City of York

Yorkshire's walled capital is rich in its history from Roman, Viking and Medieval periods. The city attracts millions of visitors each year to visit its attractive streets of period shops, to shop at its open market, to walk the city walls or to visit its Minster and its vast range of museums and visitor attractions.

York has something to offer in every season. Spring always adds a splash of brightness to the city with its sea of golden daffodils around the walls and Easter is always a busy period in the city.

There is plenty to explore in the city during the long days of summer while the autumn brings golden browns and orange colours to the city's many trees. Events such as its Illuminating York Festival, sometimes held at the end of October, add to the discovery of the city in a new light. Halloween seems to bring added appeal to the city's Ghost Tours and Guy Fawkes night serves a reminder of the gunpowder plotter's place of birth, just a stone's throw from the impressive York Minster. Thoughts also turn to festivities, and possibly a bit of shopping, as York stages its St Nicholas Fair from mid-November to Christmas.

It's hardly surprising that York was rated Britain's favourite city with a 92% approval rating in a 2018 YouGov opinion poll, TripAdvisor ranked it among the five best destinations in the UK in 2018 and the city was also ranked by The Sunday Times as the overall UK winner of Best Places to Live 2018.

The city is so rich in history that many a book has been written on the subject, but here's our summary of some of the key points in York's history.

The Roman Empire was twice governed from York and two Roman Emperors died in the city. Emperor Septimus Serverus lived in York, then known as Eboracum, from 208 until his death in 211. Later, in 305, Constantinius came to York, where he died the following year. His son, who would come to be known as Constantine The Great, became Emperor in York. Shortly after his succession he moved on to Trier in Germany and later established Constantinople (now Istanbul) as capital of the Roman Empire.

After withdrawal of the Roman legions in the early 5th century, the city became the trading port of Eoforwic and capital of the Saxon kingdom of Deira. In the mid-7th century Deira combined with Bernicia to make the Kingdom of Northumbria. The conversion of Edwin, King of Northumbria, to Christianity at York, and the building of a wooden church in 627 for his baptism, was to go on to see the city become a centre of church importance second only to Canterbury.

A new chapter in York's history began when it was captured in attacks in 866 and 867 by Danish Vikings. Vikings settled in the city, which they named Jorvik, establishing workshops, trade and agriculture in the region around.

The following 200 years were a period of turmoil with local rebellions and new invasions from Norway. Events culminated in 1066 at battles near York at Fulford and Stamford Bridge after an invasion led by King Harald III of Norway and Earl Tostig, brother of the recently-crowned Anglo-Saxon English King, Harold II. The Norwegians gained a victory at Fulford, but five days later the invaders were defeated by King Harold, whose troops had marched quickly north. The journey back to the south coast was equally challenging and ultimately left England in the hands of the Normans after Harold's death at the Battle of Hastings three weeks later.

There is still much evidence of Medieval history in York, which is probably best discovered through exploring its walls, Minster and other surviving buildings.

In 16th century York, Guy Fawkes was born just a stone's throw from York Minster. The country still holds its annual celebration of the thwarting of his gunpowder plot at Westminster on November 5 in 1605.

York was again the focus of a decisive battle which shaped English history during the Civil War in 1644, when Parliamentarians and Scottish Covenenters placed York under siege and beat Royalists, commanded by Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the Marquess of Newcastle, at the Battle of Marston Moor, between York and Wetherby.

From the late 18th century, the confectionery and chocolate industry played a large part in the life of York with such famous names as Terry's and Rowntree establishing large headquarters and factories in York. Rowntree Mackintosh was taken over by Swiss multinational Nestlé in 1988. Nestlé still has a confectionery headquarters, factory and distribution centre at York, but Terry's York premises was closed in 2005 after a takeover by American company Kraft, who moved all the Terry's production to mainland Europe.

Railways played an important part in distributing York's chocolate wealth. The main line from the North East to London was built through York providing direct trains to London by 1840. With it came a huge industry in carriage building and repair, one which has also sadly seen decline in recent years, but the city is still well-served by trains to all parts of the country and the city's rich railway history can still be seen at the National Railway Museum in York.

City features

City Walls

The city's splendid medieval walls surround most of the city centre and are partly built on Roman foundations. After some restoration since the 19th century, the walls are the most intact city walls in Britain and can be walked for most of their length.

York Minster

York Minster is one of the world's most magnificent cathedrals and among the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Work was started on the present cathedral in about 1230, although there have been at least three previous cathedrals on the site and the remains of the Roman Basilica have been found beneath the building. The cathedral was declared complete in 1472. The Minster is the venue of the York Minster Mystery Plays between May 26 and June 30, 2016.

Clifford's Tower

Tower Street
Clifford's Tower is the largest remaining part of York Castle. The original castle was built of earth and timber by William the Conqueror in 1068 and survived the damage of revolts against the Norman king and an attack by Danish Invaders. The tower was burned down in 1190 though, after York's 150-strong Jewish community were beseiged there to become victims of a mass suicide and massacre. The present tower, now a English Heritage site, dates from the late 13th century and is thought to have been used as a treasury and as a prison.

St Mary's Abbey ruins

York Museum Gardens
The ruins of the St Mary's Abbey Church are among the features of the York Museum Gardens. The Benedictine Abbey was once the richest in the north of England. Although the original church on the site traces its origins to the mid-11th century, the remains are from a rebuilding of the church in the late 13th century.

Museums: Some of the wide selection are detailed below.

York offers a unique vintage shopping experience in its paved shopping streets together with an array of gift, antique, fashion, book and chocolate shops as well as the usual big high street names. Regular open air and farmer's markets offering local produce add to the old world atmosphere and a St Nicholas Market is held in the city from mid-November to December 23. Just off the A64 ring road, York also has a designer outlet at one of the park and ride entries to the city.

York's main Post Office is at Lendal and there are also a number of other offices around the city.

York has bank and building society branches.

York has several pharmacies.

The city has a good range of pubs, including historic and more modern bars. Some offer a range of locally-brewed ales and most have a food menu.

York has an abundance of restaurants, cafes and pub eateries with a huge selection of menus catering for all tastes.

The York central library is in Library Square. It is one of several libraries in the City of York district which since 2014 have been run by Explore York Libraries and Archives, a mutual benefit society with charitable status.
Further information at the  Explore York Libraries and Archives website.

The city has a number of public toilets, usually with a 40p charge. Among centrally located ones are toilets at St Leonard's Place, Silver Street and the Coppergate Shopping Centre.
There is a full list at the  City of York Council - Public toilets directory web pages.

There are many schools throughout York and its districts and the two universities detailed below.

The River Foss joins the River Ouse at York. River cruises along the River Ouse are among the city's highlights.


The University of York

The University of York was founded in 1963 and has since seen major expansion on a parkland campus around lakes near Heslington Hall about two miles from the centre of the city.
More information at  The University of York website.

York St John University

Lord Mayor's Walk
York St John University is on a campus just outside the city walls close to York Minster. It was originally founded in 1841 as the York Diocesan Training School. Having gained degree awarding powers in 2005, it became York St John University the following year.
Further details at the  York St John University website.


York has a wide range of museums covering the history of various periods and themes. They include:

National Railway Museum

Leeman Road, York
Huge halls of locomotives and trains feature in this exhibition covering Britain's railway history from early horse-drawn and steam power to modern high speed trains.
More details at the  Railway Museum website.

Yorkshire Museum

York Museum Gardens, York
The Yorkshire Museum features exhibits ranging from dinosaurs to a 11,000-year-old Mesolithic pendant, Roman, Viking and medieval discoveries. The museum is set in botanical gardens also featuring the ruins of the medieval St Mary's Abbey.
More information at the  Yorkshire Museum website.

York Castle Museum

Eye of York
Set in 18th century prison buildings, the museum shows how York and its castle have been a site of justice for nearly 1,000 years, with stories including the legendary highwayman Dick Turpin and the last woman to be burnt at the stake in Yorkshire. The museum also features a recreation of a Victorian street, a water mill and exhibits from time of change in the 20th century. The museum also has exhibits from the city's chocolate-making past, in particular Terry's, which produced chocolate in York until 2005 and could trace its history in the city back to 1767.
More details at the  York Castle Museum website.

Jorvik Viking Centre

Coppergate, York
The centre, owned by the York Archealogical Trust, shows York's Viking history with a journey through scenes recreating its Viking streets. The centre has been fully refurbished after flooding in 2015 and offers a ride through animatronic figures amid the sights, sounds and smells of York's 10th century streets.
More information at  Jorvik Viking Centre website.

Richard III Experience

Monk Bar
An exhibition in one the York city gateways of the life of King Richard III who maintained close connections with York during his two-year reign before his death at the Battle of Bosworth in Leicestershire in 1485, the last English monarch to have been killed in battle. The upper storey of the Monk Bar gateway was completed in Richard's reign.
Further details at the  Richard III Experience website.

Henry VII Experience

Micklegate Bar
This exhibition about the first Tudor king and Tudor times is situated at Micklegate Bar, the main gateway to the city and a place where the heads of traitors have been displayed. King Henry would have entered the gateway on his first visit to York in 1486, the year after his coronation and the year he married Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of King Edward IV, elder sister of King Edward V and niece of King Richard III, the latter having been killed in the War of the Roses battle fighting Henry's Lancastrian army at Bosworth in Leicestershire. While she might have had a strong claim to the throne herself, she became Queen Elizabeth as Henry's consort, her coronation taking place in 1487. Her granddaughter, born 30 years after her death, would ultimately become the last Tudor monarch, Queen Elizabeth I.
Information at the  Henry VII Experience website.

Barley Hall

Coffee Yard
Built as the York townhouse of Nostell Priory, near Wakefield, the earliest parts of Barley Hall date from around 1360. The hall was later used by the Lord Mayor of York in the 15th century. In recent times it had become hidden behind a modern facade, but was bought by the York Archaeological Trust in 1987. Following work to restore the hall it was reopened to the public in 1993. Inside it has been decorated as it might have been as the mayor's family home in the 1480s.
More information at the  Barley Hall website.

York Army Museum

Tower Street
Regimental Museum of The Royal Dragoon Guards and The Yorkshire Regiment.
Further details at the  York Army Museum website.

Yorkshire Museum of Farming

Murton Park, Murton, near York
Murton Park, about 3 miles east of the city centre, is the location of the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, which has a wide range of historic agricultural machinery and implements, a large photgraphic collection and a gallery deticated to the Women's Land Army. The park is also the home of the Danelaw Centre for Living History and the Derwent Valley Light Railway, where trains are run on Sundays and Bank Holidays on the surviving half-mile of this former 16-mile agricultural light railway.
More information at the  Yorkshire Museum of Farming website.

Yorkshire Air Museum

Halifax Way, Elvington, near York
The Yorkshire Air Museum is at the former RAF Elvington, about 3 miles south-west of York. During World War II it was an RAF Bomber Command Station used by Allied bomber crews, including French Air Force squadrons. The museum now situated there has a huge range of exhibits taking visitors from the earliest pioneers of aviation, including Yorkshireman George Cayley, through both World Wars and the Cold War era. More than 60 aircraft and flight-related vehicles are on show at the airfield. The museum is also the location of the Allied Air Forces Memorial, commemorating all allied airmen and women.
More details at the  Yorkshire Air Museum website.
Find  Yorkshire Air Museum on map.


York City Football Club

'The Minstermen' play soccer at the York Community Stadium.
Official website:  York City FC

York City Knights

Play rugby league at the York Community Stadium.
Official website:  York City Knights

York Racecourse

The Knavesmire
Holds race meetings througout the season. Its most important meeting is the Ebor festival in August.
Official website:  York Racecourse


York Theatre Royal

St Leonard's Place
With a history of drama stretching back 250 years, York Theatre Royal reopened earlier this year after a £6m redevelopment. It provides a wide variety of performances, pantomime, ballet, events and activities.

Grand Opera House York

Cumberland Street
The Grand Opera House provides a venue for a wide range of touring shows by national and internationally acclaimed theatre and ballet companies, entertainers and musicians.



Station Road
The present York station layed claim to being the largest station in the world at the time it opened in 1877. The station is on the East Coast main line with regular services to London King's Cross, North East England and Scotland, the Midlands and South West England, regional expresses across Yorkshire and stopping services for stations to Harrogate, Leeds and Hull via Selby.
Station managed by LNER.
Train operators: LNER, Cross Country, Grand Central, TransPennine Express and Northern.

 Northern - York Station and departure information at Northern website.

Bus travel

A large network of bus routes between the city and its districts operates from city centre streets.
There are bus connections to other Yorkshire towns and cities including Boroughbridge, Leeds, Malton, Market Weighton, Pickering, Ripon, Scarborough, Selby, Tadcaster, Thirsk, Wetherby and Whitby.
City of York Council have an extensive i Travel York website providing all sorts of information on travelling around York by bus and other transport methods and the city's six Park & Ride schemes.

 i Travel York website Travel information for the City of York district.

Car travel

Space in the city centre is limited and some of the centre's streets narrow and pedestrianised. The city has six highly successful park and ride sites, at Askham Bar, the Designer Outlet, Grimston Bar, Monks Cross, Poppleton Bar and Rawcliffe Bar with free parking and £2.90 return bus fare.

The HS2 effect

Our new Yorkshire.guide study has assessed cities and major towns throughout the Yorkshire region for the benefits HS2 will bring in travelling from Yorkshire to London when the proposed section between the Midlands and Leeds is complete in 2033. The line is also planned to link to existing lines to Sheffield and York. Each city or town has been given one of three simple ratings based on convenience and time saved over existing services.
White elephant: Takes the same time or longer than an existing service* or saves less than 10 minutes while now causing a change of trains. (* or HS2 completed to Manchester).
Coffee break: Saves 10 to 45 minutes. Time for a cup of coffee at your destination rather than on the train?
City slicker: Saves 45 minutes or more on existing service getting you to that all-important London meeting in good time.

We've been fairly generous to HS2 in making the assessment. Where a change of trains is now needed, we have assumed that you are on the fastest train to the station where you change to HS2, that it arrives on time, you have 10 minutes to change to the HS2 platform and an HS2 train is waiting to depart at that time. No assessment is made of additional journey costs possible in connecting to or travelling on HS2. The assessment is made on journeys from Yorkshire to London with again no account taken of any convenience or inconvenience in arrival at London Euston rather than London King's Cross station. Further details about our study can be found on The HS2 Effect page.


With a branch of the HS2 track to Leeds also stretching out towards lines into York, there would be a 29min time saving on the fastest HS2 trains from York compared with the fastest train to London on the East Coast Main Line at present albeit with a longer route mileage and, therefore, possibly higher fares. The fastest HS2 time would be around 1hr 24min.

Emergency services

North Yorkshire Police  North Yorkshire Police website.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service  North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service website.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust  Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust website.

Local government

Unitary authority

City of York Council

The City of York unitary authority covers the city centre and an area of roughly five miles radius from the centre, which includes some of the rural land and villages in the Vale of York beyond its outer ring road which were previously part of Harrogate, Selby and Ryedale districts of North Yorkshire.

The area is divided into 21 wards and 47 councillors are elected with between 1 and 3 councillors per ward. The full council is elected every four years, the most recent full election being in May 2019.

Link to  City of York Council website.

The political composition after the May 2019 election was :

2117432 Con
47 seats

County strategic authority

West Yorkshire Combined Authority
Although the City of York is not joined to West Yorkshire, there being four miles of the county of North Yorkshire inbetween, our region's principal city is a partner in the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. This covers some combined services of the five metropolitan district councils of West Yorkshire - Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds, Kirklees and Wakefield - at one time provided by a West Yorkshire metropolitan county council of which York was not part. The Leeds-orientated non-elected Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership also plays a part in the West Yorkshire authority.
 West Yorkshire Combined Authority website.

Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner

Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner North Yorkshire
Covers the county of North Yorkshire and  City of York.
 Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner North Yorkshire website.

Ceremonial county

North Yorkshire


-1974 County Borough not within a Yorkshire riding.
1974-95 District authority within county of North Yorkshire.
1995- Unitary authority with enlarged boundaries.

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