Behold, the adorableness of York, England!
Charm seeps out of every nook and cranny in this town. York doesn’t stop at charming and adorable though, it’s an overachiever as far as English towns go. In addition to its good looks York has made its mark on the history books. Romans founded it in 71 AD and left a lot of old stuff behind (AKA ruins). Constantine the Great was proclaimed Emperor here in AD 306 after his father unexpectedly died. There’s also a 2 mile long wall circling the old town city center.
If it’s good enough for an Emperor, it’s good enough for me.
Since returning I’ve surveyed my British coworkers and only a handful of them have visited York. WTF? Rick would not be pleased. Rick Steves, my travel mentor, that is. Rick is a big fan of York and goes so far as to name it the second best city for tourism in England after London. Bonus: it’s a mere 2.5 hour train journey from London King’s Cross station.
I spent two relaxing days touring York with my family during their visit. It’s the perfect place to unwind after escaping the chaos of London. Here’s what I loved and recommend for your visit. Don’t disappoint me and Rick by skipping over this gem of a town.
Walk the city walls
Put on your walking shoes, grab your camera, and enjoy the views of York from atop its city walls. They’re two miles around, but we took several breaks to read the informational plaques and survey the views so it took us two hours. Best of all, this costs nada, zilch, zero.
Me with my dad:
My parents have been married 40 years and they support all my crazy travel and relocation plans. Give these folks a medal.
This is Clifford’s Tower, part of York’s Castle. You’ll pass it as you walk the city wall loop. You can pay a few pounds to enter and climb it for an even steeper view. We were content to pose for this photo and carry on.
See the York Minster
The York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. You pay a fee to enter which includes the informational guided tour inside. Stop and admire the stained glass windows that make this cathedral a true masterpiece. Another way to experience the Minster is during evensong. Evensong is a religious tradition of sung prayers. There’s no charge to attend, but arrive early (~4:45pm) to get a seat for the daily 5:15 service.
St. Mary’s Abbey and Yorkshire Museum Gardens
St. Mary’s Abbey was once the largest and wealthiest of all Benedictine institutions in northern England. But then Henry VIII created the Church of England and ordered the destruction of all monasteries. These beautiful ruins now sit in the center of the Yorkshire Museum Gardens for all to enjoy.
Wander Along the River Ouse
I went for a run one morning along the river to take advantage of this scenic path. River cruises departing from the Yorkshire Museum Gardens will also transport you further outside of the city center.
National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum is free and houses a huge collection of trains, including several used by the Royal family back in the day. You’ll also see exhibits about the engineering feats that make railway travel what it is today. For the immersive experience ride the mini-train to and from the museum from the city center. Choo choo!
Snickelways and Shambles
The Snickelways are small, winding streets through old town that give York bonus points on the cuteness scale. And you have to walk along the Shambles, an old street with overhanging timber-framed buildings dating back to the 14th century. Great spot to pick up souvenirs.
Take frequent breaks for authentic, homemade Yorkshire pudding and Yorkshire tea with biscuits. These are all the ingredients you need for a brilliant visit.
Know Before You Go:
- VisitYork.org has a wealth of information to plan your trip.
- Rick Steve’s guide to York, England is a must-read.
- We stayed at Crossways Guest House, an adorable B&B that’s a short 10 minute walk from the center of town.
- Grab a pint at The House of Trembling Madness, a pub hidden above a bottle shop in old town and the epitome of eclectic style.
- Melton’s Too for dinner was delish.
- Cats of York spotting made for a fun game while wandering around town. Details here.
- York Minster evensong schedule and daily hours here.
- City walls open at 8am daily and close at dusk.