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.
If you love history, you’ve come to the right place. York has layers of it. Our tips for history lovers:
St. William's College
St Mary’s Abbey
Museums, & galleries
Only 6 minutes walk from Hedley House this amasing museum spans the evolution of the railway industry AND it's FREE to get in!
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.
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.
Set on St Helen’s square, you can view the grandeur of this stately house, home to York’s Lord Mayor.
Just 15 minutes drive from York, this National Trust property has beautiful grounds and a stunning 3-mile riverside walk to enjoy around it.
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
Get a guided boat tour on the River Ouse or hire a Red Boat for a self-drive adventure.
There are hop on/ hop off bus tours as well as Ghost Bus Tours that run in the evening.
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
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.
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.
Running July to September only, this giant maze will keep families lost for hours.