York features the best of medieval England. Its history and culture are extraordinary but the flourishing city continues to evolve and creates more attractions for travelers to explore. Only two hours by train from London, this compact walled city is packed with museums, historic sites, restaurants, and so much more than a definitive list of the best things to do in York is difficult to produce. Take this top 10 list as a running start but there is definitely plenty more to delight you.
1. York Minster
At the top of every list of the best things to do in York is seeing the York Minster in its full glory. It is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world and the largest medieval cathedral in Northern Europe. Every brick and beam outlines the rich history and heritage of York. The first church on this site was built in 627 but the current minister dates back between 1220 and 1480. An architectural wonder, it covers all Gothic styles from Early English to Perpendicular.
Price: £10 for adults; children go free
Hours: 9 AM to 5.30 PM every Monday to Saturday; 12.45 to 5 PM every Sunday (The last admission is 30 minutes before closing)
Location: Deangate, York YO1 7HH, UK
2. The Shambles
York’s most famous street is also the most picturesque in Britain. This cobbled lane is as cute as anything you will ever see with lines of touristy shops and 15th century Tudor buildings. The street is narrow and often bursting with tourists but historically, this same place served as a hotbed for meat. In 1862, 26 butcher shops operate here and the name itself – Shambles – comes from the Saxon word Shamel meaning slaughterhouse.
Location: York YO1 7LZ, UK
Newly restored, this art gallery features the best of British ceramics with over 1000 pieces dating back to the Roman era. A large collection of paintings is also on display including works of Picasso, LS Lowry, David Hockney, Grayson Perry, and William Etty.
Price: £7.50 for adults; children go free
Hours: Open daily at 10 AM to 5 PM
Location: Exhibition Square, York YO1 7EW, UK
A great meeting place, this botanic garden by the River Ouse sits in the centre of York against the dramatic backdrop of the St. Mary’s Abbey ruins. Sit under a tree to relax or have a wander and explore the many things to do around the 10-acre garden. Highlights include a vast collection of plants, 40 bird species, the oldest working observatory in Yorkshire, and the Multangular Tower.
Hours: Open access
Location: Museum St, York YO1 7FR, UK
5. Henry VII Experience
History nerds delight in this exhibition dedicated to the first Tudor king of England, Henry VII who reigned from 1485 to 1509. He defeated Richard III in the climax of the Wars of the Roses during the Battle of Bosworth Field. Unravel the story and discover how it impacted medieval York.
Price: £5 for adults and 3 for children including Richard III Experience
Hours: Open daily from 10 AM to 4 PM
Location: Micklegate, City Centre, York YO1 6JX, United Kingdom
Even if rail transport is not your idea of sexy, a visit to this museum is still one of the best things to do in York. It is the biggest in the world with over-the-top displays. Highlights include the silk-lined carriages of the monarchs, a replica of George Stephenson’s Rocket, the Mallard that set the world speed record for a steam locomotive in 1938, a 1960s Japanese Shinkansen bullet train, and the first steam engine to break the 100 mph barrier, the world-famous Flying Scotsman.
Hours: Open daily at 10 AM to 6 PM
Location: Leeman Rd, York YO26 4XJ, UK
Much of York Castle has fallen into ruin and Clifford’s Tower is its largest remaining part. A visit is a great way to kick off your best things to do in the York itinerary as it offers excellent views of the city below.
Price: £5.20 for adults and £3.10 for children
Hours: Open daily at 10 AM to 6 PM from April to September; up to 5p PM in October
Location: Tower St, York YO1 9SA, UK
The name of the building gives it away – literally, it is a historic house that stored the medieval treasures of York Minster. A visit reveals much on 18th-century life, as well as highlights a collection of beautiful period furniture.
Price: £8 for adults and £4 for children
Hours: Open daily from 11 AM to 4 PM
Location: Minster Yard, York YO1 7JL, UK
Don’t let the grand 16th-century mansion fool you. The Parlour at Grays Court is warm and comforting, more like your favorite country house cafe instead of the sophisticated hotel building that it actually is. Stop by any time of the day – the food is great whenever! Start your morning with a coffee – and cake if you are feeling indulgent – and lounge in a sunny spot by the garden. For lunch, the Yorkshire rarebit is your best bet while scallops and sea bass prove irresistible for dinner.
Price: Mains start at £9
Hours: Open daily at 10 AM to 5 PM and 6 PM to 9 PM
Location: Chapter House St, York YO1 7JH, UK
Apparently, French is on the list of the best things to do in York. But if you are expecting the classics, you are in for a surprise. This unique French restaurant peppers its regularly changing menu with inventive and imaginative dishes that will just about blow your mind. Think black pudding macaroon and strawberry and elderflower sandwich. Call for booking now – you really have to experience this!
Price: 6-course tasting menu starts at £40; 9-course tasting menu starts at £60
Hours: 6 PM to 9 PM every Tuesday to Saturday
Location: 37 Walmgate, York YO1 9TX, UK
Find accommodation in York, England
Budget – ibis York Centre
Mid-Range – Minster View
Luxury – The Principal York
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