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17 Best things to see & do in York

  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Will Hide
  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

View of Roman city walls on a sunny day surrounded by a grass bank

Bucket List Experience

Walk York’s Roman city walls

Originally built in the Roman period as a defensive structure, and still encircling the old city today, York’s 4m-high, 3.4km-long city walls are the best-preserved city walls in Britain.

Open every day, they’re a unique – and free – way of seeing the city; the chance to look down from above and knit together the Roman Streets, Minster and medieval rooftops gives a real sense of the city as it would have been hundreds of years ago.

The imposing stone towers that were the original fortified entryways into York still remain at Bootham Bar, Micklegate Bar, Monk Bar and Walmgate Bar. As you walk, look out for the arrow slits, musket loops, sculptures and mason’s marks, as well as the wonderful rooftop views.

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 2 houra

  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Outside view of medieval cathedral on a sunny day

Bucket List Experience

York Minster

There has been a place of worship on the site of York Minster since the 7th century, and the current building – which took over 250 years to build and was finally finished in 1472 – is considered northern Europe’s finest Gothic cathedral.

Famous for its hand-carved, vaulted interiors and vividly beautiful medieval stained glass, this is a must-do even for those who wouldn’t normally include a church in their sightseeing rounds. Don’t miss the 600-year-old Great East Window, believed to be the biggest of its kind in the world, with 311 individual, unique glass panels.

Once you’ve explored the main nave and transepts, head downstairs to the undercroft, which includes the remains of a Roman barracks and an Anglo-Saxon cemetery.

You can book onto a ‘Hidden Minster’ tour with an expert guide, to see parts of the Minster normally closed to public access – such as a tour of the Chapter House roof or to see the skills of stonemasons whose job it is to repair the hundreds of medieval statues and gargoyles. You’ll hear untold stories about how parts of the Minster were built and the people who made it happen.

Adult price: £12

Good for age: 18+

  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Black steam locomotive with a red trim inside a large warehouse

Bucket List Experience

National Railway Museum

York was one of the original centres of the rail industry in Britain, so it’s fitting that the country’s premier train museum is here, housed in the city’s former train depot.

The National Railway Museum is the UK’s largest collection of trains and rail-related memorabilia, with over 100 historic locomotives and rolling stock (the earliest dating from around 1815), alongside model railways and experimental technologies, including a gyroscopic mono-rail car.

Steam enthusiasts will love the 200-year-old Colliery Railway locomotive, and the chance to experience riding on the footplate of the steam train Mallard – the fastest of its type in the world. The museum is also home to the royal carriage that carried Queen Victoria to Balmoral each year, while more contemporary travel is represented by the only bullet train outside of Japan.

Good for age: 4+

  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Person looking at human skeleton in a museum

Bucket List Experience

Jorvik Viking Centre

Jorvik was the Viking name for York, and the city was an important centre for the Vikings after they started raiding northern Britain from the 8th century onwards.

The Jorvik Viking Centre came about after an archaeological dig in the 1970s unearthed vast amounts of artefacts. Today the centre celebrates all things Viking, and is one of the most visited attractions in the city – as the lengthy queues outside at busy times attest.

The wait is worth it, though; where else can you tour round an authentically recreated Viking street in your own buggy, with the added joy of wafts from a Viking toilet!

Adult price: £15

Good for age: 4+

  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

This former Georgian prison is located on the original site of York Castle, built by William the Conqueror. It mixes historical re-creations with exhibitions on life – a seemingly haphazard collection of exhibits that combine to create a fascinating insight into the social history of York and beyond.

The highlight is Kirkgate, where visitors can experience life in Victorian Yorkshire by strolling down an almost life-size reconstruction of a Victorian Street. It’s an authentic re-creation, with cobbled streets and period shops based on real York businesses.

The building’s darker history is exhibited through the grim cells, one of which would have housed notorious highway robber Dick Turpin, before he was hanged on what is now York racecourse. Other notable exhibits include the toy museum, a World War I exhibit and a swinging Sixties exhibit.

It’s a great family attraction that brings history to life for even the most skeptical, eye-rolling child.

Adult price: £13

Good for age: 8+

Boat tours of York

  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Boats sailing down the River Ouse with people walking along the embankment

Experience

Get a different perspective on York while gently gliding down the River Ouse with jovial commentary. Lunch, afternoon tea and evening cruises are also offered.

Adult price: £12

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1-3 hours

Yorkshire Museum

  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior of medium-sized museum with lawn in front and a bed of flowers

Experience

Yes, Yorkshire is the theme, but here you’ll find everything from dinosaurs to Richard III. A surprisingly diverse museum and its spacious gardens are a lovely spot for a picnic afterwards.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 18+

York’s Chocolate Story

  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Interior of museum showing a variety of displays about chocolate

Experience

Five million KitKats are produced in York every day. You can’t tour the Nestlé factory, but here at St Helen’s Square you can find out all about the city’s sweet history and make your own chocolate.

Adult price: £15

Good for age: 4+

Betty’s

  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

The exterior and window display of the popular Betty's Cafe and Tea Rooms at night

Experience

This iconic tearoom opened in 1937 and there’s a good reason people queue for two hours for afternoon tea here. Book online in advance to avoid the wait.

Good for age: 13+

Cold War Bunker

  • York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Stairs leading up to a small, teal green entrance to a semi-subterranean bunker

Experience

If ever the Russians had pushed the little red button, a dedicated band of government workers would have survived here deep under the city’s streets. Entrance is by guided tour only.

Adult price: £9

Good for age: 8+