Free things to do in York was contributed by Jimmy and Tina Durham who blog at Durham’s Love, Life and Travel
With so much preserved rich history, York, England is a wonderful place to visit. While traveling can rack up a bit of expense in general, there are quite a few sites in York that are sure to pique your interest without breaking the bank. In fact, you can enjoy an entire day filled with these free things to do in York while also taking in a bit of history.
National Railway museum
The National Railway Museum is at the top of the list for an extraordinary experience that won’t drain your pockets. The museum has over 300 years of locomotive history and is the largest in the UK, with over 100 rail vehicles at any given time and over 1,000,000 railway objects. This is a must see and won’t disappoint. Be dazzled by the large collection of period Royal Trains fully preserved in their luxury. The museum is home to the Mallard, the fastest steam engine train in the world. Other famous locomotives in the collection include the Flying Scotsman, The Duchess of Hamilton and Class 31.
For some magnificent views of the city take a walk on the York City Walls, also known as the Bar Walls. They are the most intact medieval walls still standing in the UK. Most of the other city walls around the country were taken down when they were no longer needed for defence; the call for preservation was a little late in coming. The walls surround York with four main entry gates: the Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar.
Museum Gardens at St. Mary’s
Probably one of the most stunning sites to see at the Museum Gardens is the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey. The abbey once occupied the entire 10 acres the gardens are set in; the stone walls surrounding it are the largest intact abbey walls in England. Besides St. Marys the Museum Gardens house several historical buildings and structures. Some, such as the stone walls that were incorporated into the Bar Walls and the Multangular Tower date back to the Roman Empire. Others, including the abbey, St. Mary’s Lodge, The Hospitium and St. Leonard’s Hospital date to medieval times. The Yorkshire Museum and the Observatory were built in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Mingled in the beautiful botanical gardens is a small sampling of what remains of the old Roman sarcophagi that once lined the walls of a tunnel in St. Leonard’s Hospital. Some of the more detailed and prestigious sarcophagi have been moved indoors to the garden museum.
The Hospitium, thought have been built as a guest house for anyone visiting the Abbey, has been renovated and updated. It’s used for parties, special occasions, and weddings.
The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter, known as the York Minster, is the largest Gothic Cathedral in Europe. While there is a fee to enter the church, taking a walk around it and marvelling at its beauty will cost you nothing but time. Take in the beauty of the gothic style architecture with its intricate gargoyles. A full staff of masons keeps the structures intact and always pristine. In the Stoneyard, located at the right rear of the Minster, you can watch the masons and other skilled craftspeople at their work.
According to the York Glazer’s Trust, the Minster has “the largest and most diverse collection of historic stained-glass in Britain.” Many of the stained-glass windows have survived wars and rebuilds dating back to the 12th century. Take in the beauty of many of these stained-glass windows on your walk around The Minster.
People from all over the world come to see the Shambles, one of the oldest preserved streets in the world (as well as one of the shortest). Hundreds of years ago, it was home to butchers; and the “shambles” meaning “a butcher’s slaughterhouse,” derives from that. You can walk the cobble stone streets with its kittywomapas buildings overhanging and marvel at its history. Today the building is filled with tiny shops and apartments overhead.
Church of the Holy Trinity
The often overlooked Church of the Holy Trinity doesn’t have running water or electricity. Light comes in through the beautiful stained glass windows. The church, one of the oldest in York, dating to 1082 and no longer in service as a house of worship, is run by volunteers. What makes Holy Trinity unique? It’s one of less than a dozen churches in Britain that still have boxed pews. During the Victorian era with the changing in the role of church, boxed pews were removed and replaced with the pews commonly seen today. Boxed pews were reserved for families. I was told by a volunteer that each head of house owned their own box. The high sides kept the family separated from others to avoid illness and plagues. The church also houses artifacts including ancient sarcophagi and stone alters.
While the city has a lot to offer, these six free things to do in York, are at the top of my list. What is uniquely wonderful about York? Everything is walkable and each of these places are only minutes from each other, making navigation and getting in a full day of sightseeing a cinch.
What are your favorite free things to do in York?
Jimmy and Tina Durham (he’s from York England and she’s from Minneapolis, Minnesota share their love of life and travel on their blog Durham’s Love, Life and Travel. Th couple met in Oklahoma City while traveling. They got to know each other while caught in one of the worst ice storms to hit the south. Jimmy has travelled the world for the past 30 years, while Tina is getting closer to her goal of seeing all 50 states. Now residing in England, they share a passion to share their travel tales and tips as well as other lifestyle interests. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
Bar Walls photo is courtesy of Karen Warren of WorldWideWriter.
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