Exploring Inside The Walls of York

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One of the most beautiful, historic locations throughout England has to be York. Steeped in heritage, this city has proved to be a focal point for many major political events. Let’s start by providing a little history about York without giving too much away and spoiling your own trip to this magnificent city. In 866 York was captured by the Vikings and for many years became a port for extensive Viking trading routes throughout northern Europe until they were later driven out! In 1068, the people of York rebelled and started to build the architecture that we see the remains of today. The first York Minster was created and development of medieval city walls which are still in existence to this very day were established to help defend the city from potential attacks.

So back to the present day and just having this brief knowledge gives you a sense of excitement as you approach York and enter the city centre. The first thing you will notice is the fact that much of York’s centre is still within those city walls! Driving through tunnels formed out of the city walls is unique, at least I have yet to visit another city that has these sort of features carved into their landscape. There are an abundance of attractions that you experience whilst in York, the problem is that if you are only visiting there for the day, you simply won’t have enough time to see everything. Here are just a few things you can see visit while inside the city walls of York.

York Minster

The dominant feature of York has to be the Minster, which still stands as one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe. Design and construction of York Minster began in the early 13th Century, with each wing being constructed over a period of time. Not only is the cathedral filled with history and grand architectural design but it’s place in the centre of York makes this an even more important structure. Even if exploring the interior of cathedrals is not your thing, I would certainly recommend checking out York Minster simply because of how archaic and beautifully constructed this place is. Stand outside those large wooden doors, close your eyes and think about what time would have been like back in the 13th Century or even earlier when the Vikings had control of this city.

Visiting this part of the country will certainly enhance your levels of British history even if your interest levels are not particularly high.

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York Castle Museum

Over the last nine centuries, a combination of castles, prisons, law courts and other affiliated buildings have sequentially come together to form York Castle. However, now we are left with just Clifford’s Tower sat on top of  a mound, stereotypically overlooking the city as a perfect spot to defend from potential attacks. Located just inside the medieval city wall remains, the tower is in close proximity to the Tower Castle Museum which provides tourists with a great experience in learning about the full depths of historic York.

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During our day trip to York, we opted to purchase the annual pass which allows visitors to experience both York Castle Museum and also Yorkshire Museum which is located nearby. If you plan on visiting York multiple times in a year, this is a really great deal because you could likely visit both museums and spend at least a half day in each of them and learn something new every time. Our visit to York Castle Museum was relatively quick, but it was still long enough to learn about life in a Victorian Street (Kirkgate) which was a really cool experience as inside the museum they have a street designed with Victorian shops either side of the cobbles. The museum is actually located inside the former prison walls and this is part of the tour to explore some of the original cells.

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Medieval City Walls

The miles of Roman walls that are still intact in York make this a must-see for any visitor. In fact, not only can you see them but you can walk up the steps and walk around the York City walls which is a great experience (though a word of caution, when they are wet they can get pretty slick and there is nothing in terms of barriers on one side so you should be cautious!). The original walls were built around 71 AD by the Romans and part of these foundations are still in place to form a section of the current day walls. The walls are punctuated by four main gatehouses or more commonly known as bars as their names suggest. These are all visible around the city, the most interesting being Micklegate Bar which is located at the southern side of York.

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There is not much more to say than the fact York is absolutely full of history and it’s somewhere you have to go and explore for yourself. The impressive aspect of York is how the city has developed in recent years yet has still maintained the heritage that is apparent throughout so many aspects of the city lifestyle and architecture. We had a really great time in York, our only regret is that we didn’t get to see as much as we wanted.

Have you visited York before?

42 COMMENTS

  1. Stunning! I lived in Yorkshire as a child and went on countless school trips to York, but at the time to a young child it was just a boring city, I would love to go back now and really really appreciate it! 🙂

    • Great point Emma, I remember growing up as a kid in England and you would go on those school trips to museums and they would try to convince you that they were great. Not so much in my mind LOL, maybe it didn’t help that my interest for history wasn’t all that high. However, as you grow older and your appreciation levels increase, you can certainly visit these places with a different outlook and they really are great experiences.

  2. Hi Chris, great post, and very timely! We’re heading to York for our next city break after really enjoyed Edinburgh last weekend…hubbie and I both remember visiting the Yorvik Viking Centre as school children and that it smelled like it would’ve done in medieval times. Can’t wait to explore the city walls, thanks for your tips.

    • I am still trying to recall if I ever visited Jorvik as a kid, either with my parents or on a school trip – I don’t think I did but on our recent trip we walked right past the door and the queues were pretty lengthy, so it must be a good experience. I have always been fascinated by the Vikings, in fact more so than any of the other historic groups such as Romans, Tudors etc. That would be something worth visiting.

      But as you can see from this post, there is so many other great things to see and this is only a small snippet of ‘key’ landmarks worth visiting. We also really enjoyed just walking up and down the main street, the shops are modern day but the architecture seems to date back and provide a perfect backdrop to this beautifully manicured and maintained city.

    • Hopefully you will have some good weather and you will get to experience all of these attractions Dave. We were very fortunate that even in December we picked a perfect sunny, crisp winter’s day to go to York. I know that sometimes, especially in England, you have to brave the elements but a nice sunny day will always enhance your experience. Plus it helps when taking good quality pictures 🙂

    • Add it to the bucket list right!! It’s a great part of the world and one that you won’t be disappointed about when you visit for yourself.

  3. York is one of my favourite English cities; it’s like my hometown of Shrewsbury but on a much larger scale. I love the lighting in the first picture you captured…absolutely beautiful 🙂

  4. Looks like a must-see for any trip to England. I’ve only been to the borders area (and through Heathrow more times than I’d like to remember) and would really enjoy a couple of weeks seeing cities that have preserved their heritage like York.

    • Dave, there are so many cities around England that are similar to York and have preserved their heritage. Stratford-upon-Avon and Chester spring to mind as similar towns worth visiting if you are interested in exploring England’s rich history. Let me know though if you head back to England anytime and I will be happy to share more info with you on things to see and do there.

  5. I haven’t been but am planning on making it to Europe in a couple years. can’t wait to finally experience all of this for myself! What month or season do you recommend to go to England? I don’t mind the cold 🙂

    • If you don’t mind the cold and rain Samantha, then take your pick! You will find it cheaper to travel to England during the Winter or Spring months but honestly Summer is probably the best time because you have longer daylight hours, places stay open longer especially around tourist destinations and there is a better chance the weather will be on your side. Honestly though, England is beautiful all year round!!

    • No problem at all Ashley, hopefully you will get back to England sometime soon (of course after your explorations around SE Asia) and you can wander around the streets of York!

  6. Great post and really beautiful photos! York has always intrigued me, I just haven’t made my way there yet. I guess I need to get my act together, it sounds so incredible!

    • Calli, York is awesome and words probably don’t do it enough justice. Thanks for your comments, we really appreciate the positive feedback. You will learn a lot about England’s history if you venture over to York at some point.

    • Get on up there Clayton and let us know what you think because I am sure you will have a great time there. I think it’s one of those places that even if you are not that interested in history, you will still have a great time here because there is so much that is visually appealing.

  7. It’s crazy how much history and culture is packed into such a small island… We never made it past London, but York looks like a great destination. Love the photo of Clifford’s Tower! Good luck and safe travels!

    • Thanks so much for your positive comments! We really enjoyed experiencing York and that picture of Clifford’s Tower is probably our favorite also. You hit the nail on the head about England though because there is just so much to do and see yet it is such a small island in comparison to other nations around the world.

  8. York is one of my favourite cities in England. If you get the chance, be sure to look up “Cafe Concerto”. They are within view of York Minster and they make the best bread pudding I’ve ever had!

    • We will have to sample that next time Vanessa! I know that Betty’s Cafe and Tea Rooms is very popular in York, when we were there people were queued up outside to go there. There are a number of great spots in York to sample delectable delights!

    • Exactly Jess – that’s the beauty of taking a trip to York, even if you are there for only a day you can experience both plus everything else that York has to offer! It’s a great spot for a day trip.

  9. I love the UK and reading this post reminds me that I never made it to York in the nearly one year I lived in London. I guess I will have to make sure to include it on my next trip 😀

    • Add to that bucket list Monique because you won’t be disappointed. I know exactly what you mean though because when you travel to England because there is so much else to see there and experience. There just isn’t enough time to get everywhere, even if you live there!

    • You sure do Marysia!! York is awesome, with so much history and heritage, I think it’s a must see for everyone! Let us know whenever you get to head there and we can recommend some more great spots to visit.

  10. Wow, York sounds like a great place to visit. Have barely left London when I get to England. It never ceases to amaze me how these buildings have survived so many years. Growing up in Australia, we just don’t have 1,000 year old buildings.

    • That’s the true beauty of England and I think what attracts so many visitors from countries like USA and Australia, simply because both of those nations don’t have the history and heritage. York is a beautiful town and well worth visiting especially if you have any interest in this type of medieval architecture.

  11. What a picture-perfect place! That entry gate with the carved crosses is exactly what I imagine a medieval English town would have. Would love to explore those cobbled streets!

    • Thanks Heather, it’s beautiful in York and a true photographer’s dream. In fact, if you love cobbled streets then you are in luck when you head to England because there are so many of the older towns that have maintained this feature within their infrastructure.

  12. Looks lovely! You’ve made me want to travel to a destination I never knew I would want to. Which is the point of it all, right? Fantastic!

  13. I loved York. beautiful place!! Sadly, what I remember most was that it was a big destination of bucks and hens nights and there were lots of crazy Brits participating in these everywhere! It was good for a laugh anyway 🙂

    • A lot of these historic towns, especially at night are the perfect spot for folks to go and enjoy the pubs and nightlife to celebrate their pre-marital parties. I guess you could say it just adds to the sense of adventure when for the most part these towns are solely renowned for their history which in reality is what they should have a reputation on – not party goers!

    • The original walls were built around 70 or 71AD but by the 18th Century the majority of the city walls were no more than ruins. During the mid-19th Century, a preservation order was passed to maintain the remaining remnants of the city walls and what you see today are those that are left standing. It’s really intriguing to read up on the history of the York City walls and how they have developed over the centuries. It’s a beautiful city that I would highly encourage anyone to visit.

  14. It looks like such a fascinating city with interesting history and beautiful architecture! I studied abroad in Oxford during college, but was never able to travel to York. One of the things I love about England is how old many of the buildings are. As an American, it’s mind blowing to me, since most of our “old” buildings here are from the late 1800’s-1950’s. My husband and I are hoping to take a trip to the UK again in the next few years, so we’ll have to try to go to York then!

    • York is stunning Emily! Such a historic city with a variety of attractions and so many places to learn about the rich heritage not only in York Minster but also throughout the surrounding region. If you have the opportunity to visit UK, please let us know and we would be delighted to recommend a number of spots worth exploring ‘off the beaten path’ because England is so much more than just London and mainstream attractions.

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