Why not start with the most obvious tourist attractions in York? Everyone who has visited will have done one of these activities, so if you are looking for something to do when you visit this beautiful city, look no further.
1. Visit Clifford’s Tower
This eleventh-century tower is all that remains of York Castle after the rest of it burnt down in 1190. Its name comes from Lord Hugh le Despenser whose family owned it because he was given it by Edward I when he took over the castle. The story goes that in 1189 the boy-king, Richard I, had his enemy William Marshal imprisoned here and wanted him to hang until he was dead but John Marshall (William’s son) managed to get a royal pardon, and not such a good one for William, who was decapitated. The tower has been used as a prison and an archive, and it is now owned by the York Archaeological Trust and open to the public.
2. See York Minster
York is home to two cathedrals: York Minster and the much smaller St Mary’s Abbey. Dating back over 800 years, this gothic building has seen many changes during its lifetime with some parts dating back to 1270. It also took over 100 years to build so you could say it was always going to have quite a few features! It held the first Archbishop of all England until King Henry VIII decided he didn’t need him anymore so he ordered that his head be cut off, and his body be dragged through the streets. There is more than one ghost at York Minster including a monk who was walled up for breaking abbey rules and screams can be heard when they are about to repeat. This cathedral also has the widest nave in England so there’s plenty of room for people.
3. Visit some museums
York boasts six museums alone devoted to history, archaeology, and art. The most famous of these is undoubtedly the Jorvik Centre, which shows what York was like during the time of the Vikings by using sounds, smells, and sights that transport visitors back in time (but minus the haggling over prices). Outside you will see two huge bronze sculptures standing guard inspired by pieces found in the river when it was being built in 1976. The York Castle Museum is a must-see for anyone who wants to learn more about the city’s past. There are live performances at certain times and you can play a robbery game where you have to steal from the storerooms by solving puzzles!
4. Go on a walk around the city walls
The most popular activity in this area of York, which dates back to Roman times, is walking upon them. They made their way around all three sides of York until they stopped when Torksey Bridge was built (now called Skeldergate Bridge). Most people begin with the stretch between Monk Bar and Walmgate Bar but there are several others if you want to explore more. If you happen to be visiting during the summer, you could even time your walk to match a tour that takes in all seven of them.
5. Go shopping
If all that walking in York has made you hungry or if it is just a case of being bored so fancy going shopping, York does have a few places for you to go. The biggest and most popular is undoubtedly the Shambles which was once home to butchers shops although now they are mainly gift shops. Just opposite this road is Pavement which isn’t actually paved at all probably because there’s not much room given how many people visit here every day! The Lendal area also sells quite a bit with plenty of cute independent shops along cobbled streets. You can find some more shops around the Minster and up Micklegate.
6. Try some traditional food
Back to history for a minute: York is known as England’s most historic city and was also home for several years of Charles I so, of course, there are some dishes you should try while you’re here! For breakfast, why not have some Yorkshire pudding? It was invented at the Fairfax family house in 1774 because their new chef wanted to make something different than just potatoes or bread. Another dish often served with this is meat from a roast which originated in the Northallerton area but now can be found all over Yorkshire. At lunchtime, if it is available, grab yourself a good old-fashioned pie – they are traditionally large ones stuffed with either meat or vegetables (or both) and sauce that has been thickened using flour. You might also like to try pikelets which are like crumpets but much thinner. And finally, don’t leave York without having one of its famous sweets! There are thousands sold every day – all over the city you will see people carrying bags full of them (normally blue).
7. Head to Clifford’s Tower
There is quite a lot to do in York beyond the walls of the city center with special access towers allowing you to head up onto the battlements. The most well-known is Clifford’s Tower, named after the powerful Norman family who lived here 800 years ago. It now contains interactive displays including ‘The Time Traveller’ where you can head back to Medieval times to experience what it was like for people living here.
8. Take a trip on the river
Within the city, there are five bridges but only one allows you to cross the River Ouse – Skeldergate Bridge. If you’re feeling energetic after being in museums all day, try heading over York’s second most famous bridge and then continuing alongside the river until you reach St Mary’s Abbey, which is now sadly just ruins because its stone was taken away to help build many other places around England including Westminster Abbey! But don’t despair if it is cloudy as there are also boat trips operated from beside Lendal Bridge although these are best booked in advance.
9. Visit York Minster
The largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, York Minster is a famous symbol of the city throughout the world and holds historical significance for its architecture. It was built mainly between 1220 and 1480 on a site that used to be a Benedictine monastery from 1055. Its chapter house has been turned into a library while some of the stained glass windows have been transferred to nearby buildings for safekeeping.
10. Experience nightlife at one of York’s bars or clubs
If you feel like going out until late, there are plenty of nightclubs, pubs, and bars in York where you can dance or just chat over a drink. Popular clubs include Warehouse and Fibbers while some of the bars to visit include The Cross Keys, Bar Pacifico.