York was the last stop on our UK road trip. To be honest, I thought it was just a convenient place to stop for the night before making our way back to Suffolk, where Russell lives. We needed to get back so we only had one day to spend in York. Russell had been before, so he had some ideas of what he wanted to show me. I really was pleasantly surprised with all there was to see in York and pretty impressed with the history.
It is such a pretty city and I would love to go back to explore the area more. For first time visitors to York, I thought I would share the five sites that I think are must sees and definitely worth a visit.
The Shambles is arguably the most picturesque street in England. Located in the center of the city, it is York’s oldest street. Since it is mentioned in the Doomsday book, we know it is over 900 years old. Most of the buildings on the street date from the 15th century and they have been well preserved. It takes its name from the word “Shamel” which means stalls or benches where meat is displayed.
As I was walking down the street, I felt like I was transported back in time. I love how the buildings are sort of leaning towards each other and are still the traditional Tudor style. Today the Shambles is filled with shops and restaurants. We bought some fudge and chocolate, which York is known for.
York Minster is one of largest and most important churches in England. This church was actually built very close to the place where Constantine the Great was proclaimed Roman Emperor in 306. You will find a statue of Constantine just outside the back part of the cathedral. York Minster is also the burial place of many noted Archbishops.
The church is impressive for other reasons besides just the size and history. I love the Gothic style and details in the architecture. The ceiling is a great example and they have a mirror so you can admire it without looking up. The stained glass is beautiful, some dating back to the 12th century. I also really enjoyed the sculptures by the some of the tombs.
You can also explore the crypt, its not as spooky as it sounds. There are cutouts in the floor where you can see the remains of from the house of a commanding officer that stood on the site in the 4th century. You can also see older pieces of art including the York Virgin (12th century Madonna) and the Doomstone (purgatory relief, late 12th century).
Since York Minster was on the top of our list, we tried to go first thing. Since it was Sunday, services were in process, and they told us to come back at noon. So you should check the hours when planning your day.
It costs £10 to visit the inside of York Minster. Your ticket is good for a whole year and includes a free guided tour, subject to availability. If you prefer you can purchase a ticket for £15 that also allows you to climb the tower. Unfortunately, we did not have time to see the tower. I will have to do that on my next trip!
York City Wall Walk
In many cities, you may see the remains of city walls, but I think few are as well preserved as what you see in York. You can actually do a 2.6 mile walk around the city center on the wall! It’s not a difficult walk (mostly flat with a few stairs) and it is very scenic. Plus there are several places where you can exit so you don’t have to commit to the whole thing. Although I did see children doing this walk, there are some sections that are narrow (without any railing) and with the two way traffic, I got a little nervous.
St Mary’s Abbey
We kind of stumbled upon St. Mary’s Abbey in the Museum Gardens as we were walking toward York Minster. The church that was originally on this site was founded in 1055. The Abbey is now just ruins, but impressive nonetheless. It was once the richest monastery in Northern England but then fell victim to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. The riches were confiscated and the building was taken apart and left to collapse. Still, you can get a sense of the size and grandeur from the ruins. There is no charge to visit the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey.
Clifford’s tower is located on the top of an earth mound that was part of York Castle constructed by William the Conqueror in 1068. The tower that stands here today was built in the late 13th century. It was never really a royal residence but was used more as a jail and storage. You must climb up some pretty steep stairs to get to the entrance. After you enter the tower, you can go up more steps and walk around the top to get the best views. Admission charge for Clifford’s Tower is £4.70.
So those are my recommendations for historic sites in York. I should also mention that York is a very walkable city. We parked and then just walked to everything. You don’t need a car to see these sights. You can get to York by train from London’s King’s Cross station in around 2 hours.
People really don’t realize how much there is to see in England outside of London. York is a perfect example of that. It is definitely worth a visit. My list of places to visit in England seems to be growing faster than I can check them off. Have you visited York? What were some of your favorite spots?
- Don’t miss the Shambles, arguably the most picturesque street in England.
- Take a scenic walk around York on the City Wall.
- York Minster is a must see for the architecture, history, and art
The Weekly Postcard
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