10 things to do in York this Bank Holiday Weekend
A unique city rich in history and culture awaits you, with museums, green spaces and medieval-style pubs to enjoy
York! Known as 'the Apple' to us folks. I first visited York in 2002, on a school trip to celebrate the end of Primary School. 'How wonderful!' you say. 'You lucky thing!' Well no, actually. A terrible time was had, although this was entirely down to me having 'nae pals'. Over it, honestly. In truth, York is a beautiful, unique destination. It's rich in historical landmarks and is a vibrant cultural hub with museums and galleries galore and well worth a visit, whether just for a day or for a long weekend. Here's some of our highlights from the ancient city, and if you're looking for a hotel or more inspiration have a look at what our friends at Superbreak have to offer.
The museum, established in 1830, was one of the first purpose built facilities in the country. Today, the Greek Revival-style building sits in the centre of the picturesque museum gardens; ten acres of green space that extends down to the banks of the River Ouse. It's the perfect place for a picnic if the weather does you a favour. Opened in by nature's best-known patron Sir David Attenborough back in March, Yorkshire's Jurassic World takes an incredible trip through 150 million years of history. If it's people you're interested in, there are exhibitions about York's medieval and roman history.
Opening Times: 10am – 5pm; Admission is free for under 16s; adults £7.50; concessions £6.50
The stunning York Minster, is one of the most breathtaking cathedrals in the world. You could happily spend an hour or so walking around it, admiring the scale of the building, taking in its gothic architectural stylings. But why stop there? There's regular tours of the building, with information about its 800-year history from 10am-3pm every day, and if you climb the 275 stairs to the top of the central tower you'll get incredible panoramic views across the whole of the city.
Opening Times: Mon-Sat – 9am-5pm (from 9.30am Nov-Mar), Sun – 12 noon-5pm; Admission to the York Minster and tower costs £15 for adults, £14 for seniors and students, and £5 for under 16s.
The narrow, winding, maze-like streets of The Shambles used to be the hustling, bustling hub of York's 14th century meat industry, with punters and local butchers buying and selling. These days it's a more tourist friendly destination, but the cobbled roads and overhanging timber buildings are remarkably preserved from that time. Located less than half a mile from York Minster in the city centre, it's worth a detour..
Are you brave enough to enter the York Dungeon? If you do, you won't just get spooked, you'll get an alternative (but still educational) take on the city's fascinating history with 10 live shows, The Plague Doctor will tell you about cures and symptoms, while there's visits from York's most infamous son – Guy Fawkes, of Gunpowder Plot fame – viking invaders, Dick Turpin and a pub landlord with a gruesome story or two to tell. If you're feeling adventurous late night Dungeon experience offers more frights, and some rude words.
Opening Times: Sun-Thu – 10am-4pm, Sat and Sun – 10am-5pm; Admission begins at £11 per person for advance bookings, with the Dungeon not recommended for under 8s.
York was once known as Jórvík, 1000 years ago, when an Old Norse community called it their own. After the archaeological remains of this civilization were uncovered, the village was reconstructed as it was during the Viking age. The Jorvik Centre is now the closest thing there is to an authentic exploration of that period in history, with the sights, sounds and even the most unpleasant smells brought to life in its grounds.
Opening Times: Apr-Oct – 10am-5pm, Nov-Mar – 10am-4pm; Admission begins at £11 for adults; £8 for concessions, £9 for under 16s
York's Chocolate Story
While some of Britain's greatest cities prospered as ports, or as producers of coal, steel or wool, York's connection to chocolate stands out. That this relationship should be commemorated with a museum is obvious (and yes, there are opportunities to taste the chocolate). Quaker families bearing names like Tuke, Craven, Rowntree and Terry becoming giants of confectionary in York, known the world over and this immersive museums explores the hows and whys.
Opening Times: Mon-Sun – 10am-6pm; Admission costs £11.50 for adults, £10.50 for concessions and £9.50 for children aged 4-15. Family tickets are available, priced £39.95 for four, and £49.95 for five.
House of the Trembling Madness
This medieval hall is one of York's best known pubs, serving rare craft beer and serving up some locally sourced dishes too; from the stew of the day, to a range of platters that cater most dietary requirements, and plenty by way of bar snacks. Taxidermy animal heads adorn the walls, and there's over 900 drinks to choose from in total, from kegs, bottles and cans, in a pub that's full of character.The pub is set to relocate from its current Stonegate premises to Lendal, by the River Ouse, later in 2018.
Opening times: Mon-Sun – 10am-12 midnight
National Railway Museum
Much more than a haven for trainspotters and anoraks. From steam locomotives to high speed bullets, the National Railway Museum celebrates engineering brilliance, with 260 vehicles on show. There's a human interest side too; the mechanical collection considers how importance the railways were to York and Britain's prosperity, and there's stories about the people who built them, too. The museum is full of interactive displays and model railways and contains a play area for under 5s.
Opening Times: Summer – 10am-6pm, Winter – 10am-5pm; Free Entry.
York City Walls
The Romans loved building walls, didn't they? They were talented wall builders too. York has 2 miles worth of intact Roman wall standing, more than any other city in the UK. Built around the Ouse as a fortress back in those days of conflict, now it's just a lovely place to explore without the constant threat of invading enemy Vikings. The area around the impressive Micklegate, with it's imposing battlements, is a must see destination.
Cold War Bunker
The Cold War conjures up images of the Berlin Wall, protests in Red Square, and news reports of tension between the US and Soviets. Not very York, you're thinking? Prepare to be surprised. The threat of nuclear war was a universal fear. English Heritage's immaculately preserved York Cold War Bunker, with its blast proof doors and decontamination room, provides a fascinating insight into what it was like to live through one of the most paranoid periods in recent history.
Opening Times: Wed-Sun – 10am-6pm (open for May Bank Holiday); Admission starts at £7.65 for adults, £6.90 for concessions, £4.60 for children and £20 for a family ticket.