York is a truly stunning city, a real mixture of the ancient and the modern. It is a city that attracts visitors from all over the world, not only because of the impressive York Minster but also for the overall ambience of the place itself. The ancient city walls that once surrounded the ancient city are still very much a part of the modern York, and everywhere you go within the city you will see traces of its long and impressive past.
This stunning cathedral is located in the very heart of the city, it’s beautiful tall spires clearly visible on the skyline from just about anywhere in the city. This wonderful piece of ancient architecture was built between 1220 and 1470, taking generations of masons and craftsmen to complete the structure. This medieval masterpiece has been the site of many significant historic events across the centuries and in fact the remains of the Roman building where Emperor Constantine once lived are buried beneath the Minster’s central tower.
This is also the site where Saxon kings were crowned and is the final resting place of several Archbishops including the tomb of St William of York. There are free guided tours on offer that will take you around the cathedral pointing out many of the architectural features that you would not necessarily notice on your own, and if you have a head for heights you can even climb to the top of the central tower to get a spectacular view across the city. The Minster is widely regarded as the ‘Heart of Yorkshire’ and if you look carefully you will see a heart carved into the stone work around the west window.
Jorvik Viking Centre
This wonderful interactive centre offers an insight into what life was like in the city under the Vikings. The experience will take you through reconstructed streets in the city as they would have looked a thousand years ago. Be careful though as this is one place where you can still come face to face with a Viking warrior. Jorvik was the name that the Vikings gave to the city and beneath your feet as you walk around the centre are the remains of houses that were built on the site a thousand years ago.
The centre offers visitors the chance to step into a time capsule, they will meet with characters that still speak old Norse, be able to smell the food cooking in the pots above the fires and feel and smell the smoke from the blacksmiths fires. Using state of the art technology the Vikings have been brought to life in all of their fearsome glory. This is the only experience of its kind anywhere, and attracts the most visitors than any other site outside of London, it really is a must do experience when you are in the city.
York Castle & York Castle Museum
The York Castle Museum is a museum that specialises in the everyday, charting the progression of everyday life through the centuries. Within the museum you will find everyday objects that have stood the test of time and many recreated period rooms and shops that give you the feeling that you are stepping back in time. Possibly the best know part of the museum and the biggest attraction for visitors is the wonderfully recreated Victorian street. The street is Kirkgate, named after the museum’s founder Dr John L. Kirk, on whose collection of artefacts the museum is based. Part of the experience here is the York Castle Prison where you will be placed in the company of highwayman Dick Turpin. The experience highlights just what life in this sordid and overcrowded prison was like, occasionally in rather gruesome detail. What remains of the castle itself can be viewed on the riverbank next to the museum and the old Victorian watermill.
Exploring the City
With its medieval heritage the city is filled with narrow streets, some of them still cobbled. As you walk around the city you will see the ancient and modern alongside each other. Beautiful timber framed buildings seemingly lean into the narrow streets while modern high street stores are gleaming with large glass windows.
The city is filled with incredible cafes and bars and there are plenty of places to just stop and relax and watch the world go by for while. Boat trips are available along the river which makes a wonderful place to relax after a few hours exploring the busy city streets. As night falls the city changes and bars and restaurants come to the fore, this is also a city with plenty of ghost stories and haunted buildings that have seen centuries of activity. Whatever you are looking for from a break in this beautiful and ancient city, you will surely find it here.