York Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), York

Established by the Romans as early as the 1st century AD, the walled city of York breathes history. York Minster, the 13th-century Gothic cathedral, Jórvík Viking Centre, and the National Railway Museum carry much legacy of the city's turbulent past, while the Stonegate street reveals York the way it is today. Follow this orientation walk to explore York in its variety.
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York Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: York Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: England » York (See other walking tours in York)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 18
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 Km or 3 Miles
Author: val
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • York Minster
  • St Michael-le-Belfrey
  • Stonegate
  • Yorkshire Museum
  • St Mary's Abbey
  • York Museum Gardens
  • Scarborough Railway Bridge
  • National Railway Museum
  • All Saints Church
  • St. John's Church
  • Clifford's Tower
  • York Crown Court
  • York Castle Museum
  • JORVIK Viking Centre
  • All Saints Pavement Church
  • Merchant Adventurers' Hall
  • Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate
  • The Shambles
York Minster

1) York Minster (must see)

York Minster, a Gothic cathedral, is one of the largest of its kind in northern Europe alongside the Cologne Cathedral and as such is visible from much of the city. The title "minster" is attributed to churches established in the Anglo-Saxon period as missionary teaching churches and serves now as an honorific title.

Devoted to Saint Peter, the minster has a very wide Decorated Gothic nave and chapter house, a Perpendicular Gothic quire and east end and Early English North and South transepts. The nave contains the West Window, constructed in 1338, and over the Lady Chapel in the east end is the Great East Window (finished in 1408), the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world. In the north transept is the Five Sisters Window, each lancet being over 53 feet (16.3 m) high. The south transept contains a rose window, while the West Window contains a heart-shaped design colloquially known as The Heart of Yorkshire. The organ of the church, which was reconstructed several times after several fires, is one of the most expensive in England.

Why You Should Visit:
Very deserving of its 2nd place as the UK's best Cathedral. After taking in the sculptures, memorials, and incredible windows, you can go up the tower for 360-degree views of York and/or down to the Undercroft, revealing the foundations of a huge Roman fort which must have been easily the size of the present city. Astounding! Tickets last you a whole year so you can pop back at any time.

Do try and get on the free guided tour – loads of interesting facts and stories about the history.
Do visit the book shop opposite the Minster, too – an amazing place with some fantastic bargains.

Opening Hours:
[General Visiting] Mon-Sat: 9am–4:30pm; Sun: 12:30–3pm
[Undercroft Museum] Mon-Sat: 10am–4:30pm; Sun: 1–3:15pm
[Shop] Mon-Sat: 10am–5:30pm; Sun: 12:30–5:30pm
[Worship] Daily: 7:30am–6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
St Michael-le-Belfrey

2) St Michael-le-Belfrey (must see)

Built unusually all in one go, St Michael's replaced an earlier church on the site during the reign of Henry VIII and sits at the end of Petergate in the shadow of the Minster. It is famous for being the place where Guy Fawkes was baptized in 1570 and many visitors come to see the enlarged copy of his baptismal entry in the church's registers.

The exterior is (predictably) executed in Tudor Gothic, and is wide and low. The west front is newer, as it was rebuilt in the 19th century when adjacent houses were demolished.

Inside, there are generous aisles running the length of the church, but the real reason for a visit is to see the fine 18th-century Baroque altarpiece and the collection of late medieval glass: that in the East window dates from the mid-14th century and comes from the previous church, whereas that in the aisles dates from its rebuilding in the mid 16th century, in the Flemish style. There is also an extensive collection of 18th-century monuments and memorials.

When the sun is going down this church really does stand out!

Opening Hours:
Sun: 10am-1pm; Mon, Fri: 1-3pm; Tue, Wed: 10am-3pm; Thu: 11am-3pm
Free admission

3) Stonegate

Stonegate is an attractive old street, full of interesting little shops. Apart from Mulberry Hall - the china and crystal specialist - it has a number of jewellers, the Teddy bear shop, the Peter rabbit shop, a very good book shop and much more.
Yorkshire Museum

4) Yorkshire Museum (must see)

The Yorkshire Museum is the home of the Cawood sword, and has four permanent collections, covering biology, geology, archaeology and astronomy. It underwent a major refurbishment from November 2009 to August 2010, with major structural changes and a re-development of all existing galleries. The £2million scheme was largely carried out by the museum's own staff, who restructured and redecorated the interior of the building.

The four permanent collections at the museum all have English designated collection status, which means they are "pre-eminent collections of national and international importance". The collection began in the 1820s with the collection of animal bones and fossils from Kirkdale Cave.

Why You Should Visit:
From showing the connection to the Jurassic period with full plesiosaur skeletons to the artifacts left from the Romans & Vikings over the ages, this is a very informative and interactive museum.

Be sure to see the amazing Middleham Jewel (a most amazing medieval goldwork) and the beautiful old library with first editions of well-known and historically significant books.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am–5pm
Dec 24/31: 10am–2:30pm
Dec 25/26, Jan 1: CLOSED
Sight description based on wikipedia
St Mary's Abbey

5) St Mary's Abbey (must see)

Once the richest abbey in the north of England, St Mary's lies in what are now the York Museum Gardens, on a steeply-sloping site to the west of York Minster.

The abbey dates back to 1086 and over time became the wealthiest monastery in northern England before it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Over the next 200 years, it fell into disrepair and was largely dismantled for its stone. Stones from the abbey can be seen lining paths throughout the York Museum Gardens, but the major ruins of the church are on the west side.

All that remains today of St Mary's are the north and west walls, plus a few other remnants: the half-timbered Pilgrims' Hospitium, the West Gate and the 14th-century timber-framed Abbot's House (now called the King's Manor). The remains of the Abbey were described by Edwin Ridsdale Tate in a 1929 publication in which he asserted that: "Nowhere in England is there another spot so full of charm as York and where in York is there a more charming spot than the Gardens of the Philosophical Society, in which stand the beautiful fragments of that once powerful and noble monastery of St. Mary's. Here we must leave the venerable pile in the evening of its glory."

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful, tranquil, and so close to the centre that you can fit it into whatever else you are doing on your trip to York.

Go into the Yorkshire Museum, itself a good place to go, and you get to go below to see even more of the Abbey which would be underground if not there. Excavated finds and architectural features, particularly relating to the warming house and late 12th-century chapter house as well. Mesmerizing.
Sight description based on wikipedia
York Museum Gardens

6) York Museum Gardens (must see)

The York Museum Gardens are botanic gardens in the centre of York, beside the River Ouse. They cover an area of 10 acres (4 ha) of the former grounds of St Mary's Abbey and were created in the 1830s by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society along with the Yorkshire Museum which they contain.

They were designed in a gardenesque style by landscape architect Sir John Murray Naysmith, and contain a variety of species of plants, trees and birds. Admission is free. A variety of events take place in the gardens, such as open-air theatre performances and festival activities.

There are several historic buildings in the gardens. They contain the remains of the west corner of the Roman fort of Eboracum, including the Multangular Tower and parts of the Roman walls. In the same area, there is also the Anglian Tower, which was probably built into the remains of a late Roman period fortress. During the Middle Ages, the tower was expanded and the Roman walls were incorporated into York's city walls. Most of the other buildings dating from the Middle Ages are associated with St Mary's Abbey, including the ruins of the abbey church, the Hospitium, the lodge and part of the surviving precinct wall. The remains of St. Leonard's Hospital chapel and undercroft are on the east side of the gardens.

The Yorkshire Philosophical Society constructed several buildings in the gardens during the 19th and early 20th century, including the Yorkshire Museum and its octagonal observatory. The museum houses four permanent collections, covering biology, geology, archaeology and astronomy.

Why You Should Visit:
Very calm area with plenty of places to sit and appreciate the ancient architecture – stunning surroundings and a great way to disconnect from the noise of the city.
Perfect for photo ops due to the stone columns and the Roman remnants. Good for a pleasant stroll or a relaxing picnic and fantastic for feeding the very, very friendly squirrels!

See these beautiful gardens in late afternoon sun, as the long shadows coming through the trees are just magical.
If you go right to the bottom of the gardens there are various gates to the riverside where you can just sit and watch the world go by.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am–7pm (Mar 25–Apr 30); 7:30am–8pm (May–Aug); 7:30am–7pm (Sep); 7:30am–6pm (Oct–late March)
Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve: 7:30am–4pm. Closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day.

Free Guided Tours:
Sunday: 1-2pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Scarborough Railway Bridge

7) Scarborough Railway Bridge

Scarborough Railway Bridge, built in 1845, was the second of the present bridges crossing the Ouse River. It carries the railway line between York and Scarborough. Initially it had a pedestrian path between the tracks. In 1875, the track was raised 1.2 meters and the path was moved to the south side, where it can be found today.
National Railway Museum

8) National Railway Museum (must see)

The National Railway Museum was established on its present site, the former York North locomotive depot, in 1975. It displays a collection of over 100 locomotives and nearly 300 other items of rolling stock, virtually all of which either ran on the railways of Great Britain or were built there. Also on the 20 acres (8.1 ha) site are many hundreds of thousands of other items and records of social, technical, artistic and historical interest, exhibited mostly in three large halls of a former motive power depot.

It is the largest museum of its type in Britain, attracting 727,000 visitors during the 2014/15 financial year. It has won many awards, including the European Museum of the Year Award in 2001.

The museum is a short walk from the railway station in York, either on the road or via a staircase from the rear of the platforms. A "roadtrain" runs from the city centre (near York Minster) to the museum on Leeman Road during half term, holidays and summer. York Park and Ride also serve the museum from the car park entrance, on Line 2 (Rawcliffe Bar-York).

Why You Should Visit:
To get close and familiar with all sorts of famous engines from history – the Rocket, Mallard, Flying Scotsman, Eurostar and Shinkansen among them.
This is a living museum with real-life trains and the way in which dining is incorporated is a true delight – you can sit and eat while you look around.

Make sure you go up the staircase and through the big doors that appear to be off limits – they are not. It's the workshop area where you can see how the trains are looked after and/or renovated.
If you want to go on the steam train (only on certain dates so you would need to check the website), note that they only accept cash so remember to take some with you.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am–5pm (winter); 10am–6pm (starting middle of February)
Free to enter but a donation is suggested
Sight description based on wikipedia
All Saints Church

9) All Saints Church (must see)

All Saints Church was founded in the 11th century, though most of the present building is from the 14th and 15th centuries. The land on which it was erected was reputedly donated by Ralph de Paganel, a Norman tenant-in-chief whose name is commemorated in the Yorkshire village of Hooton Pagnell.

Located near the Ouse River, next to a row of 15th century timber-framed houses, its main feature is an impressive tower with an octagonal spire. The church is also noted as containing the finest collection of medieval glass in York except that of York Minster, mostly dating from the early 14th century. Perhaps the most famous is that depicting the Prick of Conscience dating from circa 1410 which depicts the fifteen signs of Armageddon.

Why You Should Visit:
Free to enter, this church is a delight, and somehow has a far more authentic and untouched feel than some of the other medieval sites in the city.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-5pm; Sun: 10:15am-6:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. John's Church

10) St. John's Church

The earliest parts of St. John’s Church, including the tower base, date back to the 12th century. Much of the current building was built in the 15th century. The east end was rebuilt in the middle of the 19th in order to widen North Street, and some extensive restoration was also performed during that period. The church closed in 1934 and became the Institute of Architecture of the York Academic Trust, which merged with the University of York. The university used it as the Arts Centre in the 1960s, but it was subsequently sold and now houses a bar called the Parish. One notable feature is its old church bells, which are still occasionally rung.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Clifford's Tower

11) Clifford's Tower (must see)

The original York Castle, a wooden construction facing the Ouse River, was built in 1086 by William the Conqueror on the top of a high conical hill. Henry III rebuilt the castle in stone in the middle of the 13th century, creating a keep with a unique quatrefoil design, supported by an outer bailey wall and a substantial gatehouse.

During the Scottish wars between 1298 and 1338, York Castle was frequently used as the centre of royal administration across England, as well as an important military base of operations. This tower is all that remains of the legendary York Castle. It was named in 1322 after Roger de Clifford was held captive in York and put to death by Edward II for high treason. In 1890 Commissioners agreed to declare Clifford's Tower a national monument and to conserve it as a historic location.

Why You Should Visit:
Not a whole lot to see inside after you've walked up almost 60 steps, but because it's so old, preserved instead of rebuilt and not crowded, it gives insight into what it would have looked like a long, long time ago and provides some of the better shots of the city.

Check out this tower at least from the base. Especially beautiful in spring with the bulbs blooming all along the hill.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm (Apr-Sep); 10am-5pm (Oct); 10am-4pm (Nov-Mar)
Sight description based on wikipedia
York Crown Court

12) York Crown Court

At the end of the 18th century, three new buildings forming a U shape were constructed south of Clifford's Tower, the only surviving part of York Castle. The Assize Courts, on the west side, was one of them. Designed by John Carr, it now houses the York Crown Court. The Assizes were criminal courts used in England and Wales until their abolishment by the Courts Act of 1971. Since then, the criminal justice system has been under the jurisdiction of the Crown Court.
York Castle Museum

13) York Castle Museum (must see)

Originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068, York Castle now houses the York Castle Museum. The museum is dedicated to the history of the York area and showcases recreations of many of the living conditions of the era. Start your tour of the museum by exploring the recreated Victorian street before moving through the period-themed rooms. Also on display are a variety of military uniforms and memorabilia, as well as visual demonstration of many of the rites of passage of the time. The museum's most popular attraction is the debtors' prison display, which showcases the life of an inmate.

Why You Should Visit:
Much work has gone into making this as authentic an experience as possible and it's very well done. Lots to see, and the sounds & smells really add to the experience.
The café has a great cake selection and the shop isn't half bad either. There's also an outside area with a working flour mill beside the river – an ideal spot for a picnic.
For an extra fee, you can climb the remaining castle tower for great views over York.

Try to time your visit with the half-hour guided tour through Kirkgate (very interesting and informative) and take some 20p coins to have a go on the machines from the olden days.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5pm
Dec 24/31: 9:30am-2:30pm
Dec 25/26, Jan 1: CLOSED
Sight description based on wikipedia
JORVIK Viking Centre

14) JORVIK Viking Centre (must see)

Between 1976 and 1981, prior to the building of the Coppergate Shopping Centre (an open-air market now occupying the site), the York Archaeological Trust conducted extensive excavations in the area. Well-preserved remains of timber buildings of the Viking city of Jórvík were discovered, along with workshops, fences, animal pens, privies, pits and wells, as well as various artifacts such as pottery, metalwork and bones. In all, over 40,000 objects were recovered. The excavated part of Jórvík was recreated on the site, including figures, the sounds and smells, pigsties, a fish market and latrines, bringing the Viking city back to life by innovative interpretative methods.

The Jórvík Viking Centre, designed by John Sunderland, opened in 1984. A new museum was opened on 13 February 2010, coinciding with the start of the annual Viking Festival in York. The centre contains new exhibitions and features and has been called "one of Britain's most popular attractions." The BBC spoke of the "Time Warp" experience as "a new art form".

Why You Should Visit:
To experience a really fun narrated ride through a Viking village, plus you can see real Viking treasures on display, some of which would not be found anywhere else as they would have rotted away centuries ago (but were preserved due to the waterlogged condition of the ground in York).

It is worth booking in advance – for a little extra you jump the queue. Tickets are also valid for a year's worth of visits.
Once inside, ask the staff lots of questions about what to look out for and they will point out some interesting things about the place you would never have realized.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm (Apr–Oct); 10am-4pm (Nov–Mar)
Sight description based on wikipedia
All Saints Pavement Church

15) All Saints Pavement Church

Much of the All Saints Pavement Church was built in the 14th and 15th centuries. The east end, designed by George Edmund Street, was rebuilt in 1887, but the remains of the medieval chancel-arch can still be seen above the east window inside the church. Its most prominent feature is the octagonal lantern-tower from 1400, which had been a beacon for travelers for many years. It boasts a hexagonal pulpit from 1634, and several fittings from St. Saviour and St. Crux, whose parishes, among others, were united with it. Most notable additions are the 15th century west window with scenes from the life of Christ, the east windows by Kempe and the 12th century 'doom' knocker on the north door.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Merchant Adventurers' Hall

16) Merchant Adventurers' Hall (must see)

This guildhall in the city of York was one of the most important buildings in the medieval city. The majority of the Hall was built in 1357 by a group of influential men and women who came together to form a religious fraternity called the Guild of Our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The main part of the building consists of the Great Hall and the undercroft, which was originally a hospital or almshouse for poor people of York.

The Great Hall is the largest timber-framed building in the UK still standing and used for its original purpose. The roof of the hall is of two spans supported by a row of large central timber posts. It includes complex crown posts and is held together by wooden pegs. The undercroft, like the Great Hall, is divided in two by its supporting row of timber posts. The undercroft also provides access to an attached chapel built for the use of the ill and poor in the hospital as well as the members of the Merchant Adventurers' Guild. It is still used for worship.

Why You Should Visit:
Excellent standard of preservation & interpretation, glorious gardens, good café & shop, and the staff is among the most welcoming in York.

Admission costs £6.50 but you can enjoy the outside and the discreet café for free (or no more than the price of a coffee).
The informative printed guide (there is also the option of an audio guide) for each of the rooms is recommended.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Fri: 10am–4:30pm; Sat: 10am–1:30pm
Last admission 30 mins before the Hall closes
Sight description based on wikipedia
Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate

17) Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate (must see)

Founded in the first half of the 12th century, this church's architecture is that of the 13th and 14th centuries, with woodwork and pews from the 17th and 18th centuries. The stained glass over the altar was a gift of John Walker, dating back to 1470-1480, a rare date in York glass. The churchyard is secluded behind rows of old buildings, accessed by narrow alleyways. It is about as close as you can get to how a church would have looked after the Reformation: dark, quiet, homely, with uneven floors, high box pews and plain walls.

Why You Should Visit:
Absolutely gorgeous, free to enter, and a great way to take a pause and breath in the middle of your busy day.

A cold, cloudy day does not make for ideal conditions in which to visit Holy Trinity, so check out this site when it's warmer... and bring your lunch to eat in the small but beautiful garden.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Sat: 11am-3pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Shambles

18) The Shambles (must see)

The Shambles is an old street lined with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back as far as the fourteenth century. It was once known as The Great Flesh Shambles, probably from the Anglo-Saxon Fleshammels (literally 'flesh-shelves'), the word for the shelves that butchers used to display their meat. As recently as 1872 twenty-five butchers' shops were located along the street, but now none remain.

Although the butchers have now vanished, a number of the shops on the street still have meat-hooks hanging outside and, below them, shelves on which meat was displayed. The shops currently include a mix of restaurants and shops as well as a bookshop and a bakery. Five snickelways lead off the Shambles. Shambles Market operates daily on Silver Street, just to the west of the Shambles itself.

Why You Should Visit:
Can be packed in busy season, but very worth the while. An amazing part of history, and it not only has unique shops but some amazing food with the new & improved market place just next door.

Make sure you google bars and pubs in the Shambles before you go because they are easy to miss – some buildings just look like little shops but there are bars at the back or upstairs.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in York, England

Create Your Own Walk in York

Create Your Own Walk in York

Creating your own self-guided walk in York is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
York's Haunted Houses Tour

York's Haunted Houses Tour

Undoubtedly, York is the most haunted city in the UK. Meet phantoms of Roman soldiers at the Treasurer’s House. Drop in at the York Arms to see the nun's ghost looking for her baby. Solve the mystery of the vanishing ballet slippers at Thomas's Hotel. At Yorkshire Terrier, discover the ghost of the old gentleman who is watching for burglars. And finally, enjoy the art of intimidation...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
York City Wall Tour

York City Wall Tour

York’s city wall has remained intact since the Roman occupation. The city was named Eboracum by the Romans and referred to as Eoforvic by the Angles. To the Vikings, it was Jorvik and the Normans gave it the name York. Take this tour to discover the attractions along York's ancient city wall.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
York's Medieval Churches

York's Medieval Churches

By 1330 there had been around 45 parish churches in York. Twenty of them survive, in whole or in part, and they are amazing. Today, twelve of the surviving churches hold services. Take this tour to become acquainted with these magnificent sacred places.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
York's Historical Architecture

York's Historical Architecture

With stunning architectural sites such as the Crown Court, the Merchant Adventurers' Hall, Thomas Atkinson's House, St. William's College, the Treasurer's House and the King's Manor, this city has much to offer. Take the following tour to discover York’s vast array of medieval and neoclassical buildings.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Pubs of York

Pubs of York

York Brewery has produced award-winning beers. In 2002, Centurion's Ghost Ale was the winner of the Brewing Industry International Awards. Its other year round beers are Yorkshire Terrier, Guzler, Constantine, as well as several marvelous seasonal beers. Take this tour to discover York’s finest pubs, where you can enjoy any one of these beers.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
York's Old Town

York's Old Town

Start your tour of York’s Old Town at the Museum Gardens. Walk along Shambles, a medieval street and see its narrow houses, pavements and its famous Snickelways. Climb the spiral staircase of Clifford's Tower for a great view of the town. Take this tour to experience the history of this very old city.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles