If you’ll be visiting York soon, you’re undoubtedly trying to find all the best things to do and see to make the most of your time in the city. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, a nature lover, or love a spot of shopping…York delivers.
History oozes from every building, wall, and street in this compact city. In fact, you can walk across the city centre of York in just about 30 minutes or so! And every step of the way, you’ll be greeted with opportunities to explore the past, present, and future of this fascinating city.
While you’re here, check out our unique walking tours of York to dive deeper into the city’s stories. Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that trains people affected by homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city. These alternative tours show tourists and locals alike a different side to the city. And we would love to show you around York!
Take a look at our recommendations for the top 10 things to do and see in York, including insights from our very own guides.
1. Walk the Iconic City Walls of York
Likely the most iconic part of the city, walking the City Walls of York is ideal for visitors. If you’re really into history, take a private walking tour so you can ask every question and learn every detail. If you’re more into views and cityscapes, go ahead and stroll at your leisure. If you appreciate architecture, the City Walls offer you a glimpse of the evolution of York’s buildings over the centuries.
Walking the City Walls of York is free for all, but do note the accessibility requirements. You must walk up a set of stairs and there are parts of the walkway that are narrow with unguarded edges.
2. Climb Clifford’s Tower
Clifford’s Tower is another top spot in York, offering views over the city that visitors love! As the only remaining structure from the original York Castle, there has been a structure on this site since William the Conqueror built the first timber keep here around 1068.
Note that reconstruction efforts are being undertaken as of 2021, so you cannot currently tour the tower. But, after completion, this is definitely a top place to see in York.
Also note the accessibility needs at Clifford’s Tower. There are 55 steps to the tower itself and then a spiral staircase to get to the wall walk.
3. Be Awed by York Minster
One of Europe’s largest medieval churches and an exceptional architectural gem, York Minster is definitely a top thing to see (and do!) in York. You can read more about the architecture and history of York Minster in our York insights for visitors.
4. Experience the JORVIK Viking Centre
Adding to the layers of culture and history in York, you can also explore the Viking history of the city. The JORVIK Viking Centre allows you to experience the sights, smells, and sounds of York…or, as the Vikings called it, Jorvik. This is definitely one of the most interesting things to do in York.
5. Explore York’s Railway Heritage
The rich railway history of York is fascinating to explore during a visit to the city. Join Gemma to learn about York’s Railway Heritage on our walking tour of the city. You’ll also have the option to add a visit to the National Railway Museum to dig even deeper into the history and significance of the railways in this region.
6. Find the York Harry Potter Street!
If you’re a fan of the series, then you’ll have to visit The Shambles to see a real-life version of Diagon Alley. Traditional shops, colourful buildings, curving cobblestone streets, you’ll truly feel transported back in time — or to an entirely different world! While visiting York, walking through The Shambles is one of the best things to do for shopping, cultural experiences, and for a cuppa.
7. Learn the History of Guy Fawkes in York
Did you know Guy Fawkes is from York? That’s right, learn about the man himself with all the tales of gunpowder and treason that all began right here in the city. Learn the real story of Guy Fawkes on a walking tour with Vicki.
8. Experience York Dungeon
Experience 2,000 years of York’s dark history, from the Vikings to plagues to the infamous people who have walked the streets over the centuries. This is an immersive, multi-sensory experience, so get ready for flashing lights and moving floors. Be sure to check their accessibility information if you need more detailed information.
9. Sample the Local York Favourite: Chocolate!
You can’t visit York without sampling our famous chocolate. The production of chocolate in York has long been a strong industry, so go ahead and support our local efforts whilst satisfying your sweet tooth. There’s even a museum dedicated to chocolate that you won’t want to miss. Check out our Beginner’s Guide to York to learn more about the history of chocolate in the city.
10. Dive Deeper into York Past and Present
With such width and depth of history, it can be overwhelming to try to take it all in during a single visit. But you can enjoy a fascinating look at the Health and Wealth of York on a walking tour with Miles.
Learn about some of the city’s most significant landmarks and the way they’ve influenced the economic growth of York over the centuries. From history to the present, Miles will enlighten you every step of the way.
We hope this list of top things to do and see in York has gotten you excited about your upcoming trip. And we hope you’ll consider joining us on one — or several! — of our York walking tours.