Day 1. Visiting historic York

We set off bright and early in order to maximise our time in York as there were so many things we wanted to see and do during our short stay. Arriving mid-morning at our riverside accommodation, the newly opened Roomzzz Aparthotel, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our room was ready so we dropped off our bags and then helped ourselves to a cappuccino from the complimentary coffee machine in the hotel lobby.

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Roomzzz Aparthotel York City

Fuelled with caffeine, we were ready to go, making our first stop at the Tourist Information office located close to the Minster, a pleasant 15 minutes stroll. From there we picked up some maps, leaflets and took advantage of the York Pass which offers substantial savings when planning on visiting a number of attractions in the city.

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York Minster

York Minster was just across the square and as it is one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals we decided to head there first. Standard adult admission is £11.50 and free to holders of the York Pass. The awe inspiring cathedral has an unrivalled collection of medieval stained glass including the Rose Window high in the south transept which is one of the best known stained glass windows in England.

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York Minster

We had hoped to climb the 275 steps to the top of the Minster ‘s central tower but this was unfortunately closed for maintenance at the time of our visit. Instead, we explored the undercroft where we saw the remains of the original Roman barracks visible through glass floors beneath the Minster.

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Barley Hall, York

Leaving there, it was then just a short walk to Barley Hall in Coffee Yard and accessed off either Stonegate or Swinegate. This stunning medieval building was built around 1360 by the monks of Nostell Priory. More recently the hall has been lovingly restored to its original splendour and we marvelled at its high ceilings and exposed timbers. Unusual for a museum, visitors are actively encouraged to make themselves at home by sitting in the chairs and handling the objects. Relaxing in one of the antique chairs we were able to gain an impression of what it might have been like to have lived in medieval York.

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York’s Chocolate Story

Close by is York’s Chocolate Story and being a chocoholic (I wonder who isn’t) it was definitely the place for me. We joined a one hour guided tour which began with a history of York’s most famous chocolate making families of Rowntree, Terry’s and Craven. Our guide Simon was knowledgeable and engaging and each time we paused to look at something he appeared with tins of Quality Street for us to dig into or trays of delicious chocolate samples!

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Starting our tour at York’s Chocolate Story

I knew that York was synonymous with chocolate but didn’t know the full story so it was interesting to gain some deeper knowledge of the city’s connections with confectionery. Rowntree’s of York was founded in 1862 and is famous for brands including fruit pastilles, Aero, Yorkie Bars, After Eight Mints and of course, KitKat. It merged with Mackintosh in 1969 which then jointly became part of Nestlé in 1988. The York factory has been retained as the KitKat headquarters with 5 million bars rolling off its production line each day, that’s a staggering billion bars a year!

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Chocolate tasting wheel with samples

Next, we learnt about Terry’s of York, famous for its Chocolate Orange and boxes of Terry’s Old Gold. The business, established in 1767 had its headquarters and factory at the city’s Terry’s Chocolate Works. It was acquired by Kraft Foods in 1993 with the factory closing its doors for the last time in 2005 with production moving to Poland, Sweden, Belgium and Slovakia. Not quite so well known but also based in York were Cravens, noted for their mints, French almonds, humbugs and boiled sweets. At one point 25% of York’s population were involved in the chocolate industry.

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Preparing our white chocolate lollipops

After hearing about York’s long association with chocolate and discovering how it is made, it was time for us to have a go ourselves. Stood around a counter we were each given a plastic bag to write our name on then requested to turn it over as on top of it, a dollop of white chocolate was placed. Instructions to produce our very own chocolate lollipop followed. First we needed to place the wooden stick in the middle and then decorate the lolly with a selection of toppings. I selected salted caramel and raspberry, as they are my favourites, and scattered these on top as best I could.

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My completed white chocolate lollipop

Whilst our chocolate creations were setting, we moved along to observe a chocolatier in action, demonstrating how gourmet chocolate should be made and yes, you guessed it, we were able to sample these irresistible confections as well! Soon, our own lollipops were ready for collection and although it’s unlikely I’ll ever make it as a chocolatier, I was quite proud of my achievements. In summary, York’s Chocolate Story is a brilliant attraction in the city centre and suitable for all ages. A school party were following us around and hopefully learning something as well as scoffing the samples! Entrance is £12.95 and free with the York Pass. I suggest booking a tour in advance as there are a maximum of 24 places on each one, and as it’s so interesting it would be a shame to miss out.

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The Shambles, York

A good thing about York is that most of its attractions are close together making getting around quick and easy. Located just around the corner from the Chocolate Story lies The Shambles, a quant old street featuring overhanging timber buildings dating back to medieval times. It was once a street of butchers shops but now the small shops are mostly occupied by cafes, gift shops and a wonderful fudge shop that we couldn’t resist going inside. It can get very crowded along this narrow street but was actually fairly quiet whilst we were there.

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On board our sightseeing cruise through the centre of York

Checking the time, we realised that we could make the next pleasure boat trip on the River Ouse, so after popping into a nearby bakery for some sandwiches and cartons of juice we headed along to King’s Staith Landing to board a 45 minute cruise operated by City Cruises – York and also included in our York Pass.

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Passing under one of the bridges in York on board our river cruise

We braved the cold and sat out on the upper deck accompanied by a group of nine year old school children. We munched our sandwiches as the boat passed through the city centre and were fortunate that it was bright and sunny. Taking the short cruise was relaxing and also provided us with a different perspective of the city from the river. There was an interesting live commentary focusing on points of interest and the city’s famous history. The school children took great delight in shouting loudly each time we passed beneath a bridge so that they could hear their echoes but generally were very well behaved, remaining in their seats the entire time. Our cruise travelled both up and down stream even passing our riverside accommodation.

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Enjoying our cruise along the River Ouse in York

After our pleasant river cruise and bite to eat we checked our map of York for directions to the Jorvik Viking Centre on Coppergate, a museum I’d visited a long time back when my children were small but not since its recent refurbishments.

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The Jorvik Viking Centre, York

Our self-guided tour began in the basement where a glass floor revealed houses, workshops and backyards of the Viking city of Jorvik as it stood 1,000 years ago. It was between 1976-1981 that archaeologists made the discoveries which led to the Jorvik Centre being built on the site.

After viewing this gallery, we then took a journey in a car which holds a maximum of 6 visitors for a ride experience through the sights and sounds of Jorvik.

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Travelling through the Viking village of Jorvik in our motorised car

This little trip lasted around 15 minutes and was enthralling and fun for everyone whether you’re 7 or 70. There’s a touch screen on each seat and passengers can choose to hear the commentary in any one of 15 languages with an option for children’s versions. Following our ride there were more galleries to view containing a unique collection of Viking artefacts. Visiting the museum is £12.50 and included in the York Pass, making it good value.

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York Gin in a beautiful Tudor building

Coppergate is at the heart of York’s vibrant shopping centre so we took the opportunity of looking in a few of its stores and buying some food for dinner from Marks & Spencer. On the way back to our Aparthotel we just had time to take a look in the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall as it didn’t close until 4.30 p.m.

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Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York

The medieval Guildhall is set in landscaped gardens and has been in continuous use for 660 years. Each major historical period is documented in some way either in the fabric of the building or in its collection of Tudor trades and Guilds.

 

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The Great Hall, Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York

The Great Hall is stunning and easy to understand why it’s popular as an event and wedding venue. After viewing its 15th century chapel and taking a look in its gift shop and cafe we returned to our hotel, glad to rest our feet.

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Our room at Roomzzz Aparthotel, York

 

We’d had such an interesting day, visiting several of York’s main sights but although we’d packed quite a lot into the day, we never felt rushed as some of the attractions were quite small and all reasonably close together.

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Our well equipped kitchen area came equipped with everything we needed

It was so good staying in an Aparthotel as on such a cold night we didn’t really want to venture out again so we unpacked our Dinner for Two from M & S, prepared it in our fully equipped kitchen then flopped down on the sofa with our glasses of wine, what more could we wish for!

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70 thoughts on “Day 1. Visiting historic York

  1. Pingback: Day 2. Exploring Cologne – Love Travelling

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated. It’s good that my post brought back some fond memories of your study period in York. The city has been well preserved and thankfully changed little over the years. Stay safe.

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  2. The wife and daughter were recently in Germany, the Netherlands, and Ireland. As for me with all my English roots, home in the States house and pet sitting. Next trip over I’d love to see york. Thanks for the tease. My father’s side were all from the countryside outside Manchester. Fiddler’s Chips a distant relative.

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  3. There is so much to like about York! The hotel you stayed in looks amazing and definitely one to add to the list. I knew about the Vikings but was not aware of the tie to chocolate. I could spend all day doing that alone!!!!! I also was not aware of all of the timbered buildings they still had there. AMAZING! Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Jepsy Babu

    York is amazing. The cathedral is beautiful beautiful beautiful beautiful. Chocolate making wow that was great. River Ouse and the bridge is gorgeous. Shambles are unique.

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  5. This is really interesting and brings back so many memories! I stayed in York for a few days two years ago and I have the nicest memories from there! The town is so pretty and almost feels magical! Thanks for sharing 😊

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  6. Good information to know if I ever visit. I remember hearing about the Viking discoveries in that place in documentaries. I imagine with the recent Vikings TV series, it is very popular with tourists.
    Loved the Shambles street, such old timbered buildings and the magnificent cathedral. It is really grand, isn’t it? I used to enjoy Rowntrees bars and wondered what happened to them. Not surprising that Nestle took over them eventually. They have their tentacles in so many food products that smaller companies initially made famous. I suppose that is the key to their business success. Thanks for the tour of York. I love that everything is so close and you could do this all in a short time.

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    1. Thanks Amanda, I visited York with my friend Caroline who I meet up with each week for lunch and a wander around the shops but it’s not often we manage to get away together. Terry’s Chocolate Oranges are really popular over here especially at Christmas and although they are now owned by Kraft, I’m pleased it’s not on their branding as it would soon lose appeal.

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      1. Nestle has a bad name via unethical practices marketing and selling formula milk in the third world where clean water is hard to come by. I try not to buy Nestle products, but the MoTH still enjoys a KitKat. Is Kraft also under the Nestle brand?

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  7. Silver

    Good choice of place to visit, we really enjoyed York when we were there. We visited the transport museum which was interesting (and free!) – one of my favourite exhibits was the Shinkansen train you could board and sit in.
    At the time we went, Jorvik was still closed for renovation but we may go again and see it now it’s open. We also wanted to try Betty’s tearoom but both times we went the line snaked around the building. So we need to book to be sure to get a place next time we go, for sure ^_^

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    1. I’m so pleased you enjoyed your visit to York. We also visited the National Railway Museum which I’m featuring in my next post – I absolutely adore going there! Betty’s Cafe & Tearooms is definitely an experience too. They have two branches in York which are both lovely so hopefully you can enjoy afternoon tea there on your next visit – something to look forward to.

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  8. Lovely photos of a stunning city. York has so much to offer that you could spend days and days there. Love the chocolate experience and of course the MInster is outstanding. Lets just hope that Storm Dennis hasn’t caused too much devastation in the city over the past few days.

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  9. Couldn’t resist a trip back to York with you, Marion! It is an expensive city but very beautiful on its day. How much did you pay for the York Pass? Sounds like a good idea. In all these years I never did the Chocolate Tour! How remiss! 🙂 🙂 Have a nice week!

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    1. Thanks Jo for taking an interest in my visit to York. Attractions tend to be quite expensive there but if you are able to get around several of them the York Pass costs £45 for one day or £65 for two (the two day pass is called York & Beyond and also covers attractions further afield such as Castle Howard. Still not cheap but can help to make savings if you work out what where you want to visit in advance. Hope you have a good week too.

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    1. I’m certain you would enjoy a short break in York, there’s so much to see and do and in summer you can enjoy longer walks along its historic walls and by the river. Thanks for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated.

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