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In this blog post, we’ll be exploring York, England, and the top 15 must-do and visit activities. 

York, England is a city full of history and charm. Located in the North of England, York is a great destination for travelers looking to explore a new city and discover a variety of attractions. From medieval architecture and cobbled streets to museums and restaurants, there’s something for everyone to experience in this beautiful city. 

So, grab your walking shoes and join us on our journey to explore the city of York!

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1)  Visit York Minster – Exploring York England

York Minster is undoubtedly one of the most impressive cathedrals in England and a must-visit destination when exploring the historic city of York. Its stunning stained-glass windows are a highlight of any tour, with the Pilgrimage Window being the most notable one. Positioned above a striking golden dragon’s head that stares up at it, this window dates back to about 1312 and depicts Peter surrounded by pilgrims along with a few unusual details, such as the funeral of a monkey.

If you’re a history buff, the Cathedral Treasury is an excellent place to learn more about the building’s colorful past, from its Roman roots to its current standing. Interactive galleries display more than 2,000 years of artifacts found nearby, offering insight into the cathedral’s vital role over the centuries.

As you explore the Minster, be sure to take in some of its most interesting decorative features up close, including pinnacles and gargoyles. And when you finally emerge outside, the cathedral’s central location means that you’ll be treated to unbeatable views of York’s historic city center. 

Its address is Deangate, York, England, so be sure to add it to your itinerary and make the most of your visit. So don’t forget to have your camera ready! 

2)  Medieval York City Walls

A walk along York’s medieval city walls is a must-do when exploring this charming city. Not only is it a great way to soak up some history and culture, but it also provides stunning views of the city. The walls, which were mainly built in the 14th century, incorporate some of the city’s original Roman structures and stretch over two miles (3.4 kilometers) in length.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of walking along the walls is the chance to explore four old gates, all well-preserved. Walmgate Bar, Monk Bar, and Bootham Bar all feature their original portcullis, while Micklegate Bar is adorned with three knights. These gates are not just historical landmarks but also provide a glimpse into what life would have been like for the people living in York during medieval times.

If you’re pressed for time and can only manage to explore part of the wall, we highly recommend the stretch between Bootham Bar and Monk Bar. From this vantage point, you’ll be treated to stunning views of York Minster, one of the most iconic buildings in the city.

Walking along the medieval city walls is a truly unique experience that you shouldn’t miss out on when visiting York. It’s a fantastic way to learn about the city’s rich history while also taking in some of its most beautiful views.

To access the wall, head to Monk Bar or Micklegate Bar, both of which offer access points. We promise that you won’t be disappointed with this unforgettable experience.

3)  Stroll down the Shambles – Exploring York England

One of the most popular and picturesque destinations in York, the Shambles is a winding street that’s perfect for an afternoon stroll. This street is widely considered one of the most famous in the city, with a rich history and unique architecture that dates back to the 14th century.

Despite its quaint and charming appearance, the Shambles has a surprisingly dark past. The name itself is derived from the Old English word for slaughterhouse. It’s not difficult to imagine the street lined with butchers and meat hooks when you consider that it was once home to many meat traders. These days, however, you’re much more likely to find a Harry Potter souvenir shop or a charming cafe than a butcher.

The buildings themselves are equally fascinating. The overhanging, timber-framed buildings are a unique feature of the street that were designed to protect the walls from the sun and keep the meat fresh. Nowadays, they make for great photo opportunities and provide a glimpse into York’s medieval history.

As you stroll down the Shambles, be sure to visit Ye Old Shambles Tavern for a pint and soak up the historic atmosphere. Alternatively, pop into one of the Harry Potter-themed stores for a wizarding wand. Whether you’re a fan of history or just looking for a charming spot to explore, the Shambles is worth a visit.

4)  York Castle Museum

A visit to York Castle Museum is like stepping back in time and experiencing the English way of life over the centuries. The museum is built on the original castle site and offers an impressive insight into the city’s rich history. 

One of the highlights of the museum is Kirkgate, a perfectly recreated Victorian street complete with shops that give you a glimpse into life in the 19th century. The Toy Stories exhibit is also worth a visit, offering a fascinating look at children’s toys from different eras. 

Additionally, the museum has a Victorian parlor and 17th-century dining room that give visitors an authentic feel for the way people lived in the past. However, one of the most intriguing exhibits is The Cells in the Old Debtors Prison. Here, visitors can explore the former Condemned Cell once occupied by the notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin. 

It’s fascinating to learn that the site has been a place of incarceration for more than a thousand years, with the York Crown Court still holding those accused of serious crimes. You can even search through the museum’s database of former prisoners and victims dating back hundreds of years for mention of any relatives! 

The museum also provides picnic facilities and has a gift shop where you can find souvenirs to take home with you. 

The address is Tower Street, York, England, and we highly recommend adding it to your list of things to do in this amazing city.

5)  Clifford’s Tower – Exploring York England

Clifford’s Tower, located between Fishergate and Skeldergate Bridge and overlooking York Castle Museum, is one of York’s most iconic landmarks. Originally built of wood by the Normans in 1068, what you see towering above you today is a 13th-century stone structure built to replace the original wooden fortress.

Named after Roger de Clifford, who was executed here in 1322 as the leader of the Lancastrian party, Clifford’s Tower was also infamous as the place where the king would put those he had executed on display. However, today, it is popular among tourists and locals alike for its stunning panoramic views over the city.

Recently upgraded and renovated with large wood beams and steel stairways, the tower is an impressive piece of medieval architecture and offers a glimpse into York’s rich history. As you climb up to the top, you can learn about the tower’s tumultuous past and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

With its prominent location, Clifford’s Tower is easy to find and is a must-visit attraction for anyone exploring York. So, if you’re looking for a unique experience, be sure to add Clifford’s Tower to your list of things to do in York.

Address: Tower Street, York, England

6)  Jorvik Viking Centre

One of the must-visit attractions in York, England is the Jorvik Viking Centre located in Coppergate. The museum is a fascinating testament to the daily lives of Vikings who lived in 9th-century York or “Jorvik”. As you explore the site, you will come across the reconstructions of Viking dwellings and medieval workshops that give you an insight into the daily life of the Viking community. 

What’s more exciting is that the museum hosts on-and-off-site reenactments, giving you a chance to experience the Viking era. Whether you are young or old, you can dress up and play the role of a Viking. You will be surprised to learn how different it was back then, with their way of life, traditions, and even their clothing.

The Jorvik Viking Centre is built above the remains of 1,000-year-old wooden houses, giving you a glimpse of how the city evolved and developed over time. The location is so important that you wouldn’t want to miss it. 

If you are looking to experience something different, try to plan your visit around February, during the Viking Festival held each year. The festival celebrates the city’s Viking history and culture with exciting events and performances.

The Jorvik Viking Centre is located at 19 Coppergate, York, England, and is a must-visit for history lovers, families, and anyone curious about the Vikings.

7)  Castle Howard – Exploring York England

Just a short drive (30 minutes) northeast of York lies the breathtaking Castle Howard, one of England’s most magnificent country estates. This family-owned castle is set amid 1,000 acres of beautiful parkland and boasts an extensive collection of priceless antiquities and treasures.

The scale of Castle Howard’s grounds matches that of the mansion itself, with impressive landmarks like the family mausoleum, obelisk, and pyramid. However, one of the most notable attractions is the iconic fountain at the front of the mansion, perfect for taking the ultimate “selfie.”

After wandering the expansive grounds and exploring the richly furnished interior of the castle, be sure to stop by one of the on-site cafes for a delightful afternoon tea or some ice cream at the parlor. For a full list of upcoming events, check the official website – you might just catch the popular Festival of Dogs, where pet owners from far and wide gather to celebrate their furry friends.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the grandeur of Castle Howard, located at The Estate Office, Castle Howard, York, England.

8) Yorkshire Museum and Gardens

The Yorkshire Museum and Gardens offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in history, culture, and natural beauty all in one place. Located in the heart of York, the museum houses an impressive collection of geological and natural history specimens, as well as important Roman and Anglo-Saxon artifacts.

One of the highlights of the museum is the Cawood Sword, a Viking weapon that is considered the best-preserved of its kind in the world. Visitors can also admire medieval sculptures and utensils exhibited in St. Mary’s Abbey.

But the museum experience continues after indoor exhibits. The free-to-enter Museum Gardens offer a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. Covering 10 acres, the garden is home to more than 40 species of birds, along with trees, shrubs, and flowers.

The ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, which date back to the 11th century, provide a stunning backdrop to the garden’s features. And with the recent addition of an Edible Wood and an Artist’s Garden, visitors can enjoy a rotating outdoor gallery.

Overall, the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens offer a comprehensive and fascinating look into the region’s rich history and natural beauty. It’s a must-visit for anyone traveling to York, England. Don’t miss out on this incredible experience!

Address: Museum Gardens, Museum Street, York, England

9)  Stonegate and Barley Hall – Exploring York England

Located in the heart of York’s bustling shopping quarter is the charming area of Stonegate and Barley Hall. This pedestrianized quarter boasts narrow cobbled streets, delightful shops, and cozy cafes, making it the perfect place to while away an afternoon. 

One of the standout attractions in the area is the St. Helen’s Church, named in honor of the mother of Emperor Constantine. This stunning church features 15th-century stained glass windows, adding to the area’s historic charm.

Another must-visit attraction is the Mansion House, designed by Lord Burlington and built-in 1725. It now serves as the official residence of the Lord Mayor, offering visitors a glimpse into the city’s rich history and traditions.

But the most unique attraction in Stonegate is Barley Hall, a 14th-century townhouse that has been carefully restored to offer visitors an authentic look at life during medieval times. With its Tudor-style interior, visitors can see what life would have been like for a wealthy merchant family in the 15th century. 

Located at 2 Coffee Yard, Barley Hall is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in history or architecture. It offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and immerse yourself in the fascinating world of medieval York. 

In addition to these fantastic attractions, the area is also home to a variety of delightful shops and cafes, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

10)  Explore River Ouse

If you’re looking for a peaceful escape from the bustling city, look no further than the River Ouse. This tranquil waterway runs through the heart of York, splitting the city in two. Take a stroll along the riverbanks and enjoy the picturesque scenery and riverside architecture. The stunning 15th-century Guildhall is a particular highlight and well worth a visit.

For a different perspective, hop on a cruise and sail down the river. There are several options to choose from, including all-weather passenger boats and self-drive motor boats. During the summer months, you can even take a cruise to Bishopthorpe Palace, the stunning riverside residence of the Archbishop of York. And for a sweet treat, don’t forget to visit the Solar Ice Cream Boat!

Whether you choose to walk or sail, exploring the River Ouse is a must-do activity during your visit to York. Take in the stunning views and enjoy a moment of peace in this serene setting.

11)  Visit York’s Many Churches – Exploring York England

York’s many churches are a must-visit for those who appreciate history and architecture. Each one has its unique story and beauty, and exploring them is a great way to immerse yourself in the rich history of this wonderful city.

Here are a few of the most notable churches to visit in York.

York’s churches

St. Martin-le-Grand: Located on Coney Street, St. Martin-le-Grand is an incredible mix of medieval and modern architecture. The church has been around since the 11th century and was originally part of a Benedictine priory. It is known for its beautiful stained-glass windows and is worth a visit.

St. Michael’s: Another beautiful church in York is St. Michael’s, located in Spurriergate. The church was built in the 12th century and is famous for its arcades, glass paintings, and altarpiece.

St. Mary’s: Located in Bishophill Junior, St. Mary’s is known for its Saxon tower and an altar by Temple Moore. It is a stunning church and worth visiting if you’re in York.

St. Denys’: St. Denys’ is located in Walmgate and has some of the most beautiful stained-glass windows in all of York. The church was built in the 14th century and is worth a visit for its impressive architecture.

St. Margaret’s: Another church located in Walmgate is St. Margaret’s. This church has a Roman doorway and tower and is an attractive spot to visit. 

Trinity Church: Located in Goodramgate, Trinity Church is a 14th-century church that is known for its small garden. The church has an incredible history and is worth a visit.

All Saints Church: All Saints Church is located on North Street and was built in the 15th century. It is known for its beautiful stained-glass windows and is worth visiting.

Oratory Church of Saint Wilfrid: York Oratory, as it is often called, is known as the “Mother Church of the city of York.” It is a beautiful church with a rich history and is worth visiting.

12)  St Mary’s Abbey

Located in the stunning York Museum Gardens, St Mary’s Abbey is a picturesque and historic attraction that offers visitors an opportunity to step back in time and experience the fascinating history of this incredible place. Originally a monastery built by Benedictine monks in the 11th century, the abbey has had a tumultuous history that saw it fall into ruins before being excavated by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in the 1820s.

After the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, the abbey buildings were repurposed as a palace for the King when he visited York. Eventually, they fell into ruins and were even used as agricultural buildings. However, the ruins still exude a sense of grandeur and majesty that is sure to captivate any visitor who sets foot in the area.

Walking through the stunning ruins of St Mary’s Abbey is an experience like no other. The peacefulness of the gardens mixed with the grandeur of the old monastery create a serene atmosphere that will transport you back in time. The stunning architecture of the abbey is still visible today, with Gothic-style arches and columns rising to the sky.

Whether you are a history buff, an architecture lover, or simply looking for a tranquil escape from the bustle of everyday life, a visit to St Mary’s Abbey is an absolute must. You will be amazed by the history and beauty of this magnificent site and will undoubtedly leave with a newfound appreciation for the incredible past of this fascinating location. Make sure to put it on your list of things to do when visiting York, United Kingdom.

13)  Go to See a Comedy Show at the Grand Opera House – Exploring York England

When you’re looking for a break from the historic sights and museums, head over to the Grand Opera House for some live entertainment. This Grade II-listed theatre was lovingly restored in the ’80s and now puts on an excellent program of live music, comedy, and musicals.

The theatre’s layout has been returned to its original period style, providing a unique atmosphere that is sure to make your visit even more special. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, be sure to catch a comedy show here. You never know what kind of comedic genius you’ll encounter!

The Grand Opera House is one of the coolest live entertainment venues in York, and it’s worth checking out. From classic plays to modern musicals, this theatre has something for everyone. So, if you’re looking for a fun night out, don’t miss the chance to experience a show at the Grand Opera House. It’s the perfect way to cap off your visit to York!

14) Yorkshire Wolds Way

One of the best ways to explore the stunning scenery surrounding York is to hit the Yorkshire Wolds Way, a part of the National Trail Network. This nearly 80-mile trail runs through the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors and Yorkshire Wolds, taking you through some of the most picturesque landscapes in the area.

Starting at Filey, a quaint coastal town near Scarborough, the trail winds its way south to Hull, the largest city in East Yorkshire. Along the way, you’ll pass through quaint villages and idyllic countryside, stopping at charming B&Bs or well-equipped campsites.

The full trail takes six days to complete, but if you’re short on time, you can still enjoy some of the highlights, such as the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy. The village was abandoned in the 16th century, and today, you can explore its well-preserved ruins and get a sense of what life was like here centuries ago.

Another highlight of the trail is the breathtaking scenery. As you trek through the North Yorkshire Moors and the Yorkshire Wolds, you’ll encounter rolling hills, heather-covered moors, and stunning views of the countryside. In places, the trail rises to heights of up to 800 feet, providing panoramic vistas that will take your breath away.

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking for a scenic stroll, the Yorkshire Wolds Way is an unforgettable way to explore the area surrounding York. So pack your boots, bring a picnic, and get ready to discover some of the most stunning landscapes in England.

15)  York Early Music Festival – Exploring York England

One of the highlights of a visit to York is the weeklong York Early Music Festival held each July. This festival, hosted by the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), is dedicated to exploring the rich musical history of the city. Each year, the festival focuses on a different composer or theme, with concerts and events ranging from intimate chamber performances to larger symphonic shows in popular venues.

One of the standout events in this year’s festival is a performance by Paolo Pandolfo & Amélie Chemin, a viola da gamba duo, entitled “Heavans Joy, The World of the Virtuoso Viol”. This performance is sure to transport you to another time and place with its beautiful, authentic sound.

But the festival is more than just music. Visitors can also attend lectures and talks on the featured composers, providing a deeper understanding of the context and history of the music being performed.

The NCEM is located in St. Margaret’s Church on Percy’s Lane, providing a stunning venue for the festival’s events. And if you can’t make it to the festival in July, don’t worry – there are plenty of other musical events throughout the year in this vibrant and historic city. So be sure to plan your visit around one of these exciting events!

Overall, York is a city that truly has something for everyone. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant cultural scene, you’ll never run out of things to see and do here. Whether you’re visiting for a long weekend or a week-long stay, you’re sure to leave York with some incredible memories.

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So what are you waiting for? Book your trip to York today and start exploring all the incredible sights and sounds this city has to offer. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed!

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