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Things to do in

York

Inspiring Medieval architecture, cobbled alleys, and traditional pubs are some examples of its rich heritage.

Our most recommended things to do in York

York: River Ouse City Cruise

1. York: River Ouse City Cruise

The York City Cruise provides an entertaining and informative tour of the historic city as seen from the River Ouse. Enjoy the sights from a different perspective as a friendly and knowledgeable team guides you leisurely up and downstream. Your cruise departs from the King's Staith landing. Admire the scenery from the comfort of the enclosed saloon or the upper deck and treat yourself to a refreshing drink from the bar. The duration of the cruise is either 45 minutes or 1 hour and is determined by the weather on the day and by demand. Your ticket will be valid for whatever duration is offered on the day of your visit. Typically the 1-hour cruise follows a route that heads upstream to Clifton Bridge on the northern outskirts of York city and then downstream as far as the Millennium Bridge on the city’s southern outskirts, before returning back upstream to the original landing stage. The 45-minute cruise operates in the same area without going quite as far in either direction, passing through the center of the walled city. During the cruise, the captain will keep you entertained with live commentary about the sites you pass. Learn about York’s history of flooding and its prosperity as an inland port, as you sail along the river that brought the Romans and the Vikings to this site. You’ll sail on a vessel that features an enclosed and heated saloon, restrooms, and a fully stocked bar serving beers, wines, spirits, soft drinks, hot drinks, and snacks.

The York Dungeon Admission Ticket

2. The York Dungeon Admission Ticket

Journey through 2,000 Years of York's dark and grizzly history. Surprises await you in the dungeon: fear the Vikings as they invade and conquer York. Discover Guy Fawkes' famous Gunpowder Plot and what really happened that November night. Step inside the carriage to the Knavesmire, where one of history's most infamous Highwaymen returned. This 75-minute journey brings together horrible characters for an exciting walk through immersive sets and thrilling special effects for an experience that you will hear, feel and smell. The York Dungeon is a must-see, uniquely thrilling attraction that will take you back to the city's darkest history. 

Comedy Horror Show: York Ghost Bus Tour

3. Comedy Horror Show: York Ghost Bus Tour

Let the darker side of York's history send a chill down your spine as you discover the city’s dark and terrible secrets. Board the Necrobus and get ready to embark on a 75-minute theatrical sightseeing tour. Enjoy a comedy horror journey around York's seedier past as your creepy conductor shows you the sights from a classic 1960s Routemaster bus. The on-board actors and eerily decorated bus will ensure you have the spookiest ride in town. Learn about the sinister side of many of York's most famous landmarks including Clifford’s Tower, York Minster, and Dick Turpin's grave. Let your imagination run wild as you hear about the ghosts that reside within the medieval walls of one of England's spookiest cities.

York: River Ouse Early Evening Cruise

4. York: River Ouse Early Evening Cruise

This 1-hour Early Evening Cruise is an entertaining and informative tour of historic York from the River Ouse. Enjoy the city from a different perspective as a friendly and knowledgeable team guides you leisurely up and downstream. During the cruise, the captain will keep you entertained with live commentary about the sites you pass. Learn about York’s history of flooding and its prosperity as an inland port, as you sail along the river that brought the Romans and the Vikings to this site. You’ll sail on a vessel that features an enclosed and heated saloon, rest rooms and a fully stocked bar serving beers, wines, spirits, soft drinks, hot drinks and snacks.

York: Self-Drive Red Boats

5. York: Self-Drive Red Boats

Enjoy a leisurely one hour hire, exploring York from the helm of your own self-drive motorboat. Become a captain and explore the sites of York’s riverside in style. Your private boat can accommodate up to 8 people and will provide plenty of room for you all to head out on your own aquatic adventure, exploring the same river that brought the Vikings to this beautiful city. You will receive full instructions on how to operate your motor boat along with safety and river rules, whilst life jackets will be provided for any children. Your boat operating area is along a route that will along you to take in the whole city from the river within the one hour. Additionally, on a half hour hire you can operate within this area and will be able to take in most of the built up section of the Ouse, or make your way down stream to the Millennium Bridge and back to the moorings again. Please note that the boats cannot be taken past Clifton Bridge or the Millennium Bridge. You are not allowed to moor the boat up and disembark at any point on the river other than at the at King’s Staith (where your hire first began).

York: River Ouse Floodlit Evening Cruise

6. York: River Ouse Floodlit Evening Cruise

Relax and enjoy a romantic end to your evening in York on this 70-minute Floodlit Evening Cruise. Your ticket includes a choice of refreshments; adults and concessions aged 18 and over can choose from a hot drink and a biscuit or a glass of Prosecco. Children and concessions aged under 18 can choose from a hot drink and a biscuit or a soft drink and a biscuit. Boarding commences at 20:45 and the boat departs at 21:15 from the King’s Staith Landing in central York. The boat returns to the departure location at 22:25. Sail a circular route on the River Ouse, as you enjoy a relaxing mix of jazz and swing background music. The on-board floodlights will illuminate landmarks along the water edge, as you take in the historic sights of York from a different perspective. You’ll sail on a vessel that features an enclosed and heated saloon, rest rooms and a fully stocked bar serving beers, wines, spirits, soft drinks, hot drinks and snacks.

York: A Harry Potter-Themed Guided Tour of York

7. York: A Harry Potter-Themed Guided Tour of York

Get sorted, play quizzes and games.  Experience some fantastic costumed re-eanactments, and learn about the Harry Potter universe and history of York. Set off on your journey around town, enjoying Harry Potter trivia quizzes from your guide along the way to earn points for your house. With an animated scoreboard, video clips of movie scenes, costume pieces, and reenactments, this is an interactive experience that allows you to live out your Harry Potter dreams in York. You also have the chance to use your spell knowledge to outwit members of other houses. Marvel at locations, such as the fictional Diagon Alley, invisible to the Muggle world, platform for the Hogwarts Express, soak in the views from the city walls! Explore the fantastic Harry Potter shop! And so much more!

City Sightseeing York Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

8. City Sightseeing York Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

Founded by the Romans, York soon became England's Second City and has witnessed wars, peace agreements, and prosperity throughout its 2,000 years of existence. King George VI reflected on the city's central role throughout the years when he said, "The history of York is the history of England". Visit the magnificent York Minster, with its priceless display of stained glass. Walk along medieval streets or on the 800-year-old Bar Walls. Visit award-winning museums, the York Botanical Gardens, or enjoy excellent restaurants and shopping facilities. You'll never be short of places to discover in this wonderful city. Your Tour Itinerary: Stop 1 - Exhibition Square Stop 2 - GillyGate Stop 3 - Monk Bar Stop 4 - Foss Bank Stop 5 - Peasholme Green Stop 6 - The Stonebow Stop 7 - Clifford's Tower Stop 8 - Margaret Street Stop 9 - Walmgate Bar Stop 10 - Barbican Centre Stop 11 - Fishergate Stop 12 - York Railway Station Stop 13 - Memorial Gardens Stop 14 - Museum Gardens

York's Chocolate Story: Guided Tour

9. York's Chocolate Story: Guided Tour

Make your way to York’s Chocolate Story in the historic heart of York. Meet the guide and spend 1 hour and 15 minutes on an entertaining tour of the attraction. Discover the secrets of making delicious chocolate as you explore the facility’s 3 floors filled with interactive exhibitions. Join a guided tour to explore the history of chocolate, from the discovery of the cocoa bean thousands of years ago to the world famous chocolate-making families of York. Listen as your knowledgeable guide brings the process to life, and hands out the occasional taster, of course. Towards the end of your visit you’ll have a chance to make your own chocolate creation and watch a chocolatier at work, perfect for adults and children alike. At the end of the guided tour, visit the cafe and gift shop, bursting with artisan chocolate and other delicious creations.

York City Pass: Access 20 Attractions for One Great Price

10. York City Pass: Access 20 Attractions for One Great Price

York is a city with over 2000 years of history to explore, choose your own adventure in this amazing city. After purchase, your York City Pass gives you free entry to over 20 attractions in York.  Enjoy a full day of sightseeing in York and see the best of the city. You can visit JORVIK Viking Centre, York Dungeon, York Minster, Barley Hall, and more. You can also hop on the City Sightseeing Bus or the York City Cruises. With a variety of different options of things to do in see, you can thoroughly explore York. The York Pass also gives you discounts on taxi fares, BOBH day trips from York, Mountain Goat Tours, City Cruises Evening Tour, York Cycling Tour, escape rooms, and ghost walks. Inclusions: • Pizza or pasta at ASK Italian (terms and conditions apply) • The Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre • Barley Hall • Bedern Hall • Beningbrough Hall • Clifford’s Tower • Castle Howard • DIG • Fairfax House • Golden Tours York 24-hour ticket • JORVIK Viking Centre • Mansion House • Merchant Adventurers’ Hall • Railway Museum Road Train • Roman Bath • Treasurer’s House • Van Gogh Experience • York Army Museum • York City Cruises • York City Sightseeing 24-hour ticket • York Dungeon • York Minster • Yorkshire Air Museum

Insider tips: Planning a trip to York

Victoria is a blogger at Bridges and Balloons, a site all about travel to special places. She creates handpicked unique itineraries and travel guides, filled with beautifully designed places to stay and ways to experience life like a (somewhat hipster) local. Victoria loves road trips, indy bookshops, magnificent nature, farmers markets, street art and discovering the creative side of a city. Visit Bridges and Balloons for more things to do in York.

What should I do on my first trip to York?

York is an enchanting place to simply walk around. A good start is to walk around the city walls, followed by a trip to the famous York Minster. Climb the tower for fabulous views across the city. Other must-sees include Clifford Tower and the Shambles (a street that looks straight out of Harry Potter).

What are some hidden gems to see in York?

Hire your own little red boat to see the city from the river. If you're traveling with kids, don't miss the railway museum, which is filled with full-size train carriages from across history and the world. And York's Chocolate is a hit with all ages - you even get to make your own chocolate lollipop. Also head to Bishopthorpe Road (also known as 'Bishy Road'), a street full of independent shops and restaurants.

How much time should I spend in York?

York is a city that's perfect for a long weekend. Spend a day exploring some of the major sights, including the Minster, Clifford's Tower and the City Walls. And then reserve another day for your choice of museums, including Jorvik Viking Centre, York Castle Museum and the Yorkshire Museum. A final day can be used for shopping and exploring any of the sights and museums you missed on previous days. If you have longer, it's worth taking a trip outside the city to explore the surrounding countryside.

What food is York known for?

Make sure to get a 'fat rascal' rock cake from Betty's tea room, or better still, try an afternoon tea. The city is also famous for its many pubs (there are over 365!) so pop in for a pint and a pub lunch. And don't forget to try a famous yorkshire pudding with your Sunday roast.

What is the best way to get around York?

York is small enough to walk around on foot and that's the best way to do it as parking is limited and the roads within the city walls are closed to cars from 8am-4pm. It's also perfect for cycling as the city is mostly flat.

What are the best months to visit York?

York is an all-year-round destination. Spring and summer are the most popular months, filled with cultural events. But it's also a magical place to visit in the autumn and winter, full of places to get cosy in. Christmastime is particularly enchanting when you can enjoy the Christmas market too.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

For a classic York experience, go to Castlegate, which has touristy bistros with great views of the castle. Fossgate and Walmgate are perfect for a casual lunch. And Micklegate has lots of independent restaurants. Don't miss Spark:York for street food.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

Head to The Quarter, a collection of medieval streets, for cute but touristy boutiques and quaint cafes. Or for a more local but still independent vibe, go to Bishopthorpe Road. The Shambles also has cute shops as well as being the most picturesque street in York.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit York?

If you can, stay in the city centre as then you'll be in walking distance of all the main attractions. But Holgate is also a great option, still in walking distance of the centre and a great option for families away from the crowds.

Other Sightseeing Options in York

Want to discover all there is to do in York? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about York

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 3,726 reviews

The City Highlights Walking Tour was conducted by Alfred who is a real expert on this job. His attitude toward the participant was very good; he was really friendly. He knew how to attract everyone’s attention. He was well-prepared and dedicated. The biggest advantage of this tour was its limited number of participants, so everyone had opportunity to interact with the tour guide. I think that the coverage of tour was quite satisfactory. I strongly recommend.

Informative information but presented with fun. Boat was clean, staff all friendly and helpful. Weather was very sunny so it did add to the experience as we were able to sit outside.

Enjoyed every minute of this tour, with lots of scary moments and great acting by the wonderful tour guides.worth every penny

Was very informative and fun. Was given all the instructions at the beginning and where to go on the boat

Very entertaining, lovely weather, great memories.