"History and shopping." York by leics
York Travel Guide: 1,686 reviews and 4,185 photos
I know York well and have visited many times. I'd recommend it to anyone who is visiting the UK......it's full of history and is much more friendly than London (imo).
Lying between two rivers (and often flooded in winter, even now.....although the effects are minimised for the visitor), York has existed in various forms for over two thousand years. The Romans built 'Eboracum', the Vikings created their 'Jorvik' and building has continued ever since. The centre of York is a wonderful mixture of ancient, old and new buildings. A warren of little alleyways leads from street to street through the Medieval centre, and the Minster towers over all.
The range of architecture still existing is one of York's main attractions for me. Many UK cities have had their ancient hearts ripped out, either because of bombing during the Second World War or because of post-war Brutalist policies...lots of concrete and glass, and to hell with the old.
York city centre isn't like that. There are a few monstrosities, but they are far between and, somehow, the other older buildings minimise their effect as eyesores.
The main photo shows the guest house of Medieval St. Mary's Abbey in the Museum gardens. The rest of the abbey lies in ruins but the hospitium survives, originally dating from the 1300s but with many restorations over the centuries.
The Museum Gardens also contain the Multangular Tower, part of the Roman fort of Eboracum. The top half of the tower is Medieval, but the rest is in its original form. Roman York is largely buried under the town centre, but you can see some parts of it still. Visit the undercroft of the Minster and walk down through time to see Roman buildings underlying the Medieval cathedral. Amazingly, some Roman sewers are still in use in York!
I spent two summers excavating a site in St Leonard's Hospital which adjoins the museum gardens. Central York is a fascinating place to excavate, with its Medieval, Viking and Roman layers still very much in evidence. My homepage photo shows me sitting in a deep hole, where we found not only a Medieval drain but also Medieval leather shoes (preserved in the waterlogged soil) and, eventually, the turf walls of York's very first Roman fort. You can't see the excavation now: it's finished and backfilled. But you can see where it was. See my tip about St Leonard's Hospital.
You'll find many late Medieval houses still standing in the centre of York, slightly out of shape now but still hanging on. Wander The Shambles, a narrow street once home to York's butchers and slaughtermen; you'll see how close the overhanging upper storeys once were. Imagine the noise of men and beasts, and the stench of the blood and guts...
And you'll find the Medieval street pattern still surviving too, in the many narrow alleyways, ginnels and snickets which links the main streets in the heart of the city. Spend some time exploring these: you'll come across many an unexpected sight.
You'll find later architecture too: four-square Georgian buildings dating from the early 1800s, terraces and impressive town houses, built of local yellow brick and with sash windows. Then the arrival of the Industrial Revolution: look carefully and you'll still find the odd Victorian factory or warehouse. You'll certainly see rows and rows and rows of terraced worker's 'cottages' both inside and outside the town walls.
Just a few of the town centre buildings are of red brick: the 'classic' building material for later Victorians. Spot the 'Dispensary' building near the Minster...it is pure Victorian Gothic-revival, with intricate brick patterning and twiddles, built to impress and to demonstrate the wealth of the city.
But above all this, high above the rivers Foss and Ouse, towering over the hunchbacked Medieval timber-framed houses. the workers' brick terraces and the modern monstrosities ....the jewel at the heart of the city: York Minster
York Minster itself is the most evocative of all the English cathedrals I have visited, although I could not tell you exactly why. It is simply a stunning, magnificent example of human skill and devoted labour. No modern technology, no electrical tools, not even any metal scaffolding. This huge, superb building was constructed with basic tools and the skill and sweat of hundreds of men, setting those great blocks of stone in place from their wooden scaffolds.
It lies on the site of a much earlier church and, if you go down into its bowels, you'll find that it lies on the site of a Roman structure as well. For it was in York that Roman emperor Constantine declared the Roman Empire to be Christian. That's why you'll find his statue outside the Minster.
You can climb upwards too. Not a trip for the earful: the passageways are narrow in parts, the outside walkways both narrow and vertiginous. But if you choose the right weather you will be rewarded with magnificent views over the city and across the surrounding countryside. And even if the weather is poor, you will have a close-up view of the wonderful work created by those skilled men so long ago.
And, of course, there's the shopping. I'm not keen on shopping myself but I can absolutely see why York is so popular, drawing in visitors for a huge surrounding areas as well as from much further afield. Apart from all the usual chain stores there are so many independent shops selling everything you could possibly imagine, from specialist balsamic vinegars to handmade jewellery to local cheeses to hand-turned wooden bowls...and more...and more...
York is popular for shopping, and hugely popular with visitors interested in history..and it also has a university with an excellent reputation. the com=bination of all three factors means that not only is there are huge variety of shopping available (including some excellent charity..'thrift'..shops) but a huge variety of places to eat and drink as well. There's a huge number of restaurants, cafes and bars...you will, literally, be 'spoilt for choice'.
I've been to York more times than I can count: both my children were at university there, and I still visit regularly. I always enjoy my visits and I always experience something new.
In my opinion, if you can visit only one English city (apart from London, I suppose) it must be York.
- Pros:History, architecture, eating, shopping.
- Cons:Can be very crowded on summer weekends.
- In a nutshell:Everything you could possibly wish for in an English city.
The ruins of Medieval St Leonard's Hospital lie between York library and the Museum Gardens. You can access them through... more travel advice
I love this house. It used to be used as the head office of York Archaeological Trust, but that no longer seems to be... more travel advice
- See All Cheap eats in a spiritual setting
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Written Apr 25, 2004
The York I like.
Written Nov 24, 2011
Rowing and rooflines in the fog...
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- "York - potential capital of the north"
- "The Old Capital of the North"
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