Things to do in York

things to do in york

Looking for things to do in York today, this week or during the holidays?  Great news, you are in the right place as we have all of the best attractions and events to keep you and your family entertained.

The guide is broken down into easy to use sections which provide useful information and links to pages with more details or direct to attractions and event websites for easy booking.

So sit back, grab your favourite drink and lets find some fun things to do in York.

Things to do in York – introduction

The Shambles

york shambles shoppingThe Shambles which date back to the 14th century, consists of narrow, cobbled pedestrianised streets which can get a little busy in peak seasons. However, if you go early in the morning or later in the day, you can enjoy the overhanging timber-framed buildings in peace and while away.

The meat hooks hanging outside the buildings remind you that these were in fact mostly butchers shops, which is where the Shambles got their original name, “The Great Flesh Shambles.”  The shops are now home to every imaginable type of shop you can think of including places to eat which is great as you may find that time passes quickly as there is so much to see.

York Minster

york minsterYork Minster is one of the finest examples of a medieval cathedral in the country and if you enjoy medieval architecture, it is a real treat. One of the things we love about York Minster is that it is not huge but big enough to be extremely impressive.

You almost stumble upon it as it is tucked away at the top of the shambles, just inside the city gates.  Walking out of the cramped cobbled Shambles and into this large open area provides a welcome relief and a fantastic view as you approach.

If you get a chance, head down into the crypt underneath the main altar to see the remains of the original Norman church which the existing Minster grew from in the 12th century.  Enjoy the magnificent medieval stone carvings, stained glass windows, and if you are brave enough, the steep narrow stairs that lead to superb city views.

National Railway Museum

National_Railway_Museum_yorkYou do not have to love trains to enjoy the National Railway Museum but if you do, you are in for a treat because this is not simply one of the best attractions in York it is the best railway museum in the UK!  Admission is free and there is so much to see and do that you can easily spend an entire day in the museum, so having a choice of 3 places to eat whist you are there, helps a lot.

Some of the exhibits are set in the old roundhouse of the York engine sheds and the museum is a stones throw from the main East Coast train line and York train station so everything feels really authentic but still modern and well laid out.   Have a look at a Japanese Bullet train, a Eurostar train, steam and diesel strains and they even have cutaway engines to see, which are huge!  When you first arrive, be sure to find out the times of the demo’s and talks which take place around the museum so you truly get the most out of your time there.

Jorvik Viking Centre

JORVIK-viking centreAlthough York dates back to around 7000 B.C. it was the Roman’s and then the Vikings which put it on the map. Vikings settled in York from 800 to 1050 A.D. and York has truly embraced the Viking culture ever since, well at least in the last 50 years!

The Jorvik Viking centre is truly a must for any visitor to York and I remember going as a local kid on a school trip when it first opened and being amazed as I found myself in a Viking settlement, with all the sights and smells.  You start in a time car (slow rollercoaster) that takes you back through a Viking street market, and over the course of about 20 minutes travel through historical recreations that are complete with sounds and smells.

When you complete your travel through time, you then get the opportunity to talk to Vikings (obviously actors) who are happy to explain every part of Viking life, apparently there were no dragons!  Take your time to examine the exhibits which show artifacts dug up from the Jorvik site and pickup some great things in the gift shop.  Definitely, one of the most fun things to do in Yorkshire.

River Cruise

york river cruise yorkboat-sightseeingA great way to break up the day from all the walking is to take a 45 minute cruise on the River Ouse, this provides a great opportunity to relax and enjoy sites that you would not normally see, whilst all the time entertained and informed by the audio narration.

For some reason, I never did this myself until a few years ago and would now recommend it to anyone who is looking for a great couple of hours relaxing and taking in the sites.  Be sure to have a look at the River cruise website to see if they have any specials coming up during your visit, including evening cruises, ghost cruises, and holiday events.

York Viking Festival

Ryork-Viking-Festivalecognised as the largest Viking Festival in Europe, the annual JORVIK Viking Festival is a city-wide celebration of York’s Viking heritage and if you have never been before, it is fantastic fun for all the family.

Taking place every February Half Term, the festival’s programme of family-friendly events, lectures, guided walks and battle re-enactments attracts over 40,000 visitors each year from across the globe, with many returning year after year to take part and enjoy the atmosphere.  Be sure not to miss out on the grand finale with the burning of the boat and fireworks, no matter your age, you will love it.

What to do in York this weekend

York Art Gallery

york art galleryYork Art Gallery is in Exhibition Square, five minutes’ from York Minster and opposite Bootham Bar, the northern gateway on the city walls. It is about 15 to 20 minutes’ walk from York Railway Station.

The nearest car park is on Marygate, which is five minutes’ walk and has 350 spaces. Marygate is off Bootham, the A19, which is the main road into York from the north.  For more car parking information please click here.

Address: York Art Gallery, Exhibition Square, York, YO1 7EW
Contact: 01904 687687;
Prices: adults £7.50; children (16 and under) free with adult
Opening times: daily 10am-5pm, except December 25 and 26 and 1 January

Whats on in York this week

York MotorSports Village

york-motorsports-villageWith a wide selection of racing packages to suit all ages at North Yorkshire’s only indoor Karting circuit, the York MotorSports Village is a must for all motor heads and anyone who wants to have some fun, especially as it is weather proof!  Children from 4 years old can find their ‘racing feet’ in a fun, safe, and easy-to-drive electric F3 ‘Junior’ kart. Older children from 8 years old can enjoy the F2 petrol karts and for adults and children over 13 years old the F1 ‘Pro’ fleet is available.

York MotorSports Village are long-time members of The National Karting Association (NKA) so you can rest assured that the quality of their equipment and safety is of paramount importance.

Racing simulator

Complementing the Karting packages, York MotorSports Village have the North’s only driver training race simulator as used by real F1 stars. F1 Rfactor is the UK’s most accessible race training simulator which provides you the opportunity to enter the cockpit of an F1 car and race on internationally renowned Grand Prix tracks. Can you set a time that would keep pace with Button or Hamilton around Silverstone?

Spectators are always welcome and can enjoy views of the action from the comfort of Bar Enzo, there is a fully licensed coffee and wine bar. From here, spectators can also monitor race progression across the four screen Tag Heuer timing display, watch the simulator from the driver’s ‘Point of View’ or simply sit back with a cup of full-flavoured, hot coffee or a glass of wine.

So, if you’re planning a child’s birthday party, preparing a stag or hen weekend, entertaining clients or simply want to have a challenge between friends, then why settle for anything less?

Address: Kathryn Avenue, Monks Cross, York, North Yorkshire, YO32 9JS, England
Contact: 01904 673555;
Prices: £17.50 per person
Opening times: Monday to Friday 11:00 – 20:00, Saturday 09:00 – 21:00, Sunday 10:00 -19:00

Kids activities in York

Yorkshire Museum and Museum Gardens

York_Castle_MuseumIf you are looking for free things to do with the kids during the holidays then the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens are next to Lendal Bridge, the main river bridge between York Railway Station and York Minster. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to walk from York Railway Station and there are entrances into the gardens from both Museum Street and Marygate.

The nearest car park is on Marygate, which is five minutes’ walk and has 350 spaces. Marygate is off Bootham, the A19, which is the main road into York from the north. For more car parking information please click here.

Address: Museum Gardens, York, YO1 7FR
Contact: 01904 687687;
Prices: admission free for under 16’s; adults £7.50; concessions £6.50 (tickets give repeat entry for a year)
Opening times: daily 10am-5pm, except December 25 and 26

Days out in York

York Dungeons

york dungeonsThe York Dungeon is a 75-minute journey into more than 2000 years of York’s horrible history. The Dungeon brings together an amazing cast of theatrical actors, special effects, stages and scenes in a truly unique and exciting walkthrough experience that you see, hear, feel and smell. It’s hilarious fun and it’s sometimes a bit scary.

You will laugh and scream, you will love it. We do too and here is why:

  • The York Dungeon is now Bolder and Better than ever before
  • 10 laugh-out-loud shows
  • Laughs, screams and cutting-edge storytelling

We’re the black comedy of attractions; dark, atmospheric and very very funny.

You and your companions follow the story of York’s darkest history through 10 live shows and 9 live actors. It is based on real history (minus the boring bits) where you come face-to-face with sinister characters from York’s gruesome past, including traitorous plotter Guy Fawkes and the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin.

It is a fully themed experience. That means 360° sets, full of authenticity and theatrical storytelling. On your journey you will get a check-up from our resident plague doctor, get lost in the Labyrinth of the Lost and learn about the legend of The Golden Fleece. If you are looking for things to do in York this is sure to provide a great day out for everyone!

Address: 12 Clifford Street, York, North Yorkshire, YO1 9RD, England
Contact: 01904 632599; Click here to visit York Dungeon’s website
Prices: £16.95 per person
Opening times: daily but please call the attraction directly to avoid disappointment.