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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York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)|yorkminster.org|
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.
While you’re there
If you’re feeling energetic enough, climb up the 275 steps to the top of the tower for the best view of York and surrounding areas. By the toilets, look up at the stone carvings high above you… you’ll find a rather cheeky one from a 14th-century stonemason of a monkey putting a carrot up a donkey’s bottom!
Getting there & doing it
York Minster is at the heart of the city – visible from almost every street in the centre.
Basic entry tickets come with add-ons, including the Hidden Minster tour and access to climb the tower, so you can choose how much of the Minster you want to see. Entry is included if you’ve bought a York Pass.
If you’d rather explore independently, it is worth investing in the guidebook, or you will miss many of its treasures.
When to do it
York Minster is open all year round, seven days a week, although check the website for times when it might be closed for religious services.
Hidden Minister tours usually run once a week on a Wednesday (check the website as times/days do change).
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The great civilisations of the past have left a legacy of constructions that still stand out and inspire. Built without the wonders of 20th-century technology, many are also monumental feats of engineering; others offer such grace and beauty, that they’ll literally take your breath away.