Walking

Top 10 Things to Do in York

A real city of adventure, York promises endless discovery. With roots dating back to the Romans and beyond, it has long been traced by the footsteps of travellers and dreamers and provides a welcome base from which to explore.

Sandwiched between stunning National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and expansive coastline, the picturesque city of York has something for everyone. Situated halfway between London and Edinburgh, it is perfectly placed for short breaks and leisurely fortnights away, tracing the city’s historic streets, browsing the multitude of eateries and attractions and branching out further afield for walks in the wilderness. 

If you can’t wait for your boutique escape, here are our ten top things to do in York: 

Follow a York City Tour

Probably the best way to learn about the history and highlights of York is through a city tour. Offering something for all ages and abilities, you can choose from guided walking, cycling, bus and boat tours. There are even self-guided treasure hunt trails throughout the city that are particularly popular with families, and night-time ghost tours which set hearts racing with bloodcurdling stories of spooky and scandalous tales. 

Walk the York Walls 

 Since the Roman times, York’s walls have provided the town with unrivalled defence. The longest town walls in England, the York City Walls (or Bar Walls, as they are sometimes known) were built in 13th century and are a scheduled ancient monument. Even today, 2 miles of intact walls still encircle the historic town and proffer a super, elevated walk lasting about 2 hours from start to finish. Look out for the remains of fortified gateways, towers and the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey.

Time Travel at York Dungeon

2,000 years of grim and sometimes gruesome history are brought to life through the York Dungeon’s thrilling experiences and attractions. Suitable for adults and children over 8 years old, the dungeon sets the scene with immersive sets, costumed actors and hair-rising stories. Tour macabre rooms and follow dark alleys, learning about notorious rogues like Guy Fawkes and Dick Turpin for an essential part of the full York experience. 

Visit York Minster

York Minster is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe – a real highlight of any trip to York. Constructed over the course of nearly 250 years, some of its most beautiful features include 128 Medieval stained-glass windows and stunning vaulted ceilings. Should you be planning a visit, you can look forward to guided tours around the cathedral, a steep 275-step climb up the Central Tower to see the amazing views of York and exploration of the cathedral’s underground chambers.

Admire the Views from Clifford’s Tower

There are many reasons to visit Clifford's Tower. One of the best things to do in York, the climb to the top of this imposing tower – once used as a defensive vantage point for castle guards – affords brilliant panoramic views across Old York. Take the steps to the top and gaze upon the 18th century buildings that form the 'Eye of York' (including the Assize Courts and two York prisons), the imposing York Minster and all the way to the North York Moors. 

Cruise Down the Ouse

York was originally founded in AD71, when the Romans built a fortress near the confluence of the River Ouse and the River Foss. With so much of its history intertwined with the city’s waterways, it’s only fitting that a boat cruise should make it onto your list of things to do. Hop aboard and gain invaluable insights into the area’s history, including seeing where Saxons fought Vikings in 1066, monks once entertained guests and (purported) witches were ducked in the Middle Ages. 

Amble the Shambles

With an uncanny resemblance to Diagonal Alley of Harry Potter-fame, the Shambles is a characterful, cobbled-stoned street in York. Proclaimed as one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe, it is framed with lopsided buildings ribbed with open timber beans and flooded with light from large lamp-lit windows. Exuding character and charm, it beckons with welcoming cafés and quirky stores, including several magical-themed shops.

Museum Hop 

For history-lovers, there’s no greater place than York. With a number of world-class museums, you can explore every chapter of the city’s past, from the dinosaurs to the Romans to modern history. With so much on offer, you could easily fill several holidays visiting all of the city’s museums. That said, some of our favourites include the Jorvik Viking Centre, the National Railway Museum, the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens, and York Castle Museum. 

Watch a Show at the York Barbican

If you are enjoying a boutique retreat in York, it’s well worth checking out the latest line up of events at the Barbican. York’s largest music and arts venue, the Barbican hosts some of the biggest touring acts in the country, as well as family-friendly shows and community events. With a year-round calendar of dates to pencil in, you can choose from a variety of acts and performances including superb live music, comedy and dance.

Escape York Maze

One of the largest mazes in Europe and the biggest in the UK, York Maze appeal transcends all ages. From little kids to big kids at heart, everyone will enjoy a fun-filled day out at this attraction, conveniently located just a few miles outside of the city centre. Created from more than one million maize plants, York Maze challenges you to navigate a plethora of winding trails, wrong-turns and dead-ends before reaching the gleaming finish. 

 Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Yorkshire here.

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