Travel Guide

Exploring The Charms Of York: Things To Do In York For Every Traveller

things to do in york

England’s historic city of York is situated in North Yorkshire. With origins dating back to the Roman era when it was established as Eboracum, York has been an important city for over 2,000 years. Filled with Things to Do in York, It is renowned for its impressively preserved mediaeval architecture, including York Minster, a magnificent Gothic cathedral and one of the largest in Northern Europe. Behind its cobblestone streets and city walls lies a vibrant food scene and a wealth of cultural attractions like the Jorvik Viking Centre, Clifford’s Tower, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, and more. With its blend of heritage and modern energy, the cosmopolitan city of York draws visitors from around the world eager to explore its winding alleyways, museums, festivals, and an array of cafes, shops, and restaurants spread across York. 

Discovering York’s Historical Treasures: Things to Do in York

  • York Minster – York’s majestic Gothic cathedral is the largest in Northern Europe and York’s most iconic landmark. Its elaborate stonework, magnificent stained glass Great East Window, and imposing architecture representing over 600 years of history make it a prime tourist draw. It is one of the best things to do in York. 
  • York Castle – Constructed in 1068 by William the Conqueror, these remains include Clifford’s Tower and York Castle Museum, together showcasing over 2,000 years of history. Wander through the remains of the Roman fortress and mediaeval castle that once had a thriving community.
  • Jorvik Viking Centre – Step into the year 975 AD and discover Viking-Age York through immersive experiences featuring actual artefacts like jewellery, pottery, weapons, and more that turn history into a compelling adventure.
  • The Shambles – York’s best preserved mediaeval street that evokes 14th century England with its overhanging Tudor buildings, cobblestones, and old wooden frames.
  • Merchant Adventurers’ Hall – This impressive mediaeval guild hall built between 1357-1861 includes intricate stained glass and ornate wood panelling across its expansive rooms. For over 650 years, it has been a key site for York’s events and festival banquets. 
  • York’s City Walls – Still visible ancient walls that sheltered Eboracum’s citizens expand for 2.1 miles enclosing historical sites like the famous York Barbican, Monk Bar and Bootham Bar in an ancient perimeter.

Things to Do in York with Kids

  1. National Railway Museum – Let your kids explore the largest collection of historic trains in the world. They can climb aboard powerful steam engines, experience the Japanese bullet train, and even drive a train simulator. Special events occur year-round.
  2. Walk the City Walls – One of the things to do in York, trek along the mediaeval stone walls circling York for fantastic aerial views of the city. See famous landmarks like Clifford’s Tower and the Minster. Chat about what life was like in the walled city. Bring a snack to enjoy along the way.
  3. Take a River Cruise – Cruise down the River Ouse for a relaxing one-hour tour seeing York from the water. Live commentary gives a fun overview of the city. Blankets are provided to stay cosy. Some cruises even have tea or ice cream for kids.
  4. Jorvik Viking Centre – Travel back 1000 years as you ride through reconstructed Viking scenes filled with sights, sounds and even smells. Afterwards, explore artefacts unearthed right on site. Very much regarded as one of the top things to do in York.
  5. York’s Chocolate Story – Learn about York’s history as a chocolate-making hub on this tour with tastings. Kids get hands-on by making their chocolate lollipops or truffles to take home.  It is one of the most memorable things to do in York.
  6. York Dungeon – Brave kids will get a fright and a laugh at this lively 75-minute show bringing York’s past to life through creepy characters, special effects, and audience participation. Not suitable for under 10s.
  7. York Castle Museum – Hand-on exhibits like recreated homes and streets make history come alive. 
  8. York Maze – Try to navigate your way out of this mammoth maize maze full of fun activities like rope bridges and towers. Time yourself or race others. Open July-September.
  9. Chocolate Trail – As you explore York’s narrow lanes, search for chocolate-related clues to earn stamps for chocolate treats. A fun excuse to discover new areas.
  10. The Shambles – Wander down this mediaeval cobblestone street gazing up at the overhanging timber-framed buildings. See if you can spot the little golden figure on one.

The Greatest Things to Do in York for Couples

  • Take a romantic stroll on the City Walls – Walk hand-in-hand along the mediaeval walls surrounding York. Enjoy scenic views of the city and pop in and out of the gates and bars along the way. Stop for a kiss with the Monster in the background.
  • Indulge in afternoon tea – York has elegant tea rooms serving traditional afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones, desserts and, of course, tea. Chat intimately in a cosy historic setting. Betty’s is one favourite.
  • Cruise the River Ouse – Take a peaceful river cruise just the two of you. Watch the sunset over the city as you sip champagne and listen to live commentary about York’s romantic past. Blankets provided.
  • Wander through the Shambles – Walk down this charmingly crooked cobblestone mediaeval street holding hands. One of the top things to do in York is browse the boutiques and artisan shops together before stopping for a bite in one of the cosy cafés.
  • Take a ghost tour – Get thrills and chills together on a ghost walk through York’s spookiest spots. Hear chilling tales of spirits and the unexplained as you wander by candlelight.
  • See a show at York Theatre Royal – Take your seats in the elegant Georgian auditorium to enjoy a romantic comedy, drama or musical production on stage.
  • Visit York Art Gallery – Spend a cultured day admiring artwork together. The gallery offers an impressive collection of paintings, prints, sculptures and more. Stop for coffee in the cafeteria.
  • Go for a romantic meal – York has many restaurants serving locally sourced British fare in intimate settings perfect for couples, like candlelit bistros or restaurants with views of the Minster and is, therefore, one of the must things to do in York.

Free Things to Do in York

  1. Take a walk on the City Walls – Up to 3 miles of ancient stone walls surround York with excellent views of the city. Entry to access the walls through the “bars” is free of charge and is therefore one of the free things to do in York.
  2. Visit the Shambles – Wander down this historic mediaeval street lined with overhanging timber-framed buildings. See if you can spot the golden figure on one of them!
  3. Explore the Railway Museum – See the largest collection of historic locomotives in the world for free. Watch engineers restore engines and take in special exhibits.
  4. See the Minster – While entry costs, visitors can still glimpse the exterior Gothic architecture and stained glass of the iconic York Minster Cathedral for free.
  5. Watch street performers – See buskers, musicians, acrobats and more performing along streets like King’s Square and Parliament Street on weekends. Toss coins if you enjoy it.
  6. Go to free museums – The York Castle Museum and York Art Gallery offer free general admission (special exhibits extra). Learn about history and see art.
  7. Attend free festivals – York hosts festivals all year like the Viking Festival, Food & Drink Festival, and Christmas markets with free entertainment.
  8. Take a walking tour – Free 2-hour walking tours of York run daily and give an overview of the city’s history with a local guide.
  9. See the Treasurer’s House – The exterior of this historical house owned by the National Trust can be viewed for free, including the terraced gardens.
  10. Relax in museum gardens – The York Museum Gardens and Dean’s Park offer green spaces right in the city that are free to enjoy.

How to get around in York

  • Walking – York is a very walkable city. Many of the major attractions are within close proximity in the city centre. Just wear comfortable shoes!
  • Bus – York has an extensive bus system that can get you through the city and to outer neighbourhoods. Single tickets or day passes can be purchased on the bus.
  • Bike – Biking is a great way to get around York. There are bike rental stations throughout the city where you can rent bikes by the hour or day.
  • Taxi – Taxis are readily available at ranks across the city. Bookings can also be made using an app or phone. Useful for getting between outer neighbourhoods or late at night.
  • Train – York Railway Station has frequent services to other Northern cities like Leeds, Manchester, and Newcastle. Useful for day trips beyond York.
  • Boat – For a unique perspective, take a boat tour along the River Ouse. Some boat tours also travel to riverside towns like Selby.
  • Car – Accessing locations immediately outside of York, such as Castle Howard or the Yorkshire Moors, is made simpler with a car. Use a parking garage in the centre.
  • Walking tours – Take an open-top bus or walking tour to gain orientation and learn about the background of several neighbourhoods.
  • Tram – York’s new tram route, which will connect the train station to surrounding neighbourhoods such as York Hospital, is scheduled to open in 2025.

Conclusion

York is a city with a rich history that dates back to the Roman era. York offers a wide range of cultural experiences against the enthralling backdrop of its well-preserved architecture, which includes the famous York Minster Cathedral and the mediaeval city walls. The city has a unique aura that skillfully combines the old and the new thanks to its cobblestone streets, quaint stores, and vibrant marketplaces filled with things to do in York. York is a city that unites tradition and advancement because of its status as a centre for innovation and education as well as its dedication to protecting its history. York is a magical place that never goes out of style, it welcomes people to immerse themselves in the past while still embracing the present. For more information on Things to Do in York, visit nomadscolumn.

FAQs

What are some must-visit historical attractions in York?
The enormous York Minster Cathedral, the mediaeval Shambles marketplace, the fascinating Jorvik Viking Centre, the recreated Victorian street at the York Castle Museum, and the famous ancient City Walls are some of York’s most notable historical attractions.
What family-friendly activities are available in York?
Making chocolate at York’s Chocolate Story, taking in shows at the York Dungeon, experiencing Viking history at the Jorvik Centre, operating a train simulator at the Railway Museum, exploring the Victorian street and historic toys at the Castle Museum, and getting lost in the mazes at York Maze are just a few of the family-friendly activities that York has to offer.
Are there outdoor activities in York for nature enthusiasts?
Nature lovers enjoy activities like walking the scenic ancient City Walls, relaxing River Ouse boat tours, joining walking tours of York neighbourhoods, exploring the botanical Museum Gardens, strolling through Rowntree Park gardens, and cycling along the country trails surrounding York.

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