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Top Things To Do In York

This distinguished old city has been a Roman stronghold and a Viking capital in its time, and if one thing's for sure, it's that there are plenty of things to see in York. With more than 2,000 years of history, along with museums, arts and culture, you'll never be short of things to do in York. Click through our 360° views to make virtual visits to some of the city’s must-see landmarks.

York Minster
  • York Minster
  • This magnificent Gothic cathedral is among the biggest and grandest in the UK. It's had a turbulent history, having been burned, destroyed and looted several times throughout its life, but the current building dates mostly from the 13th to 15th centuries. Apart from the regular church services and concerts, there are plenty of other activities available at York Minster. There's a museum of York's history in the minster's undercroft, while guided tours are also available, including some venturing into areas that are normally off-limits to the public. And for one of the best views in the city, visitors can climb the central tower.

  • This magnificent Gothic cathedral is among the biggest and grandest in the UK. It's had a turbulent history, having been burned, destroyed and looted several times throughout its life, but the current building dates mostly from the 13th to 15th centuries. Apart from the regular church services and concerts, there are plenty of other activities available at York Minster. There's a museum of York's history in the minster's undercroft, while guided tours are also available, including some venturing into areas that are normally off-limits to the public. And for one of the best views in the city, visitors can climb the central tower.

  • Guide to Exploring York Minster
Clifford’s Tower
  • Clifford’s Tower
  • One of York's most iconic monuments, Clifford's Tower has a pretty dark history. Set on a tall mound at the heart of the city, this round keep is all that's left of a castle built by William the Conqueror after his brutal 'harrying of the North', during which he laid waste to much of the region. In the late 12th century, 150 of York's Jews were burned there in one of the worst atrocities in the city's history. It later played a part in the English Civil War, was blown up, and eventually became part of nearby York prison. These days it's a tranquil spot, with pretty views.

  • One of York's most iconic monuments, Clifford's Tower has a pretty dark history. Set on a tall mound at the heart of the city, this round keep is all that's left of a castle built by William the Conqueror after his brutal 'harrying of the North', during which he laid waste to much of the region. In the late 12th century, 150 of York's Jews were burned there in one of the worst atrocities in the city's history. It later played a part in the English Civil War, was blown up, and eventually became part of nearby York prison. These days it's a tranquil spot, with pretty views.

  • Guide to Exploring Clifford's Tower
Barley Hall
  • Barley Hall
  • This extensively restored medieval townhouse has its origins in the 14th century, when it was part of nearby Nostell Priory. By the end of the 20th century, the building was still there, hidden behind the walls of an empty office block. Though what remained of the original was in a poor state, the York Archaeological Trust undertook a massive reconstruction project in the early 1990s, renaming it Barley Hall and opening it as a living history museum. The renovated hall looks as it might have done in the late 1400s, and features regular exhibitions and events for all ages.

  • This extensively restored medieval townhouse has its origins in the 14th century, when it was part of nearby Nostell Priory. By the end of the 20th century, the building was still there, hidden behind the walls of an empty office block. Though what remained of the original was in a poor state, the York Archaeological Trust undertook a massive reconstruction project in the early 1990s, renaming it Barley Hall and opening it as a living history museum. The renovated hall looks as it might have done in the late 1400s, and features regular exhibitions and events for all ages.

  • Guide to Exploring Barley Hall
The Shambles
  • The Shambles
  • No trip to York is complete without a wander down the Shambles, with its higgledy-piggledy timber-framed buildings leaning precariously inwards over the shoppers below. This long, narrow shopping street was once home to the city's butchers, and some of the shops still have butchers' hooks pinned into the woodwork. In fact, the Shambles is so old that it's even mentioned in the Domesday Book. These days, the Shambles is mainly populated by craft and gift shops, restaurants and cute little tearooms, and there's a definite Harry Potter feel about the place.

  • No trip to York is complete without a wander down the Shambles, with its higgledy-piggledy timber-framed buildings leaning precariously inwards over the shoppers below. This long, narrow shopping street was once home to the city's butchers, and some of the shops still have butchers' hooks pinned into the woodwork. In fact, the Shambles is so old that it's even mentioned in the Domesday Book. These days, the Shambles is mainly populated by craft and gift shops, restaurants and cute little tearooms, and there's a definite Harry Potter feel about the place.

  • Guide to Exploring Shambles
St. Mary’s Abbey
  • St. Mary’s Abbey
  • Begun in the 11th century, this ruined Benedictine abbey was once one of the richest institutions in the north. It was looted and destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, and these days only a few scattered remnants remain. The ruins of St Mary's Abbey are set in the York Museum Gardens, a 10-acre area of parkland and gardens in central York. Apart from being a peaceful spot at the heart of the city, the gardens are also home to the Yorkshire Museum, and have hosted a number of large civic events over the years.

  • Begun in the 11th century, this ruined Benedictine abbey was once one of the richest institutions in the north. It was looted and destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, and these days only a few scattered remnants remain. The ruins of St Mary's Abbey are set in the York Museum Gardens, a 10-acre area of parkland and gardens in central York. Apart from being a peaceful spot at the heart of the city, the gardens are also home to the Yorkshire Museum, and have hosted a number of large civic events over the years.

  • Guide to Exploring St. Mary's Abbey
York Castle Museum
  • York Castle Museum
  • Housed in what was once York Prison, the York Castle Museum has a variety of exhibitions of local and national interest, dealing with everything from vintage toys and Georgian fashion to the First World War and the cultural revolution of the 1960s. One of the most fun parts of the museum is 'Kirkgate', a reconstructed Victorian street, which features shops, costumed actors, and penny arcade machines. There's also a section on the building's history as a prison, which includes recreations of the dire conditions in the Victorian jail cells, along with the stories of some of the former inmates.

  • Housed in what was once York Prison, the York Castle Museum has a variety of exhibitions of local and national interest, dealing with everything from vintage toys and Georgian fashion to the First World War and the cultural revolution of the 1960s. One of the most fun parts of the museum is 'Kirkgate', a reconstructed Victorian street, which features shops, costumed actors, and penny arcade machines. There's also a section on the building's history as a prison, which includes recreations of the dire conditions in the Victorian jail cells, along with the stories of some of the former inmates.

  • Guide to Exploring York Castle Museum
York City Walls
  • York City Walls
  • With a history of conflict and unrest stretching all the way back to the Romans, York has had city walls for nearly 2,000 years, and many sections of the medieval walls remain to this day, winding their way through the old city. All in all, there are about 2 miles of walls, and a stroll along the tops of them is a favourite activity among locals and visitors alike. There are also 6 old gatehouses, known as 'bars'. One of the best-known of these is Micklegate Bar, where the heads of traitors were prominently displayed in the 15th century.

  • With a history of conflict and unrest stretching all the way back to the Romans, York has had city walls for nearly 2,000 years, and many sections of the medieval walls remain to this day, winding their way through the old city. All in all, there are about 2 miles of walls, and a stroll along the tops of them is a favourite activity among locals and visitors alike. There are also 6 old gatehouses, known as 'bars'. One of the best-known of these is Micklegate Bar, where the heads of traitors were prominently displayed in the 15th century.

  • Guide to Exploring York City Walls
National Railway Museum
  • National Railway Museum
  • With over a million objects on display across a 20-acre site, the National Railway Museum is one of the largest and most impressive museums of its kind. The collection ranges all the way from old photos and station posters to antique rolling stock and some of the most legendary engines in the history of rail travel. Among the most impressive exhibits is a replica of Rocket, George Stephenson's original steam locomotive, and the only original Japanese bullet train outside Japan. The most famous engine, though, is the distinctive Mallard, which in 1938 set the unbeaten speed record for steam locomotives.

  • With over a million objects on display across a 20-acre site, the National Railway Museum is one of the largest and most impressive museums of its kind. The collection ranges all the way from old photos and station posters to antique rolling stock and some of the most legendary engines in the history of rail travel. Among the most impressive exhibits is a replica of Rocket, George Stephenson's original steam locomotive, and the only original Japanese bullet train outside Japan. The most famous engine, though, is the distinctive Mallard, which in 1938 set the unbeaten speed record for steam locomotives.

  • Guide to Exploring York National Railway Museum
Merchant Adventurers’ Hall
  • Merchant Adventurers’ Hall
  • This handsome medieval building is a guildhall for the Company of Merchant Adventurers. It operates as an events space and a museum, spread across 3 main rooms. There's the great hall, the old almshouse, and the chapel. The collections on display in the timber-framed guildhall include metalwork, furniture and artworks, and self-guided tours are available, with personal tour guides bookable by larger groups. The hall also features an elegant cafe with an outdoor terrace. Once a trading guild, the Company of Merchant Adventurers still exists, though these days it's a civic organisation more concerned with charity work and city events.

  • This handsome medieval building is a guildhall for the Company of Merchant Adventurers. It operates as an events space and a museum, spread across 3 main rooms. There's the great hall, the old almshouse, and the chapel. The collections on display in the timber-framed guildhall include metalwork, furniture and artworks, and self-guided tours are available, with personal tour guides bookable by larger groups. The hall also features an elegant cafe with an outdoor terrace. Once a trading guild, the Company of Merchant Adventurers still exists, though these days it's a civic organisation more concerned with charity work and city events.

  • Guide to Exploring Merchant Adventurers' Hall

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