York – What to See and Do

Getting there:

York is easily accessible from all parts of the country with trains between York and London taking only one and three quarter hours meaning that visiting the city can easily be combined with a trip to the capital.

Attractions:

York Minster

This is one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals (adult admission £11.50).  This 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.

York Minster
York Minster

Climb the 275 steps to the top of the Minster’s central tower for stunning city views and then head underground to explore the undercroft where you can inspect the remains of the original Roman barracks through glass floors.  York Minster

Inside York Minster
Inside York Minster

The Shambles

The Shambles, York
The Shambles, York

Take a walk along The Shambles, a quant old street featuring overhanging timber buildings dating back to medieval times.  It was once a street of butchers but now the small shops are mostly occupied by cafes and gift shops.   The narrow street can get very crowded with tourists but is definitely a ‘must see’ in the city centre.

York’s Chocolate Story

Join a one hour guided tour which begins with a history of York’s most famous chocolate making families.  Knowledgeable guides show you around and each time the group pauses to look at something, tins of Quality Street or trays of delicious chocolate samples are handed round!

York's Chocolate Story
York’s Chocolate Story

Gain a deeper knowledge of the city’s connections with confectionery and of its famous brands including fruit pastilles, Aero, Yorkie Bars, After Eight Mints and KitKat.

Guided tours of York's Chocolate Story
Guided tours of York’s Chocolate Story

Entrance to the museum is £12.95.  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. York’s Chocolate Story

Take a River Cruise

River Ouse, York
River Ouse, York

Join a boat trip operated by City Cruises – York and included in the York Pass.  Taking the short cruise through the city centre is relaxing and provides a different perspective of this historic centre from the river.  Included is an interesting live commentary focusing on points of interest as well as covering the city’s famous history.

JORVIK Viking Centre

Visit the JORVIK Viking Centre and stand on the site of one of the most famous and astounding discoveries of modern archaeology.  Between the years 1976-81 archaeologists revealed the houses, workshops and backyards of the Viking-age city of Jorvik as it stood nearly 1,000 years ago.

The Jorvik Viking Centre, York
JORVIK Viking Centre, York

Start your tour in the basement and view the excavations through the glass floor, then continue with a journey in a car holding a maximum of 6 visitors for a ride experience through the sights and sounds of Jorvik.  This takes around 15 minutes and is enthralling and fun for everyone whatever their age.  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 the ride there are more galleries to explore containing a unique collection of Viking artefacts.  Visiting the museum is £12.50 and included in the York Pass, making it good value.  JORVIK Viking Centre

The Jorvik Viking Centre, York
Travelling through Jorvik on the ride experience

National Rail Museum

National Railway Museum. York
National Railway Museum. York

Start off in the Great Hall, which was a former engine shed until 1968.  It lay in disuse awhile then new life was breathed into it as it became home to the museum, opening in 1975.  On display is Mallard, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley.  This famous engine broke the speed record for steam locomotives in 1938 and it has never been beaten.  Visitors can even relive Mallard’s record breaking run in a simulator experience.

Turntable, National Railway Museum, York
Turntable, National Railway Museum, York

An original turntable is surrounded by an awe inspiring collection of locomotives from the past 150 years and there’s lots more to see such as a high speed Japanese bullet train (the only one of its kind outside Japan).  Moving into the Station Hall, step back in time to explore over 100 years of railway life.

National Railway Museum trains, York
National Railway Museum trains, York

This vast space is home to luxurious royal carriages including Queen Victoria’s saloon which became known as the palace on wheels.  There’s also a vast collection of railway memorabilia including old station signs, art-deco railway posters and station clocks.  National Railway Museum

York Castle Museum 

(Standard admission £12 and included in the York Pass). is one of the country’s finest museums and covers 400 years of York’s history with re-modelled Jacobean rooms through to Victorian prison cells.  An undoubted highlight is Kirkgate, a re-created cobbled street with full size authentic shops and people dressed as local characters.

York Castle Museum
York Castle Museum

Explore the cells which were once a Georgian prison and inspect some of them including that of the highwayman Dick Turpin, the prison’s most notorious inmate.  There is a clever system of projecting ghostly images onto the cell walls and hearing narratives of their chilling stories of life behind bars.  Before leaving, explore the exercise yard where prisoners had as little as 30 minutes each day to stretch their legs and view the set of stocks and gallows where horrifying hangings took place.  York Castle Museum

Cliffords Tower

Located opposite York Castle Museum.  It’s necessary to climb a steep flight of steps to access the tower as it stands proudly on a high mound.  This is now all that remains of York Castle which was built by William the Conqueror and served as a prison and subsequently a Royal Mint.

Cliffords Tower, York
Cliffords Tower, York

Explore the central area and then clamber up yet more steps to the open air walkway at the very top where castle guards once patrolled and nowadays offers some panoramic views over the city’s rooftops.  Cliffords Tower

Take a stroll along the City Walls   

View of York from the City Walls
View of York from the City Walls

It’s possible to complete a circular walk of 2.6 miles (4.2km) following the remains of the original walls although these are no longer complete.  York’s City Walls offer a splendid elevated walk around the city.

Micklegate, York
Micklegate, York

The accompanying moats have largely disappeared but the slopes of the ramparts are well known for their display of daffodils in March and April.  There are four main bars, or fortified gateways and two smaller gateways from where you can gain access to the walls.

Ruins of St. Mary's Abbey, York
Ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, York

One section of the medieval walls is in the Museum Gardens, where you can see the best surviving stretch of the Roman fortress wall and the Roman Multangular Tower with medieval stonework above it.  Also in the Museum Gardens are the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and the precinct walls around two sides of the Abbey.  These walls were built at the same time as the City Walls and are the finest surviving example of Abbey walls in the country.

If you are planning on visiting several of the above attractions then it might be a good idea to purchase the  York Pass, as substantial savings can be made with the one or two day card.

 

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York Weekend Guide

 

87 thoughts on “York – What to See and Do

  1. jasonlikestotravel

    York really does have some incredible museums. The Jorvik Centre is a must for my next visit to the city, I’ve heard a lot of good things about it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Day 1. A weekend in Durham – Love Travelling Blog

    1. Thank you for taking an interest in my post on a York. I’m sure you would enjoy a short break there and think that three days would be just about right to see everything and enjoy some riverside walks and perhaps a boat trip.

      Like

  3. Pingback: York – What to See and Do – Zootopus

    1. York is a splendid city to visit at any time but I think it looks its best around Easter when the walls are surrounded by daffodils. I’m glad to read that you’ve already had an opportunity to visit Shane and hope you’ll return sometime. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So much to see in this presentation. Sad to see ruins of ancient buildings without any effort to preserve them as they would have been for historical value but at least they are maintaining the cathedral. I would love to view the diggings for that ancient village. That would greatly interest me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Will definitely have to consider this city next time I take a visit to England. So much to see and explore. Reminds me a bit of Bath just with all there is to see and do and also the charm of the city itself. Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve been to York, Ontario, which is not nearly as nice as this York in the UK. Looks like there is lots to see and do here. The cathedral is simply stunning. I imagine it would be lovely to visit on a sunny day to fully appreciate all the stained glass windows.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve heard wonderful things about York, including its eponymous cathedral: the interior looks stunning! I also had no idea that Kit Kats came from the UK, but they’re one of my favorite commercial chocolates. Looks to be an enriching time, and to be close enough to London for a day trip is perfect. Thanks for sharing, Marion!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve never been to York, but I’ve often wondered what it looks like, as many cities in America have taken the same name; Toronto also started out as York! I hope you enjoy the weekend with new discoveries.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Great post and fantastic photos, Marion. I didn’t know that you can climb all the way to the top of the Minster’s central tower. The views from there must be truly spectacular. As I love cobbled streets, quaint tearooms and Gothic buildings, York would be just a perfect place to visit. Thanks for sharing and have a good weekend. Aiva 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Wow, what a wonderful array of things to do in such a beautiful city! I love how light filled the cathedral is- all the better for the stained glass windows! And the chocolate factory, Viking Center, and railway museum just look so interesting. I think this is absolutely a place I could spend a lot of time in. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thanks so much for this brilliant post Marion. It takes me back to our visit with our boys (young men) in 2008. It was a fabulous visit. York minster was closed for filming of Kidnapped, but we did get to go to Evensong in the Choir. We all enjoyed York very much. Thanks for the memories. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m so pleased you had an opportunity to visit York with your family Allan. It’s a wonderful city with so much history. I don’t think it has changed much since your visit apart from the more recent Chocolate Story coming on the scene. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a lovely trip down memory lane! I grew up in York (rather a long time ago). Apart from the Chocolate Story, which I guess is fairly recent, I visited all of those places. It seems as though they’ve hardly changed at all!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Wow Marion, so many things to do and see in York! At first I thought the York Minster Cathedral is the best of your post (really beautiful), but then I got to that Chocolate Story … here I will probably get lost 😁!
    But then, still not the end of your post! The Railway Museum looks like such a lovely place to spent some time.
    Great post, I’ve enjoyed this very much!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for taking an interest in my guide to York. It’s a stunning city with so many nice things to see and do. The Rail Museum is particularly interesting, really big and free to enter. Hope you get a chance to visit sometime. Have a good weekend, it’s sunny here! Marion

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Waiting times for the Jorvik Centre vary greatly Stella, sometimes I have been past and found virtually no queue at all and at other times particularly at weekends the queue has been snaking around the square but it’s a good point to bear in mind. Thanks for your welcome thoughts. Marion

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