12 best things to do in York on your first visit

York is a place that’s home away from home. 

Located in the northeast of England, York is easily accessible via direct train from Manchester or London.

The Roman city is of those destinations I keep coming back to – not only for the culture and history but also because of its lively atmosphere.

If you’re planning a trip to York make sure you don’t miss these attractions.

Things to do in York

Marvel at York Minster

The central hub of York, The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter, commonly known as York Minster, is one of the largest cathedrals in northern Europe.

Make sure you schedule plenty of time for this attraction, as there are many activities to partake in.

You can visit The Undercroft, touring the chambers beneath the Minster or you can call during service and see the daily life of Christian worship.

My recommendation is to climb up the tower, the highest point in all of York. 

Once you have reached the ascent, you will be greeted with panoramic views of the city.

Unleash your inner art critic

Located just past York Minster, the art gallery is often forgotten as a tourist destination.

Costing an adult £7.50 with gift aid for entry, children under 16 are free.

Works include paintings and decorative arts from the 14th century to the present.

Previously exhibited was Paul Nash and the Uncanny Landscape, art based on the First World War.

The gallery also houses fashion student’s garments and portfolios, providing a platform for young designers.

Take a break in the park

Sometimes city life becomes too much and it can be nice to take a break. 

York has its fair share of parks, but if you only have time to visit one – go to the Museum Gardens.

The gardens are part of the Yorkshire Museum and contain Roman ruins and a Medieval Abbey.

The park does get very busy, but it adds to the atmosphere as often university students will be lounging on the grass and revising with friends.

The park is also adjacent to the canal allowing for your walk around the park to be extended if you desire.

Sample delicious food from fine cuisine to pub grub

For dining, York is the place. 

The city houses many traditional pubs, yet still provides chain restaurants for the fussy eaters. 

The famous Betty’s Tea Rooms is located in York’s main square alongside the Ivy, a popular restaurant in London.

Step back in time at York Castle and Walls

Back to history and culture; York Castle and its surrounding walls are not to be missed.

The castle stands on top of a high mound, raised by William the Conqueror. 

Now, under the trust of England Heritage, you can take a tour of the fortified complex.

The city walls are the longest town walls in England following the city around having originally provided as a defence.

Ramble around the Shambles

Probably the most Instagrammed place in York, the Shambles is an old street in York with overhanging buildings, some dating back to the 14th century.

On the street, you will find quaint fudge and bookshops leading down to independent market stalls.

And if you’re a Harry Potter fan, there is an entire shop at the end of the street dedicated to the books and films.

Take a history lesson at Jorvik Viking Centre

Be transported back in time as you take a ride (literally) through 10th century York.

The city was captured by the Vikings and became known as Jorvik, hence the centre’s name.

Between 1976 to 1981 archaeologists discovered the houses, workshops and backyards of Jorvik – the centre reconstructs this.

Shop till you drop in the city centre

As the city is so compact, you can move from one shop to the next without walking too far.

Many of the high street shops are clustered together and similarly, boutiques can be found around Stonegate.

And don’t forget Fenwicks – the luxury department store filled with designer labels.

Visit the first all-year-round Christmas shop in Britain

Know someone who loves Christmas? Take them to Käthe Wohlfahrt.

Spread over two floors, this shop is full of baubles, nutcrackers and cuckoo clocks.

Käthe Wohlfahrt is described as the only shop in Great Britain where you will find traditional Christmas designs, which are developed in the company’s artist workshop in Rothenburg in Germany.

Be spooked on a ghost tour

York is said to be one of the most haunted cities in Europe; so if you’re looking for something fun and unusual to do at – a ghost tour will be right up your alley.

On these tours, you’ll learn about the scandals that once shocked this city and the ghosts that haunt the cobbled streets of York.

You may also have a few ‘frights’ along the way.

Take a stroll along the river

There are some spectacular walks along the River Ouse.

I’d recommend this one, which takes you past Rowntree Park, York Millennium Bridge, Tower Gardens and York Castle. 

An easy and flat walk you’ll get to see the sights off the city whilst taking in some fresh country air.

Embrace traditions at Castle Museum York

Praised for having an easy-to-follow layout, Castle Museum is great for both Brits and foreigners.

The museum showcases British life throughout the centuries, with thousands of objects on display.

It is located in what used to be the old Castle Prison, which you can still visit inside the museum today.

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