Things to do in York

Now you’ve got your cheap tickets to York, save even more money with these free and cheap things to do…


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1. Let the medieval Shambles charm your socks off

The Shambles is an ancient cobbled street that looks captivating on even the dullest winter day. Dating back to the Domesday Book, its nooks and crannies will charm your socks off.

Its leaning timber-framed buildings were once home to as many as 26 butchers in medieval times. That’s a lot of meat! York obviously wasn’t a great place to be a vegetarian in the olden days.

Today, the street has much more variety, filled with quirky boutiques, quaint cafes and artisan food shops. Soak up the atmosphere as you look for Christmas gifts.

Where is it? City Centre, YO1 7LZ
How much? FREE!

2. Get your stargazing fix at York Observatory

Astronomy is most definitely ‘in’ these days with prime-time TV shows dedicated to it and rock-and-roll professors singing its praises.

If you’ve fallen under the stargazing spell, Yorkshire’s oldest working observatory (hidden within the grounds of the Yorkshire Museum) is well worth a look.

Check out the 4in refractor telescope built in 1850 by Thomas Cooke, who went on to make the world’s largest telescope.

Don’t miss the clock that uses stars’ positions to tell the time, and back in the day set all clocks in York - always 4 minutes and 20 seconds behind Greenwich Mean Time don’t cha know.

Where is it? Museum Street, YO1 7FR
How much? FREE!

3. Get goose bumps at the magnificent York Minster

You have to pay to get into the minster, but it doesn’t cost a penny to stand outside and admire it. The architectural magnificence really tugs at the heart strings.

One of the UK’s greatest historical buildings, this Gothic masterpiece is incredibly old too – the last stone was laid in the 1400s.  

If you do want to step inside, lots of treasures await. The Undercroft takes you on a 2,000-year journey through interactive chambers beneath the Minster. You can also climb the 275 steps up the Central Tower for life-affirming views of York.

Where is it? Deangate, YO1 7HH
How much? £9-£15, FREE entry with YorkPass

4. Flesh it out at York Art Gallery

There’s lots on display York Art Gallery. The city’s art gallery is hosts a great collection of exhibition along side its permanent collection. 

Paintings by the likes of Rubens, Degas, Whistler and Francis Bacon adorn the walls. The space is as good as the artwork so have a good look around.

The gallery recently had a swanky £8 million makeover with more gallery space, an artists’ garden and a fantastic ceramics exhibition made up of 10,000 bowls and a Grayson Perry!

Where is it? Exhibition Square, YO1 7EW
How much? Adult £7.50, Child under 16, free with paying adult FREE entry with YorkPass

5. Share a cell with highwayman Dick Turpin

Legendary highwayman Dick Turpin was famously imprisoned and executed in York – a rather grisly end for a rather controversial character.

He was one of several 18th-century bad boys – and girls – held behind bars at York Castle Prison. Others include the last woman to be burnt at the stake in Yorkshire, a Luddite and a young tearaway who went on to lead a successful life in Australia.

York Castle has been locking people up for almost 1,000 years – see for yourself what it was like for those who stepped on the wrong side of the law.

Where is it? Eye of York, YO1 9R7
How much? Adult, £10, Children under 16, free with paying adult. FREE entry with YorkPass

6. Explore the city built on chocolate

Newcastle had coal, Glasgow shipbuilding and Sheffield steel. Somewhere even had rock and roll (so the song went). But York, well York was built on chocolate.

Rowntree and Terry’s are among history’s best-known chocolate brands and both had factories in York, employing thousands of local people to supply the nation with chocolatey goodness.

You can celebrate all things sweet at York’s Chocolate Story. It takes you on a guided tour through the history of the city’s most famous chocolate-making families.

You’ll discover the origins of chocolate, how to make it and how to taste it like an expert - that shouldn’t be too difficult!

Where is it? 3-4 Kings Square, YO1 7LD
How much? Adult, £11.50, Child £9.50. FREE entry with YorkPass

7. Step aboard a wartime hospital – on a train

Ambulance trains did a sterling job during the First World War, transporting millions of sick and injured troops to hospital. They were pretty much like a mini-hospital packed onto a train.

To show its appreciation, the National Railway Museum has recreated a lifelike ambulance carriage, complete with ward, pharmacy and nurses’ mess room.

You can share in the stories of the staff and passengers through letters, diaries, photos and drawings. Be warned – some of them are incredibly moving.

Other famous trains include the slinky looking Mallard – still the world’s fastest steam train despite setting the record in the 1930s!

Where is it? Leeman Road, YO26 4XJ
How much? FREE!