Located in the northeast of England, York is a beautifully charming city that is sure to grab your attention. With a long history that includes the Vikings and the Romans, various civilizations have left their mark on the interesting walled city. There are also plenty of reminders from the medieval era. With bags of historical sites combined with a fresh forward-thinking outlook, it is little wonder that York is one of the UK’s most popular cities for visitors.
Here’s a taster of what to expect in stunning York:
1. An impressive and spectacular cathedral
York Minster is famous for being the biggest Gothic style cathedral in all of Northern Europe. A magnificent and eye-catching sight, it is just as beautiful inside as it is from the outside. With a history that dates back to around the 8th century BC, numerous decorative details, a sweeping nave, amazing panoramic views from the tower, a historical library, a plethora of religious art, and fascinating collections of artefacts from all over the world that cover around 2,000 years of times gone by, there really is something to enchant all.
Wander around outside and admire the spectacular facades and cast your gaze upwards to gaze in awe, revulsion, and intrigue at the grotesquely fascinating gargoyles. Gargoyles have a practical purpose – to disperse rainwater from roofs – but they also seek to remind people what their life will be like without faith.
Inside, be captivated by the sparkling stained glass windows and descend into the Undercroft for a revealing journey through the ages.
Admission to the cathedral is 10 GBP (approximately 15 USD) or you can buy a combined ticket for 15 GBP (approximately 22.50 USD) that allows you access to the soaring tower as well. Tickets include a free tour conducted by volunteers, a great way to learn more about this magnificent architectural testament to faith.
2. Ancient Roman ruins that whisper from the past
Known as Eboracum in Roman times, York was an important city for the once-mighty civilization. The Romans constructed a defensive wall around the city, ensuring intruders could not enter. The present walls were built in the Middle Ages on the foundations of the old Roman walls.
Eboracum Legion Bathhouse is one of the city’s oldest attractions, with an ancient bathing area in the lower levels. See how mighty Roman soldiers kept clean on their missions to conquer Europe! With an interesting museum, the Roman Bath Museum, a lively British pub stands on top of where Romans used to wash! Admission is 3.50 GBP (approximately 5.25 USD).
There are several excavation sites where you can get more of an understanding about life in Eboracum, with remains of the basilica visible in the Undercroft of York Minster.
The Multangular Tower once stood at the corner of a protective Roman fortress, today a lone reminder of the area’s once powerful status, and the Yorkshire Museum is home to a terrific array of everyday and ritualistic Roman objects, including mosaics, statues, and gravestones. It also has a good selection of items from the Viking era and medieval epoch. Admission is 6.81 GBP (approximately 10.20 USD) for non-UK tax payers or UK residents who do not want to make a Gift Aid donation.
3. Quaint medieval streets and pretty churches from the Middle Ages
York is home to a number of lovely churches, each with its own special features and interesting details. They include Holy Trinity Church, believed to be one of the oldest churches in the whole of the UK, the tower of St Lawrence with its intricately engraved doorway, the atmospheric ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, which are within the Yorkshire Museum’s pretty gardens, and All Saints North Street, with its soaring tower and opulent stained glass.
The most famous medieval street in York, and one of the UK’s most well-known streets from the Middle Ages, is the Shambles. Now home to an assortment of cute boutiques, delicatessens, and cafes the unusual road was previously at the heart of York’s bustling meat trade.
The stores were once brimming with an assortment of pungent flesh, carcasses strung up on hooks outside to air and slaughter houses behind the stalls. Some shops today still have the old hooks hanging outside and you may notice outside wooden shelves where meat used to be displayed for sale.
Buildings hang over the narrow walkway, designed so as make it as shaded as possible to preserve the meat. As you walk along the lowered central section, imagine what it was like in the past … this wide channel was created as a way for butchers to get rid of blood and offal, tossing unwanted items into the lowered section of the street to wash it away!
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4. Unusual place names that are great for a giggle
What’s the strangest place name you’ve ever come across on your travels? “Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate” is sure to rank quite highly on the “who thought up THAT name?!” scale!
A really small street that is mainly interesting today solely for its unusual name, Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate was once where the city’s officials meted out corporal punishments … with stocks and a whipping post.
York is criss-crossed by many narrow historic alleyways, such as Grape Lane (previously called Gropecunt Lane!), Mad Alice Lane, Finkle Street, and Pope’s Head Alley. Collectively, these quirky walkways are known as the Snickelways.
Also, try not to get confused by place names around the city … York is one of the only places in the UK where a gate is a road, and a bar is a gate!
Other great things to see and do in York
Explore an ancient Viking community at the incredible JORVIK Viking Centre and see what life was like in the past. You can see the excavated foundations of a Viking city as well as numerous objects from the Viking times. Fantastic engaging displays really help bring the past to life and there are excellent reconstructions to really take you on a time-travelling journey of discovery. The entrance cost is 10.25 GBP (approximately 15.40 USD), or you can buy a combined ticket for 14.45 GBP (approximately 21.70 USD), which also includes an interesting archaeological dig site.
For thrills and spills make sure you check out the awesome York Dungeon. Complete with costumed actors and actresses, discover a gorier side to the ancient city. Admission is 15.60 GBP (approximately 23.40 USD), although you can benefit from great discounts when you book in advance online.
A top tip for anyone who will be visiting several of York’s cool attractions is to purchase the official York Pass. With discounted entry to many of the most popular attractions, as well as other great savings, it really can pay off.
Be entertained at one of the city’s vibrant theatres, lose yourself in the York Maze, visit excellent museums and art galleries … and more! Plan your trip to York and see why it is so highly-rated!
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