Even though I spent just 2 nights in this English city, I think I found some of the best things do in York. If I had more time, I would have gladly dug deeper and probably found even more awesome experiences. But I think this is a good “starting point” list. If you’ve been reading this blog, then you know I’m more of a nature gal than a city gal. However, York is definitely a city that I really like. And I admit, I’ll go back to uncover more of York and its surrounding areas. So let’s get started on this fascinating English city.
York is located in Northeast England, specifically in the Yorkshire and the Humber region. It’s a city of about 208,000 so not a large city, but big enough to offer up quite a bit to do. This fascinating city was under Roman rule way back in the day, then the Vikings came (and went) and then it was eventually put under Norman rule when they conquered the island of Britain. Situated on the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss, York became an important city as the English empire grew. While it was not as prominent politically during the 1600’s and 1700’s, it was culturally significant. It was in the early to mid-1800’s that York became a center for the railways and engineering became an important aspect of this northern city.
The number 1 reason for visiting this incredible city is to see the York Minster, or the York Cathedral. The building that is there now is not the first one that was built on this site. Supposedly the first church built on the York Minster site was a quickly constructed wooden one back in 627. And over the years, the site has seen some sort of church in various forms. But the Gothic cathedral you see now was started in 1080 and then added to and changed a bit in the mid-1200’s in that true Gothic style. It was in 1472 that all the towers were complete and the York Minster was officially consecrated. So it took a while for the York Minster to become the York Minster. It’s impressive as hell!
Stained glass windows, high vaulted ceilings, towers, the crypt and a splendid organ. There is a lot here. Give yourself enough time to really walk through this grand and magnificent cathedral. And if you time it correctly, you can wander about then be treated to the ceremony known as Evensong. What is Evensong? This is a short service that centers on the singing of the York Minster Choir. Typically it takes place around 5pm, but check the website for the exact time. The ceremony lasts about 30 minutes or so and is religious to some extent. But all are welcome. Just be respectful. Space is limited, so do get in line early for this. Even if you are not religious, like me, you’ll appreciate the beautiful voices as they echo off this stunning building.
York is first a Roman city so there have been walls here for quite some time. Sure they’ve been rebuilt over time, but York has more miles of intact wall than any other English city. And taking a walking tour that includes walking on those walls is one of the best things to do in York. I took a tour with Yorkwalk which had daily walks available — no reservations necessary — for about £6 in 2017. I believe they no longer have these daily public walks but they do still take reservations for groups, no matter the size, for guided tours. However, there are other choices for walking tours in York and most will include walking parts of the city walls because the walls are such an important piece of York’s history. A good guide will tell you about the history of this this intriguing city, weaving in stories and legends. Walking up on the walls will give you some fabulous views as well as a sense of the history of York. The other thing to notice as you walk around the city is that some of the gates, which they curiously call bars, are still intact.