Last updated on January 22nd, 2012 | Written By Christina Surdhar
Things to do and see in York
Walking along York city walls
What should you do in York if you want to get a real sense of what the city’s all about? You won’t go far wrong if you start with one or two of the following.
Explore the streets
The streets of any city are its very fabric, and York’s are famous for being historic and full of character. Don’t miss Shambles, the one where fourteenth century timber framed houses seem to lean towards one another across the cobbles. Then there are York’s famous “snickelways” (a locally coined word combining snicket, ginnel, and alleyways) which rejoice in names such as Mad Alice Lane, Pope’s Head Alley and Black Horse Passage.
Chill out by the river
Sit and have a picnic by the Ouse, or go to one of the bars, pubs or restaurants which overlook it. There are boat tours if you fancy those, but my favourite way to enjoy the river is to take a stroll from King’s Staith right down to the Millenium Bridge. You can come back on the other side along Terry Avenue (1hr approx). There are cycle paths along the same route.
York has a fantastic selection of shops. The main chain stores are in the Parliament Street / Coney Street and surrounding central areas but further away from that section you’ll find a lot of independents. Try Fossgate, Stonegate, Micklegate or Petergate. Quirky gift shops and jewellers abound, and there are some excellent second hand bookshops.
Walk on the Walls
The walls of York complete with bars (gateways) and towers are arguably the most striking feature of the city. York has been a walled city since it was founded in the first century AD. Some lower sections of the current wall date from the Roman period, but most parts date from medieval times. Walking the walls is one of the best ways to experience York, and there are some great views of otherwise hidden parts of the city.
Visit the Minster
York Minster is one of York’s iconic symbols. Parts of the current building date from the 13th century. There’s a charge to enter, but the cost includes an optional tour, and the ticket is valid one year. Approach via Stonegate where the sudden view of the Minster between the street’s timber framed buildings is magical. The Dean’s Garden, a small park behind it is a lovely place to sit and relax and nearby Minster Yard and College Street are full of related historic buildings.
Enjoy the street life
There’s nothing nicer than chilling out on a bench with your lunch in summer, watching the world go by. There’s a lot to watch in York too, from costumed actors advertising the city’s attractions, to street entertainers and musicians. Parliament Street hosts various markets and fayres and is usually the centre of activities when one of the York’s festivals is on. The most famous of these is the Jorvik Viking Festival in February.
Have a ghostly experience
In parts of York at night, when the streets are quiet and there’s just you and hundreds of years of history, it’s easy to imagine you’ve suddenly gone back in time, or indeed that the past has come to life around you. There are plenty of ghost stories associated with the city, fascinating whether or not you’re a believer in the supernatural, but if you are, they will probably make your hair stand on end. Take one of the many ghost tours on offer, preferably at night! It is thought that ghost walks originated in York in the early 1970s, first run by The Original Ghost Walk of York company.
Make it a historic occasion
History is what York is all about. Many visitors take in one of the bigger museums (insert link to my museums feature) as part of their trip, but there are also fascinating smaller attractions. The Roman Bath House Museum for example, is a remaining fragment of Roman York from nearly 2000 years ago and Barley Hall is a medieval house re-created to look just how it used to, complete with costumed interpreters. There are many more, and discovering them is all part of the fun.