The small city of York was recently voted as the top place us Brits would like to relocate to. The so-called ‘Capital of the North’ was founded by the Romans and has a strong Viking and medieval heritage which gives it its charm. Unlike most of the bigger cities, a long weekend in York gives you the opportunity to see many of the sights and get a real feel for the place. Fly into Leeds Bradford Airport and York is only a 45 minute coach journey away.
York Minster is the place many tourists flock to first. This huge Gothic cathedral looks as though it dominates the city from aerial photographs, but as you wander around the centre it feels as unassuming as the pubs and shops which surround it. The interior is spectacular and has some of the most beautiful stained glass you will ever see.
Another essential is to take a stroll around the city walls. York has been defended by a wall since the Roman period, and although little of the original stone remains the Roman handiwork can be seen alongside the later medieval additions on the Multangular Tower in the Museum Gardens – one of the defensive towers which line it. Although the walls are the most complete and best example of their kind in England they do stop abruptly with only a limited amount of signage pointing you in the direction of how to take up the path again. Allow two hours to walk around at your own pace, take in the views and stop off at Goodramgate to sample some of the handmade chocolates at Monk Bar Chocolatiers.
The Shambles, once appetisingly called The Great Flesh Shambles due to the butchers’ meat shelves displayed outside their shops, is the oldest and most famous street in York. Once a thriving row of butchers’ shops and houses, the street is still lined with shops but there is not a butcher in sight. You can, however, still see some of the meat-hooks and shelves outside a few of the shops, and the pavements along the street are raised to create a channel to wash away offal and blood. People interested in the more gory aspects of York’s past might also want to head to the dungeons, where drama students are earning their living playing a range of historical characters. There are also plenty of ghost tours around the city at night if you really want to scare yourself before you go to sleep.
The Jorvik Viking Centre in Coppergate is a great place to take children. Built on the site where the well-preserved remains of Viking houses, backyards and workshops were excavated by the York Archaeological Trust thirty years ago, the centre recreates York in its Viking heyday as you sit and ride around taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the Jorvik community. Later, grown ups could head to the Guy Fawkes Inn for a pint, where the plotter himself was born, and then Evil Eye in Stonegate for excellent cocktails and dinner.