UK York

Travel || 15 Things To Do in York

york minster black and white

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. 

The Shambles 

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. 

Entrance: Free 

The Minster

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 

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. 

Cost: varied

Railway Museum 

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 

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

Yorkshire Museum 

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). 

York City Art Gallery

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

Ghost Tour

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

Treasurer’s House

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

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? 

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  • NatalieLeanne

    Saved this for the next time I’m in York! 🙂 xx

  • I’ve been to a few of the things you mentioned, like walking on the City Walls, visiting the Treasurer’s House, Railway Museum and Clifford’s Tower. But some of them are new to me, so it’s great, I will save your post for our next trip to York.
    If you don’t mind me saying, I would recommend the York Cold War Bunker, it’s part of English Heritage and I saw it last month, it’s very interesting and quite different.

    • One of my first York job offers was to guide the tour for the York Cold War Bunker so I know a fair bit about the bunker 😉 It’s not where I’m working at the moment but it’s definitely one of the most unique English Heritage sites in the whole country! x

  • I’m saving it:) for one day..

  • Laura Torninoja

    York is so beautiful! I’ve been once aaaages ago but I really want to visit again this year. I know it’s probably what everyone says, but I thought that the Shambles was just the cutest little street – it really felt like stepping back in time! I also remember loving sitting by the riverside in the sun. So many great memories from York, I’m definitely bookmarking this post for when I next go! x

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

    • It really is just like stepping back in time! One of the things that makes York so special – in my opinion – is that it has done such a great job keeping its history alive and functional! x

  • I alwaaaays want to visit York. As an avid reader of Harry Potter, I always want to see the Shambles as they say it looks a lot like Diagon Alley.
    Thank you for sharing this!

  • I had York on my to-see list when we lived in London, but we never made it! So sad. Still going to pin your post in case we ever go back, though. 🙂 I love how many of these things are free or low-cost. Those are the ones we typically make a point to do when we go somewhere new.

    • And a lot of the time the free things are the best! I think that’s one of the great things about traveling in England – so many museums, etc are free! x

  • I can feel my inner anorak coming out but the train museum looks really interesting! There were some big old trains in the Milan science & tech museum and it was really interesting having a look at them. My favourite thing to do in York (besides stuffing myself silly at Betty’s of course) was to go to the haunted house 35 Stonegate although I have just discovered it is closed forever after being sold to a property developer a few years ago and I don’t think I will ever get over this! Ahaha xxx
    Lucy @ La Lingua

    • I’m gutted that I’ve missed it! (Though I enjoyed the ghost tour of more, I bet the haunted house was even better) x

  • Such a nice little guide! Out of all the paid activities do you think the most worth it would be the Minster?

    • in my opinion- yes- but if you’re here on a Sunday you can attend service for free and be able to have a look around. The only problem is that then you won’t be able to get a proper nose around 😉 x