York is one of Europe’s most historic and well-preserved medieval cities. It’s where you can trace the history of England from the Romans until the present time. In fact, King George VI said, “the history of York is the history of England.”
Its narrow alleyways, museums, medieval churches and ancient walls that tell stories of the past like nowhere else. Just two hours from London, Manchester, and Edinburgh by train, York is easy to get to. It’s a city you shouldn’t miss if you want to learn more about the Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans and medieval England.
What to see and do
York Minster is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in England and Northern Europe. In 627, Princess Ethelburga and King Edwin of Northumbria built a wooden church for the king’s baptism. It was replaced by a stone church followed by major construction and expansion that started in 1216 for over 250 years.
This magnificent cathedral has 128 stained glass windows. You don’t want to miss the Great East Window, Rose Window, and Five Sisters Window. Discover more of the history of the cathedral at the Undercroft and Treasury. Climb the Central Tower to the highest point in York for views of the city.
York is a totally walkable city. You must walk to the Shambles, the narrow, twisting and quirky medieval street with overhanging wood-framed buildings that date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The Shambles used to be a street where butchers worked and lived. There were slaughterhouses and butcher shops selling fresh meat that they hung by the windows. You can still see the meat hooks in some of the shops that now house boutiques, souvenir shops, and cafes.
Merchant Adventurers’ Hall
This is one of the best preserved medieval buildings in York. Built in the 14th century, this timber-framed building is now a museum showcasing The Great Hall (where the merchants gathered), undercroft, and chapel.
There’s a coffee house in the building that’s open to the public.
National Railway Museum
Train enthusiasts will love the National Railway Museum in York. With over a million railway objects that span over 200 years, no other railway museum in the world can compare with this. You can discover the history of railways in the world, check out the luxurious carriages used by the royal family and more. There are halls filled with steam locomotives, diesel engines, Japanese bullet train, and there’s the Mallard, the world’s fastest steam locomotive.
City of York Walls
Walk the 2.1-mile long City of York Walls, England’s longest medieval town walls. You need two hours to complete the whole circuit. The walls have 45 towers and five main bars (gates). Under these medieval walls (built 13th and 14th centuries) are the remains of the old Roman walls that were destroyed by the Vikings.
Where to eat
Experience an authentic Yorkshire afternoon tea at Bettys Stonegate. Try a variety of English sandwiches, cookies and cakes with the famous Yorkshire tea. You’ll get to experience a cozy English tearoom and have a chance to buy tea, chocolate, and desserts to bring home.
The Hole in the Wall
Located at High Petergate, The Hole in the Wall serves classic pub food and beer. Go for the Sunday roast – beef served with potatoes, Yorkshire pudding (with lots of gravy) and vegetables.
Go for fish and chips, ploughman’s lunch or pork pie with mushy pies at the Shambles Tavern. Pork pie and mushy pies are traditional Yorkshire foods. Shambles Tavern has a wide selection of Yorkshire ales from local breweries that you can try with the traditional cuisine.
York’s Chocolate Story
Learn about the history of chocolate and the contribution of the people of York to the chocolate industry. After the hour, treat yourself to a delicious cup of hot chocolate, chocolate afternoon tea or chocolate fondue.
Where to stay
Lamb and Lion Inn
Stay at an old English inn located at the main gate (Bootham Bar), and you’re only 10 minutes from The Shambles and two-minutes from York Minster and all the cafes, bars and restaurants in York.
For a more luxurious stay, we suggest Alcuin Lodge Guest House York. This bed and breakfast place has only five rooms and is located in a quiet residential area. You can eat an excellent full English breakfast every morning.
Airbnb has several options in York. We chose one that accommodated seven people. This townhouse was clean and well-equipped.