10 Fun Things to Do in the Historic City of York

Updated on December 14, 2017
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Poppy is a proofreader and a video game enthusiast. She lives in Tokyo and has two hamsters named Zelda and Hemingway.

York is a friendly, historical city in North Yorkshire, conveniently located two hours by train from London and two hours by train from Edinburgh. It is filled with history, charming cobbled streets, and medieval attractions as well as modern shops and restaurants. It has won several awards for best places to travel and according to the Independent newspaper, is one of the safest cities in the United Kingdom.

I lived in York for two years when I studied at York St John University and it's a beautiful city with a lot of great things to do. Here are ten fun things to do in York, some of which are free and easy to visit all year round.

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1. See York Minster

In the heart of York is this stunning architectural achievement, York Minster, a church which is still used for events and worship today. Students of York St John University also graduate here. The building is carefully maintained and it's a beautiful church that thousands of people each year travel to the city to see.


The inside is just as lovely, with a high ceiling, statues, stained glass windows, and a tranquil atmosphere. Spot the statues lined up and the dedication put into the maintenance of this place.

For an extra fee, you can also climb up the tower to the very top of the Minster, a great place to see the sunset.

2. Walk the City Walls

York, with its historically important location, has always been surrounded by walls at some time or another. The walls that remain have been knocked down and rebuilt, and now you can see them surrounding the centre of the city.


It's free to take a stroll on the walls and you'll see many things on your walk. Walking the entire length takes several hours and allows you to see a lot of pretty areas of the city.

3. Visit the York Dungeon

The Dungeons, which are also in London and Edinburgh, tell the darker side of York's history in a way that differs from your typical museum. York Dungeons is frightening and funny, featuring characters that tell real stories of the city of York long ago.


I'd recommend avoiding this if you're travelling with children who are under ten years old as it gets dark and can be frightening. York Dungeons is a must-see and a fun way to learn about local history!

4. Shop at the York Designer Outlet

Just outside the city is the York Designer Outlet, a shopping centre where you can get great discounts of up to 60% on clothes, kitchenware, household goods, brands, and food. The Designer Outlet features a Cadbury's store and shops from Hugo Boss, Bench, the Body Shop, Clarks, GAP, M&S, Nike, Superdry, and more.

There is also a food court, a play area for children, and free wifi throughout the building. It's a great place to get some retail therapy if your outdoor plans were spoiled by rain.

5. Go on a Ghost Walk

In line with York's spooky history, you can go on a Ghost Walk in the evening to explore some of the city's local folk stories and scary historic happenings. The walk is a lot of fun, and the guides are committed to their part.

6. Learn About Vikings

Another must-see attraction in York is the Jorvik Viking Centre. See how York looked almost 1000 years ago when it was the Viking city of Jorvik and experience rides and other attractions to see how people lived back then.


The Jorvik Viking Centre was recently reopened after it was refurbished in the wake of the devastating flood in late 2015.

7. Wander the Shambles

The Shambles is a group of charming cobbled streets that will really make you feel you've travelled back several hundred years. Located close to the Minster, these streets are clean and reminiscent of Old England.


Despite being filled with modern pubs, restaurants, and shops, the streets maintain their elegant, historic feel.

8. See the Yorkshire Museum and Castle Gardens

The Yorkshire Museum is a gem of natural history and local treasures. See rare birds, fossils, and archaeological treasures inside the five galleries available here.


The nearby Museum Castle Gardens are perfect for a warm day. The castle near York Station is in ruins, but you can go there and enjoy the surrounding gardens when the sun is out. The area is well-kept with flowers and nice views of the ruins of a castle that once stood tall and proud.

9. Have a Drink

York has a proud 365 pubs, one for each day of the year, so you'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a real British pub! Popular choices include The Maltings, The Black Swan Inn, The Hop, and the Golden Fleece, which is mentioned as a haunted establishment in one of the York Dungeons' stories.

10. Visit the National Railway Museum

The United Kingdom is the home of the first locomotive steam train, and what better place to explore the history of the railway than the National Railway Museum? The museum is free to enter and it is interactive and suitable for the whole family. It features a Japanese "shinkansen" bullet train, the famous Rocket, and the Hogwarts Express train from the Harry Potter movies.

With these ten fantastic activities in York, you won't be bored in one of England's most beautiful cities! A trip to this Viking town is well worth it, especially with its handy location from other popular cities. Which activity will you do first?

© 2017 Poppy


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    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 4 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      There certainly is! I hope you get to visit someday.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      York is one of the cities in England I like to visit. There is so much history in it for me to enjoy.

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 5 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Hope you can make it one day, Angel!

    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 5 weeks ago from Joliet, Illinois

      I'd love to visit!

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 5 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Hi Cedric! There’s a lot to see and do in York for sure. I hope you get to visit again!

    • CYong74 profile image

      Kuan Leong Yong 5 weeks ago from Singapore

      I've been to York once over 10 years ago, and only visited the Minster. Looks like I missed out a lot!

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 6 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      The whole building was flooded and evacuated. 4 million pounds was spent on refurbishment! I can't wait to go, myself. I haven't been to York since 2014.

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      GlenR 6 weeks ago from UK

      I love York. It’s only an hour on the train from my home and you have inspired me to re-visit. When the weather gets warmer! I didn’t know the Jorvik Centre had been affected by the floods. Was the excavated area damaged?

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 6 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I’m so glad they liked it!

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 6 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thank you, Louise! York is gorgeous, I love it a lot. When did you go to the Railway museum? I used to work there!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 6 weeks ago from USA

      My extended family traveled there in 2998 and visited the dungeons, church, and went on the ghost walk. A lot of fun!

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 6 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      Me and my late husband went to York a few years ago for a long weekend. We did most of the things you mentioned. The Ghost Walk was good fun. And I enjoyed walking down The Shambles too. York is a stunning city. I'd love to go back there sometime. We visited The National Railway Museum on our last day. I loved it in there.

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 6 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thanks Patricia, but this article is about York, not New York :)

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 6 weeks ago from sunny Florida

      When I was a very young girl I traveled to New York on a trip with my high school class. It was thrilling as I had grown up in a town with a population of 100. I saw many of the places a first timer would see and it was so exciting. I have not returned but once or twice since then but on my next trip will definitely need to check out some of these suggestions.

      Angels are on the way this morning ps