York is a historical city located in Yorkshire, England which has so much history, culture and beautiful architecture to explore. While England is well known for London’s vast city of history, shopping and unique attractions you might be wondering if York is worth visiting.
In this article, we are going to go through the different questions you might have about visiting York, what there is to do and why you should visit.
Table of Contents
1. The Shambles
No matter if you like shopping, trying out new delicacies and sweets or pretending you are in a Harry Potter film, The Shambles are a must-see when in York.
The Shambles is named the most picturesque street in Britain and for good reason, the cobbled medieval streets that entwine and area of York are both dreamy and enchanting. No matter the time of year you choose to visit you will be able to fully appreciate the beauty and wonder of the historic streets.
The houses are all medieval with overhanging Tudor-built structures that look like they have come straight from a historic film set or a Harry Potter film. These buildings actually date back to the 14th and 15th centuries and are definitely a sight to see. Some of the buildings are said to look at though they are leaning in on each other it is mostly due to the narrow passageways that make the buildings look extremely close.
The stunning buildings are now home to some of York’s best independent businesses and boutique shops selling anything from handcrafted jewellery and gifts to sweet-smelling soaps and delicious foods. Along with many cafes, bars and restaurants to stop and enjoy the mystifying surroundings.
2. York Minster
York is well known for historic buildings, history in general and of course stunning architecture so if you enjoy looking at wonderous buildings you will most likely enjoy visiting York Minster.
York Minster is one of the largest cathedrals in northern Europe and has been standing since the 13th Century. The stunning structure took over 250 years to build and is one of the most popular attractions for many in York.
The building is hard to miss with the giant gothic building protruding over the tops of buildings in the York skyline.
You can admire the building from the outside and inside, with 275 steps up a spiral staircase leading you to the beautiful panoramic view over York itself. There are also beautiful stain glass windows that are both enchanting and easily some of the most stunning pieces of art I have seen.
3. Cliffords Tower
Clifford’s Tower is another imposing and impressive party of the rich tapestry of history in York. It was built between Fishergate and Skeldergate Bridge as part of York Castle, which was built in 1068. Clifford’s Tower is the last remaining part of the castle, which was mostly made of wood.
The tower was named after Roger de Clifford, who was executed there in 1322 as the leader of the Lancastrian party.
The Tower has a history as a point from which you can see panoramic views of the entire city, as well as having excellent picnic facilities, and a gift shop.
Whether you’re interested in the beautiful weather on the day you visit or the history of the tower (which can get a bit dark and gory at times), it’s a must-see on a visit to York.
4. York Ghost Walk
Of course with a history that is as old as York, you are likely to come across some ghost stories and ghouls. If you enjoy learning a lot of the history including the gory side you will enjoy exploring the ghost walk. The walk takes part in the evening so you can really soak up the ghostly atmosphere.
The original ghost walk started in 1973 and was the very first in the world. The walk continues today and starts at the Kings Arms pub and ends at York Dungeon at roughly 8 pm. The ghost walk is both chilling, thrilling, and a little fun with light humour and theatrical storytelling.
The ghost walk is perfect for anyone looking to do something different, wanting to explore York at night or loves a bit of the spooky stuff! York is famous for a number of ghosts and ghostly sightings such as Mad Alice and the Grey Lady.
5. Betty’s Tea Room
If you have been exploring the gorgeous cities of England you may have already come across the spa town of Harrogate, where the original Betty’s was created. The story behind Betty’s is both wonderful and old-worldly which makes an afternoon tea at Betty’s that much more special.
The tea room originated in Harrogate in 1919 but soon opened up in the historic city of York in 1936. From there Betty’s in York has been a staple attraction for many whether choosing to dine in for a delicious meal, enjoy a traditional afternoon tea or pop into the shop on the side to pick up a sweet treat or two for the drive home.
It is somewhere we have visited and love, the tea room is a perfect place for decadence, delicious food and a well-brewed cup of tea. If you are heading to York for a special occasion or you just want to experience the tea room it is well worth a visit, if not pop to the shop for a little light treat later on.
6. York Lucky Cat Trail
Whether you love cats or not you can thoroughly enjoy a lighter way of exploring York using the Lucky Cat Trail. The cat trail originated from cat statues that were placed on buildings to scare rats and mice away which would often carry diseases such as plague.
Since some of the cats were decayed and old but have been replaced to keep the mystical creatures in presence in York. The trail is celebrated at York Glass located in the Shambles where you can pick up a free trail leaflet. The cats themselves got the term lucky over time as they helped ward off bad spirits.
Most of the cats are located on the old buildings found in the Shambles where they would have originated. Once you have enjoyed finding and seeing all the cats in the city you can pop back into York Glass to pick up a cat souvenir.
The lucky cat trail is perfect for those looking to explore York in a new way, do something a little different, and find things you wouldn’t normally see. I love the idea of this trail and find seeing the cats perched on rooftops so fun. If you are looking to do something a little more interested as a family, this is a perfect activity.
7. York Race Course
York might be a calm and historic town so you might be wondering if a racecourse really belongs, well thanks to the Romans horse races were popular in York from 208 AD. Of course many are well acquainted with York Race Course for popular events such as Ladies Day and more.
York Races are a highlight of many seasons for a day out, dressed up smartly and enjoying the surroundings. York Race Course is said to be the best racecourse in Britain and so is popular with visitors to experience the grandeur.
8. National Railway Museum
The national railway museum is a fun-packed family day out and was somewhere we visited a number of times over the course of my childhood. The railway museum has many hidden gems such as The Mallard – the worlds fastest steam locomotive to the only Japanese bullet train located outside of Japan.
There is a vast range of trains, carriages and more and even feature some from our favourites films from time to time such as Harry Potter and more. You can also see Queen Victoria’s favourite carriage and even the Eurostar.
The museum is extremely family-friendly with plenty of space, buttons and quizzes to take along with plenty of learning opportunities. It is free entry for all and is the largest railway museum in the UK.
There is a cafe on site that serves lovely food and hot meals along with a variety of drinks. There is also a car park at the museum which costs around £9 per day which is fair as the museum is free entry.
9. York City Walls
York City Walls are just as iconic as the rest of York, especially if you are arriving in York on a park and ride bus as you are likely to pass them on your route into the city centre. The walls are the longest medieval walls in England and so are famous for that alone.
The city of York is not a large city at roughly 2 miles but the wall encloses the city. You can walk the trail of the walls surrounding York which takes around 2 hours but it presents some wonderful views.
York City Walls were originally built by the Romans but what can be seen today is mostly medieval from roughly 700 years ago and the top parts were partly rebuilt roughly 150 years ago. Something that is quite astonishing is that the majority of the walls are still intact and in their original condition.
This is a great activity to do if you plan to visit York for the day or even a long weekend. The walls are completely free to walk and explore and you can experience wonderful views of the city.
10. York Chocolate Story
Who doesn’t love chocolate? Well if you really have a love for chocolate you might be interested to know that there is a museum and chocolate shop that is well known and well-loved in York. Chocolate making has been a big part of York for over 300 years with two of the worlds biggest brands Rowntrees (now Nestlé) and Terry’s starting within the city.
Some of the brand favourites that have been created by these companies are things such as KitKat, Toffee Crisp and Smarties along with many more.
Here you will find a museum with a guided tour exploring the history between Chocolate and York. What is better is that there are ample tasting opportunities along the way along with having the chance to make your own chocolate at the end.
You can find a shop on site that sells the chocolate that is made in that very factory and a cafe to enjoy a fresh delightful hot chocolate! You can even find a little fun York Chocolate Trail that leads you around York to enjoy some fresh air and to walk off those samples.
11. York Castle Museum
As there is so much history in York there is no surprise that there was once a castle within York. Originally built by Willliam The Conqueror in 1068 there is now a museum showcasing the history of York and the castle itself on the original site.
This is a great place to head if you are looking at all the historic sites such as York City Walls and York Minster. The museum is a home of 400 years of history holding interactive galleries, thousands of historic objects including jacobean dining rooms and items from the sixties.
The buildings themselves were once a Georgian Prison in which you can go down and explore the cells, learn of the brutal history and totally get the ghostly feels. Now the buildings are home to the museum and historical exhibits.
This museum is a great place for everyone to visit and really rounds off the history of York after seeing York Minster and York City Walls.
12. Jorvik Viking Center
As you might have guessed York is full of history and so it wouldn’t be complete without a touch of the Vikings. On the original site of Jorvik Viking village, you can find a museum that transports you back to 975 AD. Here you can see how the Vikings lived, their surroundings and more.
Jorvik Viking Center is one of Britain’s top visitor attractions and is a one of its kind so it is definitely worth checking out while you are in York. The site is basically based on a real-life archaeological dig which makes it more interesting and historic.
At the museum, you will find a ride that takes you through the reconstruction of a Viking village with life-like moving characters and audio describing the life of Vikings. The museum is a great family day out and perfect for anyone looking to soak up more history of York.