York’s rich history, family-friendly activities and romantic cobbled streets keeps visitors coming back year after year. And why not, when there are so many fantastic and good-value places to stay and things to do?
Find fascinating (and free) sights around every corner, including the City of York Walls: the longest medieval town walls in England, and the Shambles: a narrow cobbled street of overhanging timber-framed buildings dating back to the 14th century. Let us inspire you with our 10 favourite things to do in York on a budget.
Wandering through the historic streets will easily take up a full day, so if you’re in need of a little refreshment after all that sightseeing, make a stop at Betty’s Tea Room. Here you can treat yourself to a quintessentially British afternoon tea as you relax in elegant surroundings. Wondering why the café has the look of a luxury liner? Betty’s founder, Frederick Belmont, was so taken after travelling on the Queen Mary’s maiden voyage he commissioned its designers to recreate the splendid ship’s surroundings at Betty’s.
This award-winning museum is a must-see for anyone visiting York. With over 300 years of history to discover and over a million objects to admire, you might want to visit again during your stay. After all, it is free to get in so there’s nothing stopping you going more than once! Highlights include the world’s largest collection of lavish Royal carriages, the record-breaking Mallard engine and the Japanese high speed Shinkansen.
Indulge in a day of inspiring exhibits with a visit to York Art Gallery. It first opened its doors to the public in 1879 and holds the largest collection of work by renowned York artist, William Etty. The gallery is also home to over 3,000 pieces of decorative art, 1,000 paintings, 17,000 works on paper and much, much more. With so much to see, your £7.50 entrance fee (free for 16 and under) goes a long way.
The last Plantagenet King of England’s two-year reign may have been short, but Richard III’s time on the throne from 1483 to 1485 was full of controversy, rebellion and, most notably, his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth. Find out about his life and reign at Monk Bar, before heading over to Micklegate Bar to learn about the first Tudor King, and victor at Bosworth battlefield, Henry VII. Entry is just £3.50 per person or £5.00 for both experiences. As these attractions are part of the Jorvik Group, it’s well worth checking their website for further savings on ticket prices.
When is a pub not just a pub? When it’s the site of Roman baths, of course! This unique tavern is a hidden gem in the centre of York, where you can enjoy a pint of real ale and some hearty pub grub before admiring the ancient Roman plunge bath or ‘caldarium’. The well-preserved tiles show footprint indentations and an insignia believed to be that of the famous 9th legion, who founded Roman Eboracum in AD71. This is a treat not to be missed!
You don’t need to splash out (excuse the pun) to see York from the beautiful River Ouse. An adult ticket costs around £8.00, which includes an entertaining commentary from one of YorkBoat’s skippers. Wet your whistle with a drink from the bar before settling down and admiring the view. En route, you’ll hear about the Saxon and Viking clashes of 1066, see where monks entertained their guests and learn more about York’s fascinating history.
Voted as the third best attraction in York on TripAdvisor and winner of a 2015 Certificate of Excellence, this free walking tour is the perfect way to start your stay in the city. The tour lasts for three hours, but how much you stay for is completely up to you. Your informative guide will lead you to some of the most famous sites in York, including The Shambles, York Minster, York Castle, St Mary’s Abbey and the Museum Gardens.
If you’re partial to a pint of traditionally made ale, then a visit to York Brewery in the city centre is a must. After gathering in the taproom bar for a pre-tour tipple, your guide will take you on a tour of the brewery and explain how the grain ends up in the glass. When you’re done, visit the gift shop where you can pick up glassware, clothing, souvenirs and (you guessed it!) some freshly brewed beer to take home.
This splendid Georgian townhouse in the heart of York is a thing of beauty. Entering it is like going back in time as the décor and furnishings are exactly as they would have been in the 1760s. Discover the stories of its previous residents, including those of Lord Fairfax and his daughter Anne, and find out about the building’s past life as a cinema, dancehall and gentleman’s club. The pièce de résistance here though is the ceiling of the Grand Staircase: a stunning example of mid-18th century stucco.
If you’ve got budding archaeologists in your midst, take the kids to DIG for their chance to get their hands dirty and become a ‘digger’ for the day. Training starts in the Briefing Hut, where children can learn what it takes to be an archaeologist before moving on to the excavation pits. Using a trowel, they’ll get to unearth artefacts from York’s history and discover what life would have been like for the Romans, Vikings and Victorians. The whole family will love getting involved and, at £20.00 for a family of four, it’s a great-value day out.