Few cities can rival York for history, personality and, believe it or not, ghost hunters. The city’s crumbling medieval walls encircle a pretty riverside spot with over a thousand years of heritage, but there’s always something new to discover down one of the city’s cobbled side streets. To inspire your next visit, we’ve asked our local insiders to recommend some of the places you shouldn’t miss during a weekend in York.
First things first: take to the city walls. Stretching for 2.75mi, they’re the most complete set of medieval city walls in England and, at 13ft above the ground, they’re also one of the best vantage points from which to see the entire city. Work up an appetite by walking the entire circumference before breakfast, and then duck into The Gatehouse at Walmgate Bar to pick up a well-deserved coffee. While you’re there, admire one of the only examples of an English town gate with an intact barbican. Recommended by local insider Charlie Bush
With a mention in the Domesday Book and – rumour has it – the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, the Shambles wouldn’t be out of place in a fairy tale. The shopping haven is also photographer’s dream with its Tudor-style beamed houses jutting out over a zig-zag of stony streets. Ghost hunters won’t want to miss picking up a spooky souvenir at the York Ghost Merchants, but you’ll also find an excellent array of artisanal tea shops and quirky clothing stores here, too. Recommended by local insider Charlie Bush
It’s almost impossible to visit York without seeing the Minster; the towering medieval cathedral is the largest of its kind in Europe. Its detailed spires poke out above all other buildings, but arguably the best view is if you approach it from the Shambles. Inside, spend a quiet few moments exploring the ancient stones of the crypt, then splash an extra £5 to pant your way up the central tower’s 275 steps for unrivalled views of the whole city. Recommended by local insider Charlie Bush
There’s a lot to take in under this oak roof – a remarkable set of paintings, for one, and an enviable collection of medieval silverware, for another – but its most impressive feature is the swooping ceilings of the still-used medieval Gilded Hall. Here, you’ll traverse 660 years of history by hearing tales of the local entrepreneurs who built York from Viking settlement to 21st century science-led city (via railways and chocolate, of course). Recommended by local insider David Taylor
For a taste of more recent history, head to this perfectly preserved Cold War bunker that was only decommissioned in 1991. Now a museum, the semi-subterranean bunker was originally built to monitor fallout in the event of a nuclear attack. It’s run on a tour-only basis by an army of enthusiastic volunteers who talk you through what life would have been like had a nuclear missile struck. A chilling reminder of what could have been. Recommended by local insider David Taylor
A short walk south of the city walls brings you to Rowntree Park, which was gifted by Rowntree & Co. to the city of York to commemorate the 200 factory workers who died in World War I. It’s a quiet place. Weeping willows whisper to the glass-like surface of the Ouse River and one of the only buildings is the Reading Café (complete with its own mini library). However, recent years have seen the development of a skate park and tennis courts, so you’ll often find a youthful, sporty crowd to enjoying the leafy environs, too. Recommended by local insider Charlie Bush
Ever wondered what a Viking’s house smelt like? Head to the Jorvik Centre on Coppergate to find out. Following the discovery of the remains of a Viking settlement in the 1970s, the Jorvik Centre was established to vividly recreate life in the 10th century using (almost) all five senses. It’s a must-visit for anyone with even the faintest interest in Vikings – and its gruesome details and ride attraction make it a fun-packed day out for younger archaeologists, too. Recommended by local insider Charlie Bush