No other city in northern England says 'medieval' quite like York, a city of extraordinary cultural and historical wealth that has lost little of its pre-industrial lustre. A magnificent circuit of 13th-century walls encloses a medieval spider's web of narrow streets. At its heart lies the immense, awe-inspiring York Minster, one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in the world. York's long history and rich heritage is woven into virtually every brick and beam, and the modern, tourist-oriented city – with its myriad museums, restaurants, cafes and traditional pubs – is a carefully maintained heir to that heritage.
Try to avoid the inevitable confusion by remembering that around these parts, gate means street and bar means gate.
Discover some of the most unique and fulfilling experiences your next destination has to offer.
Plan a day trip full of local flavor and get back in time with these same-day options.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout York.
York Minster is the largest medieval cathedral in northern Europe, and one of the world's most beautiful Gothic buildings. Seat of the archbishop of York, primate of England, it is second in importance only to Canterbury, seat of the primate of all England – the separate titles were created to settle a debate over the true centre of the English Church. Note that the quire, east end and undercroft close in preparation for evening service around the time of last admission.
MuseumNational Railway Museum
York's National Railway Museum – the biggest in the world, with more than 100 locomotives – is well presented and crammed with fascinating stuff. It is laid out on a vast scale and is housed in a series of giant railway sheds – allow at least two hours to do it justice. The museum also now includes a high-tech simulator experience of riding on the Mallard (£4), which set the world speed record for a steam locomotive in 1938 (126mph).
MuseumJorvik Viking Centre
Interactive multimedia exhibits aimed at bringing history to life often achieve exactly the opposite, but the much-hyped Jorvik manages to pull it off with aplomb. It's a smells-and-all reconstruction of the Viking settlement unearthed here during excavations in the late 1970s, experienced via a 'time-car' monorail that transports you through 9th-century Jorvik (the Viking name for York). You can reduce time waiting in line by booking timed-entry tickets online; there is almost always a queue to get in.
Historic BuildingBarley Hall
This restored medieval townhouse, tucked down an alleyway, includes a permanent exhibition of life in the times of Henry VIII. It was once the home of York’s Lord Mayor. The centrepiece is a double-height banquet hall decorated with the Yorkshire rose – peek at it through a window in the alleyway if you don’t want to pay to enter.
Most of York's Roman archaeology is hidden beneath the medieval city, so the superb displays in the Yorkshire Museum are invaluable if you want to get an idea of what Eboracum Roman York was like. There are maps and models, funerary monuments, mosaic floors and wall paintings, and a 4th-century bust of Emperor Constantine. Kids will enjoy the dinosaur exhibit, centred on giant ichthyosaur fossils from Yorkshire's Jurassic coast.
The Shambles takes its name from the Saxon word shamel, meaning 'slaughterhouse' – in 1862 there were 26 butcher shops on this street. Today the butchers are long gone, but this narrow cobbled lane, lined with 15th-century Tudor buildings that overhang so much they seem to meet above your head, is the most picturesque in Britain, and one of the most visited in Europe, often filled with visitors wielding cameras.
Historic BuildingMerchant Adventurers' Hall
York's most impressive semi-timbered building is still owned by the fraternity that built it almost 650 years ago and it is the oldest surviving guildhall of its kind in Britain. The owner was originally a religious fraternity and one of the hall's chambers is still a chapel, but the building's name refers to the pioneering business exploits that made the fraternity's fortunes while 'adventuring' their money in overseas markets at a time when York was an important international port.
Historic BuildingTreasurer's House
This historic home, which once housed York Minster's medieval treasures, is an anomaly: in the 19th century it was bought by Yorkshire industrialist Frank Green as a collection of rundown interconnected properties. At great expense and using historical archives, Green spent years remodelling the house to what it might once have looked like, but refused to pick just one period, resulting in a collection of authentic-looking rooms that span from medieval times to the 18th century.
In the grounds of the peaceful Museum Gardens, you can see the Multangular Tower, a part of the City Walls that was once the western tower of the Roman garrison's defensive ramparts. The Roman stonework at the base has been built over with 13th-century additions. On the other side of the gardens are the ruins of St Mary's Abbey dating from 1270 to 1294. The ruined Gatehall was its main entrance, providing access from the abbey to the river.
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in York.