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Our city guide to York

Touched by England’s inhabitants throughout history, everyone including the Romans, Vikings, Anglo Saxons and Normans have left their stamp on the city. As a result the city offers a feast of historic landmarks not least the stunning centrepiece of the city at York Minster. However, alongside its long history York keeps its finger on the pulse of modern life; its tangle of cobbled streets and arcades have paved the way for a thriving café culture, street entertainment and some of England’s finest shopping opportunities. And all the while the rugged natural beauty of the Yorkshire Dales and Yorkshire Moors remains on your doorstep. The story of what would become York begins in the 1st century when Roman settlers constructed their strategic Fort here on the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Fosse. Parts of the original Roman construction can still be seen today within sections of the city walls and other Roman locations including the impressive Aldborough Roman Site and Museum.

By 803 the city was invaded by the Vikings who gave the city its name (York from the Scandinavian “Jorvik”) and left their mark for us to discover buried deep beneath the city. Over recent years, excavations in York mark some of Britain’s most important archaeological finds. Viking artefacts can today be viewed alongside other exhibitions at the ever-popular Jorvik Viking Centre and the Jorvik DIG, both of which truly bring the era to life.

Almost equidistant in location between London and Edinburgh, York grew in size and economic importance throughout the middle ages when it also found itself as ecclesiastical capital of the north of England. In the 13th century work began on York Minster which remains today one of England’s largest and most impressive cathedrals; with stunningly beautiful gothic features and expansive stained glass windows, York Minster, dominates the city’s skyline and is a must-see for anyone visiting Yorkshire.

Throughout this time and within the medieval city walls, a warren of winding streets spread around the central market square; today these alleys are home to cafes, restaurants and some of York’s boutique shopping. Not to be missed is the Shambles, Britain’s oldest shopping street, where lurching timber facades lean over the narrow cobbled lane below. Beneath the old town you can explore York’s reputedly haunted dungeons, whilst above the town you can explore the hilltop Clifford’s Tower which was constructed as on of William the Conqueror’s original strongholds in Northern England. The encircling city walls and gates (or “bars” as they are known) reconstructed in medieval times, today offer pleasant walks overlooking the historic city and river.

If you prefer your history more recent then you’ll see there are also influences and sights relating to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Don’t miss the Georgian elegance of manor life at Fairfax House, or the reconstructed Victorian street-life at the York Castle Museum not to mention the host of exhibits, including the Flying Scotsman, heralding from the Industrial Revolution housed at York’s National Railway Museum.

Set amidst the tranquillity of the Dales and Moors, with a picturesque riverside location, intricate architecture, iconic sites and over 30 museums and exhibitions within its central area, it is not surprising that York is one of Britain’s most popular visitor cities.

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