With a history involving the Romans, Saxons and Vikings, it’s little wonder this city has so much to offer. Visit York help us on a tour of relics, chocolate and heritage
York is one of England’s finest and most beautiful historic cities. With Roman roots and a Viking past, it offers an eclectic mix of culture and history – with hidden gems and unique experiences around every corner.
The Romans knew it as Eboracum, to the Saxons it was Eoforwick and the Vikings – who came as invaders, but stayed on in settlements – called it Jorvik. The York of today is a fashionable city that successfully combines its heritage and superb historic architecture with independent shops, restaurants, bars and cafés, to attract tourists from all over the world.
Crowned Britain’s Home of Chocolate, the most haunted city in Europe and with one of the best racecourses in the country, York is abundant with culture and character. Plus, the city’s thriving cultural and creative sector has seen it become the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts, with creativity embedded in every aspect of the city.
At one with the past
York is a well-known historical gem, with the history of the city spanning over 2,000 years from its establishment by Romans, to then being invaded by the Vikings, as well as its position as the medieval capital of the North. York also has an extensive chocolate history with Terry and Rowntree beginning their sweet journeys here with Chocolate Orange and Kit Kat. It is a small city with so much packed in, much of which has already been written about, but with a huge amount more remaining to be discovered. From walking along the ancient city walls, to visiting the largest gothic cathedral, York is full of great experiences for all ages.
York’s world-class visitor attractions and museums are all easily accessible on foot and located within the city centre. Explore the largest expanse of stained glass in the UK, see how the Vikings lived, discover the history of the country’s railways and much more.
Enter one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, a masterpiece in stained glass and stone and a sacred space that has been at the centre of Christianity in the north of England since the 7th century. The Minster was built for the glory of God and this is reflected in every aspect of this ancient building, from the exquisite handcrafted stone through to the unrivalled collection of medieval stained glass.
Marvel at the Great East Window, the largest single expanse of medieval stained glass in the country, explore the 800-year history of the building or hear the Grand Organ, which returned to regular use during worship in spring 2021 following a £2m, once-in-a-century refurbishment.
Escape the day-to-day and join National Railway Museum for a journey through time. Get up close to icons of the rails including Mallard, the world’s fastest steam locomotive. Discover how high-speed rail travel began and journey back in time to experience the working life of a station. Explore over 200 years of history and find out how railways shaped our world.
At JORVIK Viking Centre you are standing on the site that revealed some of the most astounding discoveries in modern archaeology. Your first experience at JORVIK is an exploration of the Coppergate Dig, with a fully immersive display taking you back to the 1970s. Travel around 10th century York, experiencing what it was like living in the city. The sights, sounds and even the smells of the Viking Age are brought vividly back to life as you journey back 1,000 years. Get up close with some of the most beautiful and rare Viking artefacts in the world, from delicate earrings and socks to frying pans and padlocks – and even a fossilised Viking poo.
Step off the beaten track and delve deeper into the city’s ancient past to uncover some of York’s best kept secrets. Explore England’s oldest living convent and its hidden chapel, experience life in a medieval household at Barley Hall, and admire the splendour of Fairfax House, one of the most distinguished 18th century Georgian townhouses in Britain. Immerse yourself in the grandeur of the Mansion House, one of York’s great historic treasures, and step back in time through 650 years of history at Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, the most well-preserved guildhall in Europe.
Celebrate the city’s chocolate and confectionery heritage on York’s self-guided Chocolate Trail, and taste handmade chocolates at York Cocoa House. The city recently celebrated 250 years of being home to the renowned confectioner Terry’s. Today, this sweet legacy continues with treats ranging from humbugs to fudge produced in the city, with chocolate remaining a vital part of York’s past, present and future.
If you haven’t got a sweet tooth, there’s plenty more in York that will whet the appetite, which is deservedly known as one of the UK’s best foodie destinations. Book a table at Roots York – York’s only Michelin star restaurant – or enjoy a delicious meal at Los Moros serving hearty homemade North African dishes.
At the time of writing, the York Spring Fair & Food Festival had just kicked off at York Racecourse in May, offering ten days of funfair, food and entertainment, including the lighting of York’s Jubilee Beacon. The festival brings together one of the largest vintage funfairs seen in North Yorkshire, and a food festival showcasing the very best artisan products from Yorkshire and beyond. This year’s event promises to be even bigger and better, with a stage hosting live music and family entertainment – not to mention additional vintage funfair rides, and more than 40 traders and street food stalls already confirmed.
The special programme of entertainment being planned for the Platinum Jubilee Weekend includes the lighting of York’s beacon on the evening of Thursday 2 June as part of the UK-wide lighting of Platinum Jubilee Beacons, and the opportunity to head to the racecourse for a Big Jubilee Lunch on Sunday 5 June, where an array of food and drink stalls can provide a picnic to suit all tastes.
Originally built in 1906 as a ‘Palace of Business’ for the North Eastern Railway Company, then one of the richest businesses in Britain, The Grand, York is bursting with original features and architecture and boasts a stately character, with sweeping stone staircases, original wood panelling, parquet flooring and acres of marble. In short, this is a truly stunning place to stay in York.
The extravagance and grandeur is all a reminder of the building’s former status as an icon of the golden age of railway travel. Situated next to the ancient walls that enclose the city centre, and with views of York Minster, the hotel is located at a historical crossroads – the perfect place to explore the city.
No less impressive is No. 1 York Guest House, a truly charming boutique hotel. The building is a Grade II Listed Regency townhouse of stately proportions and head-turningly good looks. It has huge, dreamy sash windows, higher-than-high ceilings, a sweeping central staircase, and ivy around the door. Its grand-but-friendly face is full of charm, and inside you’ll find pantries stocked full of treats for the taking, great restaurant food throughout the day, delicious drinks from the bar, a spa centred on bespoke therapies, and a straight-from-the-heart welcome. Their 39 bedrooms, including three standout suites, are dotted around the building’s three floors. Each one has its quirks courtesy of the building’s heritage detailing and their interior designer’s wonder-inspiring style.
Shop till you drop
York is full of wonderful independent shopping outlets, such as Nomination, which manages to bring some Italian flair to the historic city. They offer a whole host of jewellery and accessories, for men and women. From small to big, Land Rover’s state-of-the-art showroom really replicates the manufacturers reputation for quality British design. Customers are able to browse, try and choose their Land Rover vehicles in an innovative and luxurious setting that incorporates the latest technological developments in showroom displays.
York has plenty for those looking for a little home interior design inspiration. Rodgers put sustainability at the top of their agenda, but that doesn’t have any kind of impact on the quality of design offered. At Rodgers, you will find a really wide choice: striking contemporary looks, classic and elegant collections, new designers and established names in furniture and furnishing. With all this shopping sleep may be on the mind, so the York Bed Company is worth a look at, boasting over four decades of offering the finest in quality mattresses and divans, as well as a range of bed sets. The garden isn’t overlooked, either, when you have the likes of Langlands garden centre, where you can enjoy beautiful displays, enjoy a range of mouth-watering, fresh fayre, and get great advice from a friendly, professional team.
Perhaps the best thing about shopping in York, however, is just exploring the historic streets and uncovering gems. There’s plenty of them.
WHAT’S ON IN JUNE
York Festivals of Ideas, 11-24 June, will bring innovative thinking to the city
St Leonard’s Hospice Jubilee Walk, 18 June, is a great way to mark the Queen’s special anniversary
Dolls House Fair, 19 June, will take you back to your childhood at York Racecourse
Eboracum Roman Festival, 25-26 June, will re-enact days of yore
Annual Wildlife Day, 26 June, is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the wonders around us