York

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York Minster (www.visityork.org)

By David Cawley, your York expert

I write for Britain Magazine, Heritage .... Read more

Why go to York?

Size isn’t everything

Diminutive it may be, but this magnificent city is dense beyond the laws of physics, packed to its medieval rafters in history, culture, shopping and some superb places to eat, drink and stay.  All joyously accessible on foot; a visit to York should be an absolute and resounding 'must' on everyone's travel plans. So pack sensible shoes, lots of energy and come with the knowledge that with the countless things in store, one trip to York is hardly ever going to be enough. 

With all this on offer, getting the best from your time in York can be a little daunting, even overwhelming, so read on, click through and I'll guide you through my absolute favourite city in the UK.

Stuffed with history

There’s no better city in the British Isles to get such a condensed insight into this nation’s history. Simply amble the streets and soak the legacies in - Roman, Viking, Norman, Medieval, Tudor, Georgian, Victorian, it’s all here squeezed tightly into the corseting York City Walls and costs nothing more than shoe leather to absorb. If time is a luxury, first storm (better still use the stairs) said walls and circumnavigate the city. It’s totally gratis and provides both geographical bearings and a sense of the treasures beneath. See my York attractions for suggestions on what to look out for and practical details.

...and things to do

They are everywhere and pretty much have every interest covered. But these are no dusty glass, wooden case time capsules (Well most aren't); the majority are vibrant places bringing their history and collections to life. Many such as Jorvik Viking Centre, DIG, Barley Hall and York Castle Museum have fallen over themselves to involve children with human and high-tech interaction, while others keep things fresh with special exhibitions and events. Soaring above the rooftops, York Minster is the dominating visitor magnet and shouldn’t be missed, just be sure to leave some time for all the other stuff to do. Again, visit my York attractions page for full listings and tips and more things to do in the city. There are plenty of museum's and attractions to visit and it can get expensive, so visit my York insider tips to learn of ways of keeping the costs down.

Grazing

Fortunately for visitors, York’s population has good taste kept satisfied by a collection of highly creative kitchens supplied by the rich produce from Yorkshire soil and sea that comes together to create a gastro alchemy amongst a very crowded, competative and diverse restaurant scene. And just because this is 'refined' York, it isn't just starched napkins, regimented rows of silver cutlery nor crustless cumcumber sandwiches on doilies either. Not a bit of it; York too likes fast food, takeaway bakeries, global cuisine and hearty pub grub. Visit my  York cafés and restaurants page for my current top 20 places to make merry with the waistline.

Supping

You'll never go thirsty. Some say there’s one pub for every day of the year. No doubt once, but what is now true is that the city has some of the finest traditional pubs in the land. Creaking bare floors, dark wood panelling, fire light, candle light, maybe ghostly goings-on (York is Britain’s most haunted city) and some cracking locally-made beer to soak it all up with. Those who instead prefer something a little more cosmopolitan with bass pounding will be cheered to know that the bar and club scene too is well covered as the large numbers of groups travelling here on blokey and girly weekends will testify. Browse through my York nightlife for some suggestions.

Retail magnetism

I enjoy Shopping in York like the next man. No really. So its fortunate then that York is packed to its ancient rafters with retail rewards crowding its famous medieval streets and jostling for position along Coney and Parliament streets. For bargains head to the traditional markets halfway up the latter on Newgate or venture further afield to the covered comfort of York Designer Outlet.

A busy calendar

As if York didn’t have enough to keep itself occupied, there’s a busy schedule of art, culture and music festivals and events culminating in the Christmas Markets and lights. By far the biggest population explosion in the city is during the weekend race meetings at York Racecourse through the spring, summer and autumn months. My When to go to York page offers advice on the best time to visit along with listings by season of York's busy events schedule.

Behind the façades

One of the joys of the city is its Medieval streets - narrow thoroughfares, humming with life, crowded in by centuries of historic architectural diversity. But look closer. In-between, intriguing gaps appear, dark passages into the dark, some named some anonymous but all strangely alluring. Take a walk down them. These labyrinthine Snickleways are almost all public byways and while I’ve yet to stumble on Narnia, I have uncovered almost complete silence amongst hidden courtyards and views normally missed. You may get a little lost, but it's never serious, won't be for long and is, anyway, all part of the journey.

A river runs through it

The reason for York’s existence, importance and for occasionally getting its feet wet, The River Ouse is a lovely artery - albeit prone to flooding - offering all kinds of distractions. The muffled commentary of boat cruises regularly ploughing gentle waves are a common feature from the river banks, as is the putt of small motorboats for hire and splash of oars from team rowing boats. Colourful narrowboats and sleek private cruisers both regularly pass through and sometimes, if the timing's right, there may even be a glimpse of a Viking longboat or two. Visit my York City Cruise page for information on taking to the water.

Yorkshire, a heartbeat away

Beyond the city limits, just a short journey away from the bustle and enjoyable things continually demanding your attention is the slow, lingering peace and beauty of The North Yorkshire Moors. Pristine pasture bounded by raw heather moorland (most colourful in September) lightly speckled with exquisite ancient villages. It’s little wonder the timelessness here has been a countless back drop for popular TV series set in the past. The pages dedicated to How to get around York and York car hire will offer advice on getting in and out of the city.

So that’s the end of this brief summary and journey through the attraction-packed, extremely busy and completely beguiling city of York. Now exit on either the left or below and click the links to get more in-depth knowledge, hints and help for your visit...and don’t forget to tip the Expert Simonseeks' driver with anything you've uncovered and want to share.

For more expert advice on York, follow these links:

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expert rated...

York Restaurants

Price guideRating (out of 5)
1. J Baker's Bistro Moderne
Expensive
4.8
2. D.C.H
Expensive
4.7
3. Le Langhe
Mid-range
4.7
4. Melton's
Mid-range
4.7
5. Café Concerto
Mid-range
4.6
See all expert-rated Restaurants in York

York Things to do

Price guideRating (out of 5)
1. York Castle Museum
Mid-range
4.8
2. York Minster
Mid-range
4.8
3. Jorvik Viking Centre
Mid-range
4.7
4. Yorkshire Museum
Mid-range
4.6
5. Museum Gardens
Free
4.6
See all expert-rated Things to do in York