York is a city steeped in history from the Vikings to the Romans through to Tudor times York has played a central part in our past. Visitors who come to York for the first time will be amazed at the amount of interesting things there are to see both from a historic perspective and also due to its wonderful range of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. Here we take a look at all the amazing places there are to visit in York plus what you can expect to see there.
York Minster Cathedral
York Minster is perhaps one of the best known cathedrals in the UK, while it is certainly one of the most majestic being the largest of its type in all of Europe. The Archbishop of York is based at York Minster and holds the highest office in the Church of England except for the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.
Dating back to the Anglo Saxons York Minster is a fine example of Gothic architecture that has the largest area by far of Medieval stained glass in the world. One of the best known set of windows is the five sisters that stand some fifty two feet high, while the heart shaped design on the west window is known as "The heart of Yorkshire".
The church that we recognise today was built in 1080 but it was more Norman than Gothic in style. The Gothic era arrived in 1215 with the appointment of a new bishop, while further building took place right up to the late 1400's. York Minster has suffered over the years under monarchs such as Elizabeth I, while the twentieth century saw the conservation of the Minster begin and it still goes on until the present day.
What Will We See When Visiting York Minster?
The Minster is not only a place of worship but also a place that houses many treasures such as its beautiful stained glass windows and works of art that are sited in the Orb of the cathedral. Visitors can now explore the chambers that run under the Minster discovering facts about the Romans and the people who influenced the construction of the cathedral over the years. Even the very young are catered for during their visit to the Minster as they are given special backpacks that will delight and surprise them.
The Central Tower is a must see as the views over York from the top are breathtaking, while the climb is not for the faint hearted as there are two hundred and seventy five steps to negotiate before reaching the summit of the staircase! The Minster is open daily from 9am to 5pm except Sundays when it opens 12.30pm to 5pm. There are a range of charges depending on what it is you would like to see but we think the cost is well worth the experience. York Minster hosts many events during the year and visitors should visit the York Minster website in order to see whats on and when plus details of their charges.
The Jorvik Centre
The Jorvik Centre is a wonderful place to visit for adults and children alike, while it is one of the most popular attrations in York or the country for that matter. The museum takes visitors on a journey through time where they will see various exhibits and reconstructions of Viking age streets how they actually were hundreds of years ago.
The attraction is built over an excavation site that unearthed many Viking treasures plus actual dwellings where Vikings lived therefore visitors are literally passing through Viking history every step of the way. Visitors can see Viking workshops plus goods that the Vikings manufactured all those years ago. Visitors are transported through the Viking world aboard a vehicle that enables them to see everything easily with little effort, while audio and visual displays along the way explain all there is to know about each section of the exhibition.
The Jorvik Centre opens most of the year plus has a once a year entry fee meaning visitors can go back time and again incurring no further costs. A visit to York simply would not be complete without a visit to The Jorvik Centre.
The National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum in York opens daily from 9am to 5pm and covers three hundred years of railway history. Its a fabulous way for adults and kids to spend a day, while entry to the museum is free therefore is a great way to entertain and educate the children at no cost at all.
Visitors will see The Flying Scotsman in all its glory, while children will love the interactive train stories. The museum has over one million exhibits and artefacts relating to the railway over the last three hundred years and around one hundred trains and engines to delight the rail enthusiast. Exhibits include The Mallard, a replica Stephenson's Rocket, King George V, The Evening Star plus many more magnificent pieces of rolling stock too numerous to mention.
Visitors must also take a look at Station Hall during their visit to the NRM as it was built in the 1870's and was a railway building that was still in use up to the 1960's. Visitors can climb on board the carriages or take a guided tour, while a visit to the photographic exhibition should round off the day well as it is one of the most extensive collections of railway themed photography anywhere.
Visitors to York must definitely take a walk down the street known as The Shambles as it is unique and interesting in many ways. The Shambles is one of the best preserved Medieval streets in the world and it is literally akin to stepping back in time when walking down this narrow atmospheric alley that now houss shops and cafes.
Originally the buildings on The Shambles were houses, butchers shops and slaughter houses, while meat hooks used in that era are still visible on the front of some of the buildings today. The narrowness of the street is no coincidence as the closeness of the buildings meant that the sun would not shine down on the meat, while the raised paths on either side of the street created a chanel where blood and waste could be washed down by the butchers at the end of the day.
Half way down the street on the right is located the former house of Maragaret Clitherow who was executed in Elizabethan times for harbouring Catholic priests, something that was punishable by death. Margaret was cannonised a saint by the Catholic Church in 1970 as one of forty martyrs who died for their faith and the house which is now a shrine and a chapel can still be seen today.
The Castle Museum
The Castle Museum in York is one of the most interesting steps back in time we have experienced. Built on the site of York Castle that was built by William the Conquerer in 1068 it features many exhibitions including the history of children's toys, recreations of different rooms through the ages such as Victorian dining rooms or Edwardian bedrooms and prison cells including the actual condemned cell that held Dick Turpin the famous highwayman before he was hanged.
The Castle also houses a complete Victorian Street that is amazing to see as it goes into minute detail as to how the Victorians shopped and lived. Kirkgate, as the street is known, houses shops, dwellings, businesses, backstreets and a poor area all authentically recreated. The street was first created in 1938 and has been improved and added to over the years making it the oldest recreated street in any museum in the UK.
Visitors can not only look inside the shop windows but walk inside to look around and speak to the shop keepers inside. The street is cobbled just as it would have been in Victorian times plus there is a superb handsome cab and horse located at the centre of the street making the whole place come to life. York in the Victorian era was a thriving shopping district and this is depicted in all areas of the streets design. Children love to visit The Castle Museum, while many events and activities can be enjoyed here by adults and children alike.
York City Walls
The ancient city walls of York are the best preserved example of medieval walls in England. Walking the walls gives visitors a unique view of the city and takes up to two hours to complete depending on how quickly you walk. The walls have forty five towers and five gateways with parts of the wall dating back to Roman times.
The walls are now classed as a grade one listed building that is some two and a half miles long. Many guided tours and accompanying video guides are available to buy or download, while walking these historic walls is an education in itself.
Boat Trips on The Ouse
York is located on the River Ouse, while a boat trip on the Ouse gives visitors a very different view of this historic city. There are many differnt types of trip available from many companies who offer many different services. There are daytime cruises, early evening cruises, floodlit cruises and party cruises that offer food and drink too.
Many cruises sail away from the city centre taking in such places as Bishopthorpe Palace the home of the Archbishop of York. This stunning palace dates back to the thirteenth century. Most cruises also offer accompanying commentary informing guests of the history surrounding many of the historic focal points passed during the trip. Many famous monarchs such as Elizabeth I and Henry VIII have sailed up the River Ouse so why not follow in their illustrious footsteps!
Reviews on Trip Advisor are very mixed when it comes to York Boat trips. We think it is a case of horses for courses as some of us wont enjoy a boat trip if the weather is inclement. Many people however have enjoyed a trip on the Ouse therefore we feel it is well worth taking a look at what's on offer.