Having seen all the new Freshers start the University of York this September, it really makes me think of how beautiful a city York truly is and how much I enjoyed exploring in my first few weeks and subsequent years!! This is a bit of a nostalgic post for my own time spent as a student in York and my favourite places to visit. I thought I would start a small series of places to see and things to do in York! This first one is the first part of a cultural guide to York, focussing around the Minster area of York, which is so packed with things to do. Although I’m writing this reminiscent of my time as a student in the city, these guides would also be great for anyone else wanting to visit the city and experience all the culture it has to offer!
At the top of the guide has to be the Minster, the landmark of the city. Built in the Gothic and Norman styles, it is one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe. Building began on the Minster in 1220 and continued until it was consecrated in 1472. The Minster has a magnificent selection of stained glass windows, the largest collection of medieval glass in the world. There is also a set of interactive displays that allow you to see all the details of the largest window in the cathedral – a great chance to see such beautiful designs up close. York students have free entry, however, there is a fee for all other visitors. Don’t let that put you off though, you can spend hours exploring the Minster, including the tower which gives you an amazing view across the city, definitely worth the money!
See the York Minster website here.
Treasurer’s House is a relatively small National Trust property not far from the Minster, but despite its small size, there is still so much charm to it. The Edwardian owner of the house, Frank Green, was extremely particular when leaving his house to the National Trust and placed markers on the floor to indicate the exact locations of furniture in the house. I think my favourite area is the staircase which is not only lined with delicately painted portraits but has such a beautiful turquoise patterned wallpaper, which perfectly contrasts the light from the chandelier. In the autumn Treasurer’s House have a large range of events which recreate the spooky 2000 year history of the house, from the haunted attic down to the ancient Roman road which ran under the cellar.
See the Treasurer’s House website here.
York Art Gallery
York Art Gallery is next on the list, just a short walk down the road from the Minster. The gallery holds such a diverse collection of paintings from 14th century to contemporary, prints, watercolours, drawings, and ceramics and is a must-see for art lovers in the city. The gallery is predominantly known for holding the largest collection of British studio ceramics in the UK, with more than 5,000 pieces on display at CoCA (Centre of Ceramic Arts). In addition to this beautifully curated collection of ceramics, the gallery also displays a selection of York-born artists such as William Etty, Albert Moore and Henry Keyworth Raine. The building itself is such a great gallery space, the open 19th-century architecture brings so much light into the gallery, creating highlights and shadows which work so beautifully in the CoCA area. I’ve done a full post all about the gallery which you can read here.
See the York Gallery website here.
Although technically part of the University of York, King’s Manor is a beautiful range of buildings rich in the history of the city and well worth exploring if you are a student or just a tourist visiting! Some buildings date back to the medieval period when the site was a religious manor house. After the dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536-1541, the manor was retained by Henry VIII and became the Council of the North. In light of its political role, Kings Manor also became the stop off point when the monarch was travelling from London to Edinburgh. Many of the buildings you can see today are from the reign of Elizabeth I. The beautiful decorative doorway at the main entrance is Jacobean. In addition to the historic architecture, there is also a brilliant library, home to around 22,000 books, so it’s a wonderful historic setting to work in too!
See King Manor’s website here.
Museum Gardens and Abbey
Around the side of Kings Manor, there is a pathway which leads to the Museum Gardens (there’s also a main gated entrance around the corner but this way you can see King’s Manor from another angle and it’s a bit of a shortcut). The Museum Gardens is the perfect place to relax with friends and escape the busy city. I’d definitely recommend taking a picnic in the summer months! As well as being a place to relax, the Museum gardens are also full of history, such as the Multangular Tower section of the city walls which is the best preserved Roman element of the original defensive wall. It is also home to the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, one of the most significant Benedictine monasteries in England before it was destroyed in the Dissolution.
See the Museum Garden website here.
Yorkshire Museum is also in the area of the Museum Gardens and is home to a number of archaeological treasures and many rare animals, birds and fossils. The Museum itself was founded in 1830 as one of the first purpose-built museums in the country and has played a significant part in city life ever since. One of the key pieces in the museum is the York Helmet, the best surviving Anglian Helmet in Europe, which dates back to about 750-775AD. The current exhibition ‘Yorkshire’s Jurassic World’ explores the ancient history of the area through interactive exhibits showing bones, and fossils of the monstrous dinosaurs and sea creatures that roamed Yorkshire.
See the Yorkshire Museum website here.
York City Walls
The perfect way to see the city is a walk along the city walls. The city walls in York are the best example of a walled city in England, with some parts dating back to the Roman times. The majority of the walls you see today date are from the 12th to the 14th century, with later reconstruction carried out in the 19th century up to the present day. Although the full walk is quite long (about 2 hours), there are stairs down at various points so you can just walk the sections you want and don’t have to commit to the full circuit. If you’re just looking for a small section, I’d highly recommend walking from Bootham Bar to Monk’s Bar (or the other way if you’d prefer). This section gives you great views of the Minster (pictured above), Treasurer’s House as well as lots of other hidden architectural gems that back onto the wall.
See here for the York City Wall website, which has some good advice on routes to take around the wall.
Hope you enjoyed this little guide of cultural places to visit in York! Look out for the next instalment in a few weeks!
Have you got any favourite places to visit in York?