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Best things to do in York

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Where in the world: Europe  /  UK  /  England  /  Yorkshire  /  North Yorkshire  /  York
Nicknamed the "City of Festivals," York offers a plethora of cultural events and tourist attractions that range from Gothic cathedrals to Christmas-themed amusement parks. Some of the most popular things to do in York include attending a regular service at York Minster--one of Northern Europe's oldest and most magnificent cathedrals--and walking along the incredibly well preserved York City Walls that date back to the Roman times. Informative and engaging, National Railway Museum offers fun for the whole family, with all types of trains you can board and a miniature railway you can ride. A giant corn labyrinth with a wide range of farmland games, York Maze is another interesting family-oriented attraction.

York is best known for its Specialty Museums, Architectural Buildings, and History Museums.

Top 15 things to do in York

1. York City Walls

Experience York's ancient history by walking along the incredibly well-preserved York City Walls. The walls date back to Roman rule over 2,000 years ago. Walk their entire 3.2 km (2 mi) length if you can. Less than one-third of the 108 walled towns throughout Britain have even a single gateway remaining. These walls, though, retain four main and two minor gatehouses, all of which are still ornate and intact. Take the self-guided audio tour to hear about how the walls developed through the Roman era, the Dark Ages, and the Viking and medieval periods. Be careful in sections with steep drops and no protective barrier. Your ticket for the walls includes free admission to the Richard III Museum, where your tour starts and finishes.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. National Railway Museum

At National Railway Museum, learn about the history of trains and their effect on British society. This engaging museum, which won the European Museum of the Year Award in 2001, houses 100 locomotives and almost 200 items of rolling stock that either ran on British rails or that British manufacturers produced. Wander through the massive halls and board all types of trains, from the opulent Royal Train to a futuristic Japanese bullet train. Observe engineers working at their craft in the workshop and take a ride on the miniature railway outside. Guides are available to give children a fun education on Britain's rail history.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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3. York Minster

York Minster is one of northern Europe's oldest, largest, and most magnificent cathedrals. Join a free tour that points out the building's renowned stained-glass windows, architectural details, and artifacts of its millennium-long existence. Wander through interactive galleries telling the cathedral's story. If you're in shape, climb 275 steps to the top of the 70 m (230 ft) tower. You'll pass medieval pinnacles and gothic gargoyles on your way, and earn sweeping panoramic views of the city and Yorkshire countryside as a reward for your effort. The cathedral also welcomes you to attend one of its regular services.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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4. York Castle Museum

Experience life in Victorian and Edwardian England at York Castle Museum. Housed in prison buildings within the York Castle complex, the museum features recreated scenes from the 17th to 19th centuries. Walk through Kirkgate, a Victorian street with buildings that feature period architecture, and visit rooms furnished in Victorian styles. See the Raindale Mill, a reconstruction of an 18th-century flour mill. The Cells exhibit educates visitors about prison life at the castle. The museum also hosts numerous temporary exhibits. Your admission ticket is personalized and good for free reentry up to 12 months after your initial visit.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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5. Jorvik Viking Centre

A popular time warp experience, Jorvik Viking Centre includes excavations that first revealed the ancient city of York, a settlement from the age of the Vikings. Over 40,000 artifacts were discovered at this location, which now offers tourists a chance to see 1,000-year-old houses and backyards right beneath their feet. The center also features lifelike animated Viking figures, based on skulls found in a Viking cemetery and modeled using advanced facial reconstruction technology. Take a tour of a recreated Viking settlement before moving on to the museum area, which combines an exhibit of some 800 finds from the archeological site with interactive displays and special talks by the "Viking" staff.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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6. York Shambles

Take a stroll down one of Britain's most atmospheric streets, York Shambles. This narrow, cobblestoned pedestrian thoroughfare features numerous timber-framed buildings, with some dating back to the 14th century. Many years ago, the street primarily housed butcher shops. Today, you'll find charming shops, cafes, and restaurants. Stop at the House of Margaret Clitherow to learn the story of York's famous 16th-century Catholic martyr. Afterward, drink tea and eat scones in the oak-beamed Earl Grey Tea Rooms. If you have British heritage, head to the York Heraldic Centre to find your family's coat of arms. The street can be quite busy with tourists--morning visitors may have a quieter time.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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7. York's Chocolate Story

At York's Chocolate Story, learn where chocolate comes from, how to make it, how to taste it, and the story of its production in the city. Take a guided tour to hear about York's chocolate-making families and their famous creations, such as Kit Kat bars. Craft your own chocolates at the chocolate-making station, watch a chocolate-making demonstration to see how the experts do it, and taste chocolate drinks and other treats in the on-site cafe. If you're looking for gifts to bring home, the shop sells ethically sourced chocolates. The venue offers online booking as a convenient way to buy your entrance tickets.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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8. Room Escape Games

Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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9. Brewtown Tours

Suggested duration: 4 hours
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10. The York Dungeon

Take a terrifying tour beneath the streets of one of England's oldest cities at The York Dungeon. After purchasing your ticket to the depths, a guard or rag-clad prisoner will lead you through a maze of torture devices and dank cells, where you may still find a poor soul awaiting his fate. Don't worry, it's all an act. In fact, you can choose your favorite period of England's dark history to explore: the great plague, ghost stories at the Golden Fleece Inn, the judgment of sinners, or the torture chamber. Professional actors pose as soothsayers, hangmen, jailers, and witch burners and lead you through the halls with a dose of humor and history.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. Yorkshire Air Museum

The only Allied Forces memorial in Europe, Yorkshire Air Museum is supported by over 4,000 registered friends of the museum from around the world. The museum aims to educate and preserve the history of flight. Visit the collection of over 50 aircraft from around the world, including machines from as far back as 1853 and as modern as the GR4 Tornado. The museum's site covers over 2.8 hectares (7 acres) of managed landscape, part of a sustainability program called the "Nature of Flight." This large area is used on "Thunder Days" to demonstrate maneuvers with still-operating aircraft. You'll find a printable map of the museum's acreage on its website. 
Suggested duration: 3h 30 min
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13. Beamish Museum, Beamish

Beamish Museum was established in 1970 to preserve an example of everyday life in urban and rural northeast England in the early 20th century. Because the museum is so large, spread over 120 hectares (300 acres), try to pinpoint in advance what you don't want to miss. The museum features a mixture of original and replicated historical buildings, a huge collection of artifacts, working vehicles and equipment, rare livestock breeds, and costumed interpreters. Explore the grounds to learn about the region’s pit communities, collieries, train stations, and farms. Take a ride on the Pockerley Waggonway, snaking its way through the Georgian landscape just as it would have back in the early 1800s. There’s always something new here, so check in advance for special activities and demonstrations.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
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14. Castle Howard

Home to the Howard family for centuries, Castle Howard is included in the Treasure Houses of England heritage group. The domed central structure is recognizable as the fictional "Brideshead" from the 1981 television series. Almost all of the 145 rooms have been open to the public since 1952, with the exception of a wing that the Howard family still calls home. After touring the rooms, take a walking tour of the 51 hectare (127 acre) arboretum, called Kew, to see some of England's local tree varieties at their best. Tours of the arboretum are arranged separately from the castle tours, but the house's gardens are accessible with the castle admission. Look for a gazebo in the garden called the Temple of the Four Winds, or the mausoleum in the park--both are romantic resting spots. Stop by the visitor's center to arrange all your tickets for your tour.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Auckley

Award-winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park features numerous walk-through areas and offers a rare insight into the world of wild animals. Spend a day outdoors and learn about some of the endangered species living here, such as the African hunting dog. See zebras, antelopes, ankole cattle, camels, raccoon dogs, meerkats, tigers, and lions roaming freely through their designated areas. The park also includes a groundbreaking open-top leopard enclosure with a high viewing platform, bringing visitors eye-to-eye with this endangered carnivore. The site hosts educational programs and special events, such as behind-the-scenes VIP tours and ranger talks. Save time by booking your tickets online.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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