What are the best things to do in York, and why make a day trip from London to York? The top attraction is undoubtedly York Minster Cathedral, closely followed by the National Railway Museum. But there are many more things to see and do in York, and you will need a good, long day in the city to have a chance to see even half of them. If you only have a day to spare and York is on your itinerary, plan ahead to be sure to make the most of your time there.
York Minster and City Walls at Night, (c) www.visityork.org.uk
Jorvik Viking Centre
Jorvik was the Viking name for York and many finds have been unearthed in archaeological digs. The Jorvik Viking Centre is both a fun and fascinating way to learn about the city beneath your feet, as you take a trip on a 'time capsule' around Viking York, to experience the sights, sounds and the smells of life at the time. You can also become an archaeologist yourself in DIG!
National Railway Museum
Even if you're not a railway fan, do plan to visit what is the best railway museum in Britain. It mixes history, transport and science, is both huge and really enjoyable, and is our second-favourite place in York after York Minster. Now that's high praise!
Shopping in the Shambles
The best-preserved of York's medieval streets is called the Shambles (right), and is lined with half-timbered houses. It's the kind of scene that visitors to England probably expect to see in every high street in the country, but in fact it's rather rare. York's is a very fine example, though the shops today tend to be souvenir shops rather than the butcher's shops that once lined it. It's still very photogenic, though, and there are other good shopping streets around it. Don't miss it.
York Art Gallery
The York Art Gallery has a good collection of mainly British and Northern European artists, including distinguished Northern England artists such as David Hockney and LS Lowry. There are six display areas over two floors, a good ceramics collection, and the works cover the last 600 years of art history. There are also temporary exhibitions too, so find out what's on by visiting their website.
National Railway Museum in York, Photo (c) Donna Dailey
York Castle and Castle Museum
There's not much left of York Castle itself, which is one of only two built by William the Conqueror. You can visit Clifford's Tower, which was added in the 13th century. Nearby is the excellent Castle Museum, which has a large collection of everyday items of the kind that are not always preserved for posterity simply because they are so ordinary – toys, clothes, household gadgets. There are also two reconstructed streets, several reconstructed rooms ranging from a moorland cottage to a 1950s front room, and dungeons to visit too – always good fun, especially if travelling with a family.
York City Walls
York has some of the finest-preserved city walls in Britain, nearly three miles of them, and you can walk almost all the way round. They mainly date from the 14th century but some parts go back as far as the Normans.
The York Dungeon
Expect to find witches, gore and stinky smells at the York Dungeon, from the same team responsible for the award-winning London Dungeon and others dungeons around Europe. Tours last about 70 minutes and there’s plenty of action from actors who bring York’s horrible history to life by way of 11 different shows.
York Minster Cathedral
One of Europe's finest cathedrals is worth the journey to York alone. One part dates back to 1220, and the whole building took 250 years to complete. There are 128 stained glass windows, including the magnificent 15th-century Rose Window and the five 13th-century Five Sisters windows. Definitely top of the list of the Best Things to Do in York, and is why many people make the 200-mile journey from London just to see it.
Yorkshire Museum and St Mary's Abbey
The ruins of St Mary's Abbey, which dates to about 1080, lie within the gardens and in the basement of the Yorkshire Museum. The excellent museum tells the story of the county with many archaeological finds, its star exhibit being the Middleham Jewel, a huge 15th-century diamond-encrusted sapphire which was found in the Yorkshire town of Middleham in 1985.
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