Whenever friends go to visit England, I always encourage them to try and get out of London. Don’t get me wrong, I love London! But, often visitors seem to think if they go to London then they have seen all there is to see in England and that is a travesty! There are some truly amazing and worthwhile places to visit outside of England’s capital. The city of York is simply one of many.
A little bit about York
York is located in Yorkshire, a district in northern England. It’s a historically rich city that has one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in all of Europe; York Minster. The vikings had settlements here and it was a significant city during the Roman Empire. If you need a little bit of name dropping — Constantine was crowned Emperor here and William the Conqueror made his merry little way up to York to quash a brewing rebellion against him in 1068.
A true walking city
York can be an incredibly cheap city to tour for one big reason — you can literally walk everywhere. The historic part of the city is only a ten-minute stroll from the train station. Then once you arrive in the city you can walk for free on top of the city walls.
In its long history, York has been under siege numerous times and seen a lot of important battles. Therefore sometime between the 12th and 14th centuries connecting walls were built around the city to completely enclose it. These walls still stand today and create a unique way to tour the city because visitors can walk along them and look down on the city below. Due to the fact that most of York’s major attractions are the structures themselves, the walls allow you a free way to view everything.
The massive Gothic cathedral at the center of it all
York Minster is a beautiful and gigantic structure that stands at the center of the city. Construction on the current cathedral began in 1210 and there have been numerous renovations in the centuries since. However, there are records of churches on the site as far back as 627 AD. I have only been into the foyer of York Minster as you have to pay to see the rest of the cathedral (I was a poor student both times I visited). But, even in the entryway you can see several tombs and alters as well as the ornate stained glass windows at the front entrance.
The most haunted city in Europe — or the world (depending on who you ask)
Paranormal enthusiasts named York the most haunted city in the world back in 2004. Whether you believe in ghosts or you just like a great ghost story — I highly recommend going on one of York’s many ghost tours. The tours themselves are inexpensive and laid back. The different tours are generally led by one person who have a schtick (I went with the Ghost Detective) and are near the city market on the weekends waiting to take visitors around the city by foot. The tours are entertaining and a great way to walk around the city while learning more about the local lore. Be prepared to have cash on hand if you do these tours as the guides don’t tend to take credit cards.
Stopping for a pint in an ancient pub
After you have finished with your ghost walk, drop into the ‘most haunted pub’ in York — The Golden Fleece. Ghost stuff aside, the Golden Fleece has been in existence since 1503 and offers a great atmosphere with plenty of Real Ales (microbrews) on tap. If you are interested in staying the weekend, the Golden Fleece is also an Inn that has several rooms above the pub.
Anything else you need to know
On a social note, Northern England offers a similar type of hospitality the southern U.S. is famed for. People tend to be very welcoming and happy to answer any questions or concerns you have.
Another thing about northern England — you MUST have cream tea. Cream tea is a pot of tea and fresh-baked scones with clotted cream (a sweet cream) and homemade strawberry jam.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with visiting York!
Originally visited: October 2007 and November 2011