York City Guide 5/5 (7)

York Minster

Welcome to our York City Guide. The famous medieval city offers visitors a wide range of fantastic attractions suitable for all the family. The line up includes world-class museums, famous landmarks and large-scale Theme parks and Zoos. In this guide, we will provide details of attractions located both within the city of York and in close proximity to the city. We will provide details on how to travel to the city and also recommend accommodation.

York City Discount Attractions

If there are multiple attractions that you wish to visit then it may prove cost-effective to purchase a York Pass.

York Pass

City Centre Attractions

Within the City of York, there are a number of fantastic attractions to suit all budgets. Highlights are walking the famous City Walls and The National Railway Museum, both of which are free of charge.

York City Walls

York City Walls

Since Roman times, York has been defended by walls of one form or another. Substantial portions of the City Walls remain, and visitors can walk them taking in the views of the wonderful city and surrounding area. At 3.4 kilometres long, the beautifully preserved walls are the longest medieval town walls in England. The City Walls are punctuated by four main gatehouses, or ‘bars’, (Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar). The Gatehouses restricted traffic in medieval times and were used to extract tolls, as well as being defensive positions in times of war. Approximately 2.5 million people walk along all or part of the City walls each year, enjoying some amazing views. The completion of the entire circuit takes approximately 2 hours.

The National Railway Museum

At The National Railway Museum, visitors can discover 300 years of transport history in the UK’s largest Railway Museum. The museum’s collection includes over 100 locomotives and 1,000,000 objects that changed the world. Explore rooms full of railway legends, including the majestic Duchess of Hamilton, the futuristic Japanese Bullet Train and the opulent Royal Trains. Watch engineers at work in The Workshop and delve into the social, technical and artistic impact of the railway. See and touch The Mallard the world’s fastest steam locomotive. York’s National Railway Museum is a fantastic attraction appealing to all the family and admission is free.

York Minster

In the centre of the city is York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe. York Minster was built in the thirteenth century, although additions were made throughout the next centuries. Surviving collapsed towers, reformation looting and civil war sieges, the cathedral was fully restored in the 20th century. You can take a look inside the minister or join a service for free. If you would like to discover more about this historic building, pay an admission fee and explore 2,000 years of history in the interactive museum or take a guided tour. Head up the central tower to enjoy the great views of York. A visit to this iconic building won’t disappoint.

The Shambles

The Shambles is one of the most infamous streets in Britain, it won the award for Britain’s Most Picturesque Street in 2010. Located in York City Centre, the famous street has a long and interesting past. The Shambles was a street of butchers shops and houses, many complete with a slaughterhouse at the back of the premises, ensuring a ready supply of fresh meat. Lacking modern-day sanitation facilities, there was a constant problem of how to dispose of the waste produced by the slaughter of animals in the city. As you walk down the cobbled street you can observe how the pavements are raised on either side to form a channel where the butchers would wash away their offal and blood twice a week. In some sections of the Shambles, if you outstretch your arms, it is possible to touch both sides of the street. The architecture which now appears so quaint had a very practical purpose. The overhanging timber-framed fronts of the buildings are deliberately close-set so as to give shelter to the ‘wattle and daub’ walls below. This would also have protected the meat from any direct sunshine.

Jorvik Viking Centre

JORVIK Viking Centre

Explore the stories of people living 1,000 years ago at Jorvik Viking Centre. The attraction is built on the site of one of the most famous and astounding discoveries of modern archaeology. Between 1976 and 1981 archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust, an independent educational charity, revealed the houses, workshops and backyards of the Viking-Age city of Jorvik as it stood nearly 1,000 years ago. Jorvik Viking Centre is built on the very site where these incredible discoveries took place. Visitors to the attraction can take a journey through the reconstruction of Viking-Age streets and experience life as it would have been in 10th century York.

The Hole In Wand

Located in York’s Coppergate Shopping Centre opposite Jorvik Viking Centre is The Hole in Wand an attraction that combines mini-golf with some spell-binding wizardry. Test your wand play over 9 magical holes including The Wizard’s Gathering, The Potions Cauldron, The Enchanted Library and The Tunnel of Truth.

Bettys York

No visit to York is complete without a trip to Bettys famous Cafe Tea Rooms, one of the citys most popular attractions. The beautiful interiors are inspired by the Queen Mary ocean liner. The menus feature a unique mix of continental classics and British favourites and their legendary afternoon tea.

Jorvik DIG

DIG is a hands-on archaeological adventure giving kids the chance to become trainee ‘diggers’ and discover the most exciting artefacts from 2000 years of York’s history. The attraction features four special in-door excavation pits. The pits are all based on real-life digs in the city of York, filled with replica Roman, Viking, medieval and Victorian finds. Children can grab a trowel and explore how people lived in these times.

Barley Hall

Barley Hall is a reconstructed medieval townhouse in the city of York, once home to the Priors of Nostell and a Lord Mayor of York. Originally built around 1360 by the monks of Nostell Priory. Until the 1980s the building was hidden under the relatively modern facade. it was only when it was going to be destroyed that the amazing medieval structure was discovered and its rich history uncovered.

The York Dungeon

The York Dungeon is one of York’s funniest and scariest attractions. The York Dungeon features 10 live shows, 75 minutes of fun and 2000 years of history. Come face-to-face with famous characters from York’s dark past.

York’s Chocolate Story

York's Chocolate Story

Uncover the History of Chocolate at York’s Chocolate Story. York’s chocolate-making history dates back almost 300 years. At its peak, over 14,000 people were employed in the city’s famous chocolate factories – Terry’s, Craven’s and Rowntree’s.

York Ghost Tours

The City of York has gained a reputation as one of the most haunted cities in the UK. It is often referred to as ‘the City of 1000 ghosts’. Thanks to this there is a wide range of Ghost Tours to choose from. York is incredibly atmospheric and there are historic buildings and landmarks on every corner. Visitors fall in love with the grand architecture and find themselves being drawn into a bygone age.

York Castle Museum

York Castle Museum is housed in an 18th Century prison building. The attraction gives an insight into how people used to live by displaying thousands of household objects and by recreating rooms, shops, streets and even prison cells. The museum details 400 years of York’s fascinating history including the infamous story of Dick Turpin.

Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s Tower is the largest remaining part of York Castle, once the centre of government for the north of England. The original 11th-century timber tower on top of the earth mound was burned down in 1190, after York’s Jewish community, some 150 strong, was besieged here by a mob and committed mass suicide. The Norman motte-and-bailey castle saw several violent incidents during its earliest years, including further revolts and an attack by Danish invaders. As the political situation settled down in the 1070s, however, the damage of these early years was repaired, and the castle, built largely of earth and timber, probably survived relatively unaltered through most of the 12th century.

York Cold War Bunker

York Cold War Bunker is one of the most modern and spine-chilling of English Heritage’s properties. The Bunker was designed as a nerve-centre to monitor fallout in the event of a nuclear attack. The bunker was in active service from the 1960s–1990s. Enter the blast-proof doors and uncover the secret history of Britain’s Cold War.

City Cruises York

Escape the city rush and enjoy York from a different perspective, with City Cruises York. The cruise offers an entertaining and informative tour of the River Ouse, which runs through the centre of York. The friendly and knowledgeable team guide you leisurely up and downstream, with regular departures from landing stages in the city centre.

Yorkshire Museum

The Yorkshire Museum is located in Museum gardens, alongside the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey. It offers varied exhibitions and souvenirs of Roman and Viking replicas.

Fairfax House

Fairfax House is one of England’s finest Georgian townhouses. Its richly decorated interior was designed by York’s most distinguished eighteenth-century architect, John Carr. A classical architectural masterpiece of its age, Fairfax House was originally the winter home of Viscount Fairfax. The house was extensively adapted in the twentieth century as a cinema and dance hall. The property was saved from decay and returned to its former glory by the York Civic Trust in 1982-84. Following its restoration, Fairfax House once more transports guests to the splendour of city-living in Georgian York, the centre of polite society. The home plays host to a superb Noel Terry collection of furniture, clocks, paintings and decorative arts. The collection was described by Christie’s as one of the finest private collections of the twentieth century.

Goddards House & Gardens

Goddards House was built in 1927 for Noel and Kathleen Terry of the famed chocolate-manufacturing family Terry’s. The National Trust now preserve this intimate Arts and Crafts style family home and complementary gardens. The house was designed by local architect Walter Brierley and the garden by George Dillistone.

Richard III Experience

The Richard III Experience is located at Monk Bar, one of four major fortified gateways on York’s city walls. Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England ruled for two years from 1483 to 1485. Discover more about his early life as his brother, Edward IV struggled for the throne of England with Henry VI. Enjoy multimedia presentations about the key battles of the Wars of the Roses and see armour from his reign. There is a special medieval camp featuring the gruesome bits of Richard III’s history provided by ‘Horrible Histories’ author, Terry Deary.

Henry VII Experience

Located at Micklegate Bar is the Henry VII Experience. He was the first Tudor King of England who ruled for twenty-four years after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. Learn about his early life as an exile Lancastrian heir to the throne, see the impact on the city of York as it continued to prosper throughout his reign and enjoy interactive experiences exploring life and death in Tudor times. Children will enjoy the special Tudor camp featuring the gruesome bits of Henry VII’s history provided by ‘Horrible Histories’ author, Terry Deary.

The Mansion House

Standing in the heart of the vibrant city, York Mansion House has been home to the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of York since 1732 and is still in use today. Beyond the grandeur of the prominent green doors and beautiful facade lies an inspiring, interactive environment where guests can experience the story of York’s past and present. See how every Lord Mayor from the middle ages to the present day has danced, dined and entertained.

Merchant Adventurers’ Hall

Set in beautiful gardens in the centre of historic York is the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. The stunning timber-framed building was constructed by a fraternity made up of York citizens to provide a base for charity, worship and business in the centre of the city on the banks of the River Foss. Today, as well as being a fascinating museum it is also a scheduled ancient monument and Grade 1 listed building.

York Brewery

Established in 1996 within the historic city walls, York Brewery is both a working brewery and a major tourist attraction providing customers locally and around the country with the first traditionally brewed ales from within the walls of York for over 40 years.

The Roman Bath

Take a trip down to the basement to see the Roman baths. On show is the ruins of the baths and many different items associated with when the baths were in operation. You can often find an archaeologist at work who provides guest with additional information about the site.

Treasurer’s House

Located directly to the north of York Minster is The Treasurer’s House. This Grade I listed historic house is owned by the National Trust who also maintain its garden. The cellars of Treasurer’s House are home to one of York’s most famous ghost sightings, that of Roman centurions in the 1950s.

York Army Museum

York Army Museum is home to the collections of the Royal Dragoon Guards and the Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire. York Army Museum tells the story of the British Army and its importance for Yorkshire in the last 300 years.

York Art Gallery

York Art Gallery presents a collection of paintings from 14th-century to contemporary, prints, watercolours, drawings, and ceramics.

Attractions Near York

In addition to the extensive range of attractions within the City of York, there are also some fantastic days out within an hour of the City. These range from major Theme Parks such as Flamingo Land Resort and Lightwater Valley to Historic Houses, Museums and Children’s Adventure Farms.

Flamingo Land Resort

Flamingo Land Resort - Flamingo 1

Flamingo Land Resort offers something for all the family. Combining an extensive Theme Park experience with Yorkshire’s favourite Zoo. The Park also has a fully-featured Resort Village. There are over 50 rides at the Theme Park. The 375-acre site includes nine roller coasters and two water rides. Located in the North Yorkshire countryside, Flamingo Land Resort provides great days out, fantastic short breaks and truly memorable holidays!

See our Offers Page for discounted entry to Flamingo Land Resort.

Lightwater Valley

Escape to Lightwater Valley Family Adventure Park and discover the excitement of a day bursting with fun and adventure. Around every corner, you’ll find something to captivate and intrigue.

York Maze

York Maze is the largest maze in the UK. The seasonal attraction has been created from over one million living, growing maize plants. Offering over 20 different rides, attractions and shows, York Maze is an award-winning fun-filled, day out in the country.

Piglets Adventure Farm

There is a wide range of attractions at Piglets Adventure Farm offering a full day of fun for the entire family. Located on the outskirts of York, attractions at Piglets Adventure Farm include Bouncing Pillows, Pink Barrel Train ride, Olym-Pig Assault Course and lots more.

The Web Adventure Park

Located just off the York Ring Road on the outskirts of the city is The Web Adventure Park. Attractions include Creepy Crawlies Indoor Play Centre, Outdoor Adventure Park, Water Play Area and The Animal Zone.

Yorkshire Air Museum

Located on the site of the former RAF Elvington airfield, Yorkshire Air Museum is the largest independent aviation museum in the UK. The World War Two airfield was used extensively by Allied bomber crews during the war. It is also the home of The Allied Air Forces Memorial.

Monk Park Farm

Monk Park farm is a brilliant family friendly visitor attraction near Thirsk in North Yorkshire. They have hundreds of friendly, cute animals to meet, and lots of fun farm-based activities for a wonderful day out to remember.

Castle Howard

Located 15 miles North of York is one of Britain’s finest stately homes. Castle Howard is a magnificent historic house with ornate interiors and beautiful landscaped gardens. The entire family will have an enjoyable day out at Castle Howard.

Beningbrough Hall

Beningbrough Hall is a large Georgian mansion near the village of Beningbrough, 8 miles north of York. The National Trust property has baroque interiors, cantilevered stairs, wood carving and central corridors which run the length of the house.

Byland Abbey

Maintained by English Heritage, Byland Abbey is the perfect place to stop on a family day out. Once one of the greatest monasteries in England, Byland Abbey inspired the design of church buildings throughout the North. Located in the North York Moors National Park, cyclists and Walkers can also enjoy a visit to Byland Abbey. A truly outstanding example of early gothic architecture, it inspired the design of the famous York Minster rose window.

Eden Camp Modern History Theme Museum

Eden Camp Modern History Theme Museum presents immersive displays that cover both social and military history, it is located near Malton, approximately 20 miles from York. The museum occupies a former Second World War prisoner-of-war camp with exhibits presented within the former prisoner huts. 250 Italian POW began the construction of Eden Camp in 1942. Once completed, over 1000 prisoners could be held at any one time. The attraction first opened as a museum in 1987, since then, with the help and support of visitors, it has grown into one of the largest and most comprehensive museums covering British military and social history from 1914 onwards.

Murton Park – Yorkshire Museum of Farming

The Yorkshire Museum of Farming is a thriving 16-acre site with events and activities throughout the year. It is a great attraction for families, comprising of a museum about the history of farming in Yorkshire, a replica Viking village and Roman fort, a nature trail, a variety of livestock and the Derwent Valley Light Railway.

North York Moors Railway

The North York Moors Railway (NYMR) runs from Pickering to Whitby, enjoy a day filled with vintage charm and amazing scenery on one of the world’s greatest heritage railways. The fleet of steam and heritage diesel trains transport you along 24-miles of Yorkshire countryside and back in time to experience a taste of a bygone era. The scenic route features locations that have been used for filming movies like Harry Potter and Heartbeat the popular ITV TV series.

Rievaulx Abbey

If peace and tranquillity are what you seek from a family day out in Yorkshire, then the impressive ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries is a perfect choice. The visitor experience shines a light on Rievaulx Abbey’s fascinating past and the lives of the monks who called Rievaulx Abbey their home.

Scampston Walled Garden

Scampston Walled Garden is a stunningly beautiful contemporary garden, quite unlike any other. Set within the 18th-century walls of the original kitchen garden for Scampston Hall, today the Walled Garden has an exciting and unashamedly modern feel to and complements the adjacent 18th-century ‘Capability’ Brown parkland.

York Pass

The York Pass offers free or discounted entry to a number of the cities world-class tourist attractions plus a 24-hour city sightseeing bus ticket and a choice of either a pizza or pasta meal at ASK Italian restaurant.

York Pass

Travelling to York

York is perfectly positioned midway between London and Edinburgh. Direct rail links will transport you from London, Edinburgh, and Manchester in around 2 hours. Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds/Bradford airports are within easy reach and the ports of Hull and Newcastle are both within a two-hour drive. The glorious Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and Yorkshire Wolds are all within close proximity of the city. York offers lots of accommodation within the city and the surrounding areas.

Travelling by Train

Getting to York by train is both easy and great value for money. Virgin Trains and Grand Central will bring you to York in under two hours, while Edinburgh is only two and a half hours away. There are direct services from Birmingham and the South West and additionally, TransPennine Express runs direct train services from Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. You can make great savings on advance train fares using Raileasy.

Travelling by Car

York is only 20 minutes from the M1/M62 motorway network, the city is within comfortable driving times of most regions in the UK. To make your trip to York even more convenient, six Park and Ride sites are in operation. They allow you to travel to York by car, park for free in secure car parks and complete your journey into the city centre by bus. To find the most convenient Park and Ride site click here.

Travelling by Coach

If you would like to travel by coach we recommend that you try National Holidays website.

Staying in York

There are loads of places to stay in and around York, with choices ranging from budget hotels to luxury self-catering hoilday cottages.

Self-Catering Accommodation

If you planning a longer stay then self-catering is a great option and will provide you with the opportunity to enjoy the attractions within the City of York and beyond. Snaptrip have some great deals on cottages, lodges and apartments in York and the surrounding areas.

City Centre Hotels

Hotels.com offer a wide selection of hotel of hotels in York. For those travelling on a budget we recommend Travelodge.

York City Guide was last modified: January 24th, 2024 by Dan

Author: Dan

I am passionate about Theme Parks and Attractions. I love riding roller coasters and thrill rides. With two young boys I understand how expensive family days out can be and this was one of the main driving forces behind Attractions Near me. My aim is to help you and your friends enjoy some great days out without costing the earth. Thanks for reading and have a great time - Regards Dan

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