York is a quaint city in England with a charming rural feel. Many of the buildings are steeped in history and it’s easy to find yourself lost amongst the maze of Harry Potter-esque alleyways.
Around every corner you’ll find another little slice of the past. There’s nothing better than to slowly amble your way round, drinking in every last detail and imagining yourself stood in that exact same place, only hundreds of years before. What would it sound like? Smell like? Who would be there? What would they look like?
The city is surprisingly small and it’s easy to walk around the majority of it in one day. So, without further ado, here are 6 things to do in York:
Walk the City Walls
A trip to York isn’t really complete unless you have walked along its City Walls. They stretch for 3.4km and are the longest medieval town walls in England. I love the varying views and at some points it felt like you’ve left the city entirely and wandered into a rural village.
Can you believe these photos were taken just minutes from the city centre?!
Marvel at York Minster
York Minster dominates the landscape and can be seen peeping into view from all directions; between the tangle of alleyways and above the old rooftops.
This Gothic-style cathedral church was built over 250 years, between 1220 and 1472. However, the first Christian church on site has actually been dated back to around 627!
The detail is just phenomenal.
The interior of the cathedral is just as impressive; I love the stained glass windows and gold detailing.
Discover The Shambles
The Shambles is essentially just a street in the city centre, but what makes it special is its long and interesting past. It is quite possibly one of the best preserved medieval streets in the world, and it has its very own mention in the Doomsday Book in 1086. Many of the buildings date back to the 1300s and it’s fascinating to see their crooked shapes and close proximity to one another.
The Shambles was once a street of butchers’ shops. Many had their own slaughterhouses at the back of their premises. You can still see some of the original meat-hooks attached to the shop fronts.
The building fronts overhang and were intentionally built close-set. This would have protected the meat from any direct sunshine. Back in those days, sanitation was rather lacking, so the cobbled centre of the street was used as a channel to wash away all the blood and guts. Yuck!
Today, The Shambles is a real tourist attraction and is lined with quaint gift shops and cafes. There’s also a market selling an assortment of goodies, including fresh produce, international street food, clothing, flowers and crafts.
Brave York Dungeon
The York Dungeon is an intense 75 minute walkthrough journey of York’s (rather horrible) history. As a group, you’re herded from room to room and faced with horrifying stories, characters and settings.
The actors certainly don’t break character. Expect to have bodily juices (water, I hope) sprayed at you and to potentially stand trial for being accused witchcraft! The experience is great fun, albeit terrifying!
For more info, click visit the York Dungeon website.
Relax at St. Mary’s Abbey
St. Mary’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, was once the richest abbey in the north of England. Today, its remains stand in the beautiful Yorkshire Museum Gardens next to the river. It’s a lovely place to relax away from the hustle and bustle.
Visit Clifford’s Tower
In a city influenced mostly by Roman and Viking foundations, Clifford’s Tower is distinctly Norman. The original mound and site was built by William the Conquerer in 1068. Great tragedy occurred here in 1190, when 150 Jews were massacred (many at their own hands) and the site was burned to the ground. It’s a chilling part of the history of York, but well worth a visit.
Where I stayed: I stayed at Hedley House Hotel, which was friendly, relaxed and the perfect distance from the train station and city centre.