York, England, UK Walking Tour
There are so many wonderful sights to show you in York, England, such as the great cathedral towering over the medieval town and the famous narrow lane called the Shambles. York has one of the largest pedestrian zones in the country, filled with places to eat, and shop, and walk around. There is a street market every day and sometimes it's a very long market that takes up many city blocks. You'll enjoy the scenic vistas along the river where you can sit at an outdoor café or take a boat ride.
York is a great medieval city that's filled with lots of things to do and historic sites to enjoy. We'll be taking you up into York castle and showing you the amazing medieval wall that's still standing and runs all the way around the city. We'll spend most of our time strolling through this magnificent pedestrian zone with its old-fashioned buildings and modern shops. The map provides a quick idea of our walking route that you can take upon arrival at the train station in York. It's just a couple of hundred meters to cross over the river
and have a look at the gardens along the way, and continue on to the Minster, the great cathedral, a prime destination for most visitors. And then begin to walk on the pedestrian lanes, down Petergate, through the narrow Shambles, and around over to Parliament Street, to Grape Lane, along Stonegate, then come around on Coney. We're heading south now down to the castle and Castle Museum, and that completes a quick overview of the main sights. Of course, there are endless little possibilities in the many lanes of the pedestrian zone of York that you'll want to explore, and also you want to take a walk along the medieval wall that surrounds the old part of town.
York's Gothic cathedral, built 800 years ago, is still the tallest building in town and generally considered to be the number one attraction of York. We will take you inside this magnificent building later in the program for a closer look. But for now we're getting started on our walking tour through these great little lanes. The streets are narrow and wind in all directions with many old timber and plaster dwellings featuring overhanging stories, and high-peaked red tile gables. You'll be walking right through history, passing for example, this Italian restaurant, that's in a 300-year-old building that was formerly a girl’s college. We'll take you on a big walk all around through the pedestrian center showing you the various attractive lanes, starting out with Petergate, one of the two or three main shopping streets.
Cars are not allowed in this area, that's called Within the Walls. There'll be some delivery vehicles in the morning, perhaps, and working vehicles with permits, but generally pedestrians are free to just stroll down the middle of the road here, making it a perfect place to meander. It seems every few steps, you'll pass another place to eat - perhaps a nice French restaurant, or a snack shop, or maybe a pub. It must be some kind of miracle
these old buildings are preserved so well and then a testament to modern urban planning and the economy that they are thriving today with these businesses, all seeming to do very well. Of course York is one of the most popular visitor destinations in the country, so tourists do bring a lot of money in here that helps all the merchants. As you'll notice walking around, there are a lot of places to do some spending. At the end of Petergate we arrive at King's Square, which is a large plaza that's a lively gathering place. King's Square, as the name might imply, is very central in old York, with six streets emanating out from it, old buildings all around. It's a tree
shaded plaza, with benches to sit and some pubs to enjoy, and it will lead us right into the most famous little street in town. It's the Shambles. The Shambles is so narrow they say it was possible for neighbors to reach out across the street from their second-story homes and shake hands. You'll probably return several times here as you wander through the town, but you'll find the best time to enjoy the shambles and get an uncluttered photo and experience is early morning or evening when the shops are closed and the crowd is absent. Be sure to have a look at the Shambles in this peaceful hour, for this narrow quaint shopping lane fills up with people during the day, something like bumper cars at rush-hour. These kids on their school outing enjoying one of those rituals of the group photo with this classic background. Many of the buildings on this historic lane date back to the 14th and 15th centuries when it was used as a row for butchers.
Even a hundred years ago there were 30 butcher shops, but none remain now. Mostly it's a mix of restaurants and retail and there's a bookshop and a bakery, or drop in for a cup of tea. The lane is not just for tourists. You'll see locals out with their kids and walking their dogs, maybe showing them off for passersby, and the locals like to do some people watching too.
I did not spot any loose cats walking around, but there are plenty of dogs here, almost always on their leash. Notice the shop sign behind that says "Yorky." That's what you can call somebody who lives in York, they are Yorkies, and yes, the Yorkshire Terrier originated in the same area. Take a picture and strike up a conversation. Dogs are always good icebreakers. There are five little alleys leading off from the Shambles that you might enjoy exploring they call them Snickelways. We have an entire movie
about the Snickelways of York. The town has a network of those little alleys. One little lane from Shambles leads to Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, the longest name for the shortest street in town. It's this half block – nothing special but the name. Little Shambles is the widest lane that branches out and this is a quite interesting one because it leads over to the Shambles Market. It's open-air with dozens of stalls and it's open just about every day. They have got all kinds of things for sale
here from food to T-shirts, jewelry, old junk, hardware, pots and pans, electronic goods, hats and just great stuff everywhere. Wander around, take some pictures, chat with the local merchants and just have a great time here at the market. It's a rare example of authentic merchandise not imported from any other country, but right here in England. And you can have a snack or lunch at the outdoor café.
Back over to Shambles to complete our walk, and at the end we come across the street called Pavement, which soon becomes a street called High Ousegate, yet another route that's just for pedestrians. This connects up with the widest of all the pedestrian lanes in York center, called Parliament. It's more of a plaza or a park rather than a street, with lots of stores along and benches, specifically designed in the mid-19th century as a market street, continuing as the city's main market until the 1950s, and in 1990, it was pedestrianized. And once in a while they have a special street market, much bigger than the one that we just saw by the Shambles. The kiosks and vendors are organized by a group called Marketplace Europe, which stages 70 major market events every year across the United Kingdom. It features
food and merchandise from all over the world. York also has one of the UK's top-10 Christmas markets. It runs from the middle of November right up through Christmas Eve, which would also be a very nice time to be here. Actually, wintertime in general in York is obviously much less crowded with tourists, and not bitter cold and all of the shops and hotels and restaurants are open. Early in its history York had been a major commercial center. Starting from the year 1212
when King John granted the city's first charter that confirmed trading rights for commerce in England and Europe. And then during the later Middle Ages, the York merchants imported wine from France, cloth, wax, canvas and oats from the Low Countries, timber and furs from the Baltic, and they exported grain to Gascony, and wool to the Low Countries. York then became a major cloth manufacturing and trading center. The economy got a major boost when the railroad arrived in York in 1839 and established York as a major rail center by the late 19th century. Of course, tourism is now a major component of the economy, but this is very much a city for the local residents as well. In fact it was described in 2018 as the Best Place to Live in Britain by the Sunday Times newspaper, and that same year, there was a national survey done of opinions of how people like their cities, and York came out on top with 92 percent of its residents saying they like it here.
This is a very livable place, whether you are a resident or just visiting for a day or two. Parliament connects back into Shambles Market and the extension of Parliament, called Davygate, connects in with St. Helen's Square, another major focal point of the city, with St. Helen's Church at one end, and the Mansion House at the other, which is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of York. Open to the public as a small museum, it was first occupied in 1732 by the Lord Mayor, and that's a tradition that continues to this day.
Built in the early Georgian style, it's the oldest purpose-built house for a Lord Mayor in the country. There is a famous restaurant on St. Helen's Square where you can have a fabulous meal. It's called the IVY. For many years there was only one IVY restaurant and that was a very exclusive place in London. But now they have expanded and are found in dozens of locations throughout the British Isles. So while in York, you have a chance to enjoy some superb food here, open from 9 AM until 10 PM, with a casual atmosphere, and several dining rooms for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner or just some drinks. Even if you're not looking for something to eat, it's a real pleasure just to hang out here at St.
Helen's Square a, lively place with four streets leading into it. Coney Street is one of those lanes extending out from St. Helen's Square. It's quite a wide pedestrian street - one of the major arteries of town.
While we stroll along here and then walk by the riverside, just one block over, I'll share some travel tips about how to best plan your visit to York. The only problem with York is that it is so popular, which means it can get too crowded. It is such a lovely place that 7 million tourists come to see it every year, and they could get in your way unless you take some precautions as we will share here. Hotel occupancy averages 80 percent throughout the year, so it's advisable to reserve rooms well in advance. Come in the off-season, if possible,
and you'll have no problem with crowds. Great months to be here are April, May, September and October – the weather's good, nice and cool, and there's enough people around to make it interesting, but not crowded. This program was photographed in early May. If you do travel in the summer, there are some survival tactics to employ: avoid the main streets and midday, when they are warm and most packed, and perhaps visit museums and other historic sites during the midday. If you do most of your walking tours in morning and late afternoon when
the streets are less crowded, you can absorb the historic atmosphere in relative tranquility. It is possible to visit York as a daytrip, perhaps from London, which is just two hours away by train, so you could spend maybe eight hours walking around in York, and have a nice meal, but that's really rushing it. You've seen, there is so much to enjoy in this town. It's worth spending at least one, perhaps two or three nights. There are many fine hotels in all price ranges to pick from. And then you can explore the Yorkshire Dales and countryside all around it. That's good for another couple of days With the large number of excellent restaurants to pick from, you might need a whole week, such as the Judge's Lodging, near St. Helen's Square, on Lindal. It's part of a five-star boutique
hotel that's located in this Georgian townhouse that was built in the early 1700s. Another nice restaurant a block away on Blake Street, right next to the tourist information office, is Ask Italian. It's located in the Grand Assembly Rooms, that were built 300 years ago in the Palladian style of architecture. You'll be surrounded by tall Corinthian columns in this elegant setting that was originally used for high-class social gatherings.
We're very close now to the Museum Gardens just across the street, so let's pop in and have a look. Get away from the city streets and step into a natural setting, with several spectacular historic ruins. This old wall and row of pointed arches are the remains of St. Mary's Abbey, that was first built by William the Conqueror in 1088, and it became one of the wealthiest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England.
However, this ended in the 1530s with King Henry VIII, who banned all monasteries. The monks were pensioned off, and the Abbey buildings were converted into a palace for the king when he visited York. They fell apart and became these picturesque ruins. A much older historic site in the park is a wall and tower, which is the only significant remains here of the ancient Romans. The Romans occupied York until the beginning of the fifth century, and during that time it was one of their most important cities in England and was a base for the armies that kept the defenses at Hadrian's Wall, the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. The Romans founded York in 71 BC, and some of their artifacts are on display in the Yorkshire Museum, which we have shown you in one of our other movies about York.
Here's a quick sample of some of the artifacts that have been discovered in the York area. Aside from all the history, the gardens are just a lovely place to relax. And it turns out to be a nature preserve for a bunch of squirrels, typical of English parks, and they are well taken care of. There's a group of good Samaritans who come over to the park nearly every day to feed the squirrels and play with their little furry friends, who all seem to know each other and get along quite well. "And then I'm going to go to the next area and feed there. Breakfast. So we leave them in the shells, and they have to break the shells open, so it's good for their teeth." Then we continue walking from the
Museum Garden one more block around the corner to the Kings Manor, which began life as the residence of the Abbott who looked after that Abbey in the gardens. When Henry VIII visited, it was converted into a royal palace. And several future kings also stayed here in their travels, including Charles I, who came here several times. That's his coat of arms on top of the door. The
buildings are now part of the University of York. Just next door is the Theater Royal which has been putting on live performances since 1744. That puts us right at one of the main gates into the old city. It's called Bootham Bar, which provides one of the best access points for a walk along the medieval walls of York. The walk brings you past many of the sites
that played a role in the long history of York and provides lovely views. Walk up the short staircase and you are on the , which leads right into the most scenic section, a 1/2 mile route that takes just 15 minutes and provides lovely views in both directions, into the town center and beyond to the more modern neighborhoods. We'll see various angles on the Cathedral and other fine sights on the way to Monkbar, the next gate in the wall. The map shows our walking route, starting out from Bootham Bar, walking along the wall, around the corner, another nice stretch, and then exiting at Monkbar. You could walk the entire wall, nearly 3 miles, which might take two hours with time for stopping to admire the views and snap your photos. But most people find the short segment is just right.
Romans were the first to build a wall here, but the massive walls we see today were constructed primarily in the 13th and 14th centuries. The walls themselves date back to the Middle Ages and they are about 95 percent intact. They're about three miles long, making it the nation's longest continuous stretch of medieval fortifications. Coming down from the wall at Monkbar put you onto Goodramgate, another one of the many typical pedestrian lanes of town, with many shops that cater to the visitor as well as to the local clientele, and of course you'll find some restaurants along the way. Grape Lane is in the neighborhood with more places to eat, and watch out for those little alleys branching off that sometimes lead to a lovely internal courtyard with more restaurants, offering a peaceful atmosphere, like here at Norman Court. If you'd like to do some stylish shopping in the
heart of town, take a stroll along Stonegate, which was one of the original Roman streets, called the Praetorian Road that led to the Roman military headquarters. Now it's a peaceful place to spend some money. Look for the Red Devil here, who represents the young printer's apprentice in the old days who caused mischief in the printshop – a reminder of York's important role in printing and publishing up through the 18th century. Stonegate intersects with Petergate, that we saw earlier, and here I got a lesson on how to wash windows on the third floor up above, without any kind of a mechanical lift to help you out. "That's a very long pole you've got there." "Yeah ,yeah." (laughter) This fellow was using the longest handle for a squeegee hose brush that I've ever seen.
Were taking a walk along Fossgate, which is a street just south of the pedestrian zone, although it still pedestrian friendly. Only service vehicles and residents can drive here during the day, so it's rather quiet. The city government calls Fossgate "one of York's best-loved streets, with its own special character in the heart of the city. The variety of independent shops, cafés, restaurants, hotels and pubs attracts a diverse range of residents and visitors," slightly off the tourist center so you might get some better prices at the restaurants here. And were heading this way because it leads to the most spectacular of all the fortified gates in the medieval wall. This is Walmgate Bar. The arch dates back to the 12th-century,
and leads us inside the barbican, which is a fortified extension out from the wall, where invaders would get trapped and be fired upon by the defenders up above. The wall extends out on both sides, and is freely open to the public as part of the wall walk. You can go inside the tower and get a close look down at the barbican, and there is a surprise in here. It's a coffee shop, one of the best in town.
Convenient shelves for their coffee are part of the portcullis gate that would have been dropped down to seal off the entrance to the city. This interior was a private house for centuries up until 1957. When the gatehouse café is open, you're welcome to walk out onto the barbican. This type of gate extension was typical during the Middle Ages because the gateway was always the weakest point in any defensive wall, so this enabled the defenders to surround anybody who dared attack to keep them out.
The gate tower has three levels and you're welcome to climb up to the very top, which is an outdoor terrace for the café, with a beautiful view. Other gates in York may have had similar barbicans, but this is the only one to survive and it's the only barbican in the entire country. It was attacked several times, but has been restored to original condition for us to enjoy.
An even more impressive defensive structure is Cliffords Tower, part of York Castle, originally a wooden fortress up on the hill, built by William the Conqueror back in 1068. Cliffords Tower was the headquarters of the military defense of the city in the Middle Ages. An easy climb up the steps brings you right inside the tower. Described as Mott and Bailey, this was the typical style with fortress built on top of an earthen mound, to control the natives in those days of Norman invasion. The castle was built in quatrefoil shape with four rounded corners to repel the attackers.
It's the only clover-shaped fortified tower left standing in England. You'll have a view from the top looking down at the Castle Museum, a wonderful place that we have shown you in our other movies about York. In the other direction you'll have fint views across the rooftops of the old town, with the Minster in the distance, the great cathedral that we will soon visit. But first, along the way from the castle, we have to stop in at the Jorvik VikIng Centre, that re-creates life during that important Viking period of York. It's perhaps the most popular museum in town, with traditional displays of artifacts in glass cases and fascinating animatronic displays, with moving characters in realistic settings, and guides in period clothing, explaining some of the history, such as coin making. "It's going to be placed between two dies, tapped with a hammer, producing a penny."
These guides are quite knowledgeable in Viking history and are happy to answer any questions you might have. Comfortable automated cars carry the visitor past complete houses and workshops that still contain furniture, utensils and tools that were left behind a thousand years ago. By these Vikings who lived here for about 100 years and left a noticeable impact on the society. It's like a Disney ride,
but with history and vivid sights, sounds, and smells that are brought to life. And now finally we arrived at the great cathedral of York, the Minster, saving the best for last. This is the largest Gothic church in all of England and one of the largest in northern Europe. Construction on the present building began in about 1230 and was completed by the year 1472, taking nearly 250 years for construction. Regular maintenance and renovations have continued every year ever since.
Today the Minster is an awesome place that requires 1000 people to keep it functioning. The Minster impresses with its massive size. Spaciousness is the leading interior feature with the widest nave and all British Gothic churches, giving an affect to the whole composition of great stability and permanence.
The stained glass is especially important, with the total of 128 windows, making up the largest collection of medieval glass in the world, containing a total of about 2 million individual pieces. The choir entrance is set in the screen with stone carvings representing the kings of England and from William I to Henry VI. The choir is rich with carved wooden seats the, western end occupied by canopied stalls. Be sure to walk downstairs to an impressive historic display. Remains of the original Roman fort from 2000 years ago, along with traces of the norming Cathedral, were found under the South transept. The massive church was created because religion was the dominant factor in the social and political life of medieval England.
Bishops vied with each other in making their cathedrals more and more beautiful. The entrance to the spectacular Chapter House is quite inconspicuous, but be sure to look for it and go on inside. This elaborate setting was a place for daily church meetings.
While were spinning, let's climb up that spiral stone staircase to the roof of the Cathedral. Just take your time. It's not that hard to climb up, and you will enjoy some incredible views looking out across the old city. It makes the grand finale to our visit to York.
Be sure to look for our other movies about this magical city. We frequently upload new movies so please subscribe to our channel and click that little alarm bell so you'll be notified and if you enjoyed the movie, how about thumbs up and we always welcome comments down below, or if you have questions about the destination, make note and will answer them. Thanks for watching