Things to Do in Yorkshire
This cavernous medieval cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece. Focal points include the 16th-century stained glass Rose Window, which was painstakingly pieced back together following a fire in 1984, and the soaring central tower, the top of which offers panoramic views of York.
Aided by spooky special effects and eerie sets, the costumed actors at York Dungeon recount terrifying tales of torture, terror, and murder. Expect laughs, scares, and shrieks as you learn about Viking invasions, witch hunts, and lawbreakers from centuries past.
Explore one of the original National Trust properties at York’s Treasurer’s House, an opulent and eclectic 2-story mansion set amid landscaped gardens that has a fascinating history spanning 2,000 years. Highlights include the period rooms replete with historical artifacts, including a Queen Anne bedspread and a blown-glass chandelier, as well as the allegedly haunted cellars.
Clifford’s Tower, a semi-ruined 13th-century remnant of York Castle, is also one of the few Norman relics in a city dominated by Viking influence. Nowadays, Clifford’s Tower is one of the most popular and emblematic sights in York, and the panoramic views from the tower’s ramparts make it an excellent starting point for first-time visitors to historic York.
Set on the site of a major Viking settlement, Jorvik Viking Centre whisks visitors back in time to ninth-century England. Glass floors reveal remnants of the original village uncovered by archaeologists in the 1970s, while a train ride takes passengers past detailed diorama-style displays that recreate typical scenes from Viking life—complete with animatronic figures, a soundtrack, and more.
Obscured behind the shell of a modern facade until the 1980s, this medieval-era townhouse—once home to the Lord Mayor of York—has been restored to appear as it would have in its late-15th-century heyday. Inside the timber-framed structure, exhibits explore medieval themes and life in Tudor-era England.
Having never been widened to accommodate cars, The Shambles has retained its picturesque medieval form. Timber-framed Tudor buildings host tea rooms, taverns, and souvenir shops, and project out at the upper levels—a medieval building technique used to create extra living space.
Castle Howard is one of Britain’s grandest stately homes. Built over the course of 100 years and still home to the Howard family, the castle was famously used as a filming location for Brideshead Revisited. Its 1,000 acres (405 hectares) of elegant grounds are located in the Howardian Hills—an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
With a history dating back to 1835, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is England’s most popular heritage steam railway. The 18-mile (29-kilometer) route winds through the North York Moors National Park, stopping at historic railway stations and affording magnificent views of the rugged moorlands.
Step back in time with York Castle Museum, an informative, interactive destination that will charm history-buffs and families alike. Unique in its depictions of everyday life, both past and present, York Castle Museum is best-known for period reconstructions of historic streets—like the Victorian Kirkgate—and costumed actors who help bring the past to life.
More Things to Do in Yorkshire
Once built to protect the medieval city of York, the well-preserved York City Walls have since become an emblematic landmark of the region and an easy-to-access point of introduction for historical York. While only three main sections of these 13th- and 14th-century walls are still connected, following the footpaths and scrambling up the ramparts remains a popular pastime.
With one of the country’s most important regimental collections, York Army Museum offers visitors an immersive insight into 300+ years of Yorkshire military history. Learn about the Royal Dragoon Guards and Yorkshire Regiment through interactive exhibits, centuries-old artifacts, and audiovisual displays.
Set on the site of a World War II bomber command station, this aviation museum showcases the work and machinery of Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF and its allies. As well as a collection of more than 60 historic aircraft and vehicles, it also holds more than 250,000 additional artifacts, including uniforms, photographs, and documents.
This 18th-century townhouse offers a glimpse into the tastes, fashions, and daily life of Georgian-era nobility. It began as the home of Viscount Charles Gregory Fairfax and then enjoyed brief stints as a gentlemen’s club, cinema, and dancehall before being restored to its Georgian-era glory.
Housed inside the 15th-century church of St. Saviour, Jorvik Dig illuminates the work of local archaeologists as well as the history of the York area. Visitors can get hands-on at four replica excavation pits, each based on real-life digs. Uncover revealing replica objects from Roman, Viking, medieval, and Victorian times.
At more than 650 years old, this medieval-era timber-framed guildhall is one of the oldest buildings of its type in England. Built by a fraternity—the Merchant Adventurers of the City of York—whose members built capital through overseas business dealings, the building encompasses an oak-beamed hall, chapel, and an undercroft.
The Peak District became Britain’s first national park in 1951 and remains one of its most popular outdoor destinations. From fertile farmland and stately homes to towering peaks and underground caves, there’s much to explore across the 143,700-hectare park, including the beginning of Britain’s best-known trail, the Pennine Way.
Step inside the only bullet train outside of Japan, peer into royal carriages, and watch model trains chug around a small-scale landscape at the National Railway Museum. With over one million pieces of railway memorabilia—including steam locomotives and vintage posters—the museum provides an immersive insight into the British rail industry.
Beningbrough Hall, an 18th-century former family home occupied by the Royal Air Force during World War II, is one of York’s most important historical highlights. Linger in front of the 100+ portraits that hang inside, courtesy of a partnership with the National Portrait Gallery. Then stroll through the gardens, where staff sometimes offer growing tips to interested visitors.
Built in 1732, this handsome Georgian building is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of York, with distinguished guests arriving here for various ceremonies, black-tie banquets, and events. The house holds an impressive collection of civic regalia, art, and artifacts, including paintings, furniture, weapons, and silverware.
Housed inside one of York’s main medieval gateways, the Henry VII Experience documents the rise and reign of England’s first Tudor king. Exhibits cover Henry VII’s ascension, from snatching the throne from Richard III on the battlefield to quieting the Yorkist rebellion, as well as information on York at the time of his reign.
The Yorkshire Museum chronicles millions of years of Yorkshire history, from the Jurassic period through to Viking and medieval times. Highlights of the eclectic collection include a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite that came crashing to Earth in 1881, the hair bun of a Roman teenager, and a Viking sword.
Fans of the Yorkshire author and vet of All Creatures Great and Small fame won’t want to miss the World of James Herriot. Now an award-winning, interactive museum, Herriot’s former veterinary office—a fully restored 1940s home—displays a huge collection of Herriot memorabilia.
In the Yorkshire Dales, the award-winning Wensleydale Creamery is the home of Yorkshire’s Wensleydale cheese. At the Creamery Visitor Centre, guests can learn about cheese-making, try and buy different varieties, and enjoy a gift shop, café, and restaurant—all complemented by stellar views of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.