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.

Comedy Horror Show: York Ghost Bus Tour

2. 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: Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour

3. York: Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour

Get sorted, play quizzes and games, and experience some fantastic costumed re-enactments on this guided walking tour in York. Learn about the Harry Potter universe and history of York. See sights like Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express platform. Set off on your journey around town, enjoying Harry Potter trivia quizzes from your guide along the way to earn points for your house. Stay engaged with an animated scoreboard, video clips of movie scenes, costume pieces, and reenactments. Have the chance to use your spell knowledge to outwit members of other houses. Marvel at locations, such as the fictional Diagon Alley, and the platform for the Hogwarts Express. Soak in the views from the city walls. Explore the fantastic Harry Potter shop and uncover some of York's hidden gems.

York: The York Dungeon Entry Ticket

4. York: The York Dungeon Entry Ticket

Journey through 2,000 years of York's eerie history with an entry ticket to the York Dungeon. Immerse yourself in the city's dark past with ten live shows and encounter unsettling historical characters as you stroll through specially-designed immersive sets. Start at the beginning as the dreaded Vikings invade and conquer York. Uncover the details of Guy Fawkes' infamous Gunpowder Plot and what really happened that November night. Step inside the carriage to the Knavesmire, where one of history's most notorious Highwaymen returned. Embark on a journey brimming with terrifying characters and feel a chill as you walk through immersive 360-degree sets with thrilling special effects. Learn about real events and people that shaped the city in a unique and exciting way.

York: River Ouse Early Evening Cruise

5. 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-Steer Boat Rental

6. York: Self-Steer Boat Rental

Enjoy a leisurely one hour hire, exploring York from the helm of your own self-steer 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).

City Sightseeing York Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

7. 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: Witches and History Old Town Walking Tour

8. York: Witches and History Old Town Walking Tour

Join a characterful witch-guide to discover York's history and unearth the secrets of the Shambles on a walking tour, with the option to participate in potion-making. Tread lightly as you walk through York Minster, Petergate, and Stonegate—the very grounds on which these mysterious events occurred. Meet your guide and begin your walking tour. Hear historical tales and legends that focus on witchcraft. Explore the Shambles, as you step back in time and discover the unpleasant origins of this now picturesque street. Watch out on the cobbles as you lend your ear to terrible tales of the witches of Yorkshire. Start your tour at Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, the smallest street with possibly the longest name in York. It is said the name means "What a street." Then, view the remains of the St Crux Church, originally the largest medieval parish church in York. Continue to King's Square, learning more about the area and hearing the tale of the magical tree with a witchy connection. Next, follow your guide through the old quarter of York, the Minster Quarter, where you pass the vibrant shopping area of the city. Stroll through Low Petergate and High Petergate and listen in awe at the fascinating and chilling stories of the past. Marvel at the grandeur of the world's most magnificent and iconic cathedrals, York Minster. Right opposite that, see the St Michael Le Belfrey Church. Hear some more spooky and witchery tales and a name that might spark some recognition. Gaze at the architecture of medieval buildings, gorgeous Georgian townhouses, and other period styles in Stonegate, one of York's most historic roads. Discover the alleys, ginnels, and snickets of the city and walk through York's longest snickelway (narrow alleys running between York's streets). Feel the chills in the air in the hidden courtyard of Barley Hall. Back to where it all began, this spellbinding old town walking tour lets you discover the wicked history of medieval York.

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: Dark History Walking Tour

10. York: Dark History Walking Tour

Delve into York's darkest history and hear tales of murder, death, torture, and plague on this guided walking tour. Go on a historical journey to explore the grim stories and untold truths that lurk behind York's facade. Discover long-forgotten secrets, and travel back almost 2000 years to the roots of Eboracum. Find out what happened to the criminals of this city, what happened to the innocent, and what really happens in the shadows of York's mysterious alleyways and streets. Listen to the tale of York's abandoned plague child, and gain a new perspective on the city's iconic sights, like York Minster.

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

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Frequently asked questions about York

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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

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What people are saying about York

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 5,713 reviews

Had a really fun, insightful time on this tour! Phil, our tour guide, was exceptional and really knew how to engage with the crowd. Thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend.

The tour was super fun! Our witch Nyx was fantastic, she gave us *wicked* info about the city in a fun and theatrical way! Wpuld definitely recommend!

Fantastic activity! Was really informative and fun! Kate our tour guide was brilliant and was so knowledgeable. A great activity for all.

Nice and funny tour guide, we walked thru beautiful parts of the town. Fun Harry Potter quiz along the way!

Characters was amazing I was with a party of 4 and we all enjoyed it from start to finish