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Go back in time

The Romans founded the city in AD43 as Eboracum or “place of the yew trees”. During their occupation it became one of the most important towns in Britain and a staging post for the growth and eventual triumph of Christianity.

After the Romans left in the fifth century, the people of Eboracum endured a torrid period as the city suffered numerous barbarian attacks. Eventually the conquest of the region by the Anglian King Edwin heralded a new name for the city – Eorforwic or Evorwic.

The city gradually evolved into an important northern trading post, attracting the attention of Saxons and the feared Vikings. It was the latter who would stamp their authority on the city as the end of the first millennium approached. They too liked the idea of rebranding cities, settling on the name Jorvik.

With the downfall of the Anglo-Saxons and the decline of the Vikings, Jorvik or York became the centre of rebellion against the Normans. It was also during this period that the city’s most distinctive sites, such as Clifford’s Tower and The Minster, were created or redeveloped.

The medieval period saw the city once again establish itself as a major centre for commerce. The Guildhall and the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall are products of this growing confidence. A considerable number of churches were also built in the city during this period.


Having become a pawn in the destructive Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War, conflicts separated by the Gunpowder Plot associated with York’s Guy Fawkes, the city settled down to become an important centre of Georgian culture and legal power in the eighteenth century.

The city’s role as a commercial hub was revived again in the nineteenth century as the railway network developed. Many of the industrial and commercial initiatives with which the city is popularly associated, including carriage building and repairs, residential developments, chocolate and leisure, can be traced to this era.

Now the city is forging a new identity as a base for science and research – but at its heart is a magnificent history full of drama and intrigue.

The countryside north of York boasts two National Parks and numerous heritage sites, including Fountains Abbey, Rievaulx Abbey, Beningbrough Hall and Whitby (home of Captain Cook).

The city itself boasts the magnificent Minster, home of 80% of the stained glass in Britain, the National Railway Museum, Castle Museum and Jorvik Viking Centre amongst its numerous attractions. Evening entertainment is provided by three theatres, ghost walks and cinemas, making York an all-year-round resort

Things to do

There is so much to see and do in York, your challenge will be fitting it all in! We’ve not listed everything – but this will give you a flavour of what you can enjoy in York.

History lovers

If you love history, you’ve come to the right place. York has layers of it. Our tips for history lovers:

Walking Tours

Walking Tours

Several walking tours leave from outside the art gallery or museum gardens every day. Some are free, others charge a small fee. Either way, they will give you a brilliant historic overview with plenty of gruesome anecdotes.

The Minster

The Minster

York’s tallest building and must see site. The first Minster was erected in the 7th century; the present one is the fourth on the site. The largest medieval structure in the United Kingdom, among its many treasures are 128 stained glass windows dating from the 12th to the present century. Go into the Undercroft or climb the Bell Tower for spectacular views.

The Walls

The Walls

Walk the city walls – or at least part of them – to see parts of the city not normally visible from the street while treading on history. Substantial fragments of the original Roman walls remain, but it is the carefully maintained and restored medieval walls which now encircle the old city for almost three miles. The earth ramparts on which they stand were raised by the Romans and later Anglo-Saxon-Danish rulers of York. The Normans strengthened them.

The Bars

The Bars

In York, Bars are gates and Gates are streets. You will find The Bars or gateways into the city in the North (Bootham Bar); the South (Micklegate Bar, which is traditionally the monarch’s entrance and where traitors’ heads were displayed); Monk Bar still has a portcullis in working order while Walmgate Bar is the only town gate in England to have preserved its barbican or defensive tower.



A number of York's streets have names ending in 'gate', the Viking word for 'street'. But Stonegate existed long before the Vikings came: it was in fact the 'Via Praetoria' to the main gate of the old Roman fortress. Kept free of traffic so that its rich medley of medieval and Georgian architecture may be enjoyed in peace and at leisure, this ancient thoroughfare is the most delightful of shopping streets.

St. William's College

St. William's College

Built about 1465 for the Minster Chantry priests, the college has also served as a Royal Mint and printing house for Charles I in the Civil War. It is now used for meetings. The upper floor, which has many interesting features, is open to the public.



The 15th century Guildhall was virtually destroyed in an air raid in 1942. It has been expertly restored and the interior contains some splendid carving. The adjoining Inner Chamber escaped destruction and may also be viewed.

Clifford's Tower

Clifford's Tower

Originally built by William the Conqueror to subdue the rebels of the north, it was twice burned to the ground, before being rebuilt by Henry III in the 13th century. The tower takes its name from one grisly incident in its long history, when Roger de Clifford was executed for treason against Edward II and hanged in chains from the tower walls. Part of English Heritage, it’s a great place to get views across the city.

St Mary’s Abbey

St Mary’s Abbey

The remains of St Mary’s Abbey can be found in Museum Gardens. It, like so many other abbeys, fell into ruin after Henry the Eighth’s reformation of the church. Now it is a beautiful, peaceful spot to stroll around or have a picnic next to.

The Shambles

The Shambles

This cobbled street dating over 900 years was historically where butchers sold their wares. The fifteenth century buildings lean into the middle of the cobbled street, so that people leaning out of windows on opposite sides could touch hands.

Barley Hall

Barley Hall

Tucked between Stonegate and Swinegate, this medieval building shows the life of the Nostell Priory inhabitants.

Museums, & galleries

National Railway Museum
Only 6 minutes walk from Hedley House this amasing museum spans the evolution of the railway industry AND it's FREE to get in!

Castle Museum
This is a brilliant museum for the whole family and includes a mock Victorian street that looks like something out of a Harry Potter film set.

The Yorkshire Museum
Set in Museum Gardens, it has a variety of ancient artefacts and displays that change. It regularly runs hands on workshops for kids.

York Art Gallery
Recently refurbished, the Gallery is home to the Centre for Ceramic Art. It is a Museum of the Year 2016 finalist.

Jorvik Viking Centre
Located at the site of an archaeological dig in which the remains of a Viking settlement were found, this museum takes you back through life as a Viking. NOTE: it is currently closed until Spring 2017 due to flooding damage.

York’s Chocolate Story
York is famous for its chocolate making history. This tasty museum explains the city’s chocolate heritage.

Stately homes

Fairfax House
Situated near Clifford’s Tower, this beautiful house gives you a behind the scenes look at Georgian life.

The Treasurer’s House
Set behind the Minster, this historic property is home to one of York’s best ghost stories – the tale of the Roman soldiers in the basement.

Mansion House
Set on St Helen’s square, you can view the grandeur of this stately house, home to York’s Lord Mayor.

Beningbrough Hall
Just 15 minutes drive from York, this National Trust property has beautiful grounds and a stunning 3-mile riverside walk to enjoy around it.

Castle Howard
45 minutes drive away is this stunning stately home with almost 1,000 acres of Grade 1 listed parkland and gardens to explore, including a brilliant children’s adventure playground.

Other must do York experiences

Boat tours
Get a guided boat tour on the River Ouse or hire a Red Boat for a self-drive adventure.

Bus tours
There are hop on/ hop off bus tours as well as Ghost Bus Tours that run in the evening.

Ghost tours
Several walking ghost tours are available that highlight all the spooky goings on in the city’s dark corners.

Tea at Bettys
Famous tea rooms located on St Helen’s square, you will have to queue to get in but enjoy a Fat Rascal while you’re there.

Whip ma whop ma gate
York’s shortest street with the longest name.

Festivals and Fayres
Throughout the year, Parliament Street in York hosts a variety of fayres and festivals – from food, to Christmas markets, to Yorkshire made goods.

York is a maze of little shopping streets. Stonegate and Coney Street are two of the main shopping thoroughfares. If you want biggest retail parks, try Monks Cross, the Vangarde Centre and Macarthur Glen Designer Outlet mall.

Fun for kids

National Railway Museum
Kids and train spotters will love this museum crammed with a huge variety of trains including a Japanese bullet train, royal train carriages and the Mallard.

A brilliant hands on archaeological experience for kids to learn about the history of York.

York Dungeon
For older kids and teens, this scary experience shows the nastier side of York’s history.

Piglets Adventure Farm
Outside of York, a fun outdoor park featuring pig racing and giant bouncy pillows.

York Maze
Running July to September only, this giant maze will keep families lost for hours.

Call us on 01904 637 404 or email:

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Hedley House
3 Bootham Terrace
YO30 7DH

t: 01904 637404

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