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York's Top Tourist Attractions

York is the kind of place where it's impossible to just pick just one or two top attractions. The city is so completely wrapped-up in history, that you could spend a week there and not manage to see everything worth seeing.

One important point to remember is, if you're only visiting for a day, then either use the park and ride which is cheap, clean and frequent, or use the train, because there just isn't enough parking to go round.

Anyway, here's my favourites.

National Railway Museum
This is my favourite museum in York and I'm not even into trains. As a national museum it's completely free, and it's a great place to get lost in for an hour or two if it starts raining. The engines are just fabulous, from a replica of Stephenson's rocket to The Flying Scotsman and Mallard. Amazing.

And just think it's only about 50 years ago that we had an economy where we were capable of making things like this.
Clifford's Tower
Right in the middle of York, Clifford's Tower was the keep from the Norman castle, and it sits there perched upon its ridiculous mound with a couple of big cracks running the full height of it. A marvellous piece of architecture and as good to gaze at from below as to go in. There's not much to see inside but the views are fantastic. It's also unique in England in being a Quatrefoil design (clover leaf). The cracks date from about fifty years after it was built (1313) when part of the mound collapsed into the moat.

It's named after Roger De Clifford who was hanged in chains from the walls in 1322.
Castle museum
This is just huge. It's two former prisons knocked together and made into a giant museum. There's no real sense of what the buildings were previousy used for, just gallery after gallery after gallery. The recreated Victorian Street is fabulous, as is the debtors prison where Dick Turpin was held before being hanged. I always like the military history galleries, but there's definitely something for everyone. Allow a good couple of hours to look round.

2009 - the prison has now been revamped and recreated. Looks good.
2010 - kids go free!
Jorvik Centre/Barley Hall/DIG
Three unmissable attractions run by York Archaelogical Trust - you can buy a joint ticket to visit all three. The Jorvik Centre is newly refurbished, and you go round the scene of the Coppergate dig in little cars through the recreated viking settlement. Barley hall is an amazing mediaeval building, decorated as it would have been in the middle ages, and DIG lmakes archaeology come alive.

Jorvik gets incredibly busy in Summer, so pre-book online to save a lot of queueing.
The picture is of the Shambles, just one of the wonderful mediaeval streets in the centre of York. Unlike most of our larger cities, York has retained vast numbers of small independant retailers, which makes shopping an absolute pleasure. And yes, a good number of them are along the lines of 'Ye Olde Giftee Shopee', but there's nowhere else I can think of that matches the quality and quantity of independant retailers in York.

Worth considering for a Xmas shopping weekend.
The Yorkshire Museum
Situated on the river banks, this is a delightful museum in delightful grounds. Currently being refurbished it's due to reopen in late Summer 2010 - and I can't wait to see the results, because it was one of my favourite places before it closed.

The gardens are fabulous - ten acres of botanical gardens containing the ruins of St Mary's Abbey. An ideal place to relax for a while after doing the hustle and bustle of the rest of York in high season.
The Minster
From outside York the Minster dominates the skyline - yet once you enter York's crowded little streets, it all but disappears, emerging like a giant at the last moment. It's one of Europe's great cathedrals, and even with crowds of tourists inside, the scale cannot fail to overwhelm.

Unless you want to pray you have to pay nowadays to enter this house of God, but make the most of it and be sure to visit the undercroft.

The picture shows a detail from the Kings and Queens of England sculpture inside the minster. Just one small detail that never fails to captivate me.
The City Walls
The defensive walls surrounding the city date from Roman times, and were added to throughout the years. Large parts of the walls are still intact and can be walked. You can just get on the walls and walk, or if you want to follow the official trail right around the city, start at Bootham Bar where there's a multimedia exhibition.

Strange as it may seem - no dogs except assistance dogs.
Ghost Walks
In a city as ancient as York, you'd expect there to be quite a history of psychic activity, and there certainly is. From the ghosts of Roman Legionaries that periodically march through the cellars of the Treasurer's House to grey Nuns and headless Earls, York is awash with ghost stories.

There's a number of ghost walks, mainly starting on an evening. Any tourist information centre will give you times and places, or watch out for information boards as you're wandering around.

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