15 Best Things to Do in York, England

15 Best Things to Do in York, England

By will

Are you yearning for a break from the mundane of everyday life?

Embark on a journey to one of the most magical cities in England, where ancient walls and cobbled streets await.

York is bursting with history, culture, and attractions – something for everyone!

From historic architecture to outdoor activities, here are the top 15 things to do when visiting this incredible city.

1. Stroll Down The Shambles

The Shambles, York
Photo by John M Wheatley

The Shambles, a narrow medieval street located in the heart of York, is one of the city’s most iconic sights.

A stroll down this cobbled path takes you back in time to a simpler era, with quaint buildings and shops selling everything from fresh vegetables to vintage clothes.

With its overhanging timber-framed buildings, it’s easy to see why this is such a popular destination for visitors.

The atmosphere is relaxed and peaceful, and you can take your time exploring the shops and cafes that line the street.

For those looking for something more active, there are plenty of local walking tours available – perfect for discovering some of York’s hidden gems.

Whether you’re after a quiet wander or an exciting adventure, the Shambles has something to offer everyone.

2. Cruise Down The Ouse

River Ouse, York
Photo by Stephen McKay

Cruising down the Ouse is one of the best ways to take in the stunning sights of York.

The river winds its way through the city center, passing by some of its most iconic landmarks.

You can hire a boat for an hour or two and meander your way downstream.

As you drift along, you’ll be surrounded by ancient walls and tantalizing glimpses into history that date back centuries.

As you cruise along, make sure to keep an eye out for some of York’s most renowned sights like the 13th-century Clifford’s Tower, the iconic Yorvik Centre, and the awe-inspiring York Minster.

It’s a great way to immerse yourself in York’s unique charm and really get a feel for its captivating past.

Plus, it’s a wonderful opportunity to relax and soak up some fresh air as you enjoy all that this wonderful city has to offer.

So why not take a leisurely boat ride down the Ouse?

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape or just want to explore more of York’s incredible attractions, cruising down the river is definitely an experience you won’t soon forget!

3. Climb Up Clifford’s Tower

Clifford's Tower, York
Photo by Oscar Taylor

Take a trip back in time and climb up Clifford’s Tower, the last remaining part of York Castle.

Located at the top of an earthen mound, this striking structure overlooks the city.

Its rich history dates back to the 11th century when William the Conqueror built it as a wooden tower.

As you stand atop its walls, you’re rewarded with stunning views across York, making this ancient monument an unmissable experience.

Surrounded by greenery and a peaceful atmosphere, reaching the top is quite a challenge but worth all your effort!

Inhabited by numerous birds who nest around the tower’s walls, it’s truly one of the most picturesque attractions in York.

With its tranquil setting and panoramic views of England’s historic city, it’s impossible not to be moved by its beauty.

So make sure to bring your camera and capture this moment forever!

4. Visit York Minster

No trip to York is complete without visiting the awe-inspiring, York Minster.

This stunning medieval cathedral stands in the heart of York and has been an important part of the city for centuries.

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It’s one of the largest and most impressive cathedrals in Europe, with a number of beautiful stained glass windows, intricate carvings, and grand architecture.

As you enter the cathedral, you’ll be captivated by its grandeur.

You can explore its labyrinthine corridors filled with religious artifacts or take a guided tour of its vast history.

From the breathtaking nave to the iconic West Window, there are plenty of amazing sights to take in here.

The Minster also offers regular services and concerts, giving visitors a unique opportunity to experience this incredible building in action.

Visiting York Minster is a must-do for any traveler looking to explore England’s rich history and culture.

Whether you’re seeking spiritual contemplation or just want to admire its beauty, it’s sure to leave you feeling inspired and free!

5. Stroll The Bar Walls

After marveling at the intricate architecture of York Minster, take time to explore the city’s ancient walls and experience a sense of freedom as you wander around.

The Bar Walls are one of the oldest attractions in York and have been standing since Roman times.

The two-mile walk around the walls offers stunning views of the city, with plenty of places to stop along the way.

Pack a picnic and watch the sunset over historic buildings, or discover hidden gems tucked away in narrow alleys.

The Bar Walls also boast an array of pubs, cafes, and restaurants that are perfect for recharging after a long day of sightseeing.

Enjoy traditional English cuisine while taking in views of iconic landmarks such as Clifford’s Tower and Monk Bridge.

For those looking for a unique experience, there are plenty of quirky bars serving up local craft beer and cider, giving you an authentic taste of York’s culture.

So grab your camera, put on your walking shoes, and explore all that this remarkable city has to offer!

6. Explore The Museum Gardens

The Museum Gardens in York, England, is a must-see for those looking to explore the city’s history and culture.

Steeped in centuries of history, they offer a unique insight into the past.

The gardens are split into four distinct areas, each with its own unique attractions.

The South Garden includes a terrace lined with statues of notable figures from York’s past, such as Lord Mayor Thomas Waller and Archbishop William Fitzherbert.

There’s also a section of the garden dedicated to plants and flowers native to Yorkshire.

You can wander through here, admiring the beauty of nature while learning about its significance to the region.

The West Garden houses some of the city’s oldest trees and is home to many species of birds and other wildlife.

It’s an ideal spot for wildlife enthusiasts or anyone who simply wants to spend some time outdoors in peaceful surroundings.

Here you can also admire remains from St Mary’s Abbey which once stood on this site.

The East Garden is home to two large ornamental pools surrounded by stunning rose beds filled with fragrant blooms throughout the summer months.

It’s also where you’ll find one of York’s most iconic landmarks: The Eye of York – an 18th-century sundial that continues to track time over 200 years later!

A visit to Museum Gardens will leave you feeling inspired by York’s rich history and culture and appreciative of its natural beauty.

Whether it’s exploring the gardens’ fascinating features or simply taking in the views; there’s plenty here for all ages to enjoy!

7. Experience Viking Life At Jorvik Viking Centre

Experience a unique insight into the Viking lifestyle at Jorvik Viking Centre – a must-see attraction in York.

This living history museum transports visitors back to the 9th century and allows them to explore the reconstructed city of Jorvik as it was during the height of Viking rule.

The center features an interactive tour, allowing visitors to learn about life in a typical Viking town.

Guests can explore re-creations of buildings and streets to get an understanding of how people lived during this period.

Along the tour, costumed actors bring characters from Viking stories to life and provide insight into their culture.

Jorvik Viking Centre is sure to captivate visitors with its immersive experience that brings history alive.

It’s an unparalleled way to experience the past and gain a deeper appreciation for York’s rich heritage.

With its vibrant atmosphere and a plethora of activities, it’s no wonder this attraction is one of the most popular tourist spots in England

8. Go To The National Railway Museum

Head to the National Railway Museum in York and explore one of England’s best-loved attractions.

Here you can discover a wealth of railway heritage, including iconic engines, carriages, and artifacts.

It’s a great place to learn more about the history of railways in Britain, as well as take part in interactive activities such as building your own model train or constructing an engine from spare parts.

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The museum also has plenty of events for visitors to enjoy, including steam train rides, guided tours, and family activities.

You can even climb aboard heritage locomotives for a hands-on experience.

With its stunning architecture and fascinating displays, this is an attraction that will appeal to all ages.

So why not make it your next destination? You won’t be disappointed!

9. Visit York’s Chocolate Story

From discovering the history of rail transport at the National Railway Museum, transition to a different kind of sweet experience with a visit to York’s Chocolate Story.

Here, you’ll explore the 2,000-year history of chocolate-making in York.

From King George I’s the royal decree which granted the city its first major chocolate-making patent to the 18th-century Quakers who revolutionized cocoa production, you’ll learn all about this delicious treat and even get to try some samples!

The tour begins with a short film taking you back in time as you travel through York’s past.

Then it’s off to meet your chocolatier guide who will lead you on a journey through time, teaching you about chocolate production from its origins right up until today.

You’ll have fun learning how chocolate is made from bean to bar as well as mastering the art of tempering and molding your own truffles.

Along the way, your guide will also share stories about some of York’s famous chocolatiers such as Rowntrees and Terrys.

And don’t forget to stop by the shop where you can buy some delicious treats made with locally-sourced ingredients!

Take a break from sightseeing and indulge yourself with a trip down memory lane at York’s Chocolate Story.

Discover how this treatment has been enjoyed by generations while creating your own sweet memories along the way!

10. Learn The City’S Cruel History At York Dungeon

A visit to the York Dungeon is a must for anyone wanting to gain an insight into the city’s cruel history.

From the moment you enter, you’ll be transported back in time and immersed in the heart of this gruesome past.

Prepare to come face-to-face with some of York’s most notorious criminals, as well as experience what it was like to live under the rule of kings and queens.

You’ll learn about how people were punished, tortured, and even executed during these times.

As you wander through the dungeon, listen carefully as actors recreate scenes from history that will leave you both horrified and captivated.

It’s an unforgettable experience that may not be suitable for younger children – but it definitely makes for a unique day out.

Don’t leave without a souvenir!

The gift shop stocked full of macabre items is sure to have something that will remind you of your visit here long after you’ve gone.

11. Take A Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour

A great way to explore York is to take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.

This easy and convenient method of transport provides an ideal opportunity to see all the sights without having to worry about navigating or finding parking.

The tour begins at Clifford’s Tower, a historic landmark that sits atop a hill overlooking the city.

From here, you can hop on and off at any of the various stops along the route, giving you plenty of time to explore each spot in depth.

You’ll learn about famous battle sites, medieval churches, and old pubs as you ride around town.

Plus, the knowledgeable guides will provide interesting insight into what makes York so special.

On a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, you’ll also get glimpses of some of York’s beautiful gardens and parks.

Stroll through Museum Gardens and take in its breathtaking views or stop by Rowntree Park for a leisurely stroll among its lush greenery.

There are plenty of opportunities to take memorable photos along your journey too!

Whether you’re looking for historical insights or just a fun day out in the sun, taking a hop-on-hop-off bus tour is sure to be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

12. Get Lost At York Maze

If you’re looking for a unique and exciting way to explore York, England, then consider getting lost at York Maze.

This large outdoor maze is located just outside the city of York, and it offers a fun challenge for both adults and children alike.

The maze is made up of over 2 miles of pathways that twist and turn throughout the 11-acre field.

You’ll find plenty of dead ends and challenging turns as you make your way through the labyrinth.

As you navigate your way through the winding passages, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

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The maze also provides plenty of other activities to keep visitors entertained while they make their way around the maze.

There are two adventure play areas, a zip line, an aerial obstacle course, mini golf, a petting zoo, and more!

On top of all that, there’s also a café where you can grab some food or snacks when you need a break from exploring.

York Maze is sure to provide hours of entertainment for everyone who visits; it’s an ideal place to take family or friends on your next trip to York!

With its array of activities, stunning views, and challenging pathways, this outdoor attraction has something for everyone – so why not get lost in its twisting passageways?

13. Explore Castle Howard

After getting lost at York Maze, it’s time to explore Castle Howard.

This grand estate is just a short drive away and has been an iconic landmark of the North of England for generations.

With its majestic architecture, lush gardens, and exciting events, there is something for everyone here.

Visitors can take in the breathtaking views from the Battlements Wall Walk or explore the many historical rooms inside the castle.

The Great Hall, Chapel, and Long Gallery all offer a glimpse into life centuries ago.

As you wander around the grounds of Castle Howard, you will be surrounded by vibrant colors and fragrant smells from the gardens and parkland.

The castle hosts a variety of events throughout the year including concerts, plays, talks, and exhibitions – all of which are sure to make your trip to York one to remember.

There’s no better way to discover this timeless piece of British history than by visiting Castle Howard!

14. Visit Merchant Adventurers Hall

If you’re looking for a unique experience in historic York, England, then head to Merchant Adventurers Hall.

Built-in 1357, this stunning medieval building is the perfect place to explore and admire the city’s history.

As you wander through the hall, you’ll find a range of fascinating artifacts from centuries past.

From ancient weapons to intricate decorations, each item has its own story to tell.

The hall also hosts a range of special events throughout the year, so there’s always something new and exciting to enjoy.

Whether you’re keen on music or art, there’s sure to be an event that will appeal to your interests.

And if that wasn’t enough, you can also take part in guided tours and lectures about the history of Merchant Adventurers Hall.

Soak up all the knowledge and marvel at its beautiful architecture while learning more about its importance in York’s past.

This is one place where time stands still – and it’s well worth a visit!

You can discover a wealth of culture and heritage hidden within these walls; it’s an experience not easily forgotten.

Explore it for yourself and get lost in history – you won’t be disappointed!

15. Afternoon Tea At The Countess Of York

A visit to York wouldn’t be complete without indulging in an afternoon tea at The Countess of York.

Located in a grand Georgian townhouse, this elegant establishment is the perfect place for a leisurely break from sightseeing and shopping.

Boasting stunning views of historic York over tranquil gardens, the Countess of York offers an exquisite range of teas and cakes that will have you feeling pampered and relaxed.

The selection of freshly-prepared sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and homemade cakes is sure to tantalize your taste buds.

For those looking for something special, try one of the signature cocktails or champagne afternoon tea.

The attentive staff will ensure your experience is nothing short of luxurious and memorable.

With so much on offer, The Countess of York promises to give you a truly indulgent afternoon – one that will linger long after you’ve left this charming city.

Best Things to Do in York – Final Thoughts

My visit to York, England was a complete success.

I had the opportunity to explore some of the best attractions that this charming city has to offer.

From strolling down The Shambles and cruising down The Ouse to climbing up Clifford’s Tower and exploring Castle Howard, there were plenty of activities that kept me entertained.

I also had the chance to take in the beauty of York Minster and take a stroll along the Bar Walls.

Afterward, I spent some time getting lost at York Maze before stopping off for a spot of afternoon tea at the Countess of York.

In all, my trip was truly unforgettable and I would highly recommend it as one of the best places to visit in England.

There is something for everyone here, whether you are looking for adventure or just some relaxed sightseeing.

So if you’re seeking an amazing travel experience, York should definitely be on your list!


What are the best things to do in York with kids?

The best things to do in York with kids are visiting York Castle Museum, York Art Gallery, and JORVIK Viking Centre.

What to do during the day in York?

The best things to do during the day in York are walking in the city walls, climbing Cliffford’s Tower, and visiting York’s Museum.

Is York worth visiting?

Yes, York is worth visiting because of its charming and historic city filled with different unique attractions.

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About the author

Will is an avid hillwalker and traveler. You may find him surfing in Cornwall or hiking in the Yorkshire Dales.