Inside the City Walls: Things To Do in York, UK

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Curated By

Kaitlyn Heads

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  • City Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Family Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • England

  • Local Culture

  • Local Food

  • Sightseeing

A building at York at evening
Curator’s statement

A city steeped in magic and history, York has hidden gems down every alley. With strong Viking history and gorgeous architecture, this city is a must-see day trip in the heart of the United Kingdom. Harry Potter lovers will find themselves in awe of the Shambles, a perfectly preserved medieval shopping street. Still surrounded by the ancient city walls, this city is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the busier cities of England. With some famous York chocolate in hand, you’re sure to discover the UK’s best-kept secret.

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Where to stay in York, UK

The Grand, York

Come to The Grand for its stylish, handsome design, exquisite culinary program (the hotel boasts an esteemed Cookery School, at which guests can take classes), impeccable service and characteristic British sophistication.

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The Spa at No.1

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Impossible Motel

Stay at the Impossible Motel for an unforgettable journey into the extraordinary.

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Things to do in York, UK


“The Shop That Must Not Be Named” – Harry Potter lovers will be obsessed with this little shop in the Shambles, the real life Diagon Alley, where they can find all sorts of Harry Potter goodies and treasures to take home. There’s usually a long queue to get in, but it’s worth the wait to get your hands on these unique Harry Potter gifts.

Walk the city walls – The longest medieval town walls still standing in England, spanning 3.4 kilometers! Walking the walls in their entirety takes about 2 hours, but is worth it for this experience steeped in history and gorgeous city views. You can walk the path at the base or even climb up the walls and walk for a bird’s eye view! The City of York regularly inspects the walls to ensure safe conditions, and the wall walk is available from 8:00am to dusk daily.

York Minster – History lovers will marvel at this minster and its 800-year-old history. The cathedral offers free guided tours throughout the day. You can buy a ticket to climb the 275 steps of the Central Tower for gorgeous panoramic views of the city. Still an active church today, York Minster welcomes visitors to light a candle and say a prayer while visiting as well.

Merchant Adventurers Hall – For the entrepreneur and history lover alike, these medieval guild halls offer the opportunity to dive deep into the history of York. With documents on display dating back to the 1200s, and a notable oil painting collection, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time and can truly picture York at its beginnings.

Take a cruise on the river Ouse – Whether you’re looking to sight see with an expert commentary or enjoy a more specialty cruise like the Gin Cruise with a beverage in hand, a ride on the Ouse will offer a beautiful new perspective on the city of York.

York Museum Gardens – Peruse the free gardens and feel like you’ve stepped back in time! Surrounded by medieval ruins, the lush greenery in the city center makes you feel like you’re in another world. Bonus, there’s a café on site in the old Observatory if you want to enjoy a beverage while you stroll.

Jorvik Viking Centre- If history is your jam, don’t miss this immersive experience into York’s Danish past. Life size dioramas and artifacts are on display, and you won’t want to miss the chance to see real fossilized Viking poo!

Ghost Trail of York- For the horror lover, get in touch with the supernatural and York’s haunted past! This tour meets nightly at 7:30pm at the Minster’s west doors and has won multiple awards. Nothing will make you check over your shoulder like immersing yourself in a ghostly tradition!

Places to eat & drink in York, UK

A picture taken from outside the restaurant during daytime.

The Potions Cauldron – Another must do stop for Harry Potter lovers! Located in the Shambles at address 9 ¾, for just £5.99 you can step into the Secret Potion room with a resident Wizard and mix your own potion as the room comes to life around you. Adults can even add a little Poison to their potions, if you know what I mean.

The Market Cat- This traditional pub has a twist, an expansive collection of craft beer from partner Thorn Bridge Brewing! The two story venue offers plenty of space to rest your feet after a day of walking while you enjoy a pizza and a locally brewed beer. Added bonus: This spot is also family friendly!

Shambles Tavern – If you’re looking for a more traditional English pub, look no further than the Shambles Tavern! Serving up over 120 Yorkshire ales, there’s no better place to get a taste of the local fare. The food is locally sourced as well! Some of the ingredients even come from the market next door. Added bonus: Shambles Tavern welcomes your pup as well, with dog friendly seating downstairs and outside.

Merchants’ Coffee House – Inside the medieval guild halls of Merchant Adventurers, Merchants’ Coffee House offers lunch, cakes and snacks for anyone seeking to be surrounded by history.

Shambles Food Court – Nestled in the famous Shambles Market with a wide variety of street food offerings, this is the perfect stop for lunch. Added bonus: they have vegan and vegetarian options as well!

York Cocoa House – A bean-to-bar chocolate factory with a café you cannot miss! Witness the chocolate making process while sampling their fare, or partake in a Chocolate Bar Making Workshop for the insider experience. Reservations are recommended for their Chocolate Indulgence tasting experience.

Afternoon Tea at The Grand- Awarded best afternoon tea in the UK by Conde Nast in 2022, you cannot miss their tea selection from around the world and house made pastries. Served on a silver stand, you’ll feel like a queen (or king!) as you sip your tea and enjoy a much needed break from walking around the city. Starting at £34.40 a person, with the option for a bubbly upgrade, this is the perfect treat! Reservations are required. Added bonus: they offer a children’s afternoon tea as well for the littlest travelers!

Ellers Farm Distillery – slightly outside the city center, this sustainable spirits manufacturer makes vodka from local British Apples. Book a tour for an in-depth distilling experience and stay for the cocktails at the on-site bar!

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Sarah Henderson’s guide, 3-Day Family-Friendly Weekend in York

Travel advisor posing in hilly area.

Travel Advisor

Kaitlyn Heads

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to England