What to know before travelling to York

Are you planning your next UK city break? How about visiting the ancient and beautiful city of York?

With a Gothic Minster, winding cobblestone streets and historic architecture, this well-preserved Mediaeval city is one of the best and most interesting places to visit in the UK. Fusing the old with the new, it has something to offer every visitor, and with unique quirks and hidden gems around every corner, it's not hard to see why so many fall in love with this charming city.

Is York worth visiting?

In 2022, York was named the UK's best big city for a domestic holiday by Which? readers, but if that's not enough to sway you, check out these ten reasons to visit York…

  1. York is one of the oldest cities in Europe, dating back to Roman times, and has some of the best preserved historical buildings in the Western world.
  2. It's home to some of the UK's top tourist attractions, including JORVIK Viking Centre and York Dungeon.
  3. York is easy to navigate on foot, helping visitors to save money on transport.
  4. It has a thriving theatre, music and arts scene.
  5. It's at the confluence of the River Ouse and Foss, perfect for romantic boat trips.
  6. York is fantastic for indie and small business shopping.
  7. It's a hub of paranormal activity, with ghost walks all over the city.
  8. It's home to the annual York Food and Drink Festival, which takes place in the autumn and brings together over 100 producers to showcase the best of Yorkshire produce.
  9. You have 2 of the country's most beautiful national parks on your doorstep - the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.
  10.  You'll be spoilt for a choice of traditional British pubs, with many establishments dotted along Rougier Street and Coney Street.

Top attractions in York

Ready to plan your city break to York? Here are the York visitor attractions to add to your itinerary…

York Minster

York is known for its historical buildings and fascinating architecture, with one of the most spectacular examples being York Minster. The gothic cathedral (one of the largest in Europe) has been standing since the 13th Century and took over 250 years to build. Unmissable, it dominates the skylines thanks to a local planning bylaw, which means that no new buildings in the city can be taller than the Minster.

Today, it is one of the most popular attractions in York, with many visiting to marvel at the stunning stained glass windows and beautiful panoramic views over the city.

York City Walls

You simply can't visit York without touring the iconic city walls. The walls were originally built by the Romans around 71 AD but what can be seen today is primarily Mediaeval, dating back 700-or-so years. Walking the walls (the longest mediaeval walls in England) will take around 2 hours. It's a free activity in York and an enjoyable way to experience amazing city views.

Jorvik Viking Centre

Get a flavour of how the Vikings lived with a trip back to 975 AD. The Jorvik Viking Centre is one of the UK's top visitor attractions, offering a one-of-a-kind experience perfect for history lovers. Combining archaeological finds with replica scenes, JORVIK is a fun and immersive museum for those interested in learning more about the city when it was under Viking rule.

The Shambles

If you're looking for a free attraction in York, take a walk down The Shambles. Regarded as one of the most picturesque streets in Britain, The Shambles is a cobblestone street lined with overhanging timber buildings dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Some would say it has a magical feel, and it's rumoured to be the street Diagon Alley was based on in the Harry Potter books.

While you're there, be sure to explore the many independent businesses, boutique shops, cafes, restaurants and bars populating the street and pick up a token of your visit in one of the Harry Potter-inspired stores.

Side tip: If you're hoping to visit Shambles Market, ensure you get there early to avoid crowds. It's also wise to snap your photos of the Shambles early in the morning before the street fills with people.

Clifford's Tower

Clifford's Tower is one of the most iconic structures in York and the only remaining part of York Castle. Historically, it was the administrative heart of the city, with the courts, mint and jail nearby. The walk up the steep hill is no easy feat, but worth it for the spectacular views of the rest of the city and fantastic photo opportunities. Visit in spring and enjoy the beautiful daffodils scattered across the hillside commemorating the massacre of Jews in 1190.

It's also worth touring the lovely Castle gardens, which you can follow south along the River Ouse to the Blue Bridge.

Clifford's Tower is just minutes away from other popular York Attractions, like York Castle Museum, with its interactive galleries and historical objects which tell fascinating tales of the city's past.

Is York a good place for families?

York is an exciting and child-friendly city with plenty on offer for all the family. Keep the kids entertained come rain or shine, and fuse fun with fascinating educational content for a well-rounded trip.

Some of the best family attractions in York include:

  • York's Chocolate Story
  • Web Adventure Park
  • The Potion's Cauldron
  • Treasure Hunt York
  • York Maze
  • York Dungeon
  • National Railway Museum

What is the best part of York to stay in?

Are you wondering where to book a hotel in York? If it's your first visit, we recommend choosing a hotel in York's city centre. That way, you'll be close to all the major tourist attractions and amenities and enjoy the local experience fully.

For families, we recommend booking a hotel in the nearby residential area of Holgate. It's close enough to York city centre that you can walk (and save money on parking) but far enough away if you want to enjoy quiet nights with the kids.

If you're on a tight budget, search for a hotel in Bootham. This is another residential area of York, known for its budget-friendly hotels and eateries. Like Holgate, it's close enough to the city centre that you can walk in to save money on transport.

Book York Hotels with Plans Change

Exciting news! We currently have a fantastic Resale Deal on a one-night stay in York. Book the Park Inn by Radisson in York City Centre for £110 (originally £134.10) from 25th - 26th November 2022.

But if you miss out on this cheap hotel room in York, don't worry! Instead, search for York hotels on Plans Change, and we'll show you the discounted hotel rooms in the city available on your chosen dates. We're all about making planning your next city break easy and enjoyable while offering you the best hotels at the very best prices.