Ye Olde York, this lovely medieval city full of history, friendly people who step aside or stop walking when they notice you’re taking a photo, and even apologize, if they didn’t notice to step away on time. A city full of interesting sites, car-free city centre, haunted buildings and awesome ghost stories… the list goes on and on.
Ye Olde York really is a city with a small-town feeling, and that’s what I love the most!
York has a lot to offer, but we only had one day for York during our 9-day road trip in the UK. So we needed to be efficient!
I’m happy to tell you that in case you have as tight of a schedule as we did, one day is totally doable. Let’s have a little walk around Ye Olde York and find out what to do in York, shall we!
York by car: Tips for parking with a guest house recommendation!
Like many other historic cities in England, York has a car-free city centre. In case your plan is to visit York just for a day, the best and easiest option is to use Park & Ride.
Park & Ride in York
What does ‘park and ride’ mean? York has 6 Park & Ride services just outside the city. On Park & Ride areas, you can park your car for a very affordable fee (in 2016:£2,80 per person with 2 children under 16 years old free of charge per paying adult).
The fee includes a return ticket with a city bus between your Park & Ride station and the city centre. Buses are equipped with free WiFi, they run every 10 to 15 minutes, and they save the frustrating effort of finding a parking spot near the car-free centre and paying high parking fees. It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?
Read more about Park & Ride in York.
Stay overnight in lovely Bronte Guesthouse
If your plan is to spend a night in York (which is highly recommended, so you’ll have more time to walk around this beautiful city) you want to stay in a traditional English bed & breakfast, right?
I can warmly recommend the lovely Bronte Guesthouse just outside the city centre gates. As we were travelling with kids, we booked an en-suite family room with full English breakfast included just for 110 pounds, which is not a bad price at all thinking of the location; You’re just a 5-minute walk away from the medieval city centre with all its attractions.
Mick and Mandy at this small but cosy family-run guesthouse were such fantastic hosts. The breakfast was delicious, the room and the beds were comfy, and besides having street parking included for the time of your visit, we got a parking permit also for the following day on the house.
I want to note that this isn’t a paid advert! We paid for our visit as any other customer, but having such a pleasant stay in Bronte Guesthouse, I have no doubts of recommending them to anyone visiting York.
A walk through Ye Olde York—A city with a small-town feeling
You will fall in love with York even if you just walked around for a day or two. If you want to visit at least a few attractions to really get to know the city, the official sightseeing card YorkPass isn’t a bad idea.
We didn’t buy this for our super short visit, but the prices don’t seem too bad; One-day pass costs £38, 2-day £50 and 3-day pass £60 per adult for 30+ attractions (children £20 / £26 / £30).
For all sites included, please visit YorkPass website.
Free experiences in York
Walk on the city wall
A walk on the longest medieval town wall in England should be number one on your Things to do in York list. Altogether the city wall is 3,4 km long, and you can walk just a part of it, as we did due to bad weather, or do the complete round. You’ll get a nice idea of the city when looking at it from the wall, and the best of all—This experience is completely free of charge!
Free walking tours
There are different ways of enjoying a free walking tour in York. The most obvious one is, of course, to do it by yourself. There are also free guided walking tours starting in the front of York Minster. And of course, as in any medieval city, there are many themed walking tours, like ghost tours, available. Check out this link for inspiration.
One interesting and fun way to explore York for free is to download the York Cat Trail map and hunt for the cats appearing in buildings all over the city centre. Too bad I noticed this only a moment before we left York.
The Shambles and The Shambles Market
Being one of the most famous and the most picturesque streets in Britain, The Shambles is another must-do when visiting York. Besides the beautiful, historic buildings, today The Shambles is full of cosy cafés, little boutiques and restaurants. The street that once was a street full of butchers, a place to slaughter livestock and home to an interesting lady, Margaret Clitherow. Read more about The Shambles and its history here.
When visiting The Shambles, make sure to pop into The Shambles Market where you can find a wide selection of interesting items from handcrafts to origami pop-up cards, meat, cheese, clothes, bags, flowers and more. The Shambles Market is open 7 days a week starting at 7 am.
I think you should definitely visit the magnificent York Minster, but if you don’t want to pay the entrance fee, there are many beautiful churches in York that you can enter free of charge.
York is a real dream destination for ghost hunters as it is full of buildings that are said to be haunted. One of the most haunted ones is Guy Fawkes Inn, where the famous Guy Fawkes was once born, but apparently, he never left…
Pretty beer gardens
You wouldn’t believe it when looking at a pub or a restaurant from the street, but many of them have beautiful, green beer gardens. Beer gardens are obviously free to enter, but a night in one might end up pretty pricey!
If you have time only for one attraction, I suggest it to be the magnificent York Minster.
The gothic cathedral of York is one of the finest and biggest medieval buildings in Europe. The first church built on the site was a wooden church dating back to year 627. Renewed in 670 and burned down in 741, built again, damaged again in 1069, repaired, then destroyed by the Danes in 1075, again rebuilt, and again destroyed by fire in 1127… This stunning building really has an intriguing history.
Finally, the cathedral was completed, as we know it today, in 1472. Just one step in makes you speechless, it really is worth a visit. The admission fee for an adult is £10 + £5 if you want to go to the tower. Kids under 15 can enter free of charge.
Note that the admission ticket is valid for 12 months, so paying the admission fee once will give you a free entry at any time during the next year. A tour in the cathedral guided by volunteers is included in the admission fee. Also, audio tours are available at the entrance.
When you get to know a new city, you want to find a place for panoramic views of the city. In York, Clifford’s Tower is your spot. Walk on the wall of the largest remaining part of York Castle that was once served as a prison…
The entrance fee for an adult is £5,20 and £3,10 for a child between 5–15 years.
Museums of York
No matter what’s your main area of interest, York has a museum for it. York Castle, railways, archaeology, the dark history of the city, the Vikings… and even chocolate!
The beautiful River Ouse flowing through the city is a great place to spend a sunny day in York. Have a cup of coffee (or a pint of beer) on one of the many terraces by the river, or just chill out on the riverbanks and enjoy the view.
The reason why I didn’t include the River Ouse among the free experiences is that you have so much to choose from. The best way to enjoy the river is to go for a river cruise either during the day or, if you enjoy romantic atmosphere, in the evening with the city lights reflecting on the surface of the water.
Yup, Ye Olde York really has it all. It’s very easy to fall in love with this city with a small-town feeling.
Have you ever visited York? Do you have any other tips to share?
I have great news for you! This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.
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