York Things to Do
Although the area has been inhabited since at least 7000 BC, York was founded as a Roman outpost in 71 AD. So much history adds up to many attractions, so you may want to focus on this list of York things to do to make the best use of your time.
As the top example of the city’s Medieval preservation, The Shambles, consists of narrow, cobbled streets that have been pedestrianized but can seem claustrophobic on account of the tourist hordes. Go early in the morning to enjoy the overhanging timber-framed buildings in relative peace. Some of the structures date back to the 14th century. The meat hooks hanging outside the buildings show that butchers used to ply their trade here, lending their activities to the location’s original name of “The Great Flesh Shambles.” These shops now house eateries, souvenir shops, a bookshop, and a bakery.
It’s not just the size or architecture that makes this Medieval cathedral stunning. It’s the fact that it was built at a time when the stories were carved by hand and lifted into place by wooden winches and manpower. Go into the crypt underneath the main altar to see the remains of the original Norman church of the 1000s from which the existing Minster grew in the 1200s. You’ll wonder at wonderful Medieval stone-carvings, the Medieval stained glass, steep narrow stairs that lead to superb city views, and superb Evensong services by the choir.
National Railway Museum
You do not have to be a train fan to look at England’s railways over the years. Some of the exhibits are set in the old roundhouse of the York engine sheds. There’s even a Japanese Bullet, a Eurostar, and cutaway engines to see. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. The demos and talks at areas around the museum make it easy to spend the whole day here. When you need to take a break from the beautifully restored trains, you can relax at three eating places.
Jorvik Viking Centre
Many Vikings settled in York from 800 to 1050 AD and educational entertainment exhibition explains their contributions. You start in a time car that takes you back through a Viking street market, and travel in about 20 minutes through historical recreations that are complete with sounds and smells. When you get off the ride, you enter rooms full of characters with characters explaining parts of Viking life. Other exhibits reveal the artifacts dug up from the Jorvik site, including organic materials like socks.
When you get tired of walking, take a 45-minute narrated cruise on the River Ouse, which reveals the city’s beautiful parks, imposing architecture, and illustrious history. Check the website in advance because different options are available, including evening cruises, ghost cruises, and holiday events.
Editor’s note: The information contained on this page was compiled using real traveler reviews about things to do in York.