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Top things to do in York

10 October 2016 ( 04 October 2018 )

Here are our top 10 things to do on a visit to this gem of the northeast.

The city of York
York evening cityscape - a view from the street with York Minster in the background

The walled city of York is a destination which combines all the quaint charm of olde worlde England with a host of interesting activities and attractions. A visit makes the ideal weekend getaway, whether it's with friends, family or that certain special someone.

1. Walk the city walls

Take a tour of the city along some of the best preserved walls in the country. The impressive 2.75 mile stretch of limestone is peppered with ancient gateways – look out for the foreboding vision of Micklegate where the heads of infamous traitors were once hung from the battlements.

2. Enjoy the café culture

The streets of York may not be paved with gold, but they are lined with countless quirky, independent cafes where you can rest your weary legs and enjoy a hot cuppa whilst watching the world go by.

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3. Wander The Shambles

A romantic and atmospheric network of streets surrounds The Shambles, a central lane resplendent with over-hanging, timber-framed buildings that will transport you right back to the 14th century. A collection of interesting shops are now located here, providing the perfect excuse to get thoroughly and delightfully lost.

4. Experience Viking life with the JORVIK experience

Before their historic defeat in 1066, Viking kings once held sway over York. Return to a more savage time at the JORVIK experience centre where you can learn about this fascinating culture through a variety of exhibitions, including a reconstruction of Viking-age streets.

5. Indulge in the sweet stuff

Those with a sweet tooth will find themselves in food heaven with The York Chocolate Story, an informative tour that details the history of the city's famous confectioners. You can even make your own bar to take home as a souvenir.

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6. Visit the Gothic Cathedral

York Minster is the largest medieval cathedral in Northern Europe and the jewel in York's architectural crown. A magnificent and awe-inspiring sight, make sure you leave plenty of time to admire the Roman columns of the crypt and climb the central tower where you can enjoy outstanding views over the city.

7. Discover the world of the railway

The National Railway Museum makes for a charming afternoon where you can indulge your inner child. Discover three centuries of railway history including the story of the World War I ambulance trains, a replica of Stephenson's Rocket, and a high-speed Japanese bullet train.

8. Explore the city's history at the Yorkshire Museum

The Yorkshire Museum and its rejuvenating gardens offer an excellent overview of York's colourful history, housed in the grandeur of a renovated Victorian building. Chart the influences of the Romans, Vikings and medieval life that are so prevalent throughout the city before a stroll through the 10 acre botanical gardens.

9. Walk through time at York Castle Museum

Another excellent interactive museum experience, York Castle Museum leads you on a journey through three hundred years of life in the city with replicate rooms and shops from the Georgian era all the way through to the 1980s.

10. Get spooked on a ghost tour

York is apparently the most haunted city in England. Whether you believe the eerie tales or not, the tours offer plenty of fascinating folklore and interesting tidbits of history too.

What have we missed? Email us on and let us know what should be included in this list!


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.