If you’re a history lover looking for an adventure, the city of York has no shortage of historical attractions and activities! A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to travel to York and experience Visit York’s new campaign, “York – The Original City Adventure“. The campaign has a number of different adventures for visitors to go on, including Thrill Seekers Adventures, Foodie Adventures, Family Adventures and of course our favourite… a History Lovers Adventure! The campaign encourages people to plan their own adventures in this wonderful and historical city.
The great thing about York is that it is a very walkable city, meaning you will have time to visit many different attractions. We had the chance to visit many places during our stay, and there wasn’t one that disappointed. We’ve put together a list (in no particular order) of ten great historical things to do on your own #OriginalCityAdventure in York!
1. Discover over 2,000 years of history at York Minster.
York Minster is probably the most famous and easily recognisable attractions in the city. The first Minster is believed to have been built around 627 with additions and expansions made up until the 15h century. York Minster is one of the largest cathedrals of it’s kind in northern Europe and is an impressive structure both inside and out.
Along with taking in the spectacular views from the outside, we also highly recommend visiting the inside of the Minster where there are a number of things to do (so many that the cathedral has its very own Top 10 Things To Do inside). This includes a visit to the Undercroft where visitors can explore the interactive chambers which depict the story of York from Roman times up until the present day. There is also a temporary Jorvik exhibition on display until the renovations of Jorvik are complete (see number 4!). If you’re a fan of heights, you can take a trip up the Central Tower of the cathedral and get an amazing view of the city. You can also attend an Evensong, which uses the original pattern of Evensong in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.
2. Take a walk down a recreated Victorian Street.
One of my favourite attractions in York is the York Castle Museum, which I truly believe is one of the most fun and informative museums I have ever visited. My favourite part of the museum is the recreated Victorian Street, where you can literally step back in time and experience the sights, sounds and smells of Victorian England. You can wander in and out of various shops, take a peek down back alleys and you may even run into a Victorian character or two! The Victorian Street is something unique that visitors of any age can enjoy.
3. Have a hot chocolate made from a 17th century recipe at the York Cocoa House.
I always like to look for different ways to experience history, and there’s no better way to experience history through food and drink! York has a number of historical restaurants, pubs and cafes, but one of my absolute favourites is the York Cocoa House. The York Cocoa House Chocolate Emporium is a place to learn about everything to do with chocolate. At the Chocolate Cafe you can try a variety of savoury and sweet chocolate delights. There are all kinds of hot chocolates to try including one very historical recipe… you can order a classic hot chocolate made from a recipe written in 1644! Not only is the hot chocolate historical, but it is also extremely delicious and the Chocolate Cafe is the perfect stop on a cozy autumn afternoon.
4. Experience life as a Viking at Jorvik.
A visit to York is incomplete without a visit to Jorvik, the city’s famous Viking Centre. Unfortunately, the original Jorvik Centre was damaged during the floods of 2015 and the building is currently being refurbished. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get your Viking fix, as there are now three special exhibitions on display as a part of Jorvik on Tour!
You can see the “Life and Death” exhibition at the York Theatre Royal, “Treasures and Belief” in the Undercroft of York Minster and “Home and Abroad” at St. Mary’s, Coppergate which is right next to the original Jorvik. These exhibitions provide a wonderful display of Viking history and culture and well worth a visit until Jorvik is reopened. Jorvik will be reopening in the new year, in time for the Jorvik Viking Festival which takes place from the 20th-26th of February, 2017. To learn more about Jorvik and how you can help with the refurbishment, please click here.
5. Get interactive at Barley Hall.
If you’re a hands-on kind of person Barley Hall is the perfect attractions that really lets you get to grips with medieval life in York. Barley Hall is an original medieval house that was once home to the Priors of Nostell and a Lord Mayor of York. The house is decorated to depict what it would have looked like in the 15th century and the best part is that it is a completely interactive museum. Visitors are free to pick things up and sit on the furniture, giving a real medieval York experience. Barley Hall also currently has a Wolf Hall exhibition with original costumes from the BBC hit historical drama.
6. Have a pint in a medieval alehouse.
Trembling Madness is a small company which specialises in the sale of alcoholic drinks. Above their shop is a medieval craft alehouse where you can have a pint under a roof that has been there for hundreds of years. The original part of the building was actually the first Norman House to be built in York, and the room is full of historical charm. It’s a tiny space which means it can get crowded, but it is definitely worth the wait for a seat and a pint!
7. Go train spotting at the National Rail Museum.
If you’re a train enthusiast, or just a lover of all things historical, the National Rail Museum just outside York’s city centre is an essential stop on your trip. This is another interactive museum where you can explore over 300 years of railway history.
The Great Hall is the main part of the museum and was actually built in 1877 as a warehouse for steam locomotives. It was damaged during World War II but luckily repaired and after continuing as a warehouse was seen as the perfect place for the museum which opened in 1975. In the Great Hall you can see famous trains such as the Mallard, the Shinkansen (also known as the Japanese Bullet Train), a replica rocket and many more. The museum also consists of The Warehouse, which houses a number of historical railway items, The Workshop where trains are maintained and a few other areas promising fun for the whole family!
8. Take in a stunning view from the top of Clifford’s Tower.
Another very recognisable site in York is Clifford’s Tower, the oldest remaining part of York Castle. The tower was originally built by William the Conqueror and rebuilt by Henry III after being twice burnt to the ground. It is not only the oldest remaining part of York Castle, but one of the only remaining parts and gets its name from the execution of Roger de Clifford who was hung from the tower walls for committing treason against Edward II.
Visitors can climb to the top of Clifford’s Tower where there are stunning views of Old York as well a wonderful view of York Minster.
9. Grab a drink and explore the Roman Bath.
One of the coolest attractions in York is by far the Roman Bath. The Roman Bath is one of York’s oldest attractions and while it may look like an ordinary pub from the outside, there is a hidden secret inside! In the basement of the pub is an actual Roman Bathhouse which has been turned into a museum. The pub is a Victorian Coaching House and also has a select number of rooms for guests to stay in. After you explore the bathhouse, you can grab a drink and something to eat upstairs while enjoying some live music!
10. Take a walk down the Shambles.
One of York’s most fascinating streets in The Shambles. This is another place where you will truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a bygone era. The Shambles is one of the best preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe and would have originally been home to York’s Butcher’s shops. Today, the buildings have been restored and now house boutique shops and cute cafes.
Along with it’s historical significance, the street also has another more modern claim to fame. The Shambles is said to be the inspiration for the set of Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies, which for a huge Harry Potter fan like myself, makes it even that much better!
As you can see there are numerous historical things to explore in the great city of York. This is just a taste of what you can experience on your own History Lovers Adventure. If you’d like to find out more about how you can plan your own #OriginalCityAdventure please visit www.visityork.org/adventure. It is also worth mentioning that many of these sites can be visited using the York City Pass which you can find out more information about here! With Christmas coming up, there is even more exciting things to discover in York, and it is the perfect time to plan your own Original City Adventure.
This post is in collaboration with Visit York.