Top historical sites to visit in York

Top historical sites to visit in York

One of the best-preserved medieval cities in Britain, York’s history is fascinating. Here, Musement looks at the top historical sites to visit in York.

Located in the northeast of England, York is the largest city in the English county of Yorkshire. And with world class attractions, national parks nearby and plenty of heritage and culture, it is the perfect city to spend a weekend exploring.

While there is evidence to suggest that settlements around York date back to the Mesolithic period, the city was officially founded by the Romans in 71AD. From the magnificent medieval city walls and the iconic gothic York Minster to the famous Shambles, the city’s history is everywhere to be seen.

Read on the discover the top historical sites to visit in York:

1. York Minster

The largest and most important church in England, York Minster is the seat of the Archbishop of York. Completed in 1472 after several centuries of building, the cathedral has been the focal point of the city ever since. Pay a visit to this historical site in York and admire the medieval stained-glass, including the renowned Great East Window. One of the largest stained-glass windows in Europe, the Great East Window underwent a major 10-year restoration, which was completed in 2018. Make sure you climb the tower’s 275 steps to enjoy panoramic views from the highest point in York.


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2. The Shambles

The Shambles is one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in the UK. Once home to butchers’ shops and their houses, many with a slaughterhouse at the back, the picturesque street now houses cheerful cafes, quirky boutiques and gift shops. Famous for its cobbled narrow street and overhanging timber framed buildings, this street is said to be one of the sources of inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. A stroll along The Shambles should be on everyone’s list of historic sites to visit in York.


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3. York City Walls

York has been surrounded by city walls since Roman times. Although parts of the initial Roman structure still remain, the walls which stand today are mainly from medieval times, when they were used to protect against an invasion from Scotland.

Stretching for over 3.4 kilometres, the historic city walls are the longest and most complete medieval town walls in England. Offering a vantage point across the city, the walk atop the walls is a must-do for any visitor to this historic city. The elevated walkway is open from around 8am until dusk, except in dangerous weather conditions. One full circuit of the walkway should take around two hours.


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4. St Mary’s Abbey

The ruins of St Mary’s Abbey are in the lovely parkland setting of Museum Gardens, located inside the city walls. First built in 1088 as a Benedictine monastery, St Mary’s Abbey was once one of the wealthiest and grandest abbeys in the region. Today, all that remains are the north and west walls, plus a few other remnants, but it is certainly worth visiting during your time in York. The Museum Gardens are open daily, and entry is free.


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5. Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s Tower, also known as the York Tower, is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Sitting atop a steep mound, the tower was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1086. Visitors can climb the 55 steps to the top of the mound and enter the internal courtyard. A spiral staircase with 55 more steps then leads to the top of the tower, which provides unrivalled views of the city and beyond.


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6. Castle Howard

Designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, building work of this stately home began in 1699 and took over 100 years to complete. A stunning example of Baroque architecture, the Grade I listed building has been the home of the Howard family for more than 300 years.

The house was officially opened to the public in 1952. Visitors can tour the house and see the extensive collection of antiques, paintings and archives. Set on 1,000 acres of parkland, the grounds consist of a mixture of lakes, woodlands, temples and extensive gardens.


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