York things to do

By David Cawley, your York expert

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

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Jorvik Viking Centre

Price guide: Mid-range
#3/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Best for Families -
Expert overall rating:4.7 (out of 5)

Part Disney, part hands-on, all Viking revelation. One of York’s most popular attractions.

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Yorkshire Museum

Price guide: Mid-range
#4/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Best for First-time visitors -
Expert overall rating:4.6 (out of 5)

A great museum for all ages showcasing York’s long and rich history.

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Ghost Hunt of York

Price guide: Budget
#6/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Best for Fun -
Expert overall rating:4.5 (out of 5)

One of the most theatrical of York's Ghost Walk choices.

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Barley Hall

Price guide: Budget
#8/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Expert overall rating:4.3 (out of 5)

A very family friendly, fully hands-on restored medieval townhouse.

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#10/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Expert overall rating:4.2 (out of 5)

The largest railway museum in the world should appeal to the whole family.

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#11/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Expert overall rating:4.1 (out of 5)

Fascinating and poignant; this is Britain’s largest WWII station open to the public.

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DIG

Price guide: Mid-range
#12/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Expert overall rating:4.1 (out of 5)

Primarily aimed at children, DIG uncovers the joys of archaeological discovery.

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The York Dungeon

Price guide: Mid-range
#13/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Expert overall rating:4.0 (out of 5)

A theatrically gruesome yet light hearted journey through York’s past.

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York City Cruise

Price guide: Mid-range
#14/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Expert overall rating:4.0 (out of 5)

A cruise along the Ouse. A relaxing chance to see the city from a different angle.

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York Cold War Bunker

Price guide: Mid-range
#15/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Expert overall rating:4.0 (out of 5)

York is full of historic sites, but none more unusual or more chilling than this one.

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Castle Howard

Price guide: Expensive
#18/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Expert overall rating:3.9 (out of 5)

A vast and extravagant palace set amongst rolling Yorkshire countryside.

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Snickleways

Price guide: Free
#20/20
expert-rated things to do in York
Best for Escapists -
Expert overall rating:3.8 (out of 5)

Go behind the scenes to unravel a lesser known more unique York.

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People from around the globe have been beating a path to York for the past 4,000 years leaving in their wake some of the most evocative, best preserved heritage in Europe. So it’s fair to say that given the wealth of history, art and culture that you’ll need at least a solid week of free time to cover all that York has to offer.

My first piece of advice would be sit down with your travelling companions and form a plan of attack either on arrival at one of the city’s fine eateries (See my York cafés and restaurants page) or before heading off for this attraction packed city.

Bear in my mind that if you want to do as much as possible then it isn’t going to be cheap. Most of York’s attractions make a charge for entry, so if planning to visit more than three, I do recommend investing in a Yorkshire Pass to save money on all the places listed plus many more that didn’t make it into my top 20. More details why, when, where and how can be found on my York insider tips page. Also consider too the useful YAT (York Archaeological Trust) pass, information for which can be found following the same link.

Almost all the things chosen here are within walking distance of each other and cost little more than shoe leather to reach. One or two others, however, will require the help of road transport, details of which can be found on my How to get around York and York car hire pages.

Most of the attractions listed are open throughout the week, from 10am to 5pm.

The busiest time to visit York - when queues are at their longest - is during the school holidays and at weekends. Whenever possible try to get to your chosen attraction at the beginning or end of the day when places such as York Minster, the York City Walls and the streets in general can be absorbed and wandered under a much more tranquil atmosphere.

How I’ve picked my things to do: 

There are so many things to see and do in York, mostly historical and cultural in nature reflecting York’s major part in British history. However, in the knowledge that these will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and to avoid complete history meltdown, I’ve also included one or two broader suggestions that should appeal to almost everyone along with some attractions that require no cash exchange to gain entry.

Set focus

There are so many things to see and do in York, mostly historical and cultural in nature reflecting York’s major part in British history. However, in the knowledge that these will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and to avoid complete history meltdown, I’ve also included one or two broader suggestions that should appeal to almost everyone along with some attractions that require no cash exchange to gain entry.