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Fabulous Free Things to do in York

Keeping everyone entertained doesn’t need to be expensive. York is often labelled one of the most beautiful cities in the UK, with something for everyone to enjoy. We all love a bargain and there are some incredible things to do in York that are completely free!

October 2, 2022


National Railway Museum

Enjoy a day out at the National Railway Museum, explore the different trains and come face to face with the fastest steam locomotive in the world. You could easily spend a full day here and it is definitely a must visit whilst you are in York. Delve into the past, present and the future of the railway, go through the different exhibits with a programme of activities for the kids to enjoy. And the best thing of all is that entry is free!

National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ
Image credit: National Railway Museum

York City Walls

Escape the everyday and appreciate some of the best views of the city. With fabulous photo opportunities, walking around York’s iconic ancient city walls is one of my favourite things to do. Offering a unique and elevated perspective there really is no better way to see York. Get glimpses into the gardens of some of the finest buildings and away from the busy streets, it is free and wonderful at any time of the year.

There are 4 main gates to the city; Micklegate Bar, Walmgate Bar, Monk Bar and Bootham Bar in which you can access the walls. You can do the full 2 mile walk which will take you around 2 hours, or you can just do a section which is perfect if you want to stop off for refreshments on your way around. The walls aren’t strictly buggy friendly but is probably manageable if there are a couple of you.

Image credit: Karl Moran via Unsplash

The Shambles

One of the world’s most famous shopping streets, The Shambles is a landmark in it’s own right. Situated between Pavement and King’s Square, you will feel like you’ve travelled back in time to the 15th century with its cobbled streets and overhanging buildings. One of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe, The Shambles is said to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. Here you will find four Harry Potter shops, quirky boutiques and cheerful cafes.

Shambles, YO1 7LX
Image credit: Shutterstock

Head to one of York’s beautiful parks and gardens

Embrace nature and enjoy the great outdoors in one of York’s beautiful open spaces. From botanical gardens, to local parks there’s plenty to discover.
Home to the York Museum, York Museum Gardens is an idyllic haven in the heart of the city. It looks exceptionally beautiful in the Spring when the flowers are in full bloom, and has lots of open space for the kids to run about in. Explore the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and do some squirrel spotting with a picnic, whilst admiring some incredible views of the river.
Address: Museum Street, York, YO1 7FR

One of York’s best loved places, Dean’s Park is the perfect place to relax offering magnificent views of the Minster. There’s lots of lovely coffee shops and cafes close by if you need some refreshments.
Address: Minster Yard, York, YO1 7JJ

Only a 15 minute walk from the centre of York, Rowntree Park offers a tranquil haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city landscape. Wander around the beautiful and well maintained gardens and enjoy a picnic in the summer months.
Address: Terry Avenue, York, YO23 1JQ

Image credit: Dean’s Park via Visit York

Walking tours and self-guided walks

One of the best ways to explore York is on foot, learn more about the city on a self-guided walk or a walking tour. There are a few different companies who offer free walking tours, White Rose start from outside the Minster where you will find out more about York’s colourful history and see iconic attractions such as York Minster, the City Walls and the Shambles.

If you’re visiting York with kids, there is a great selection of family friendly trails. Available all year round the Little Vikings iSpy Trail helps you explore York and discover places you may not usually go to. Free fun for all the family, the Cat Trail is based on the history of cats in York with some appearing on various buildings in the city centre. The trail takes around an hour to complete and you will see highlights including Museum Gardens, Clifford’s Tower, York Minster, Shambles and on the city walls.

Explore the city like never before and find a series of characters hidden around York’s historic streets. Download the ‘York Quest’ app from York BID and collect virtual augmented reality characters as you go. A great way to explore the city, don’t forget to share your fun on social media!

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October 2, 2022