10 Free Things to Do in York

By Rachael Funk

Within its city walls, York holds a treasure trove of thrilling things to explore and discover. The three-square-mile city is filled with museums, historical sites, shops, and teahouses. From its burgeoning foodie scene to its gripping tales of supernatual encounters, York is a feast of experiences for every traveler.

If you are trying to explore the scene while still saving some green, here are a few exciting things to do without parting with any cash!

1. National Railway Museum

Good news: the largest railway museum in the world is also open year-round! This museums offers tons of free activities as well as a railroad-themed play area for the kids, which makes it a slam dunk for the entire family.

2. City Walls

The beautifully preserved city walls are the longest medieval town walls in England and can be walked in about two hours. There are five main bars or gateways, one Victorian gateway, a postern (which is a smaller gateway), and 45 towers to see along the way, not to mention incredible views of the city.

3. Rowntree Park

For a scenic afternoon in the park, head over to Rowntree Park. The park is located on the banks of the River Ouse and was built as a scenic memorial to the soldiers who fought in the two World Wars. The 30-acre area holds children’s play areas, a lake, flower beds, woodlands, and facilities for bowling, tennis, and basketball.

4. York St Mary’s

What better place to peruse contemporary art than a medieval church? A great stop not only for the exhibitions but also for the church itself, this site is steeped in history and beauty. Boasting York’s tallest steeple, it’s also a great opportunity to snap a few great photos!

5. Guildhall

This replica of the 15th-century building (the original was destroyed by fire in a 1942 air raid) is a great place to visit to inject a little history into your day. The stained glass window shows the history of York and is worth a careful look as well.

6. Dean’s Park

A beautiful place to soak in the sun and enjoy an ice cream cone, Dean’s Park offers beautiful views and plenty of green, open space. Spread out a blanket and enjoy stunning views of the Minster and its Chapter House.

7. St Michael le Belfrey

Open for free visits between the hours of 11am and 3pm Monday to Saturday, this historic church is run by volunteers. The building has been standing since the 1500s and is known to be the place where Guy Fawkes was baptized in 1570.

8. Free guided walking tours

The city of York is proudly served by the Association of Voluntary Guides who provide free walking tours on the city walls and around the historic center. Tours leave daily from Exhibition Square, weave through the city, and complete at the Shambles.

9. The Shambles

Known as one of the most picturesque streets in Britain, the Shambles is a popular tourist attraction filled with shops and places to eat. A stroll along the storied street is a great way to get a feel for the soul of the city. You can also visit the shrine of St. Margaret Clitherow, who was martyred in 1586 for practicing Catholicism and sheltering Catholic priests.

10. York Market

Tucked behind the Shambles is the market where you can take in the bustling atmosphere and enjoy meandering the 85 stalls that are usually open on a daily basis. The market sells everything from local produce to baked goods to flowers, cosmetics, clothing, gifts, books, and handmade crafts. Even if you don’t spend any money, the atmosphere alone is worth a visit!

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