The atmospheric university and cathedral town of York in the north of England, is renowned throughout the world for possessing some of the best conserved, historical buildings in Europe.

From its foundation by the Romans in 71 AD, to the late Middle Ages, York rivalled London in terms of importance. Its status as the primary city in the north of England has bequeathed a fascinating history.

Know as Eboraum, it was a leading city of the Roman Empire and was visited by three Emperors, including Severus, who lived in the city for several years until his death. Captured by the Vikings in 866, its name was changed to Jorvik. William the Conqueror came to York in 1069 during his Harrowing of the North, a period of terrible suffering for the area.

Significantly involved in the War of the Roses, it ironically harboured King Henry VI and Queen Margaret of the house of Lancaster after they were ordered out of London. After defeating Richard of York (who had claimed a right to the throne) at the Battle of Wakefield, the Lancastrians displayed his severed head over the city’s gates.

York’s past and architectural heritage, have made it one of England’s primary tourist destinations.


There are few more impressive sites in Britain than the gargantuan, gothic cathedral of York Minster. Its construction began in 1220, but the building of its elaborate faces and three separate towers was not completed until 1472. Over 2 million separate pieces are contained in its numerous stained-glass windows, some of which date from an earlier church on the site in the 12th century.

York has been encircled by walls since the Roman era, which have been augmented and restored many times in the following centuries. A walk round the walls reveals remaining Roman fortifications, most noticeably the Mutangular Tower in the York Museum gardens. Other sites to take in on a tour of the walls include its gatehouses, known as Bars. There are four in total, designed as forts to protect the city and to extract tolls from traffic into the city. The most elaborate, Monk bar, now houses the Richard III museum. Within York’s walls, an ancient statute allowing citizens to shoot Scotsmen on site, providing they use a crossbow, has never been repealed.

Another enjoyable distraction is a walk around York’s Snickelways. These mostly medieval passageways between buildings offer a novel way to travel between the city’s historic roads, known as gates. Both can possess bizarre names such as Mad Alice Lane and Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate.

York’s Nordic legacy is permanently celebrated by the Jorvik Viking Centre; while the Jorvik Festival in February features re-enacted battles, lectures and the burning of a Viking warship on the river.

The National Railway museum has over 100 locomotives and 200 other items of rolling stock. Its permanent exhibits include a collection of royal coaches used by the British monarchy, from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II. Located at the Museum is the Yorkshire wheel, a 42-pod observation wheel offering views of the city, similar to the London Eye.

The stately home of Castle Howard, a location in the series Brideshead Revisited is just a short car journey outside of York and regularly provides a magical setting for Proms concerts. The 2006 event featured fireworks and a Spitfire aerial display to music.


The tiny, cobbled street of The Shambles is York’s most famous road. Inside its medieval, half-timbered buildings that overhang the street are many souvenir shops catering to tourists; however they can be expensive.

The similarly old street of Stonegate, near the Minster, contains numerous antique shops; while many collectors bookshops are located around the city.

Nightlife/ Eating Out

Dining in York is quite inexpensive; although its gourmet options are rather limited. It does offer a variety of International cuisine, including Italian, French, Greek, Chinese and Indian food. The ASK pizza restaurant is worth mentioning, not for the food, but for its amazing setting in a marble-pillared, Georgian hall with 40-ft high ceilings.

Many diners choose to eat in the innumerable pubs for which York is famed, most of which serve lunch. Others provide food throughout the day, or open their kitchens again for dinner.

Pubs of note in York include: The central Lendal Cellars, a vast gastro-pub set in three, long cellars; The Hansom Cab, a luxuriously furnished pub selling local Samuel Smiths beer and located just off Parliament Street; The Kings Arms, which contains a water level by the door showing to what extent the river Ouse has submerged the pub in previous years; and Ye Olde Starre Inn, York’s oldest pub dating back to 1644.

York has numerous nightspots within its walls and in the immediate vicinity, providing entertainment to locals, tourists and students from its universities.

Tourist Info

York Visitor Information CentreDe Grey Rooms Exhibition Square York, YO1 7HB

Tel: +44 (0)1904 550099E-mail: tourism@yorkvic.co.ukWebsite: www.visityork.org/

Another visitor information centre is located at the railway station.


York is accessible from a large number of domestic, European and worldwide destinations through the eight international airports located within a 90-mile radius; the nearest being Leeds-Bradford, 26 miles away.

York’s Victorian, iron and glass-roofed railway station, which opened in 1877, is only two hours away from London, Edinburgh and Manchester by train.

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