10 Terrific Things to Do in York, UK

10 Terrific Things to Do in York, UK

Walk through the Shambles, along the city walls, and into dungeons and burial grounds. Historical York certainly has plenty of attractions to keep you occupied.

York is a magical destination in the UK, filled with a strong sense of history from various points in time along with a great range of more modern attractions and activities.

York, located in eastern England, is known for being one the UK’s most complete Roman cities. It also has a strong Viking heritage and has been settled by many groups over the years. Fascinating remnants from past times are scattered throughout the beautiful city, and it’s certainly a top destination for fans of architecture and history. There are great accommodation options, and you’ll find a wealth of places to eat, drink, and shop. Planning a trip to York? Here are some top things to add to your travel bucket list.

1. Feast your eyes on the majestic York Minster

York Minster is a glorious Gothic gem, striking both inside and out. If funds are low you can enjoy the stunning building from the outside, but it is well worth paying the admission fee to soak up the spiritual vibe and admire the ornate interiors too. The wide nave is sure to impress and there are beautiful stained glass windows that date back to the medieval era. One of the biggest Christian places of worship in all of Europe, York Minster can trace its history back to the 7th century.

2. Visit the Shambles

things to do in york

Image credit: Philip N Young

Just the name, Shambles, makes this tiny street a worthy stop-off when exploring York. Rich in history, the small shops hang over the street. Some of the wooden-framed buildings date back to the 14th century. Historically a street for butchers and slaughterhouses, the road’s buildings have now been repurposed into charming cafes and cute shops. Meat hooks still hang outside some shops, a reminder of the street’s past. You’ll notice that the centre of the street is lower than the rest; this was to allow the juices and blood to easily drain away.

3. Time travel at Jorvik Viking Centre

Image credit: Ann Lee

Travel back in time to when York was ruled by Vikings and have a great day out at the fascinating Jorvik Viking Centre. See what life was like some 1,000 years ago and retrace the steps of some of the city’s past inhabitants. The centre is built around the excavated remains of an old Viking settlement, with well-preserved foundations, wooden buildings, wells, animal enclosures, and other structures. Diverse artefacts are on display too, including textiles, pottery, woodwork, and metalwork. Models and sensory features, such as sounds and smells, help to bring the ancient city back to life.  

4. See the Cholera Burial Ground

A small grassed burial ground close to the station is the final resting place of people who perished in a devastating cholera outbreak in the 1830s. Around 20 gravestones have survived to the present day, their sandstone forms remembering those who succumbed to the deadly disease.

5. Wander along the River Ouse

The River Ouse flows through York on its journey from Cuddy Shaw Reach to join the Trent River to form the Humber Estuary. Several bridges span the waterway and there are riverside paths that make for pleasant strolls. Sightseeing boat trips are a great way to see the city from a different perspective and relax as beautiful views unfold.

6. Soak up the history at York City Walls

No trip to York is complete without taking a stroll around sections of the old city walls. Originally built by the Romans in around 70 AD to defend the city, the imposing walls have seen many alterations and fortifications since their early days. Danish occupiers made many changes to the original city walls. The walls have a number of attractive gateways, known locally as bars, as well as towers and lookout points, and you can walk along sections to admire terrific city views as you soak up the historical air.   

7. Admire the works in York City Art Gallery

York City Art Gallery is housed in a purpose-built building that dates back to the late 1800s. A statue of William Etty, a prominent local artist, stands in front of the elegant gallery. Inside, you’ll find a huge array of artistic works, with pieces from the 14th century right up to the present day. Paintings, drawings, ceramics, glassware, and prints are among the items on display.

8. Snap a picture of Clifford’s Tower

things to do in york

Standing on a grassy mound, the pale stone Clifford’s Tower is the old gatehouse of York Castle. The keep was constructed in the Norman period and is today a National Monument. You can take a peek inside the grand and imposing structure and imagine how the castle would have been back in its heyday when built to defend the city. Other remaining parts of the historic castle are now used as a courthouse and a museum. In the past, the castle was used as a jail.  

9. Feel your spine tingle at York Dungeon

things to do in york

Image credit: One lucky guy

An interactive and slightly unnerving experience, descending into the gloom of York Dungeon takes you back through York’s turbulent past. Actors and special effects help to tell tales of notorious murderers, crooks, and invaders, and you can take a peek into ghastly torture chambers and see where people were hanged. Offering fascinating insights into York’s darker history, it’s not a place for the squeamish or faint of heart.

10. Pose for a selfie on Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate

Although there’s not an awful lot to see at Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate, the short street has one of the city’s coolest names. It is also one of the shortest streets in York, essentially comprising a short section of pavement near St Crux Church Hall. Modern researchers believe that the name loosely translates to “Neither One Thing Nor the Other”.

About Author

Sarah W
Sarah W

Sarah W is a travelling cat-lover who enjoys exploring places that are a little bit quirky or away from headline attractions. Favourite things include delicious falafel, snuggling under a thick duvet, (badly) belting out karaoke at the top of her lungs, and, of course, her family, friends, and furry pets.


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