Things to do in York UK

things to do in York

The Northern city of York is known as the ‘capital of the North’. It’s a city full of history, having previously been invaded by the Vikings, Normans and Saxons. There are some amazing things to do in York including the Castle, York Minster and walking the city walls. Many of York’s historical sights are free to see. Oh, and don’t even mention the great eateries and traditional English pubs. It’s possible to see the highlights of York in just one day, but I recommend at least three days in this historical city to truly enjoy its charm.

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How to Get there

York is in England and so you will probably find yourself flying into Manchester or London. The great thing about York is that it is well connected by train and the historic centre is walkable from the train station within about 15 minutes. Trains from London to York take approximately two hours and trains from Manchester take around an hour and a half.

You can also consider coaches which can be cheaper, but usually take longer. In England, I recommend National Express which interlink most major cities.

When to Go to York

York is fantastic in the summer months (June to September) but can get busy when schools are off. Check the dates for UK Bank Holidays and half terms or major schools holidays (Christmas, Easter and Summer). York is stunning at Christmas time due to the York Christmas Market and Ice Sculpture festival. Visit between around 20th Nov and 20th Dec for Christmas festivities and book your hotel in advance if you are going at this time of year.

Things to do in York UK

Top of the list for most visitors to York is the York Minster. But there are some other great things to do in York including Museum Gardens and the Yorvik Viking Museum. Remember to spend at least 3-4 days in York to fully appreciate what it has to offer. Here are the top things to do in York…

#1 York Minster

The Minster is my favourite place in York (of course, being Templeseeker that probably comes as no surprise!). It’s one of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful Gothic Cathedrals and contains a museum in the crypt where you can see the original Norman foundations. The Minster is free for residents of York but tourists have to pay to enter. It is worth going on the York Minster website to book in advance, especially in busy times (£16 per adult ticket).

It’s also worth paying the extra to include the trip up the tower as this is the highest point in York and offers fantastic views of the city. Tickets including the tower trip are £22 and can only by arranged subject to availability on the day (you can book here). You will, of course have to climb the 275 narrow steps to get to the top.

York Minster

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#2 York Castle – Cliffords Tower

Combine your trip to Clifford’s tower, the Keep of York Castle with a visit to the Castle Museum. Historically, there was a timber keep built on this hill by William the Conquerer, which burnt down during the Massacre of the Jews in 1190. The Castle in York is now a complex of towers, law courts, prisons and other buildings, built over the last nine Centuries. York Castle Museum recreates the city’s history including the recreation of a Medieval street. There is also a WW1 gallery for anyone with an interest in world war history. You can book tickets online here.

York Cliffords Tower - York Wall Walk

#3 Museum Gardens and St Mary’s Abbey

Located near the Explore Library is the beautiful Museum Gardens where you can feed squirrels and see the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey for free. St Mary’s Abbey is a Grade 1 listed building and a former Benedictine Monastery that was built in 1088. It was destroyed in the dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry the Eighth.

St Marys Abbey

#4 Walking the City Walls

Get up early on your first day to walk the city walls. It’s free and you will see a great deal of sights from there including the Minster and Castle. It takes approximately 2 hours to walk the full length of the walls in total. Be aware that York can get cold in the winter and if it’s icy the walls can close for safety reasons. Sadly, no dogs are allowed on York city walls, so leave your pooch behind for this one!

walking york city walls

#5 York Railway Museum

Great for the kids and another attraction that is free to enter is the York Railway Museum (book your free admission here). The museum is located just behind the train station and is walkable from the city centre. Here you can see the world’s fastest steam locomotive the Mallard and the Japanese Bullet Train.

National Railway Museum York

#6 The Shambles

No trip to York is complete without a shopping trip down the Shambles. The Medieval houses with the classic wattle and daub windows extend outwards to save space and jut above the cobbled streets. This street was mentioned in the Doomsday book and many would argue that it is the most historical street in England and the best preserved medieval street in the world. Check out the beautiful independent shops and don’t miss trying one of the gorgeous chocs from Monkbar chocolates.

York The Shambles

#7 Have a Drink at Evil Eye!

Finish your day in York with a drink at one of my favourite watering holes – House of Trembling Madness or Evil Eye on Stonegate. Evil Eye has a phenomenal selection of around 30 different vodkas to choose from! They also have a list of inventive cocktails, smoothies, and a gin shop. You can check out their menu here. On Sunday to Thursday up to 9pm you can get two cocktails for £15!

Drinks at Evil Eye

#8 Tea and Cake at Betty’s

Betty’s Tea shop, on the corner of St. Helen’s Square, is the most famous tea shop in York, and one of the most famous in the whole of the UK! Betty’s was founded in 1919 and boasts gorgeous cakes, a selection of different teas and a beautiful interior inspired by the Queen Mary Ocean Liner. I highly recommend the Yorkshire cream tea (£13.50) and also the Pink Champagne afternoon tea (traditional English afternoon tea with a glass of rose champagne for £37.95!)

Bettys teamroom

#9 Yorvik Viking Museum

The Yorvik Viking Centre is a must for anyone visiting York! Be prepared to discover the Viking history of York on a small cart ride through a series of realistic Viking dioramas show what life used to be like in the city back in 975 AD. After the cart ride, you get the opportunities to explore the museums display units containing Viking discoveries in York such as coins, pottery and weapons. Prices are currently £15 for adults and £10.50 per child.

Yorvik Viking Centre
Inside Yorvik Viking Centre – Image Credit: Tracey Hind on Flickr

#10 Boat Trip along the River Ouse

And finally, make sure that you take a walk or a boat ride along the River Ouse. You get a different (and very beautiful) perspective of York from the river. You can book a river tour here with Get Your Guide with prices starting from around £14 per person. The tours have guides on board who give you a history of the city and point out important landmarks.

Further Reading

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