One of England’s greatest ancient and medieval cities, York boasts a rich Roman and Viking heritage and long lineup of historical monuments, all entangled in a web of cobbled streets and narrow lanes. If you only have a day to experience this sight-packed city, here’s how to see and do it all.
Make the most of the morning with a York Pass: a sightseeing card that covers entry to 30 top attractions, including York’s medieval showpieces. Buy a 1-day pass and use it to visit must-sees such as 13th-century York Minster or Clifford’s Tower, the last remaining turret of York Castle. The pass also includes a hop-on-hop-off-bus ticket, which lets you cruise easily between the city’s sights and hop off at any of the 20 stops of interest. If all this sounds overwhelming for a single morning, keep things simple with just a hop-on hop-off tour, walking or cycling excursion, or a cruise on the River Ouse.
This afternoon, focus on the city’s second-tier attractions, perhaps using a York Pass—if applicable—for free entry. Prebook a skip-the-line visit to York Dungeon and trace the city’s dark history through exhibits that spotlight its violent Viking era, plague outbreaks, executions, and more. Alternatively, stride along York’s centuries-old walls on a private tour, or uncover its Norse heritage on a Viking-themed walk. Otherwise, lighten the tone at York’s Chocolate Story: unwrapping the city’s chocolate-making credentials and sampling the creations of its chocolatiers.
After a busy day’s sightseeing, slow the tempo with a sundown cruise along the River Ouse. Sail this historical waterway as it winds in and out of the old city: passing medieval towers and peaceful countryside as the sun sinks below the horizon. Otherwise, add a spooky twist to the evening by jumping on a vintage-bus ghost tour. Settle onto a lantern-lit double-decker to seek out York’s creepy corners, such as highwayman Dick Turpin’s grave, all as you learn about eerie local legends and ghoulish sightings.