25 Top things to do York City and the best tourist attractions
This is your complete guide to the top things to do in York on your visit. I have done a few overnight and 2 night stays in York and I love this historic city. York is a place for everybody; couples, families, kids and tourists from all over the world.
You will get see things like the National Railway Museum York, York walls, York castle or the York minster on your visit. This is your ultimate post for the best attractions in one of the top cities in the UK to visit! There’s also a good stream of upcoming events in York for you to check out on your visit such as music events at the racing track.
You will have the chance to roam the York city walls, take amazing photos of the quirky Shambles Street (Diagon Alley inspiration), try delicious fudge at the York fudge shop and discover the brilliant history building at Clifford’s tower. Also, the is many awesome places to stay in York and the shopping in York is fantastic. If you’re looking for unusual things to do in December, then you should check out the York Christmas festival for a magical experience.
Stuck for time? Here are some top hotels in York:
Is York Worth Visiting?
Yes, yes, yes! York is an amazing city to visit.
People who have not been to York City before will tend to ask is York worth visiting? Let me tell you, York is one of the best cities to visit in the UK. Which is why tourists from all over the world travel to York! This history of York is really interesting and the history still visually lives on now through the cobbled streets and streets such as the Shambles.
What is York Famous for? York city is famous for many things such as the Shambles Street (which is known as the York Harry Potter street) and other places like the York Minster.
It was the Romans that founded this epic UK city.
York is part of the Yorkshire county.
You should check out my best things to do in Manchester guide!
Best time to visit York?
There’s not the best time to visit York! You will probably know already that the weather in England is not the best and the summertime is unpredictable. So, you can’t plan a summer break in York and be guaranteed good sunshine.
Summer is not always the best time anyway for a lot of tourists. Some people prefer seeing York at Christmas. Christmas time in York is amazing and there is a really warm atmosphere. Also, shopping is one of the best things to do in York at Christmas time, but expect plenty of crowds!
To summarise, there is no guaranteed the best time to visit, it’s just what you prefer to do.
Top things to do to have an amazing time
The are plenty of amazing and fun things to see and places to go in York on your visit.
So let’s have a look at some the best York attractions:
1. Walk down the shambles street (Diagon Alley)
York Shambles Street is the most famous place to go to York. It is filled with, shops, cafes and old historic pubs. Shambles street is narrow, cool and filled with culture. Also, a fun fact, the Shambles has won an award of Google for Britain’s Most Picturesque Street. The street can be filled with waves of people taking in the amazing sights. So, just be wary of the crowds if you are going on a weekend. However, for this is a free thing to do in York and it’s one of my favourite York points of interest. It’s opened daily from early till late (Shops may vary). This amazing and quirky street in York was the inspiration behind the Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movie trilogies.
2. York Minster
This proudly one of the most Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe. Taking 250 years this build this iconic landmark, the York Minster stands proudly in the centre of York and is not one to miss with the camera and his will always on the list for top things to do. If you’re looking for unique and unusual places to go in York, then you should check this out! The actual price to enter the York Minster is; Adults £10 | Concessions £9 | Children (8-16) £5 (there’s an extra charge if you want to climb the tower). If you’re looking for the best York attractions then this is one of them.
3. Walk along York’s City Walls
If you’re like me and enjoy a good walk, this should be on your priorities of activities and walks to do in the city. The York’s City Walls walks are perfect for making your way around the outer perimeter of York and taking in some fantastic scenery, the walk is around 3 kilometres long, but don’t worry there are multiple points for getting off the wall. The walls are a 3.4km circuit of medieval stone walls and did you know they’re the best-preserved city walls in England, making them one of the best places to visit. If you ask any Brit about popular York attractions, then they will no doubt mention the awesome York’s city walls. They’re opened daily at (8.00 am and closed at dusk). Check out Globo Surf for hiking guides.
If you enjoy awesome hikes, check out the Scafell Pike routes post.
4. Visit the Jorvik Viking Centre
If you’re looking for something unusual to do in York, then you should visit the Jorvik Viking centre. This is a museum of mannequins that represent the historic Vikings. This is one of the coolest attractions in York that will take you back in time to learn about the history of the scary York Vikings. How long does it take to visit the Jorvik Viking centre? You can spend anything from 30-90-minutes exploring the museum. There are also some awesome free museums in York for you to visit.
5. Explore the National Railway Museum
You may not be the biggest fan of museums, but you should visit York’s National Railway Museum on your travels. You will find awesome trains here such as the Shinkansen bullet train and trains which was used bu Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. If you’re looking for unusual things to do around York for free, then this should be on your itinerary. The children would love it here. The York railway museum is free, however, there is a donation box. This probably is one of the best things to do. The Flying Scotsman is at York Railway Museum. So, you may have a chance to see the Flying Scotsman when the train does tours around the UK. There was a scene in the Harry Potter movie when the Flying Scotsman made in appearance. Overall, this is one of the best things to do on your visit.
6. Hike around Clifford’s Tower
Originally built by William the Conqueror as he sought to bring the whole country under his control, this is one of the most-visited alternative and best things to do. York’s Clifford Tower sits on top of a hill in the city, that you climb via steps. There is no need to pay to go in. You can enjoy the Clifford Tower for free, with great views. If you’re looking for free things to do, Clifford’s towers are one of the best places to visit. However, you will have to pay to enter the tower. The Clifford’s tower opened daily 10 am–6 pm. The Clifford’s tower entrance fee is English Heritage Members Free | Adults £4.20 | Concessions £3.80 | Children (5-15) £2.50.
If you like awesome hikes, check out my best things to do in Ambleside post.
7. Taste Some amazing fudge at the Fudge Kitchen
The finest fudge shop in England. The York’s fudge Kitchen is a gem for food indulgence and you can call in here and witness the weird way in which fudge is made. Then, the friendly staff will let you taste the warm Delicious fudge. The fudge can be a little on the expensive side if you do decide to buy any. Nevertheless, the price is worth it for the amazing array of flavours. Top fun things to do for free in York for ultimate mouth-watering goodies. If you’re a foodie, then this is one of the best things to do for you! The York kitchen is opened daily at 10 am–6 pm.
8. Taste some chocolate at York’s Chocolate Story
Want to take a journey through the history of chocolate? York’s Chocolate Story is the place to do it. You can be educated on the entrepreneurial side of chocolate and how it became a revolution in England. Also, bringing the pride of chocolate home to York. If you’re looking for unusual things to do, then you should visit this tasty treat shop! Also, if you looking for what to do in York for kids, then this is where you should bring them. All children love chocolate. What time does York’s chocolate story opens daily from (10 am and the last tour is at 4 pm).
The York’s Chocolate story entrance fee is Adults £12.50 | Concessions £11.50 | Students £11.50 | Children (aged 4-15 years) £10
9. Walk down York Shambles Market
The Shambles Market is a historic and vibrant market situated in the heart of Europe’s largest single pedestrianised area. Home to more than 85 stalls, the Market is a one-stop-shop for all your daily requirements and special purchases, including beautiful pottery, artisan bread, crafts, handbags, mobile phones, pet foods, army surplus and vintage clothing. And this is one of the most popular York attractions to check out whilst visiting this historic city in England. Markets are one of my favourite, fun and free things to venture into, wherever I visit and the Shambles Market does not disappoint and the shambles market lives up to the York historic culture, providing brilliant stalls. Also, there has been a market in York since the Viking times, since the 8th century. This epic market is one of the free things to see and do in York.
If you love amazing markets, you need to check out the Yorkshire market town on your travels.
10. Go in the scary York Dungeon
The York’s dungeons were opened in 1986. The York Dungeon is a 75-minute journey into more than 2000 years of York’s horrible history, bringing together horrible characters, immersive sets and thrilling special-effects in a unique and exciting walk-through experience that you see, hear, feel and smell. This is one you should visit if you like scary fun as it may be a little freaky. But, it is worth a visit as it is an unusual thing to do in York. The York’s Dungeon opens daily from 10 am – 5 pm and the entrance fee is on the door £22.50 | Online £11.00. You should try and get a 2 for 1 York Dungeons ticket.
11. Go shopping in York
There are plenty of shops in the York centre and if it’s your first time visiting York, then you will more than likely be visiting the shops. Also, there’s a Primark in York! Everyone loves to visit a Primark superstore. This is a great place to pick up a bargain. However, one of the best places for shopping in York is the designer outlet. This York shopping experience provides an outlet for designer shops. With shops such as Nike, Adidas and Fossil. The prices are cheaper than the main street shops. There is a good range of shops available with everything from clothing to electrical appliances. Also, there are places to eat if the family is feeling peckish. What time does the York shopping outlet open? Opened daily from 10 am-8 pm. Furthermore, check out the York designer outlet for some of the best shopping in York!
Side note – Have you seen my ultralight backpacking gear list for travel essentials.
12. Visit the York Races
Do you enjoy a summer’s day watching horse racing? Then why not check out the famous York races and splurge a few dollars on bets 🙂 This is one of the most popular things to see in York for visitors from all over the UK. Also, this is not just to see the horses, the race ground also holds many festivals and gets some big named acts performing here. I know over the past few years, stars such as Jess Glynne have performed here.
13. Watch a movie at Vue Cinema York
Looking for relaxing things to do with children in York? Then head to the Vue cinema in York. All kids love a good movie at the cinema with some popcorn and a drink. This sweet cinema shows all the latest films for all ages of the family. The vue in York also shows 3D films for most big movies which are an awesome experience. If you’re looking to pass a few hours or relaxing things to do when it’s raining in York, then you have this sweet cinema as one of your best options.
14. Afternoon Tea at the York Betty’s tea room
Afternoon tea in York is a must for all travellers who have been on their feet all day and fancy a good ‘ol cuppa. The famous Betty’s tea room is probably the best and most visited places in York for a piece of cake and a tea or coffee. This famous cafe is known for outstanding tea, coffees, lunch and best of all, the cakes. The sweets on offer here are amazing and there will be a cake suited to your taste-buds. The Betty’s tea room opening times are Sunday to Friday 09:00 – 21:00 and Saturday 08:30 – 21:00
15. Yorkshire Museum
The Yorkshire Museum is one of the most popular for you to visit. You get to learn on various areas such as; geology, archaeology, biology and astronomy. This is also an awesome place to visit in York when it’s raining with the typical rainy weather in York.
The Yorkshire museum ticket prices can be seen below;
- YMT Card Holder FREE
- Adult (with 10% Gift Aid Donation) £8.00
- Adult (without donation) £7.27
- Child (16 and under*) FREE with a paying adult
- Student/Young Person** £5.60
- York Resident (with 10% Gift Aid Donation)*** £6.40
- York Resident (without donation)*** £5.82
- Visitors on Universal Credit*** £4.00 / FREE for York Residents on Universal Credit
- With a YorkCard 20% off day tickets
16. York Art Gallery
If you enjoy gazing at amazing art, then you need to visit the York Art Gallery on your visit to York. You can see all kind of cool painting here as well as some crazy sculptures. I know not everyone is into artistic things, but you may find the paintings here interesting and to be fair some of them are very cool to see. This is a public art gallery and the team their welcome guests to enjoy the art that can be seen there. Furthermore, you can check out the York Art exhibitions here.
17. Get lost in a Maze
If you’re looking for activities in York to do with the kids, then you need to check out the York maze. An adventure area that takes you through a challenging journey through a large maze. This is one of the activities that all the family can get involved.
Prices are – Adults £16.00 | kids £15.00.
18. National Trust Beningbrough Hall
If you’re looking for something a little unusual to do in York, then you should visit the National Trust Beningbrough Hall. As soon as you arrive at this place you will appreciate the stunning gardens and well-maintained architecture. If you enjoy being outdoors and marvelling at flowers, then you will love it here! To be fair, you can take some awesome Instagram worthy photography. After walking around the amazing gardens, you can sit down and have lunch at the Beningbrough hall restaurant and cafe.
Also, if you’re looking for things to do with dogs in York then you will be happy to know that you can include your dog in the admissions. happy days.
19. The shop that must not be named
This is the ultimate Harry potter shop if you’re looking to purchase Harry Potter merchandise. The shop that must not be named (actual name) is a licence to sell all the official Harry Potter wands, gifts and any other merchandise you want. Even if you don’t want to buy anything it’s worth calling in the shop that must not be named to explore the Harry Potter Merchandise available. If you’re a true Harry Potter fan, you will love it here! There are also gifts for all budgets.
The shop that must not be named opening times are Monday till Sunday 10 am – 6 pm. You can find it located on Shambles Street.
20. The bloody tour of York
This has been regarded as one of the best tours in York and has even won awards. You will be taken on a journey into 2,000 years plus of history with a girl named “mad Alice”. She’ll make sure you have an amazing time whilst you learn about;
- Guy Fawkes
- And more
The tour is every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6.00pm and 8.00 pm. You can expect the tour till last about 90 minutes.
You can book a scary tour here.
21. Visit the Golden Fleece York
If you’re looking for scary things to do in York then you need to visit the Golden Fleece. This pub is deemed as “the most haunted pub in York”. It’s not just a frightening pub, you will get amazing service during your visit and the food is also excellent!
The is a lot of history around the building for you to learn about. Also, there may be a chance you will get to see a ghost. There have been sightings of ghosts here in the past! If you don’t believe me, check out this Youtube video;
22. Explore the beautiful countryside
There are some spectacular places to visit outside of York. You can spend days exploring the lush countryside. If you’re staying in York, you could just do a day trip outside of the city and go to do one the awesome hikes in the nearby national parks.
Let’s look at some of the best places to see near York;
- Yorkshire Moors.
- The Yorkshire Dales National Park
- The fishing town of Whitby
- And my favourite the Lake District
You may also want to check out the amazing Kendal on your travels.
23. Explore the York Museum Gardens
The York museum gardens are a stunning lush environment that you can easily spend a few hours wandering around the amazing grounds. The gardens are easy to get to as they’re in the centre or York next to the River Ouse. Furthermore, the York museum gardens are over 100 years old and were created by the Yorkshire Museum and the Yorkshire Philosophical Society.
There’s also a cool little gift shop for you to have a nosey in and every now again you can find events in the museum gardens. For example, there was a Jurassic world exhibition which was perfect for all the family.
24. Get a York Pass for your trip
If you’re looking to see all the best things to do in North Yorkshire and York, then you should get the York Pass. This is the ultimate pass for seeing all the top attractions. Gives entry to 45+ York & beyond attractions, saving money on admission prices whilst seeing the best the city and beyond has to offer.
The York pass is easy to use and you can download it on your mobile. Also, there’s a free guidebook and 24 hour York City Sightseeing bus ticket included. New for 2019, pasta or pizza at ASK Italian (T&Cs apply). Plus discount vouchers for ghost walks, evening river cruise, taxis and car hire.
The York Pass costs £45 for adults.
25. Fairfax House
Faifax House is a family run, independent guesthouse situated in the heart of York. Enjoy original features including oak beams and secret cupboards discovered during a recent restoration. The house boasts luxurious en-suite bedrooms, all with our new bed menus – featuring four different types of mattress to choose from. The bedrooms have been designed and decorated stamping our unique imprint throughout.
The best bars in York for some fun nightlife
If you’re visiting York on a weekend city break in England, then you want to make the most out of your visit. So, I suggest seeing the nightlife in York and experiencing some of the historic pubs this unique city has to offer.
You don’t have to have a wild night, we didn’t. But, you can go out have a few beers and get merry. Okay, let’s look at some of the best of York pubs.
If you’re on a budget in York, then I would visit the King’s arms. This is an awesome pub that you get a drink between (£2-£3.50), not expensive prices for York. Also, this pub is a hot spot in summer, with chairs outside you can get in the summer vibe here.
The Ye Olde Starre Inn is another really popular place to drink in York at night. This is a classic old-style pub that you need to checkout, even if it’s only for one drink!
Are you looking for a more upbeat night out in York? Want to shake your stuff to some music? Then I have just the place for you! So, you should check out the revolutions bar as this is one of the best places to drink in York at the weekend if you want a lively atmosphere.
Do you want a place that’s cool, trendy and does epic cocktails? Then check out the Nook on your break in York, this is not a big bar. However, it is a cool trendy little place to relax and have a few beers.
You can also check out this epic list of upcoming events in York for some ideas of things to do.
Here are some other popular things to do near York;
7 places to eat in York
There are plenty of best places to eat in York to choose from. And, you will be spoilt for choice at the number of places to eat in York. I love the food available and York caters for all options, whether you are a vegan or a meat lover, you will certainly find something for your taste in York.
I have created this list for you of some of the best restaurants in York to visit;
- The punch bowl – This top place to eat in York that offers a great atmosphere for you to enjoy a true English pub in York. The punch bowl offers great tasting food with a good menu. It also offers a comfortable environment for you to relax and enjoy a few drinks. This is also a great place to visit at Christmas in York.
- The park restaurants – If you are looking for fine dining in York, then this is one of your best options. At this fine restaurant in York, you will be served fresh and very tasty ingredients with all your meals. You will see this restaurants rating on TripAdvisor is brilliant. If you’re on a luxury break in York, then I would highly recommend this restaurant.
- Corner grill house – Are you looking for a top grill house restaurant in York? Then this is it. The food is epic, the service excellent and you will find a great atmosphere here at the grill house. You will have a sweet evening. The customer service at this top restaurant in York is amazing and they will make you feel special from the moment you walk through the day.
- Spring espresso – If you are looking for a top coffee shop in York, then I would highly recommend this epic tasting coffee spot. The coffee here is epic, I do like a good coffee. They also sell food for you and you can stop here for a tasty breakfast or afternoon lunch.
- Melton Restaurant York – This is the place to eat in York if you want to try out some traditional British food. This is more of a place if you’re looking for something more upmarket. It’s not suited for budget travel. But hey, if you’re on a luxury break to York then you should try this place out.
- Delrio’s Restaurant – If you’re an Italian foodie then this is the place to dine for you. Also, the structure inside is very quirky and this is one of them Instagrammable restaurants in York.
- Skosh – At this top restaurant you will find delicious food on the menu. The service here is good and you can expect to be well looked after by the team.
Where to stay in York such as an Airbnb?
There is plenty of accommodation in York for you to stay such as Airbnb York and a lot of the hotels in York are amazing. There is plenty of cheap and luxury rooms available depending on what type of visit you’re on. If you are looking for a great location, there is plenty of places to stay in the centre of York.
York also offers places to stay that offer an overnight spa stay for your visit. I have done an overnight spa break in York and it was amazing. You can enjoy the spa treatment and then head off into the centre of York for food and drinks.
Here is a list of my favourite place I stayed at and some other epic places to stay in York.
- Premier Inn York – If you looking for a great hotel in York, then I recommend the York Premier Inn. There is a lush setting, based in a quiet area and the customer service is awesome. Check room prices
- The Churchill Hotel in York – I stayed in the Churchill Hotel York and would like to share my experience at this central top hotel in York. A gift voucher allowed me a one night stay here. This hotel was a random pick to go with a gift voucher, it turned out to be a fantastic pick. The hotel is a British classic, themed on the great Winston Churchill. The Churchill hotel is in a great location to York’s centre, situated close to the outside of York’s historic walls. It took us around 6 minutes to walk from the hotel to the famous Shambles street, which is the centre of York more or less. I would highly recommend staying here on your visit to York. It’s in a perfect location, affordable and offers amazing service. Find a room
- York Boutique House – Another awesome place to stay in the York boutique house. See rooms
- Riverside apartment York – The location is excellent and you can to walk into central York quite easily within 10-minutes. You can even find plenty of York’s attractions even closer, for example, the famous Castle museum of York is just around the corner of this top place to stay in York. Book a room
- The fort boutique hostel – This epic accommodation is the first boutique hostel to be found in York. It can be found in the great location of the famous Stonegate. This is a perfect stay for a backpacker or tourist in York looking for a place to stay that offers WiFi, TVs, chillout room to meet other tourists and in a perfect location in the centre of York. Check out the rooms
So, what is the best in York? As you can see from this post, York is an amazing place to visit in England and there is plenty of things to do. Whether you are doing a 1, 2 or 3-night stay in York, you will have an epic time at this historic place in England. York is also brilliant for a good night out, you could also visit the York horse races in summer.
If you are wondering whether to visit York for the first time, then I would highly recommend visiting. This is one of England’s best places to visit, no matter what time of year you are wanting to visit. New years eve in York is cool. If you need any more information, then ask any questions you need. I am more than happy to help you. To summarise, there is plenty of tops and free things to do.
If you’re looking for the top places to visit in the United Kingdom, why not check out Surf Snowdonia in Wales.
Looking for the best cities to visit in the UK? Check out the best things to do in Wakefield or one of my favourite places in Liverpool, check out the rooftop bars in Liverpool for an epic summer day out.
Thanks for reading my UK travel blog and I hope to catch you soon.
Don’t forget Airbnb York accommodation!