The Best Things To Do In York

York has an extensive history that dates back two millennia and that means that it has a lot of history on offer for you to explore. Founded by the Roman as a fortress in AD 71, it has played a significant role in the power of the country and that can be seen in its design and its heritage.

York Minster

York is home to the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and here there is plenty for you to explore. There is the 15th century East Window which stands at an impressive 24 metres in size making it the biggest medieval stained glass in the world while the 128 stained glass windows will captivate you in every way. The 13th century Gothic Great West window is perhaps the greatest piece in the Minster and at 600 years old, it is every bit impressive. To get an impressive view of the city, take the 275 steps to the summit or take a trip underneath the cathedral where you can find an exhibition that lets you explore the 2,000-year history of York as well as Roman barracks.


The Shambles weaves its way from North to South and here you will find a picturesque shopping street with one of the oldest buildings dating back to the 13th century. Over the years, the cobbles street has been home to butchers who made the most of the narrow streets where a lack of sunlight would make their meat last longer. Today, it is full of tea shops, cafes and restaurant giving you plenty to see and do.

National Railway Museum

York was your typical railway town in the 19th century and at the turn of the 20th century, almost 6,000 people were employed by North Eastern Railway. The National Railway Museum takes you on a journey of over 200 years of railway history where the halls contain stunning machines such as the Mallard, which is the fastest steam locomotive in the world. However, moving into modern times, the fastest train in the world, the Shinkansen can also be found here but the Station Hall takes you on a journey of what life was like working at the station. Engineers put on a display at The Workshop and you can explore the way that engines work and kids can even take a ride on a miniature train.

Clifford’s Tower

York Castle is almost all but gone but this is the last remaining piece that can be found on a Norman motte. In 10090, the wooden tower that once was burnt down after the 150-strong Jewish population chose to commit suicide after being attacked by a mob. The stone keep has a history that dates back to the 13th century and is part of the heritage of York, even after being decimated by an explosion in 1684. The tower has been used as a prison and a treasury but here you can learn all about its history.

Jorvik Viking Centre

York was controlled by the Norse during the 9th and 10th centuries where Norse warriors known as the Kings of Jorvik ruled but now this heritage is celebrated at this centre. The centre has had problems of its own after being struck by a flood in 2015 but it was modernised and reopened in 2017 where it takes you on a journey that goes back to 960 when York was controlled by the yoke of the last Viking King Eric Bloodaxe. A reconstructed Viking-era Coppergate trading street can be found here and you can explore over 800 artefacts and see Viking demonstrations carried out by actors in costume. Amazingly, the mannequins at the centre look every bit lifelike because there is a story to them as they have been modelled on skeletons that were excavated from a Viking cemetery.

St Mary’s Abbey

The Abbey was founded in 1088 and it can be found to the west of the city walls in between Bootham and the Ouse. It was once the richest Benedictine abbey throughout the whole of the North of England and now its ruins can be seen in the Yorkshire Museum Gardens after it was dissolved under Henry VIII in 1539. Much of the stone was removed during the 18th century but a long stretch of the walls and crossing still remain. You can still see remains of the cloister, hospitum, Abbots House, West Gate as well as part of the protective walls that were built in 1260.

York Tours & Attractions

Map of York

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