Updated: Dec 30, 2020
York’s Roman and Viking history is well known, and it is true that not many cities in the world can rival York for its history and character with its picturesque riverside location. But did you know that York is also a young and dynamic city full of independent shops, boutiques, galleries, cafes, and museums? Situated at the confluence of the River Ouse and River Foss, York is one of the most beautiful cities in England and there are few cities of this size that have preserved their medieval architecture to such a great extent. Although the highlight of any visit here is undoubtedly York Minster, a perfect example of the English Gothic style, the city ramparts dotted with fortified gates known as "bars" are also very impressive. York is an ideal size for exploring on foot, with numerous sites all within a square mile. Here are a few of my favorite spots the you must see on any visit to York. All of these and more will be included on our trip to Yorkshire and we will be staying in York for 7 nights, offering you plenty of time to fully enjoy all the city has to offer.
York Minster The largest medieval cathedral in northern Europe, York Minster is an awe-inspiring place. See Roman columns in the crypt, take in views across the city from the central tower, and marvel at the spectacular Great East Window – the earliest piece of named art in the country and considered the stained glass equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. The main façade, completed between 1430 and 1470 by the addition of the towers, gives it a distinctly French appearance. The interior was built from the thirteenth to 13th t 15th centuries and contains the largest collection of medieval stained-glass windows to be seen on a single site in England. It is lovely to climb to the top of the tower on a sunny afternoon and take in the views across the city and the surrounding countryside.
Fairfax House Built by the famous York architect John Carr at the request of Viscount Fairfax for his sister Anne in 1755, Fairfax House is a Regency masterpiece, and is arguably the finest Georgian townhouse in all of England. The lavish Rococo décor within is typical of the 18th century, and the opulent stucco ceiling in the dining room and the beautiful Georgian-era furnishings are worth the visit alone.
The splendid 16th century cathedral Treasurer's House comprises three residences joined in the early 20th century by the eccentric businessman Frank Green, who renovated each of the 13 rooms in a different style. All are lavishly decorated with objects, furnishings and paintings covering 400 years of history. Note the great staircase and the molding on the ceiling of the Dining Room, from the early 18th century. Vestiges of a Roman road were found in the basements during Green's extensive renovation and the gorgeous garden has won many accolades and contains a huge range of flowers and plants. The avenue of trees leading to the door were planted in 1900 in honor of a visit from the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.
The Shambles Lined with half-timbered medieval houses, each as bulging and crooked as the next, this is undoubtedly the most picturesque street in the city. Often cited as a possible inspiration to JK Rowling for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, the Shambles is one of the best preserved medieval streets in the world. There's a lovely print shop here where you could spend a whole afternoon just looking through the huge selection. You also must make some time to stop into the fudge shop where you can watch the treats being made. And of course, you just have to sample the fruits of their labor - I can highly recommend the York Gin Fudge infused with the locally distilled gin.
Medieval Walls The 13th century walls follow the line of the old Roman fortification to the north of the cathedral and are built on the defensive embankment built by the Vikings. The Normans built fortified gates in the talus, known as bars today, where certain roads leading to the city still end today. From Bootham Bar, the walls go around the deanery garden up to Monk Bar. After Skeldergate Bridge and Baile Hill, continue to Micklegate Bar, the gate by which the king used to enter York. A walk along these walls offers a unique perspective on the city and is the ideal way to see some beautiful views of the Minster and the city spread out around you.
These are just a few of the many wonderful sites to explore in York. I have always enjoyed simply walking around the city and exploring the beautiful medieval streets and popping into the shops that catch my eye. I usually seem to leave York with my bags packed to the brim with a collection of vintage prints, locally woven tweeds, and half of my Christmas shopping already taken care of.
Would you like to visit York for yourself? Why not take a look at my Stately Houses of Yorkshire tour next September! You will have the opportunity to visit all these sites and more during your 7-night visit to the city. You will stay at York's only Five Star hotel, The Grand (the brick building on the right of the picture above) and your days will be filled with dreamy castles, stately homes and gardens, and of course, fun! There will be plenty of time for exploring on your own and I always throw in some surprises for you too. With small groups of only 14 travelers, my tours are truly the best way to travel to Britain.