological Trust to showcase some of the Viking objects that were well-preserved and discovered in the Coppergate Dig. (I think one of the most fascinating things about York is its diverse history: the influence of the Vikings, the Normans, and being a Roman capital.) It was so badly damaged by the famous Boxing Day flood of 2015 that it has just now re-opened. I’d say that this attraction might be more fun for kids and families. (Or people like me.)
Entrance cost: £10.25
Okay, this may sound overly simplistic but the food scene in York is great. I have a blog post coming soon on the places that I don’t think you should miss eating at in York, but mark my words, there’s some delicious food. And if you’re unsure of what to snack on, Bettys is always a safe bet. But you have to buy me a Fat Rascal for my recommendation.
The Railway Museum is a great place for families. There are always loads of kids there (it’s an especially good family activity because it’s free). You can see and interact with dozens of trains. My personal favourites are the Japanese bullet trains and Queen Victoria’s royal train.
Entrance cost: free
York Castle Museum
York Castle Museum is my favourite York Museum Trust property. But the most famous part of York Castle Museum’s permanent collection is Kirkgate Street. Kirkgate Street is a recreated Victorian street with many different alleys and side streets that you can go down and explore.
Entrance Cost: £8.40 (or free with a YMT card)
Museum Gardens is next to the Yorkshire Museum. And for all you Pokemon players out there, there always seems to be something good to catch in Museum Gardens. There are lots of lovely little nooks to tuck yourself away in and some beautiful flowers and trees dotted around. Sometimes, you’ll even catch someone doing a bird show display in the park for the kids!
Entrance cost: Free
This would be the closest thing that York has to a science museum. The collection features fossils, archaeological finds, and extinct animals on display. This one is a big favourite with the kids so I’d avoid it during school holiday time!
Entrance cost: £7.50 (or free with your YMT card).
The main space downstairs is for temporary exhibits, but there’s a lovely permanent collection upstairs. My favourite space is the one that houses the ceramics.
Entrance cost: £7.50 (or free with your YMT card)
The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall
The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall is a grade 1 listed building and scheduled ancient monument. It was built between 1357 and 1361, before most of the craft or trade guild halls in Britain, making it one of the largest buildings of its kind and date in Britain. It is very unusual to be able to see in one building the three rooms serving the three functions of a medieval guild; business and social in the Great Hall, charitable in the Undercroft and religious in the Chapel.
Entrance cost: £6
Walk the City Walls
York’s most special feature has to be its city walls. It’s the first thing you notice when you get off the train in York. I walk them some days to work and it never fails to be really special. The walls were originally built by the Romans to surround the city. The majority of the walls that we see today are the medieval walls built on top of the Roman walls in the 12-14th centuries. The York city walls are a scheduled ancient monument and anyone can climb on them! It’s sometimes still the most convenient way to get from one location to the other. Occasionally they are closed during bad weather.
Entrance cost: Free
York is reputably the most haunted city in England, so it’s definitely worth taking a ghost tour through the centre of town. Most tours meet either by the river or at the Minster and are all similarly priced. Even if you don’t believe in the paranormal, it’s usually some silly fun and you get to learn a bit about the history of the area too.
Cost: Around £5
The Treasurer’s House is a (haunted) National Trust House with a long history. In the 1800s industrialist Frank Green purchased the house and filled it with his extensive collection. The gardens are particularly stunning!
Entrance Cost: £8.50
Fairfax House is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture remaining in England. It also houses the famous Noel Terry collection of Georgian clock and cabinet making. This is definitely a day-out treat for a history buff.
Entrance cost: £7.50
So there you have it! Some of the sights and attractions around York! And way, way more than enough to fill a weekend break with. If none of what I mentioned above excites you at all, there are also more than 365 pubs in York. It’s not just an urban legend that you could go to a different pub every single day in York for over a year. (It’s just one of the things that makes it so popular with hen and stag dos.)
What’s your favourite York attraction?