Car-free adventures aroundYorkNorth Yorkshire
Nearly two thousand years ago, a Roman legion marching north through England built a fort where two rivers meet; eight centuries later, the Viking army invaded by boat. You still don't need a car to get around history-rich York, the ultimate car-free staycation city with lots to see and do. Besides the cobbled alleys, Victorian tearooms, haunted pubs and unmissable medieval Minster, York has cutting edge art galleries, revamped chocolate factories and interactive ride-through museums. Explore them all on foot, by boat, bus, train or bike. We've added tips for transport and places to stay at the end.
1. Walk (or run!) the city walls
Most of York’s visitor attractions charge for entry, but a three-mile stroll round York’s medieval walls, England’s longest surviving example, will cost you nothing. They stand on the line of earlier fortifications dating back to the Romans and give you great views of the minster and other buildings nearby.
- Cross the road outside the railway station and turn left. At the junction, keep straight over the road towards the white statue and turn immediately right through the arch.
- Climb the steps onto the walls and walk back past the station. Continue round the corner ahead, to Micklegate Bar, one of York’s four main medieval gateways, where the severed heads of traitors once topped the walls.
- Going on around the city walls to Skedlergate, you can visit Clifford’s Tower, the remains of York Castle; the views from the top stretch as far as the North York Moors on a clear day.
- The next big gate is Walmgate Bar, which has a great café inside. At the end of this section of wall is the brick-built Red Tower.
- After this, turn left along busy Foss Islands Road, soon walking by the River Foss. Cross over Peasholme Green to re-join the wall.
- Through the floor of the Croque-Monsieur café built into the gate at Bootham, you can glimpse the Roman defences underneath the medieval walls.
- Keep ahead at the foot of the steps, past the theatre and turn right at the Visit York information centre along Museum Street and over Lendal Bridge to return to the station.
2. Cruise the Ouse or climb the minster
York has plenty of options for visitors who arrive car-free and they don’t all involve walking. The city sightseeing bus stops outside the railway station and takes visitors on a hop-on/hop-off tour of twenty city landmarks, from the racecourse to Dick Turpin’s grave and beyond. The buses run every 15 minutes and are open top so you can enjoy the Yorkshire sunshine.
- To see the city from a different angle, try a York City Cruise along the wide River Ouse. Red and white boats set off from the Lendal Bridge (five minutes from the railway station) four times a day. Escape the busy streets for a bit and float past willow trees instead. Show your train ticket and this voucher and you can get two people on board for the price of one.
- There are romantic evening tours too or you can take a spooky bus tour after dark from outside the railway station. A classic 1960s Routemaster bus will take you past some of the most ghost-infested buildings in Europe’s most haunted city on a comic theatrical ride.
- Or see the views from the city’s highest point. 275 narrow, spiralling steps lead up to the top of York Minster’s Central Tower. Non-climbers still have plenty to gawp at inside the cavernous vaulted minster that is full of superlatives: England’s widest gothic nave or Britain’s largest stretch of medieval stained glass. The scarlet and azure saints and angels of the 15th-century Great East window were recently restored. Don’t miss the dynamic displays in the Undercroft, where you can see the ruins of Roman barracks, a carved Viking horn and age-old illuminated gospels.