21 Best things to do in York – by a local

Things to do in York – I love York and have lived here almost all of my life. It’s a wonderful place to live and a wonderful place to visit, along with the boutique hotels in York.

There are so many things to do for adults and children – far more than I could possibly list here, but here are a few ideas.  It’s a fantastic place to visit at Christmas too.  I have written a post for things to do with the kids in York, and have included many of the same things here – but have added lots of extra things to do without kids!


Treasurer’s House, York

Treasurer’s House is a National Trust property in the centre of York, right next to York Minster.  The house itself is a quirky eclectic mix of styles and the gardens are a beautiful oasis is the middle of busy York.  Usual National Trust fees apply to the house, but the gardens are free to enter.

Have a look at our review of Treasurer’s House.


Visit the Theatres in York

We have several theatres in York, the most prominent being the York Theatre Royal, The Grand Opera House, York and the Joseph Rowntree Theatre.  We also have concerts and comedians on at the York Barbican.


The Shambles

The Shambles is one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe. Although none of the original shop-fronts have survived from medieval times, some properties still have exterior wooden shelves, reminders of when cuts of meat were served from the open windows.  We now have three Harry Potter shops and a Ghost Shop in The Shambles!

Things to do in York - The Shambles


National Railway Museum, York

From steam rides to storytelling, we’ve got lots of hands-on fun for the whole family.  Entry to the National Railway Museum is free.

The Rocket at The National Railway Museum


York Minster

One of the top things to do in York – York Minster needs little introduction as a world wide site of historic interest.  If you are visiting York, you really should visit the Minster.

Things to do in York - York Minster


The Bar Walls

York is a walled city and the Bar Walls are a fabulous place to walk around.  The Bar Walls are an absolute must for a visit to York.  They are not complete and don’t entirely circle the city any longer, but are long enough to provide a good long walk.  There is no cost to walk the walls and you get to see the city from a completely different perspective.  In the spring, the banks of the walls are covered with daffodils.  One of the many things to do in York for free.

Things to do in York - Bar Walls


York Castle Museum, North Yorkshire

York Castle Museum is a fab day out with the kids and so much more than your average museum.  

We have reviewed York Castle Museum here.

Things to do in York - York Castle Museum


The Yorkshire Museum

The Yorkshire Museum sits in the heart of York Museum Gardens, in the centre of York.  The museum was opened in 1830 by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and was one of the first purpose-built museums in the country.  Reopened on 1 August 2010 following a nine-month £2million refurbishment project the Museum houses five galleries showcasing some of Britain’s finest archaeological treasures and many rare animals, birds and fossils, in exciting displays.  


York Art Gallery

York Art Gallery’s collection of paintings spans more than 600 years and works range from 14th century Italian panels and 17th century Dutch masterpieces to Victorian narrative paintings and 20th century works by LS Lowry and David Hockney.


Clifford’s Tower

The stunning panoramic views over York from the top of Clifford’s Tower, make it the ideal starting point for any visit to the city. There’s plenty to discover at this imposing tower standing proud on its high mound, raised by William the Conqueror. It is almost all that remains of York Castle, and has served as a prison and a royal mint in its time.  Enjoy unrivalled views of York Minster and the city of York, with its medieval churches and buildings. In the distance you can see as far as the North York Moors.

Clifford's Tower, York


The Museum Gardens, York

Set in the stunning surroundings of the Medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, the York Museum Gardens are a great space to meet friends and family and enjoy some peace and tranquility in the heart of the city centre.  The Gardens are free to visit and are open every day apart from Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day with reduced opening on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  Another of the free things to do in York.  


Many Fabulous Restaurants

If you are looking for things to do in York at night, you’ll be glad to hear that York has many, many fabulous restaurants to try from the big chain restaurants to gorgeous independents.  I can’t possibly cover them all here, but I have reviewed some great family friendly restaurants, and have a list of some of the best Italian Restaurants in York here.

Italian Restaurants York
Lucia in York


York’s Chocolate Story, York

This is a lovely visit to do if you are in York for the day. Learn all about the history of chocolate in York and make your own chocolate bars. Lots of chocolate tasting throughout the tour to keep the kids amused.

Have a look at our review of York’s Chocolate Story.

York Chocolate Story


City Cruises

Another good one on the list of York things to do -cruise along the beautiful River Ouse with City Cruises York, specialising in Sightseeing Cruises, Party Cruises and Private Charters. 

We have reviewed afternoon tea on City Cruises here.

afternoon tea york


Festivals in York

Have a look at all the fabulous festivals we have in York from The Viking Festival, to the Great Yorkshire Fringe, the York Festival of Food and Drink, right through to York’s Christmas Festival (and there are many more!).  There is something going on all year round.

Things to do in York- Great Yorkshire Fringe


The York Dungeon

The York Dungeon brings together an amazing cast of historic characters, immersive sets and surprising special-effects.

See our review of York Dungeon here.


Beningbrough Hall, York

Beningbrough Hall is a fab stately home just outside of York, and on our list of places to visit in Yorkshire.

Have a look at our review to see what else there is to do with the kids at Beningbrough Hall.

Beningbrough Hall


York Maze, North Yorkshire

York Maze is brilliant and a fantastic day out, we love it there and go every year.  They are only open during the Summer and at Halloween – we have reviewed both!  Ideal family days out Yorkshire.

See our review of York Maze.


Energi Trampoline Park, York, North Yorkshire

A brilliant place for the kids to bounce and let off steam to their hearts content!  

See our review of Energi Trampoline Park, York here.

Things to do in York - Energi

Things to do in York

Piglets Adventure Farm Park, York

Piglets Adventure Farm Park is a fabulous place to visit just outside York.  They have lots of seasonal events, play equipment, animals and theatrical entertainment.  One of my favourite things for kids to do in York.

Have a look at our review of  May-Hem at Piglets.


Things to do in York - Piglets


Jorvik Dig, York

Looking for something a bit different? DIG is a hands-on archaeological adventure giving kids the chance to become trainee ‘diggers’ and discover the most exciting artefacts from 2000 years of York’s history!

Have a look at our review of Jorvik Dig.

Things to do in York - DIG


Out of Town Entertainment Complexes

We have three main out of town shopping, dining and entertainment centres.  At Clifton Moor you will find a Vue Cinema, Ten Pin Bowling, and Laser Zone, as well as chain restaurants such as Frankie and Benny’s, Chiquito and Harvester.  There is also a large Tesco and many other shops and drive through fast food places.  At Monks Cross/Vangarde you will find our newest out of town shopping park.  Here you will find John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, a large Next and Primark.  Restaurants include Prezzo, Giraffe and Nandos.  There is also a Mcarthurglen designer outlet where you will find an indoor shopping mall with a food court and standalone restaurants like Wagamamas, Patisserie Valerie and Pizza Express.  At Christmas, this is the location for Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland, they also have a fab children’s playground which is great for younger children.


Also look at my other round ups for different times of the year, Things to do in York with kids at February half term, Easter, May half term, Summer Holidays, October half term and at Christmas