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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 01 December, 2022
Expert travel writer: Will Hide

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.

Price from: £13
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 10+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

York is a compact city and wherever you’re staying it’s not going to take you more than 15 minutes to reach this museum on foot. The museum is around 25 minutes’ walk from the train station; the nearest car park is the Castle car park.

It gets extremely busy in school holidays, so it’s worth booking a ticket in advance. Entry tickets are valid for a year, so you don’t have to rush around to see everything on your first visit.

Access to York Castle Museum is included in the York Pass, which gives discounts and deals on attraction entry.

When to do it

The museum is open all year round, Wednesday to Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

The Grand

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[0.8 miles]

The Grand lives up to its name, with a chic cocktail bar, one of the city’s best restaurants and a sleek, subterranean spa. 

Official star rating:

Dean Court Hotel

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[0.8 miles]

A stone’s throw from York Minster, this trio of 19th-century townhouses has the best location in town, close to all of the city’s main attractions.

Official star rating:

Grays Court Hotel

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[0.8 miles]

A city centre hotel with a top-notch restaurant in an elegant 11th-century building, tucked away down a cobbled lane at the back of York Minster. 

Official star rating:

The Fat Badger

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[0.9 miles]

A former 18th-century grocery store, this is a cosy, charming inn set next to one of the city’s medieval gateways.  

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience


Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

York’s dramatic past – from Roman settlements to Viking invasions – has created one of Britain’s most beautiful historic cities, home to the world-famous York Minster and the most complete medieval walls in the country.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Walk York’s Roman city walls

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[0.7 miles]

Walking York’s ancient city walls – the best-preserved in Britain – offers glimpses of the city’s rich history, with fortified towers, Roman gateways and a wonderful view of the medieval rooftops.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free | 2 houra

York Minster

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[0.8 miles]

York Minster is northern Europe’s finest Gothic cathedral, taking 250 years to build, and famous for its vividly beautiful stained glass.

Best for ages: 18+ | £12

National Railway Museum

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[1.3 miles]

Europe’s premier railway museum boasts every type of train from steam locomotives to the only bullet train outside Japan – a wet-weather winner for kids of all ages.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free

Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

Hill-top fortified tower on a sunny day with stairs leading up to it

Clifford’s Tower

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[0.1 miles]

Built by William the Conqueror, this is one of York’s most iconic landmarks – in its time, it has been a royal mint, a medieval stronghold and a Civil War garrison. Head up to the roof deck for the best city views.

Best for ages: 4+ | £8

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Overview >
Man posing on execution block with a mannequin holding an axe above him

York Dungeon

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[0.3 miles]

An alternative way to explore York’s history using actors to tell local tales. It’s a fun activity for rainy days, but not really suitable for under eights or easily-scared adults. 

Best for ages: 13+ | £18

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Overview >
Sign advertising the start of a ghost walk visitor tourist attraction

Ghost Walk in York

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[0.4 miles]

With 2,000 years of history, it’s easy to believe the claims that York is Europe’s most haunted city. Find out for yourself on one of several nightly ghost walks.

Best for ages: 13+ | £8 | 1-2 hours

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Overview >
view of a narrow street with people in it

The Shambles

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)[0.4 miles]

York’s most famous and well-preserved medieval street. Harry Potter fans love it for its resemblance to Diagon Alley, although author JK Rowling says that’s pure coincidence.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Overview >