Things to Do in York - A Comprehensive Guide to Exploring This Historic City

You can browse through all attractions in and around the fantastic city of York, below, in this page. There’s so much to see and do in York, you may like to choose from a specific sub-section to start your search. If you’ve got a specific thing in mind, choose from:

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Buildings steeped in history

If there’s one building that epitomises York, it’s York Minster. And if this majestic Gothic cathedral could talk, it would tell stories of Emperor Constantine, St Paulinus and famous Archbishops. Luckily the famous tower and undercroft are well versed in bringing history to life. Visits to Fairfax House and Beningbrough Hall are a must for lovers of everything Georgian and for those looking for an uplifting experience (and spectacular views), Clifford’s Tower – almost all that remains of York Castle – is well worth a visit. Clifford’s Tower is currently closed to visitors for conservation work, and will reopen in the summer. 

Take a walk on the dark side

If you’re in the mood for something a little more daring, York is happy to oblige. First stop has to be the famous Jorvik Viking Centre which is one of the UK’s most popular attractions outside London. And it’s no wonder when you get to travel back in time to see 1,000 year old streets, smell ye olde home cooked stew and even meet a Viking! Next stop is the frightfully gruesome York Dungeons, followed by the even scarier Original Ghost Walk. It sets off at 8pm, if you dare.

A grand day out

Day or night, there’s always an opportunity to experience something extra special. Trot over to York Racecourse for the thrill of the chase and see famous jockeys in action. Take in a show at York Theatre Royal – the best of the best dramas, comedies and dances are literally lining up to keep you entertained. Or perhaps the York Grand Opera House has a touring production that will catch your eye. For a completely different perspective of York, head to the river and cruise the Ouse on one of the City Cruises York sightseeing boat trips. Alternatively, hire one of their red boats for your own, self-driven, aquatic adventure.

York’s lush green spaces

The city is blessed with a number of relaxing green spaces to discover. The Museum Gardens, with its botanical plants, here you might even spot a #OnlyinYork Tansy Beetle an endangered species who only live in a 30km stretch of the River Ouse. Other delightful spaces include Dean’s Park at the foot of the majestic York Minster and the grounds of the Treasurer’s House. Rowntree Park is popular with families with its playgrounds and cosy Reading Café. Venture out of the city to explore the countryside and green spaces on York’s doorstep. Discover the stunning green spaces of Stillingfleet Gardens, the grand stately home and grounds of Castle Howard and Breezy Knees Garden. You’re spoilt for choice with the array of natural attractions, grounds and estates to enjoy.

York Pass

Make the most of your stay with York Pass, the Official Sightseeing Card for the city of York and North Yorkshire. The York City pass is great for short stays giving you access to 18 attractions located in the city.

About York

York is one of the most visited cities in the UK, not far behind the top two of London and Edinburgh, and roughly halfway between the two, geographically.

If it’s good enough for the Emperor…

York was once the seat of the Roman Empire, during two periods the Emperor made his home in the city, which tells you a lot about the place and its glorious surrounds.

Walk Along the Historic City Walls

One of the best ways to get acquainted with York is to take a stroll along its well-preserved medieval walls. Spanning around 2.5 miles and offering fantastic views of the city, the walls are a step back in time and a photographer’s dream. Some of the walls date back to Roman times, providing a tangible connection to the city’s rich history. You can start your journey at any of the four main bars (gatehouses), including the famous Bootham Bar and Walmgate Bar.

Dive into History at York Minster

No trip to York would be complete without a visit to the iconic York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe. The intricate architecture and breathtaking stained glass windows are just the beginning. For a small fee, you can climb the Central Tower and enjoy panoramic views of the city. Don’t forget to check out the Undercroft, where you’ll find treasures and artifacts that tell the story of the Minster and its role in York’s history.

Take a Trip to the National Railway Museum

Train enthusiasts, this one’s for you. The National Railway Museum in York is one of the largest of its kind in the world. From historic steam engines to royal carriages, the museum offers an insightful look into how rail travel has evolved over the years. Entry is free, although donations are encouraged to help maintain the museum.

Go Back in Time at the Jorvik Viking Centre

If you’ve ever been curious about the Viking Age, the Jorvik Viking Centre should be on your list. This immersive museum brings the Viking era to life through lifelike reconstructions, interactive displays, and even a ride that takes you through a Viking village. Learn about the Norse influence on York and see artifacts uncovered during archaeological digs.

Shop and Dine at The Shambles

Wander through The Shambles, one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe. With its overhanging timber-framed buildings and narrow lanes, The Shambles feels like a step back in time. Today, it’s home to boutique shops, cafes, and even a few Harry Potter-themed stores. Don’t forget to try some local Yorkshire produce at one of the many food stalls or restaurants.

Enjoy Nature at the York Museum Gardens

Need a break from sightseeing? The York Museum Gardens offer a peaceful respite in the heart of the city. Located beside the River Ouse, these beautifully maintained gardens feature a variety of plant species, as well as historical ruins including St. Mary’s Abbey. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic or a leisurely afternoon stroll.

Take a Ghost Walk Through the City

York is often cited as one of the most haunted cities in England. Why not experience this for yourself with a guided ghost walk? Explore dark alleys, hear chilling tales, and perhaps even encounter some of York’s famous ghosts. It’s a fun and spooky way to learn about the city’s lesser-known history.

Indulge in the Food Scene

York’s food scene is as diverse as its history. From traditional English pubs serving up classic Yorkshire puddings to modern eateries offering international cuisine, there’s something for every palate. Be sure to try a classic afternoon tea or indulge in some artisan chocolate — York has a long history of chocolate making!

Take a Day Trip to the Yorkshire Countryside

If you have some extra time, the natural beauty of the Yorkshire countryside is just a short drive or train ride away. From the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales to the dramatic cliffs of the Yorkshire coast, there are plenty of hiking, cycling, and sightseeing opportunities to make your trip even more memorable.

Final Thoughts

From its ancient walls and Gothic cathedral to its modern shops and eateries, York is a city that caters to all types of travelers. Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or spending an extended vacation, this historic city has a wealth of activities to offer. So plan your itinerary and set out to explore all that York has to offer — you won’t be disappointed!

Centrally Located

Very centrally located in Yorkshire, York has therefore got the Yorkshire Dales to the West, the North York Moors to the East, Herriot Country just North, and West YorkshireEast Yorkshire and South Yorkshire are all within a relatively quick day trip to the South of York itself.

The information above in this page will give you plenty of information about visiting and staying in York, while below is more information about the place, it’s history, and some general facts and figures to provide a little background as to why York is one of the greatest places to base your stay in Yorkshire.

Discover More: York & North Yorkshire.