Fantastic Things to Do in York
Taking a trip to York? Check out some of the best things to do in this vibrant city
Perfectly situated between London and Edinburgh, York is the ultimate getaway destination. Despite being a relatively small city, there's a large array of activities to get stuck in to, and plenty of incredible places to see. Discover a treasure trove of history and culture, dating as far back as the Romans and the Vikings (that's quite far back). With unique attractions, cobbled streets and an exciting calendar of events, York is one of those places that you’ll never forget. And speaking of impressive and unforgettable, here at Plum Guide, we provide you with the very best accommodation and advice to ensure that your trip away is a memorable one for all the right reasons. So before you head off, take a look at our handy guide on things to do in York, and heed our expert advice. You won't regret it.
Visit York Minster
York Minster is the definition of an iconic building, and should be on everybody’s list of things to do in York without exception. It’s one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world, and has been at the centre of Christianity in the north of England since the 7th century. Yes, the 7th. Step inside and marvel at the handcrafted stone features, the ornate ceiling, and the magnificent medieval stained glass windows. Take a guided tour to discover the cathedral’s hidden spaces and hear stories from its past, or head to the Undercroft Museum to see Roman and Viking artefacts. If you want to test your fitness levels, climb the 275 steps up to the Central Tower for unbeatable views of the city.
Enjoy the views from Clifford’s Tower
Another excellent location for sprawling views of the city is Clifford’s Tower, the fascinating remains of the once formidable York Castle. Having served as a prison and royal mint, the tower gets its name from Roger de Clifford who was executed and hung here for treason against Edward II. Charming. Thankfully, the panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside make it easy to forget the tower’s gruesome history. Climb up the hill to reach the tower's doors, before ascending up to its peak to walk around the walls, just like the tower guards once did. It’s a workout, but it's worth it. Just don't forget your camera.
Take the family to York Castle Museum
For more fascinating history, make sure you take a trip to the award-winning York Castle Museum. Get lost in 400 years of history, told through immersive experiences, excellent exhibitions, and amazing displays. Step back in time at the WWI exhibit to hear the stories of the locals who lived during the war, and admire the selection of artefacts on show. The museum’s buildings were once a Georgian prison too, so just when you think you've discovered all the fascinating history, along comes another tale. Deep down in the cells, you can visit the infamous residents and hear their chilling stories of harsh punishments and brutal conditions.
For something a little more light hearted, step onto the cobbles of Kirkgate, a recreated Victorian street complete with shops based on real life businesses - all of which operated in York between 1870 and 1901. Costumed guides will tell you everything you need to know about the shops, as well as how the city’s residents lived, learned, and entertained themselves. This is arguably the most iconic part of the entire museum, transporting you all back to a time before Youtube and Facebook (no kids, they haven't been around forever).
Stroll through The Shambles
Of all the wonderful things to do in York, this is one that you simply can’t miss. We clearly have a thing for little old streets, but wandering down The Shambles is the perfect way to spend an afternoon away from the stresses of work (remember that job you have?). With its narrow cobbled streets and timbered buildings, you'd be forgiven for thinking you’ve just stepped into Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter films - the lack of wand stores may bring you back to earth, though. This is one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval shopping streets, and although none of the original shop fronts have survived, the beautiful old buildings have been restored to their former glories. Once home to butchers shops, you’ll now find a variety of cafes and shops selling things like sweets, chocolate, jewellery, clothes and gifts. The original meat hooks hanging outside the shops have survived though, so don't let them fool you.
Peruse the stalls at the Shambles Market
While you’re here, pop into the historic Shambles Market. With over 70 stalls, this is York’s largest group of independent traders, and a must-visit - especially if you're already in the area. Whether it’s quality gifts, fresh flowers, fresh produce, retro vinyl, crafts, clothing or handbags, you’ll find whatever you could possibly need here - so if you've got some presents to buy, your prayers have been answered. Once you’re all shopped out, grab a bite to eat at the market’s very own Shambles Food Court. As well as live music to keep you entertained, the food court offers delicious street food from all around the world, from Thai delights to mouthwatering crepes. Yes please.
Explore York Art Gallery
Know your Hockney from your L.S.Lowry? Well, you will once you’ve visited York Art Gallery. The gallery has three exhibition spaces on the ground floor and four on the first floor, so you definitely won’t find yourself hunting for artwork to see. As well as works on paper like watercolours, drawings and prints, there is also a remarkable range of Western European paintings, with 1,000 pieces from between the 14th and 19th centuries.
Meanwhile, the decorative arts collection features over 3,000 pieces of pottery, glassware, clocks and other items (shopping spree, anyone?). The gallery is also home to the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) which showcases a wonderful collection of British Studio Ceramics. End your visit with a stroll in the Artists Garden and the Edible Wood, before exploring the peaceful York Museum Gardens. We defy you to find a better end to the day than that.