8 Things to Do in York on a Rainy Day

It’s not difficult to see how the ancient walled city of York brings in 8.4 million visitors each year. York boasts world-class museums, a shopper’s paradise and a history dating back to the Romans and Vikings. There’s something for everyone in this incredible city.

Check out our list of where to go on a rainy day in our city, and as you’re here why not take a look at the unique York walking tours we offer, we’d love for you to visit!

At Invisible Cities, all of our guides have at one time been affected by homelessness. We place great importance on championing stories that are too often neglected and uncovering unique aspects of city life that can easily be missed. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about our tours here or in other cities across the UK!

1. Visit the site of the first Lesbian wedding

Anne Lister, considered to be the “first modern lesbian” and recently dramatized in the BBC series “Gentleman Jack” was also the first to get married in York. Anne was a member of one of the most prominent families in Halifax, a town in West Yorkshire. Anne challenged Victorian societal norms by receiving an education and becoming a businesswoman and an adventurous traveller.

Anne Lister married Ann Walker in Trinity Church. This important moment in LGBT+ history is immortalized by a commemorative plaque in the churchyard. Their union took place on Easter Sunday, 1834, where they received communion together, which they interpreted as a blessing of their marriage.

2. Eat at Bettys Café Tea Rooms

Bettys Tea Rooms is one of the best-known tea rooms in York. Established in 1919, they are a York staple, boasting traditional meals from Yorkshire and Switzerland.

They’re well known for their afternoon tea…why not try their Pink Champagne Afternoon Tea or their Yorkshire Cream Tea.

Why are the Tea Rooms called Bettys? Despite these tea rooms being a staple in York, no one knows! There are some theories, such as it being named after the granddaughter of the financial chair of the tea rooms, a young Betty Rose.

Or perhaps it was named after Betty Lupton. She was a famed figure in York, dubbed “Queen of the Harrogate Wells” who made her name by serving spa water to visitors in the 1800s.

The final theory is that the Bettys Café Tea Rooms got their namesake from Betty the Musical, a tale of a maid falling in love with a Duke.

3. Go Vintage Shopping in York

York is home to a whole range of vintage shops! Buying second-hand clothes is an environmentally-friendly way to jazz up your wardrobe…not to mention save you a few pennies.

Dog and Bone Vintage, located at Shop 1, Castlegate, is a firm York favourite. Originally a stall in Brighton, Dog and Bone Vintage has a handpicked selection of vintage clothing from the 60s to early 00s.

4. Learn at York Castle Museum

Located in North Yorkshire, on the site of York Castle, you’ll find the family-friendly York Castle Museum.

Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, the castle was used as a North England base. Take a trip to York Castle Museum to immerse yourself in centuries worth of history!

What can you see at York Castle Museum?

  • Kirkgate: Take a stroll down a recreated Victorian Street, each shop window is based on a real York business from 1870-1901.
  • York Castle Prison: Did you know that York Castle has been a site of incarceration for nearly 1000 years? Learn about who spent their time down the cells, including the highwayman Dick Turpin.
  • When The World Changed Forever: Learn more how about the people of Yorkshire and how they adapted during World War I.
  • The Sixties: Step back into the swinging sixties admiring objects from social history and art to military artefacts.
  • Shaping the body: 400 years of Fashion, Food and Life: Want to learn about body image, fashion and fitness over the last 400 years? Then this is the exhibition for you.

Another great museum option offers an immersive experience of Viking life in York. Definitely visit the Jorvik Viking Centre on a rainy day in York!

5. Walk The Shambles

Rumoured to be the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, The Shambles is one of York’s most treasured landmarks. Take a stroll through the cobblestone streets and immerse yourself in a medieval shopping street!

Explore the cobbled streets that host quirky independent cafes, clothing stores and sweet shops.

Wondering why the streets are so narrow in The Shambles? They were designed to keep meat products out of direct sunlight!

Nowadays, The Shambles is visited by Harry Potter fans, history buffs and keen shoppers alike to get a feel for the grand old days of York.

If that’s not enough Harry Potter content for you, why not have a go at Wizard Golf? Head over to The Hole in the Wand to find out more.

6. Read at Lucius Books

Consider yourself a bookworm? Lucius Books in York is your one-stop shop for rare signed first editions and manuscripts. Their library contains impeccable quality books on every topic under the sun, from travel to philosophy to nonfiction.

It’s not just the books that are worth shouting about. The premise itself is light and airy…the perfect location to lose yourself in a good book.

7. York Cold War Bunker

Take a chilling trip down to York’s Cold War Bunker, a pertinent reminder of Britain’s history in the cold war. Take a guided tour to learn about the bunker that was in active service from the 1960s-to 90s manned solely by 60 volunteers. Their role was to monitor nuclear fallout in the event of nuclear war.

Learn about what day-to-day life was like for these brave volunteers as well as see first-hand what it’s like in a nuclear bunker.

If you’re interested in history, perhaps you’d like to learn more about York’s illustrious railway? Join our guide Gemma to learn about York’s Railway Heritage.

8. York Minster

Considered to be one of York’s most impressive cathedrals, York Minster attracts more than 2 million visitors annually. It’s easy to see why: the cathedral boasts the Lantern Tower, a whopping 21 story building. If you dare to climb to the top floor, you can see the amazing architecture up close as well as enjoy a breathtaking view of the city.

Are you a fan of stained glass windows? Then you’re in luck! The Minster is home to the rarest and finest medieval stained glass.

It took 250 years for this magnificent cathedral to be built. It was built for the Druid Anglo Saxon King Edwin of Northumbria. Edwin converted to Christianity so that he could marry the Æthelburh of Kent.

It’s fair to say York is a city that has so much to offer, even on a rainy day. With its history, culture and shopping scene, it’s a must-visit!

We’d love to have you join one of our unique York walking tours to learn more about York. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions at all.