York Essentials

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.

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.

Introduction to York

York is a walled city in Yorkshire that was founded by the ancient Romans.

Its huge 13th-century Gothic cathedral, York Minster, has medieval stained glass and 2 functioning bell towers.

The City Walls form a walkway on both sides of the River Ouse.

The Monk Bar gate houses an exhibition tracing the life of 15th-century Plantagenet King Richard III.

It is the historic county town of Yorkshire.

The city has long-standing buildings and structures, such as York Minster, York Castle and York city walls.

It was a county corporate and a county borough, not included in any of the ridings of Yorkshire.

The City of York unitary authority area includes the city, the town of Haxby, and surrounding villages and rural areas. The City of York Council is responsible for providing all local services and facilities throughout the district.

The city was founded by the Romans as Eboracum in 71 AD.

It became the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior, and later of the kingdoms of Deira, Northumbria and Jórvík.

In the Middle Ages, York grew as a major wool-trading centre and became the capital of the northern ecclesiastical province of the Church of England, a role it has retained.

In the 19th century, York became a major hub of the railway network and a confectionery manufacturing centre, a status it maintained well into the 20th century.

During the Second World War, York was bombed as part of the Baedeker Blitz; although less affected by bombing than other northern cities, several historic buildings were gutted and restoration efforts continued into the 1960s.

The city had a population of 153,717 in the 2011 census and is located in the Yorkshire and the Humber region.

The wider City of York unitary borough had an estimated population of 210,618, making it the 87th most populous district in England.

The city is the fifth most visited city in the United Kingdom by international visitors.

Origin of the Name “York”

The name York (Old Norse: Jórvík) is derived from the Brittonic name Eburākon (Latinised as Eboracum or Eburacum), a combination of eburos “yew tree” (compare Old Irish ibar, Irish iobhar, iubhar, and iúr, and Scottish Gaelic iubhar; compare also Welsh efwr and Breton evor, both meaning “alder buckthorn”) and a suffix of appurtenance *-āko(n), meaning “belonging to,” or “place of” (compare Welsh -og).

Put together, these old words meant “place of the yew trees“. (In Welsh, efrog; in Old Irish, iubrach; in Irish Gaelic, iúrach; and in Scottish Gaelic, iùbhrach).

The city is called Eabhrac in Irish and Eabhraig in Scottish Gaelic—names derived from the Latin word Eboracum.

A proposed alternate meaning is “the settlement of (a man named) Eburos,” a Celtic personal name spelled variously in different documents as Eβουρος, Eburus and Eburius: when combined with the Celtic possessive suffix *-āko(n), the word could be used to denote the property of a man with this name.

The name Eboracum became the Anglian Eoforwic in the 7th century: a compound of Eofor-, from the old name, and -wic, meaning “village,” probably by conflation of the element Ebor- with a Germanic root *eburaz (‘boar’); by the 7th century, the Old English for ‘boar’ had become eofor. When the Danish army conquered the city in 866, it was renamed Jórvík.

Indeed the name Ebor is still in use in York, as the name of the racecourse’s famous race – and festival – the Ebor.

The Old French and Norman name of the city following the Norman Conquest was recorded as Everwic (modern Norman Évèroui) in works such as Wace’s Roman de Rou.

Jórvík, meanwhile, gradually reduced to York in the centuries after the Conquest, moving from the Middle English Yerk in the 14th century through Yourke in the 16th century to Yarke in the 17th century.

The form York was first recorded in the 13th century.

Many company and place names, such as the Ebor race meeting, refer to the Latinised Brittonic, Roman name.

The 12th‑century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his fictional account of the prehistoric kings of Britain, Historia Regum Britanniae, suggests the name derives from that of a pre-Roman city founded by the legendary king Ebraucus.

The Archbishop of York uses Ebor as his surname in his signature.

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