York is a beautiful, historical, walled city, situated in England’s largest county, Yorkshire. It stands at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Fosse and is dominated by the spectacular York Minster.
We spent two days in York in April 2015. We travelled by train arriving at York’s splendid city centre Victorian railway station.
York has so many attractions, it was hard to decide what to visit in the time available, but we did quite a good job of sightseeing! More detailed reviews of places visited and our accommodation can be accessed via links at the end of this article.
The Romans called York – Eboracum, the Saxons – Eoforwick, the Vikings – Jorvik. Today York is recognised as an archaeological treasure trove.
York’s diversity of attractions offers something for everyone. The magnificent York Minster is perhaps the best known attraction in York – no visit to York is complete without a visit to this breathtakingly beautiful cathedral.
York has galleries, historic houses, ruins to see. Beautiful gardens to visit. Waterways to cruise. A rich railway and chocolate history to explore, magnificent preserved city walls to walk. Ghosts to hunt – York is Europe’s most haunted city. Shopping in the medieval Shambles with its unique shops, the daily market, or modern shopping centres. Eating out is well catered for with dining places to suit every taste and pocket.
Purchasing a York Pass saves money when visiting lots of attractions, although some attractions are free entry anyway, such as The National Railway Museum (although donations are gratefully accepted!), The City Walls, The Museum Gardens, The Shambles. The York Pass can be purchased from Visit York at 1 Museum Street, York.
Getting around York
York is pedestrian friendly with a good park and ride scheme. City centre car parking is also available and plentiful taxi services. York is also cycle friendly. Attractions are clearly signposted.
Guided sightseeing bus tours run frequently from the city centre lasting 45 minutes to 1 hour, costing around £12. They allow visitors to hop on/hop off the bus as many times as they wish within 24 hours. These tours are a good information source and provide the convenience of being taken directly to each attraction.
City River Tours operate from Lendal Bridge Landing (in the city centre) and Kings Staith, providing an informative and alternative way to explore the city. There are frequent sailings daily and some evening cruises and floodlight cruises.
Entertaining ghost walks are available from outside York Minster as well as other areas in the city.
The medieval city walls are the longest city walls in Europe. Walking them provides a pathway around the city and tremendous city views. Various access and departure points allows the choice of walking sections of the walls or the entire walls.
The Shambles, my favourite area of York, is both a visitor attraction and shopping area. This meandering, cobbled street with its over hanging timber framed 14/15th century buildings which lean into the middle, meaning they almost touch, is York’s oldest street. It is crammed with interesting little shops. Behind The Shambles is the Shambles Market, held daily.
The National Railway Museum with its fine locomotives contains over 300 years of railway history. Allow at least 2 hours to see everything. There is also the opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea in the opulently decorated and furnished railway carriage of The Countess of York. Afternoon tea costs £19.95 a person.
The Museum Gardens, in the heart of York, are set on a historical site which includes remains of a Roman Fort, the medieval St.Mary’s Abbey and the Hospitium. There are ten acres of botanical gardens to enjoy.
The Jorvik Viking Centre is recognised as a state of the art visitor centre and one of the UK’s most visited attractions. Here visitors can be transported back 1000 years.
York Castle Museum gave us an insight into the social history of York. I enjoyed walking down the authentically created Victorian street. Allow at least two hours to enjoy this museum.
York’s Chocolate Story, tells the story of chocolate and how it shaped York, as well as York’s famous chocolate families Rowntree and Terry’s. We sampled chocolate and participated in chocolate making. Our guided tour lasted just over an hour.
Food and Drink
York caters for every taste and every pocket. There are international restaurants traditional British restaurants, pubs selling good food. There is a large Betty’s Tea Room and small independent tea rooms such as The Castle Tea Room at Castlegate with its homely atmosphere. The Stonegate area provides plenty of places to eat. We enjoyed an uncomplicated but delicious evening meal at The Stonegate Yard and Brasserie which is housed in a beautiful Georgian town house.
York has many very ancient pubs, selling real ale, including The Maltings at Tanners Moat, The Guy Fawkes Inn (opposite York Minster), where Guy Fawkes was born and The Golden Fleece at 16 Pavement – its fifteen ghosts giving it the title of York’s most haunted pub, although we did not see any ghostly activity we did enjoy a taste of local ale!
The Visitor is spoilt for choice when deciding where to stay. York has an abundance of accommodation to choose from in the city centre or on the city outskirts which are served by good bus links.
The city centre includes B&B’s and guest houses, self-catering accommodation, boutique hotels, large hotels in modern buildings or in ancient buildings such as the hotel where we stayed, The Grand Hotel, conveniently located at Station Rise close to York Railway Station and the city walls. This luxury hotel is housed in a beautifully restored Edwardian building, once the offices of the railway headquarters.
Our time in York passed quickly, we’d seen lots, but only a fraction of what this lovely city has to offer, so we knew we should return soon!
You may also find interesting:
- National Railway Museum
- The Shambles
- York Castle Museum
- The Castle Tea Room
- Stonegate Yard Bar & Brasserie
- York’s Chocolate Story
- The Grand Hotel & Spa