16 Free Things To Do In York
York is a great small city for a day trip or weekend break. It's very walkable with a huge amount packed in. A trip to york can be expensive, with admission charged for alot of the attractions, so we've put together our ultimate guide to the best free things to do in York to take some of the sting out of the cost.
National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum on leeman Road is a great day out and our top pick of free things to do in York. Even if you don't have a particular interest in trains, it's great to see some of the exhibitions up close and to view some of these historic locomotives in person. It's great to have such a historical collection in the North of England. Highlghts include the Ambulance train exhibition, documenting how the railways were used to bring back injured soldiers from the First World War and the story of Stephenson's Rocket, and view a working replica. Although the actual trains on display can change, as they ocasionaly go on tour or go on display in other locations. Some of the highlights of the past few years have been the iconic Flying Scotsman, The Mallard, The Duchess of Hamilton, the Evening Star and the 'Shinkansen' Bullet Train.
Leeman Road, YO26 4XJ
Visit York Minster
A ticket to see all of York Minster will cost at least £10 but you can see the inside of the Cathedral for free by attending one of the regular services there. Although you won’t get to see all of the parts of the cathedral that you would on a full tour, you can experience the cathedral the way it was designed to be experienced. Another option is to purchase a ‘York Card’ for £6 which will gain you free admission to York Minster (ok, I know that paying £6 for free entry is really just paying 6 for entry, but the York card also gets you entry and discounts to other attractions which may make it good value if you were planning to visit any of those places anyway).
York City Walls
The Roman walls were originally built in 71 AD, but the existing walls as they are today were mostly nuilt in the 12th Century. A walk around the walls is a great way to see the city and you'll have great view of York Minster from the stretch from Monkgate to Bootham Bar. There is tourist information situated right the way round so by the time you've finished you'll be a York history buff. Depending on your speed you can get around in 1 1/2 hours, or leave more time if you like to wander or stop off along the way. There are five gates to get onto the walls around the city.
Rowntree park is around 10 minutes walking from the city and is well signposted from Skeldergate Bridge, on the banks of the River Ouse the park is very well kept with a small lake, home to a number of ducks and geese. The park also has a mini zip wire, basketball courts, boules, tennis, mini golf, a skate park and play areas.
Terry Avenue, YO23 1JQ
Yorkshire Museum Gardens and Observatory
Set in the ruins of St Mary's Abbey dating back to 1300 AD, the Museum gardens are great for a sunny afternoon walk. The observatory within the grounds is Yorkshire's oldest observatory still in use today.
Museum Street, YO1 7FR
Walk Down The Shambles
This narrow street is one of the oldest in Europe, and even gets a mention in the Domesday Book. You can't visit York and not take a stroll down the cobbles. The Shambles gets crowded at the weekends as it's one of the most visited attractions in the city. The market is on every day, and it is host to several walking tours, including ghost tours when the sun goes down. This is York's most famous 'Snickelway' (the words Snickelway is a combination of the words snicket, ginnel, and alleyway). There are others in the city worth exploring, connecting the streets in the city. If you spot one, pop down and explore!
Shambles, YO1 7LZ
Free Walking Tours
There are several free guided walking tours of York, hosted by voluntary guides who enjoy showing visitors the historic sights of their beloved city. Thee tours come incredibly highly rated, and they are keen to point out that tipping is not necessary. The guides really do do it for the love of the city! Tours can include St Mary's Abbey, Museum Gardens, York Minster and The Shambles
1 Museum Street, AVG Information Desk, YO1 7DT*
Another great park within walking distance of the city centre. The park boasts an Arboretum, with bee and butterfly friendly gardens. Pick up a free wildlife spotting guide to enjoy a self-guided tour
40 Water End, YO30 6WP
Yorkshire lavender is 15 miles out of the city at Terrington. Yorkshire Lavender is a family run lavender far, featuring a lavender maze, sculpture garden and you will spot highland cattle, lambs, and white deer. The panoramic views over the Vale of Yorkshire make it well worth the trip out. The whole park spreads out over 60 acres. As well as exploring the gardens for free, you can stop off at the tea rooms or pick up genuine local lavender products in the gift shop. Note, there is a charge for admission to the gardens in the summer, so be sure to check the website for details.
Terrington, YO60 6PB
Up to 100 stalls setup alongside the shambles every day, with produce ranging from fresh bread, fruit and vegetables to clothes, books, and local crafts. Also try out the Christmas market if you’re visiting in December and market stalls pop up in Parliament street almost every weekend.
Howardian Hills AONB
This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is around a 40-minute drive from York. The Centenary Way and Ebor Way hiking trails are the best way t experience the area. The area overs 80 square miles
Wander along the river
The river is very popular with walkers and cyclists. If you’re feeling up to it, you can walk right out to Naburn, around 4 ½ miles away. It’s a relatively flat walk with 3 stiles to cross on the way. The walk takes you past the Bishopthorpe Palace, which has been the home of the Archbishop of York since 1241. You can download the full guide here. If you don’t fancy the return trip, you can jump on the bus which will take you back to York.
The Edible Wood
The Edible wood is part of the Museum Garden so is free to visit. Although all the plants in the garden are edible, visitors are asked not to pick or eat any of the vegetation.
Visit York’s smaller churches
York Minister is one of the most visited cathedrals in the UK (and rightly so, it’s beautiful) but there are a number of other churches in York that you can visit and attend a service.
- St. Michael le Belfry
- St. Olav’s Church,
- Holy Trinity Goodramgate,
- Holy Trinity Micklegate
Watch Street Performers
Head to King’s Square, Petergate or York Minster in the summer to view the street performers for free (tips are optional).
Other Free Gardens
Treasurer’s House and Merchant Adventurer’s Hall both charge admission, but you can enjoy the gardens completely free.
Minster Yard, YO1 7JL The Hall, Fossgate, YO1 9XD
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