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Top 10 Attractions in York

Monday 09 March 2020

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York is a great place to visit, popular with hen parties and families alike. There’s so much to see and do packed into a relatively small city centre, which is easy to explore by foot once you arrive into the station by train. Whether you’re visiting with kids or as a romantic couples’ trip, you’ll be spoiled for choice with so many options. We’ve narrowed down some of the best things to do and created the following list of our favourite attractions in York.

1. Clifford’s Tower & York Castle Museum

Clifford’s Tower a pale stone traditional castle sits on top of its grassy ramparts against a blue sky – it’s easy to see why it’s one of York’s top attractions

How to get there – 19-minutes’ walk or get any bus from the station into town.

Clifford’s Tower Price - £6.50 Adults, £3.90 Kids, Free for English Heritage Members

Clifford’s Tower is actually a 13th century castle, which sits proudly on top of a grass mound. Offering great views of the city, this is an excellent place to take kids for a run around the castle walls, pretending to be knights or princes and princesses. Owned by English Heritage, make sure you pick up an information booklet on your way in so that you can find out more about the castle’s interesting history. Clifford’s Tower has been closed due to conservation work and is due to reopen Summer 2021.

York Castle Museum Price – £10 Adults, £4 Kids

Right next door to Clifford’s Tower is The York Castle Museum, which gives you another glimpse into York’s history. As well as the usual exhibitions, this museum offers visitors the chance to step back 100 years into the city’s past and see what life would have been like in Victorian York. Museum staff wear costumes and guide you round – a magical experience for all ages.

2. JORVIK Viking Centre

How to get there - 15-minutes’ walk or get any bus from the station into town.

Price – £12.50 Adults, £8.50 Kids

Another family favourite, JORVIK Viking Centre is a fully reconstructed Viking village with all the sounds, sights and smells to catapult you back in time. This truly fascinating and enjoyable experience is led by world-class guides who are very knowledgeable about the history they present. There are also frequent special activities and educational workshops available at the Jorvik Centre, plus an unrivalled gift shop.

3. York Minster

The pale-yellow stone of York Minster’s gothic façade is one of the most famous attractions in the city.

How to get there - 19-minutes’ walk or get the number 4 bus to Exhibition Square.

Price - £12.00 Adults, £9.00 Students, Kids go free with paying adult

Dominating the York skyline and one of the most iconic buildings in the city, the incredible York Minster is not one to be missed. If you get a chance to climb the Central Tower, it’s well worth paying extra for as it really does give the most incredible views over the Vale of York (although it has been closed in response to the pandemic). The Crypt also offers an incredible glimpse into the past, but even if you don’t enter and just admire the architecture from the outside, you won’t be disappointed!

4. Historic York & The Shambles

Price – Free

How to get there – York city centre is just a short 20-minute walk from the station or take any bus into town.

One of the best things to do in York is to take a walk around the city centre. The Shambles is one of the city’s most popular streets, lined with shops and tearooms – mostly independent – offering a great selection of products to browse. There are lots of shopping streets and hidden gems around the city centre, including the historic Merchant Adventurer’s Hall, which is a pretty Tudor building set in gardens which burst with flowers most of the year.

5. York’s Chocolate Story

Price - £14.50 Adults, £12 Kids,

How to get there - 15-minutes’ walk or get any bus from the station into town.

One of the best things about York is that when the wind is coming from the right direction, the whole city smells of chocolate from the nearby Terry’s chocolate factory. If you have a sweet tooth, or just love chocolate, York’s Chocolate Story is the attraction for you. Here you can not only learn about the history of chocolate making, and chocolate in York specifically, you also get to taste loads of the sweet stuff as you go along.

6. York Art Museum

The medieval ruins of St Mary’s Abbey behind the York Art gallery perfectly complement time spent at this attraction.

Price – Free (donations gratefully accepted)

How to get there - 10-minutes’ walk or get any bus from the station into town.

The permanent collections of the York Art Gallery are free for anyone to visit, although there are frequent special exhibitions that are paid for. The museum itself is architecturally beautiful, and home to a wonderful café serving tea, coffee and great snacks. This is the perfect attraction if the weather isn’t nice outside, and there are often activities for kids. If the weather is good, head out to the Museum Gardens which are among our favourite botanical gardens in the UK.

7. City Walls

Price – Free

How to get there – The station is just outside the city walls.

One of the best ways to see York is from the city walls which go all the way round the historic centre. The York city walls are a unique attraction; they’re the longest town walls in England and are built on ramparts, making them the only walls of their kind in the UK. The 2 miles of walls should only take around two hours to walk depending on how long you stop to admire the views and architecture you will see along the way.

NOTE – During the COVID-19 pandemic, the walls are open but only in a clockwise direction. See the York Walls website.

8. Betty’s Tea Rooms

Enjoy a treat at the historic Betty’s Tea Rooms, like these beautiful Chocolate Eclairs filled with Chantilly cream.

How to get there - 10-minutes’ walk or get any bus from the station into town.

As their website proudly states, no visit to York is complete without a trip to Betty’s famous Café Tea Rooms. A popular place to take refreshments since it first opened its doors in 1936, enjoy stunning baked goods and delicious tea blends in the insanely instagrammable interiors inspired by the Queen Mary ocean liner. Sample traditional Fat Rascals or treat yourself to a full afternoon tea. There’s something for everyone.

Want to enjoy some Betty’s at home? Why not try their Chocolate Eclairs recipe? You can even buy their unique Betty’s Tea Room blend online to enjoy at home. 

9.  The National Railway Museum

Price – Free (donations gratefully accepted)

How to get there – The National Railway Museum is a short walk from the station.

If you love trains as much as we do, the National Railway Museum is an attraction not to be missed. Learn all about the history of the railways, and the brains, talent and man force behind the British Railway. With loads of talks and workshops, there’s something for even the most-informed train enthusiast. There are also lots of activities for kids, and plenty of historic trains to discover, so climb aboard and enjoy the adventure.

10. The Riverside & Rowntree Park

Price – Free

How to get there – The river is a 6-minute walk from the Station.

Much of the banks of the River Ouse along which York was built have been pedestrianised, making them the perfect place for a walk or bike ride. We recommend following the river South-East from the station, through the city itself and carrying on to Rowntree Park. There’s often an ice cream boat moored near the park in the summer serving delicious and unique flavours. The quiet, calm park is definitely one of the city’s hidden gems – explore and find a duck pond, sculptures, and beautiful natural planting. There’s also a lovely café in the park which is open year-round.

Visiting York via train is an excellent option, and CrossCountry has services across the county running from all over the country. You can buy tickets on our website or Train Tickets app, and remember to check out our cheap tickets page to see how you can save money on your travel with CrossCountry.

Written by Julia

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