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.
York is worth visiting if you are looking to explore some of the best of the UK’s heritage and historical culture. Whether you are a family or a couple of York is a great place to visit with many attractions to suit all ages. York is not worth visiting if you can only allow one day.
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.
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York Attractions and Landmarks
There are so many different landmarks and attractions in York that it might be hard to cover them all in our article. For that reason, we’re going to pick two of the most popular: York Minster, and Clifford’s Tower.
York minster is a building filled to the rafters with history, and goodness me is the architecture stunning? It’s always been a love of mine to go and find some gorgeous architecture whenever I visit a new city, and a trip to York is no exception.
York minster features several stunning chambers and some of the most beautiful stained glass I’ve ever seen. The most notable of all the stained glass is the Pilgrimage Window. The glass dates from roughly 1312 and rests above a stunning dragon’s head in the church. The window itself depicts Saint Peter surrounde3d by pilgrims along with a number of details that are unusual for a window from any time period. One such odd detail is the funeral of a monkey.
The church is dedicated to St. Peter and commemorates the monks who converted people in the surrounding countryside to Christianity in centuries past. If you’re a fan of history, this is definitely a go-to for you!
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.
Here are some of the other attractions in York;
- Walking the Medieval City Walls
- York Minster
- York Castle Museum
- The Shambles
- Jorvik Viking Centre
- National Railway Museum
- River Ouse – Boat Tour
- York Churches – there are quite a few to explore!
- Yorkshire Air Museum
- Museum Gardens
The Best Time To Visit York
As with the whole of the UK, the weather is tremendously unpredictable. That said, there are times when the weather is likely to be nicer to facilitate you visiting in slightly better conditions.
Generally speaking, Spring is seen as the best time to visit York, as you’re likely to have good weather and flowers in bloom. Of course, this is the peak season, so make sure to book far in advance. If you’re planning to stay in an Airbnb, try checking very far in advance, as the app will often tell you how far in advance it’s wise to book.
Spring and Summer are the most popular times to visit York as the weather is better, more chance of sunshine than rain and so it can be a popular city break for those in the spring and summer months.
Though you should never rule out a trip to York during Autumn or Winter. The autumnal leaves falling in and around York can be beautiful and something to be admired. While Winter really brings the festive side out and so you can experience the late night shopping, sparkling Christmas lights hung everywhere and some well earned hot chocolate to keep you warm while you shop.
How To Get Around York
York is a typical English city in that the majority of its public transport network is centered around roads. Before we get too deeply into the system, it’s worth pointing out that York has a service called iYork, which provides a wealth of information about travel to and throughout the city.
Firstly, the ancient city is particularly easy to traverse on foot. It is particularly compact and relatively flat, such that you can actually traverse the entire city in just twenty minutes. Please do bear in mind, however, that this only goes for the ancient city. The modern, developed city is much larger.
York buses offer a brilliant park and ride system which is particularly effective for people who are visiting York and live away from the city itself. There are a number of ideally placed car parks which are entirely free to use, which are linked (along with a number of attractions) with a paid bus service. Supplementing this system is First buses, who run a standard city-wide bus service.
There is also a small but significant train network which links York to a few out of town attractions. York is thusly linked to Leeds, Malton, Pickering, and Whitby.
Along with all of the above travel solutions, cycle hire is remarkably easy in York. York is an excellent base for a number of different types of biking adventures, from relaxed city riding to more thrilling routes through the surrounding countryside. There are even a number of guided cycling tours which can help you to experience the city’s rich history. There is a huge variety of choices, and it’s certainly worth doing your research into the options beforehand.
The train station itself is really accessible to the city centre and can be reached by foot in roughly 10-15 minutes, alternatively, you can take a taxi to get you to your desired location. There are areas within York that are vehicle free or you can only catch a bus, this is to stop the amount of congestion within the city centre.
With that in mind, you may find it easier to stay close by to the centre and explore the city on foot.
Best Area To Stay In York
There are a number of stunning hotels and Airbnb options in York. Generally speaking, the best places to stay are the areas which surround the city centre and Holgate. These places are ideal, whether you’re alone or with family, as they’re close to all of the attractions as well as a great selection of pubs, restaurants, and hotels.
There are several hotels in the center of the city with fairly high star ranges, the numbers range between three stars and five, with prices varying between roughly 95 – 195 pounds per night.
No matter where you choose to stay in York you will be greeted with stunning views, idyllic streets and plenty of unique places to shop and eat along with some old-time favourites such as Betty’s Tea Rooms and The Ivy York.
How Long To Spend In York?
York has so much to offer and can be very captivating with the city steeped in history and wonderful architecture, you might be wondering how long you should spend there. York is a great place to visit for a long weekend so anything from 2-3 days are ideal.
As it is easy to walk you will evidently see more and get a better feel for the city and essentially bump into some cool independently run cafe to grab a drink.
I always like to make sure I have 1 full day in York as you can get up early (if you like to) and head out to explore the sights and tick off all your must-see attractions in the City. The first day can be an arrival day to get settled in to your accommodation and head out for dinner, and your final day can be visiting some of the extra attractions before heading home.
If you are from within the UK I would definitely say 2-3 days is enough to spend in York. You can get the train, bus or drive and find some great places to stay nearby or in the centre for best access to the city and the main attractions.
If you are travelling from further afield I would look at spending longer, not necessarily within York but look to spend anything from a week upwards in the UK. If you can bookmark 2 or 3 cities (or more if your adventurous) to create a road trip around the UK. York is a great stop between London and Scotland if you are looking to head there to soak up some Scottish Whiskey and Haggis.
York is also perfect if you are looking to visit for the day, we would often visit York for the day as children for Christmas shopping and to see the pretty lights. Some years there were Christmas markets on and you might even see some reindeer. If you live close enough or can only allow one day in York, I would get there as early as possible so you can spend the full day exploring the amazing city and beautiful architecture.
Is York Easy To Get To?
York is very well situated in the UK for people to get to and experience the delights of the city.
The city has excellent rail services, which connect to the rest of the UK very well. There are direct trains from Birmingham and the South West. Plus, TransPennine Express runs direct services from Liverpool, Manchester, and Newcastle.
If you’re considering travelling to York by train, it may be worth booking directly with the rail company, and also enquiring about railcards – which can often bring huge discounts on rail rates.
York is also particularly close to a number of Airports. The city is within relatively easy travelling distance of four international airports – Leeds/Bradford, Manchester, Humberside, and Robin Hood Doncaster/Sheffield. The easiest airport to use if you’re travelling to York is Leeds Bradford, as there’s a direct bus link between the city and the airport.
Is York Worth Traveling For?
Of course, this is a very subjective question. York is a city bursting with history, culture, and kind people. On top of that, it’s also particularly easy to get to, provided you’re living in the British Isles. At the end of the day, to answer the question, you have to ask what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a city break steeped in history and culture, then York is definitely for you. Not only is there a vast number of different, beautiful, hotels and places to stay, but there is also a vast number of historical landmarks and attractions in the city.
Earlier in this article, we mentioned York Minster and Clifford’s Tower. While these two attractions are definitely beautiful and worth visiting, they’re a fraction of the true scope of the history in York. For example, a number of stretches of the ancient border wall are still standing, and tourists are encouraged to walk along them to learn more about the amount of history that happened in the city.
For those attractions alone, York is worth travelling for if you know that you’d enjoy learning more about the history of an ancient British city. There are other unique experiences that make York worth travelling to from the shopping in the Shambles, watching a race at York Race Course or following the footsteps of great historians around the ancient city.
If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then it might not be worth travelling for. For example, if you were hoping to spend a weekend city break shopping, York might not be the best city for it.
While there are certainly a number of shops and places to spend your cash in York, there are other places that might be more suited to an extended weekend of retail therapy, especially if you’re coming from a particularly long-distance.
If you are looking at visiting from outside of the UK you might be wondering what else you can do that includes a trip to York. If you are looking to visit London you can visit York for the day or 2 days out of your trip, you can go further into the countryside and visit the Yorkshire Dales, head to Manchester for an amazing shopping spree or head to the coast and enjoy the beautiful beaches of Brighton.
All these places have great links to York and can be easily accessed by car, train or by bus, though car and train are much more comfortable and quicker.
What Is Unique About York?
By a huge margin, the thing that’s unique about York is the richness of its history. There are a number of cities across the UK in which you can see the historical influence of different historical groups, though York is perhaps the only one that has had quite so many groups operating contemporaneously.
The thing that makes the history of York unique is that there is a huge amount of classical British history here, but there is also a large amount of Viking influence upon the city. This means that all around you, wherever you walk in the city, you’re surrounded by history and culture. That’s definitely unique about York, even when compared to bigger cities such as London and Manchester.
If recent history sounds more impressive to you, the city of York is also home to one of the largest railway museums in the world. Actually, the railway museum in York is the National Railway Museum of the whole of the United Kingdom!
The exhibitions at the museum are numbered and varied. The museum actually has a Japanese Bullet train (known as Shinkansen) on display. This is the only Japanese bullet train in the world that is outside of Japan. Therefore, a visit to the National Railway Museum will certainly be unique!
There are plenty of other things that are unique to York such as the Shambles which are old buildings dating back to the fourteenth century with overhanging timber frames much like a scene from the streets of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter film series.
Another great unique attraction of York is the cat statues that are dotted around the city. For the last century, there has been a homage to cats within the city of York with black statues and figures popping up in unlikely places. It is said that the first pair of cats were produced and place at the turn of the century to scare of rats by the neighbouring river.
York is also home to some interesting street names so if you like a little comedy and if you are exploring York with children you can look for the unusual names such as ‘Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate’. This can be so much fun as it is interactive and can easily keep everyone entertained while you explore the beautiful city of York.
Is It Worth Visiting For Families?
York is certainly worth visiting for families as it has a hugely varied and complex number of things on offer. From, romantic spots for couples to niche sites for young children, there’s a lot to be seen!
There are a number of different spots in York which might be a wonderful place to visit over the course of a weekend city break with your partner. The two which stand out to us are York’s Chocolate Story, as well as Breezy Knees Gardens.
York’s Chocolate Story is essentially an interactive museum in which you can learn an awful lot about both the history and the manufacture of chocolate in York and across the world. The tour guides are very highly rated, with people making sure to mention how the guides make the entire experience particularly fun, as well as offering a number of free samples.
Breezy Knees Gardens seems like a wonderfully relaxed place that could be lovely for a calm, sweet date with a loved one. The vibrant gardens come highly recommended by Gardeners World and seem both peacefully idyllic and lusciously exciting.
Online, people have reviewed the gardens very positively, with people commenting on how well laid out the gardens are, as well as how intuitive the paths are. The staff that works at the gardens are known to be particularly friendly, and will surely tell you the best spots to see some beautiful flowers.
Alongside a number of beautiful places to go for dates in York, there are also places that are wonderful to take your kids – especially if they’re small. Places such as the National Railway Museum and the Yorkshire Air Museum are great family fun days out.
The National Railway Museum is lauded to be one of the best museums in the country, and also has a free entry – though you can offer a donation to the upkeep of the museum. Throughout the site, there is plenty to do, and it will keep little minds very engaged.
Among the most impressive displays are a Bullet Train and a euro tunnel display. If your little one has a deep-seated love of trains, then this museum could be a wonderful choice for a day trip! As well as the excellent exhibitions, there are two cafes that you can pop into for a quick break to refuel hungry bellies.
The Yorkshire Air Museum is similarly niche in that it services a particularly small area of history (airplanes through time), but it does it very well. The majority of the staff are passionate volunteers who love to keep aviation history alive and want to share their huge breadth of knowledge with you.
Along with more modern planes, there are several restored older planes that are sure to fascinate any number of people. Alongside all of those attractions, there is also a large, impressive gift shop which might be a little more popular among children than parents. There are also food services available which are sure to be particularly helpful for families with mouths to feed.
Is York Worth Visiting For Couples?
York is a very romantic place to visit for a couple of any age, we always enjoy visiting York and it was somewhere we went for one of our first major days out together when we first met. York has a certain classical charm that you can only dream of and read about in romantic novels.
With so much to for every person from shoppers to history buffs, you will find something in York. The city is steeped in historical landmarks, stunning architecture and whimsical shop facades that transform you into a new place altogether. No matter what you are head to York to do you can enjoy a little bit of everything.
York is also a great place to spend a nice weekend relaxing, head to Betty’s Tea Room for a classic British afternoon tea, walk around the idyllic shops of the Shambles and spend a couple of nights in a townhouse hotel.
York is ideal for couples looking to have a nice quick getaway within the UK as it is romantic, easy to get around and has plenty of offer so you won’t get bored. It is also a great place to go as it has great links to major cities with either being direct or having 1 change on trains and easily accessible by car.