Updated on January 25, 2023 by Axel Hernborg

Axel Hernborg

When it comes to city visits in the north of England, you can’t go wrong with a trip to York.

This historic city, first founded in 71 AD, has been around for a long time and has garnered a reputation as one of the go-to cities in this part of the United Kingdom, for its history, its culture, and for the many points of entertainment that you can also find across the city.

If you find yourself in the city of York and are struggling to think of places to see or things to do here, then all you have to do is check out some of the places that we’ve mentioned here!

City Wall Walk

Starting with perhaps one of the more gentle experiences that everyone will be able to enjoy and take in, we have the city wall walk that many visitors love to take when visiting York.

Being originally a fortress Roman town when it was first made into a permanent settlement, York has had many permanent defense walls destroyed and erected throughout history, the first being made from wood, while many of the later versions were made from stone and mortar.

The current wall that you’ll see around the outskirts of York city center is a somewhat later edition, being built in the 13th and 14th centuries, then being restored in the 19th century.

The walk around the wall itself is an impressive 2.6 miles, meaning that it will take most people a couple of hours to complete, making it the perfect walk to have earlier in the morning, to help wake you up and get you ready for the many other attractions that this old city has to offer you!

Clifford’s Tower

Like with the main city wall, you’ll find that many historical buildings have come and gone across the city of old York.

Perhaps one of the most famous fortresses and towers that you’re still able to go visit is the old Clifford’s tower, which you can still climb to this day!

The history of Clifford’s Tower (also known as York Castle) is almost as long and winding as the city itself, with it serving as a center of riots, historical sieges, violent and bloody pogroms, a prison and as a regional administrative hub, much of which you can find out about when you visit the city and tower itself.

While the tower is no longer used for its original purposes, it is still open to the public, a tourist attraction that anyone can visit for themselves.

If you’re a fan of history (and let’s be hornets, you’re in York. You ARE a fan of history), then this is an absolute go-to place for any traveler!

Visit York’s Shambles Street

Okay, don’t tell anyone that we told you this, but York, despite its many cultural and historical achievements, technically doesn’t have much to do with the Harry Potter series.

The footbridge that you’ll find in York train station is used for one scene in The Sorcerer’s Stone, and that’s it!

However, considering the well-preserved nature of so many late medieval and later Renaissance buildings, it’s not too surprising that the old-style, almost whimsical, building designs would be so closely associated with an equally fantastical and whimsical story series.

This has resulted in many places across York becoming hot spots for shops and stores selling not just Harry Potter and fantasy-related merchandise, but a whole host of other fine wares, from confectionaries, bookstores, and bakeries, to both seasonal and year-round marketplaces.

Of these places, The Shambles, with its 14th-century style architecture, is probably the most famous.

It’s kind of incredible that York has been able to foster this connection between itself and Harry Potter, and its own cultural identity so well.

Regardless of how tenuous the connection between the much-loved children’s fantasy series and the city is though, the Shambles is a street that you have to visit, especially if you love shopping for treats and gifts to give to your friends and loved ones from your travels!

Visit York Minster

Visit York Minster

Of course, York hasn’t just been a political, historical, and cultural center of Northern England for centuries.

It has been a major religious and ecclesiastical center as well, and nowhere is that better demonstrated than at the fabled York Minster!

Also known widely as York cathedral, this massive building is a classic and beautifully preserved example of 13th and 14th-century Gothic Architecture that was popular across both the British Isles and Europe as a whole.

It’s the biggest cathedral of its type that you’ll find across Northern Europe, making it doubly important!

Going inside, you get a real sense of the majesty of the building, especially when standing in the main chamber, surrounded by stained glass and stone arches.

You can even climb up the man tower of York cathedral, but we would advise that you should be relatively fit if you want to do this. It has over 250 steps in it, after all, and that’s a long way up!

York Museums

I mean, where to start with this one?

Once again, the fact that York is such an important and old city means that there is so much history to unpack in just this one place.

So it’s probably not too surprising that there are so many museums found here!

There are so many museums found across the city, we probably could’ve filled up this entire list with them.

Instead, however, we’re just going to cover some of the most iconic and well-known that you should keep your eyes peeled for.

National Railway Museum

Not only will you find out about the long history of railways and modern trains (many of which were first invented and developed in the United Kingdom), but you’ll also be able to see the massive variety of different train and steam engines from across time and the world!

Yorkshire Museum

First opened in 1830, this museum has several mainstay collections that it has maintained and had since it first opened, from natural to historical and cultural, as well as many exciting exhibits that they host for specific seasons throughout the year.

Yorkshire Air Museum

Based in a former RAF command station, this particular museum can be found on the outskirts of the main city center, just a short walk or bus ride away.

Here, you’ll find over 40 aircraft exhibits, as well as the restored RAF tower that helped coordinate a massive number of campaigns throughout the 20th century, from biplane attacks to Cold War jet maneuvers.

This is absolutely a must-see area for engineering and 20th-century war fanatics!

York’s Chocolate Story

This museum doesn’t just give you the rundown of York’s history with chocolate making but also goes into plenty of detail about the origins of cocoa and the history of chocolate as a modern-day delicacy, and even its historical appreciation.

Of course, the gift shop has plenty of chocolate for you to try out!

Jorvik Viking Center

Being a former capital city of Viking North England, York has plenty of excavations dedicated to understanding the Viking heritage of the city.

And the Jorvik Viking center might just be one of the best places to learn about this particular chapter of both Viking and York history!

Chocolate Experiences

When it comes to this universally popular confectionary, the city of York might have one of the strongest histories and traditions associated with chocolate manufacturing in the UK, outside of maybe Birmingham with its historic Cadbury’s factory.

We’ve already briefly covered York chocolate Story Museum (which you should check out if you have the time), but the city itself is full of not just confectionary stores and bakeries from which you can be premium chocolate items, but also plenty of chocolatery experiences which allow you to not just learn more about the chocolate-making process, but also take lessons on making your chocolate goods.

Places like York Cocoa house are some of the best places to get these kinds of experiences, and should be on anyone’s to-do list if they are a lover of baking and all things sweet!

Yorkshire Dale Nature Tours

Okay, so technically this particular thing to do isn’t in York.

However, considering that the Yorkshire dales are just a stone’s throw away from the city center, and Yorkshire is considered a haven of English natural walks and countryside, tours from York to the Yorkshire dales are easy to find and add to your itinerary while in the city.

(Many of these excursions are full-day experiences, however, so make sure that you have the time spare before booking them!)

Final Notes

So, there you have it!

As you can see, there is no shortage of incredible things to try in York, whether you are someone who is there to absorb as much culture and information about the historic city as possible, or someone who is here to simply enjoy the sights and sounds, and maybe grab a souvenir or two while you are there.

The only question left, is what will you do first?

15 Things To Do In York, England | UK Travel Guide