City Guide: York, where the cobbles (almost) breathe Roman and Viking history

From Roman ruins to Viking heritage, this northern English city lives and breathes history on every cobbled street. Here’s our guide to getting the best out of York.

York Minster

York Minister. Credit: Brian HarrisAlamy

York Minster

The largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe, the minster was built between 1220 and 1472. Its central tower is visible for miles around and it also houses more than half of England’s medieval stained glass in its 128 windows, the stunning Great East Window is the largest expanse in the country.

Clifford's Tower in York
Clifford’s Tower in York. Credit: Malgorzata Larys/Alamy

Clifford’s Tower

The stunning panoramic views over the old city from the top of Clifford’s Tower, make it the ideal starting point for any visit. There’s plenty to discover at this imposing tower standing proud on its high mound. It is almost all that remains of York Castle built by William the Conqueror, and has served as a prison and a royal mint in its time.

The Shambles, York
The Shambles, York. Credit: VisitBritain/Andrew Pickett

The Shambles

Walk the Shambles and you can reach out and touch the beautiful 14th-century buildings. ‘The Shambles’ is sometimes used as a general term for the maze of twisting, narrow lanes which make York so charming.  At its heart is the lane actually called the Shambles, arguably the best preserved medieval street in the world.  It was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of William the Conqueror in 1086.

York, City Walls
York is famed for its city walls, the longest and most complete in England, first built by the Romans, the vastly expanded by the Normans. Credit: Jim Richardson.

City Walls

York is best experienced on foot and no visit is complete without walking the City Walls. A brass-studded 3.4km trail takes you around the perimeter of the old city, a circuit that dates back to the Roman era, despite much of the remaining walls having been built in the 13th and 14th centuries.

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