York is my home city – for the period of my university course at least – so I’m in a fairly good position to tell you about it. Though I’ve not lived here even a year, I’m already deeply fond of the place.
Visit York at the weekend and you will meet a seething city. The tourist density is comparable to London. Though obviously the number of people in this little city is significantly lower, the narrow criss-cross of streets make people dodging a necessity.
But if you can manage this in the narrow streets of the Shambles, take a wonder and keep your eyes up. Housing the abundant sweet shops, coffee shops and bakeries, are beautiful old buildings: a
sight in theselves. It won’t be long before your rambling takes you toward the Minster. Narrow streets open onto a big old square and the Minster itself spreads imprssively before you. The building is currently undergoing renovation of its stain-glass windows and a visit will allow you to see up close some of the stunning repaired pannels. It is open Monday-Saturday: 9am – 5pm, and Sunday: 12.45pm – 5pm. Tickets are £10 for adults and £15 if you want to climb the tower as well
Nearby York Castle Museum is wonderfully unusual and my favourite place to take visiting family members. The building, once a prison, has been converted into a series of walk-through exhibits from a range of periods. My favourite area, once the prison cells, has been converted into a Victorian street, full of genuine Victorian shop fronts. It’s a great experience, being able to walk into a Victorian sweet shop and buy chocolate mice.
If the attractions are a bit pricey, just walking around the city makes a nice day out if the weather holds. Wander through the Shambles early in the morning or later in the evening, when the tourists have cleared a little, and keep your eyes upward. The old, and sometimes crumbling buildings are beautiful. The Museum Gardens
are also worth a visit on a warm day. They are free to enter and absolutely stunning. Old ruins of the once massive and impressive St Mary’s Abbey dapple the grass.
Markets are on in Parliament Street most days, though you can find the exact dates online. Usually the stalls are run by shops you can find around the city. On weekdays, the Shambles holds a farmer’s market, where you can buy fresh fruit and veg, as well as a host of other, somewhat random things: clothes, shoes, kitchenware and ephemera.
When you tire of walking, and your mind turns to that old English pick-me-up: afternoon tea, you won’t have far to look. Places to eat and drink in York are far too abundant to cover in a single post. I’ll be reviewing individual places in future posts. So watch this space.