A view of the River Ouse in York, England

10 Reasons To Visit York

7 November 2017
Read Time: 6.7 mins

Travelling to England? Why not fly into Manchester, and take the 90-minute drive to spend some time in the city of York? I guarantee you won’t regret it. York is a city steeped in British heritage and full of fantastic sights and activities that will suit every traveller and age group. I have visited York many times and always find myself enjoying each visit more than the previous. Here’s why.

The medieval city walls of York in spring. York's medieval city walls in the springtime.

1. The castle

Granted, not much of it is left standing today, but what is left of York Castle is worth the visit. You’ll get exceptional 360-degree views from the top of the castle, then take a lovely walk along the castle wall, which has now become the city wall and boasts one of my personal favourites, the castle entrance into the city. York Castle was huge and the remnants can be seen all across the city, having been masterfully incorporated into modern York.

The medieval buildings of the Shambles in York. The Shambles is considered one of the best-preserved medieval streets in the world.

2. The Shambles

This is the most visited street in all of Europe. I kid you not. The Shambles is everything great about old-time England. Walk along cobblestone streets and visit shops housed in buildings dating as far back as the 14th century. The architecture is stunning with many of the buildings overhanging the pathways creating a fantastic medieval atmosphere. There are some hidden laneways, or as they are officially known, Snickelways, that lead off the Shambles allowing you to explore more of vintage York.

The interior of the Grand Opera House in York. The interior of the Grand Opera House in York, a National Heritage listed building.

3. The history

York is rich in English history. There is plenty to see and do that reminds you of what life was like throughout the past. A lot of the buildings date as far back the early 10th century and have been masterfully restored to their original look.  The city council has done a fantastic job of preserving the history of York and it’s no surprise that the town has become arguably the museum capital of England. More on that below.

A woman walks down a coastal path in Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire. A moody coastal path in Robin Hood's Bay, which is south of Whitby and located within North York Moors National Park in North Yorkshire.

4. The scenery

Yorkshire is a county filled with stunning backdrops and landscapes, and York is just one of the places that boasts an abundance of natural beauty. You can enjoy a fantastic view by the Whitby Moors, or in one of the beautiful gardens around the city. If you don’t want to venture too far out, there are many picturesque picnic spots within the city around its well-maintained and clean canals and rivers.

The exterior of Yorkshire Museum and Gardens. Yorkshire Museum and Gardens showcases the city's varied history, including Roman and Viking exhibitions.

5. The museums

This is really a take-your-pick option. There are many museums to see in York and they are all worth a visit. The National Railway Museum is the most popular option for tourists and if you are travelling with little ones, this is a fantastic trip for them, too. If trains are not exactly your thing, you can visit the York Castle Museum, Yorkshire Air Museum, Yorks Chocolate Story, or DIG. I honestly can’t pick a favourite.

The exterior of York Minster and the Treasurers House in York. York Minster is the Cathedral of York and is the largest of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere.

6. The minster

I love visiting old chapels and churches in England and York Minster would rank as one of my top three. It is a feat of architectural brilliance. The intricacies of the stone masonry are stunning and make for some fantastic photo opportunities. York Minster is a fantastic place to relax after a day of exploring the city, and if you have a keen interest in religious history, it is a definite must. Ask to listen to the organ, it’s a beautiful musical instrument and the talented organists thoroughly enjoy what they do and showing off a little.

A York ghost walk tour guide. A tour guide spooks tourists on a ghost walk of York.

7. The tours

There are many tours worth doing in York and not nearly enough time, so you might have to extend your stay. A visit to the York Dungeon sits high on the list. A great adventure that compares highly with the London Dungeon, it has recently undergone a revamp and offers much more to visitors. If you want to tour a little more on the spooky side, then you have to do the York Ghost Tour by vintage bus. For those not into the otherworldly, Castle Howard and the York Walking Tour might just be more your style, and are definitely highly recommended.

8. The maze

York Maze is a fantastic day out for the whole family. This one is sure to keep the kids entertained, and surprisingly, adults get lost the most. You get to take a lovely tractor ride through the fields with some excellent comedic acting from the staff along the way. You can then take in the pig racing show – yes, pig racing – which is a huge favourite.  You can also hold an owl and visit the House of Confusion. Oh, and who could forget the actual maze?

9. The chocolate

I know you’ve been wondering about this one since I mentioned it further up. York can definitely lay claim to being the home of chocolate, as the Kit-Kat and Aero chocolates were created here. The most famous of confectionery families, the Rowntrees, started their sweet story in York. The York Chocolate Story tour immerses you in the origins of chocolates, how the chocolates get made, and they even teach you how best to eat chocolate (as if there is any one way) and so much more. End the visit with a trip to The Shambles and buy some more sweets from one of the beautiful chocolate shops lining the street.

St Mary's Abbey in York covered in snow in wintertime. The Abbey of St Mary is a ruined Benedictine abbey in York, and particularly atmospheric in winter.

10. The architecture

This is the one of the key features that separates York from the rest of England. The architecture in York is absolutely stunning. You’ll see some of the best masonry and stone carvings that are so rare to see today. From the big cathedrals to small houses that house some of the quaintest shops you will come across, York is packed with stunning architecture. The beautiful incorporation of the old and the new in all of the buildings makes every building a great place to visit.

All images: Visit Britain

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Ahmed Essof

Give me a pen and a notepad and I will paint you a wordy picture. Born in Zimbabwe, I initially moved to Australia, before deciding to call the UK home for a bit. Back in Brisbane, travelling has become second nature. I would never have it any other way. The only question to ask is, where to next?