Having lived in York for over a year now, I feel like I can finally start writing posts on the town and what to do and see here. Because trust me, there’s a lot! There are so many attractions, museums, cafes, pubs, shops, and more in the city. If you’re looking for the must-see sights, this is the blog post for you. Here are 5 things you absolutely must do on a trip to York!
1) Marvel at York Minster
York Minster is one of the top cathedrals in the country, and one of the largest in Northern Europe. It has the biggest collection of medieval stained glass in the country in the Great East Window, a culvert with running water since Roman times in the Undercroft, and plethora of fun stone carvings in the Chapter House. It is steeped in history. If you only come to York and see one thing, it should be the Minster. You can also climb up the tower to see the city from on high!
2) Walk the City Walls
Another of York’s most popular attractions are the City Walls that run almost the entire way around the city center. It’s easy to walk the walls, they’re open from dawn until dusk, and it’s absolutely free. Some stretches of the walls even date back to the Romans in 71 AD! However, most of the walls today date from the 12th-14th centuries. A full circuit is about 2 miles, and will take between 1-1.5 hours. The best stretches of the walls are from Bootham Bar to Monk Bar (with amazing views overlooking the Minster), and from Lendal Bridge to Micklegate Bar.
3) Relax in the Museum Gardens
The Museum Gardens are probably my favorite place in the city. They’re also probably the best place to see the seasons—the fall colors are beautiful, and in spring the gardens are full of blooming flowers. Besides being a nice, large park for relaxing, you can explore the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, one of the large abbeys closed in 1538 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the English Reformation. Other notable buildings include the Yorkshire Museum, the Multangular Tower (which dates back to the Romans who built it in 300 AD), and the Hospitium (although the Hospitium isn’t generally open to the public, only for events).
4) Experience Viking life at Jorvik Viking Center
York is a famous historic city, with its story dating all the way back to 71 AD when the Romans founded Eboracum (as York was then known). There is also a wealth of Viking history in York! When the town was sacked by the Vikings in 866, it became known as Jorvik. There’s no where better to learn about it then at Jorvik Viking Center, one of the premier museums of Viking history in the country. This is my top pick out of all the museums in York! The museum is fantastic, great for all ages, and tells the history of this Viking settlement spectacularly. You even get to go on a ride through a recreated Viking village! The museum explains every facet of Viking life, all with artifacts found right in York. Don’t miss the Viking poop and the Coppergate Helmet.
5) Wander York’s streets and snickelways
No York visit would be complete without walking through the charming, cobblestone streets, discovering narrow, winding alleyways (also called snickelways here in York), and getting lost. While the most famous of these quaint streets is the Shambles (said to be J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley), there are plenty of quieter, more authentic passageways. My favorite is the one on Coffee Yard, which takes you through Barley Hall onto Stonegate. Ditch the map and get gloriously lost exploring the streets!
Have you ever been to York? What was your favorite thing that you did?