This Christmas break, I’ve been fortunate enough to be based in the beautiful city of York. I used to live there, so I have good friends in the city and know the city well. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to admire the city of York from York City walls, and it seems to do the job of keeping the wanderlust at bay at least temporarily! York is a safe, friendly and historical city and there are many things to do in York for free.
If you are in the North of England, York is not to be missed. The city of York was the Roman capital, Eboracum, and has been invaded by Romans, Saxons, Normans and Vikings. It’s prime position on the river Ouse made it a strategically desirable city, with Clifton Tower overlooking the walls.
York City Walls – The Roman History
The Roman city walls of York will give the best views of the city and enrich your historical knowledge. Walking the city walls is one of the best things to do in York for free. The walk takes approximately 2 hours and is best done early in the morning when it is quiet and you will get the best photography. York city walls were built in approximately 71AD.
Things to do in York for free – York City Walls
My walk started at Barker Tower on Lendal bridge, because it’s just a 20 minute walk into town for me along the river Ouse from where I stay.
If you do walk along the River Ouse to get to York city walls, make sure that you keep an eye out for the famous Geese of York. Everyone loves them! They seem to rule the city, with traffic stopping in their path! It’s almost comparable to the sacred cow of India!
Way back in Roman times, before Lendal bridge was built, a chain used to connect Barker tower and Lendal tower to prevent boats going through the city without paying their toll. Barker tower has had many uses since this time, and was even once a Mortuary.
I highly recommend that you have a coffee at the Perky Peacock at this section of the walls. It’s a cafe built into the tower. However, there are no loos, so use the ones in Explore Library on Museum street!
Bootham Bar, Monk Bar and The Minster
I crossed Lendall bridge and headed towards the Multangular tower on the way towards Bootham Bar. Bootham Bar offers phenomenal views of the Minster, Europe’s largest and finest gothic Cathedral.
York Minster is an extremely special place to me, because it’s where my fiancé proposed! The gothic spires of intricate design are interspersed with gargoyles that will ward away evil on your behalf.
If you are a chocolate lover, when you stop at Monk Bar, you should walk down Monk Gate and buy chocolates from the Monk Bar Chocolatier – they are divine and melt in your mouth. I am a sucker for the Bailey’s chocolates!
The Red Tower and Walmgate Bar
Continuing on from Monk Bar, there is a break in the walls, and you will need to cross Layerthorpe bridge (over the River Foss) until you reach the next section of the walls at the Red Tower. From Fishergate Bar, you will pass York Castle and Cliffords Tower.
You will cross Skeldergate Bridge from here and head towards Micklegate bar.
Tips for Walking York City Walls
If you are heading to York this summer, here are my top tips for walking the city walls…
- Go early to avoid the crowds. Avoid UK school holidays if possible.
- Check the opening times before hand. Although they are usually open from 8am ’till dusk, it varies with the time of year and depends on when the clocks go back or forwards (that strange thing that we do with the time in England!).
- The walls are completely FREE – you only have to pay to get in some of the tower museums.
- No dogs or cyclists are allowed on the walls.
- Take a good camera.
- Take a waterproof – the weather in the UK can be extremely temperamental!
- It’s approximately 2 hour to walk the walls. In actual fact, I recommend taking a whole day so that you can stop off at certain sites along the way. Stock up on food and snacks!
- If you have a full day make a stop off at York Castle Museum and Cliffords Tower.
- Loo stops on the way include York Explore Public Library on Museum street, a WC on Layerthorpe bridge and a WC at Micklegate Bar.
- Some parts of York are sadly not too disabled friendly. Take a carer with you if you need to, and there are alternative routes along the way.
Other Top Things to do in York for free
If you are looking for more things to do in York for free, check out the following:
- Owl Flying Shows in Museum Gardens.
- St Mary’s Abbey
- The Minster (pay to enter if you are not a York Citizen)
- National Railway Museum
- Independent Shops of York