Top 13 Free/ Cheap Things To Do In York | Budget Travel Guide
The beautiful city of York is one of my absolute favourites and a must see for anyone visiting the UK. It's known for Yorkshire puddings, haunted pubs and incredible architecture, but what is there to actually do there? Well, this historic city isn't short of attractions for all ages and interests, and there's no need for a trip to York to hurt your wallet too much either; whether you're visiting for the food, the history or the sights, there's plenty you can do here for very minimal money if not completely for free. Here are my must-see attractions for your next visit that won't break the bank:
Free. One of the best preserved medieval streets in Europe and a huge inspiration for Harry Potter's Diagon Alley, The Shambles is the number one attraction in the city for both tourists and locals alike. Spend some time on this gorgeous cobbled street by visiting the many boutique stores and cafes that now reside inside the quirky and uneven buildings, and if you are a Harry Potter fan, make sure you take some time to visit The Shop That Must Not Be Named for all the HP accessories and apparel you could ever dream of.
Take A Ghost Tour
£6. Did you know that York is one of the most haunted cities in the UK? From the Romans to The Vikings through to The Normans and more recent history, York has had a very rich (and bloody) past, leading to tales of as many as 500 hauntings within the city walls. A ghost tour is the perfect way to discover the dark stories of the city, but so many companies claim to be the best- which one should you do? My personal recommendation to you is The Original Ghost Walk Of York, which we did during our last visit. The tour is a great mix between real and interesting history, and also not taking itself too seriously, so if you're not big into the ~spooky spooky~ just grab a drink at the start point (The King's Arms Pub) and do the tour purely as a great form of entertainment- the guides are hilarious!
Try The Famous YorkyPud Wrap
£6.95. Is a trip to Yorkshire even complete without a taste or two of the delicacy? York Roast Co. is a family owned business made famous through their creation of 'The YorkyPud Wrap': a full roast dinner packed tightly inside a Yorkshire Pudding, burrito style- could there be any better invention? For a cheap and filling meal make sure to head over to one of their 2 locations within the city, and if the wrap isn't for you, fear not! They have a full roast inspired menu including a variety of meats, all the trimmings and some vegetarian options starting at just £5.85!
Walk The City Walls
Free. York has been a walled City since the very beginning, with the Romans building the first defences all the way back in 71AD and yes, substantial parts of this original wall still exist! Since then, the walls have been repaired and rebuilt by various settlers and are now a Grade 1 listed site. The majority of wall sections are fully walkable, and the elevated walkway is the perfect way to view the city form a wider angle, including a breathtaking look at York Minster from afar. To walk the whole wall trail will take you around 2 hours, or you can just hop on and off again at one of the many entry points now available. Read more about the walls here.
Grab A Drink At The Birth Place Of Guy Fawkes
Price of a drink (around £4 average). Notorious plotter Guido Fawkes was a York local, born on the exact site of this pub way back in 1570 and baptised just across the street. Where better to have a local beer than in a place so filled with history? You can book to stay here or grab yourself a table for dinner service, but if you're keeping to a budget you can still sit down for just a drink and it will cost you less than a fiver! Browse their website here.
Marvel At York Minster From Dean's Park
Free. The cathedral is the cities most famous landmark for a reason, with it's intricate gothic architecture and over 100 stained glass windows making it one of the most jaw-dropping churches in England. The church is very much still in operation for worship and so entrance has to be booked online in advance with prices starting from £11.50, but that's not to say you can't enjoy much of what the site has to offer for free. The majority of the most beautiful architecture is on display from Dean's Park which sits just behind the cathedral itself. The park is a great place to sit in some peace and quiet throughout the day, but is also home to the Minster Library and the remains of the medieval Old Palace. Read more about York Minster here.
£10.17 when booked online. For a more immersive way to learn about the city's history, why not visit The York Dungeons. Similarly to other Dungeon sites throughout the country, this is an actor led experience that will lead you through the city's dark and scary past using all of your senses. The attraction consists of 11 different shows and will take around 75 minutes from start to finish.
Fight Off Delirium At The House Of Trembling Madness
Price of a drink (from £4). This medieval ale house resides inside part of the first ever Norman house in York dating back to 1180AD and is aptly named after alcohol withdrawal induced delirium. This small, independently ran company were voted UK's Independent Craft Beer Retailer of the Year 2019 and it's easy to see why when you take a look at their extensive drinks menu (They proudly house one of the widest ranges of Craft Ale in the UK).The quirky decor in store is also something of an attraction in itself, with exposed roof beams, medieval chandeliers and animals everywhere to create a truly Viking inspired space. Keep the madness at bay with a quick visit to 1 of their 2 locations, or buy from a selection of over 5,000 boozey products within their store. Visit their website here.
Christmas Every Day
Free. Sounds like a dream, right? Kathe Wohlfahrt is a German company who hand craft a mixture of traditional and modern Christmas decorations and gifts, selling them all year round in a beautiful Tudor building dating all the way back to 1434. They say they are spread over 2 floors but anyone who has paid them a visit will know that the building is made of lots of tiny rooms, nooks and crannies that are up and down steps each time, making it feel like a 10 story maze of festive magic. They have everything here from traditional gifts, tree decorations and hand crafted cuckoo clocks made in the company's own artistry workshop back in Germany. The shop itself is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen and so it makes my top list of things to see in the city, even if you don't buy anything!
The Most Haunted Pub In York
Price of a drink (£5 average glass of wine). This 16th century public house may look like just another pub to the untrained eye, but it's bleak history has made it famous throughout the city for being haunted, and it even appeared on the Most Haunted TV show. Despite it's reputation we endured no paranormal activity on our visit to The Golden Fleece, we did however have one of the best roast dinners we've ever eaten. The staff here are some of the most friendly we've ever experienced, and the pub itself feels very cosy and relaxed. Drinks here are very reasonable if you want to keep your visit on the cheaper side, but if you get the chance definitely sit down for dinner off of one of their menus, where main meals cost as little as £8.25, or you can treat yourself to a luxury roast dinner for just £13 (veggie options available).
JORVIK Viking Centre
£12.50. The Vikings' influence is still present in York in a variety of ways, from place names, plant life and the buildings that still stand to this day, but what was it actually like during their rule? This incredible attraction will take you through the Nordic history of the city, known historically as "The Kingdom of Jorvik", allowing you to explore all elements of how life back then would have operated. A selection of rare and beautiful Viking artefacts discovered during the 'Viking Dig' (that was led by York Archaeological Trust) are also on display here in the gallery. A tour through here will typically take around an hour, find out more via their website here.
£5.90. Established in 1068 by William the Conqueror, Clifford's Tower is the largest remaining part of York Castle. Sitting on top of a 15 metre conical mound, it has acted as the best view point for the city since being built, and still stands as the same thing today. No longer used for defences, the tower is the perfect spot for tourists to get a panoramic view of the whole of York, and investing some of your travel time in English Heritage locations is always a good idea.
York's Chocolate Story
£13.50. Did you know that Rowntree's began, and is still based, in York? Yep that's right, the origin of some of the world's favourite confectionery began right here in this city, including thing's such as KitKat, Aero, Fruit Pastilles and Smarties. Discover the rich history of York's chocolate industry during this sweet attraction, and make sure to visit the gift shop on the way out! Find out more about a visit to the Chocolate Story via their website here.
What do you think, are you itching to get up to York as much as I am? If so, make sure you check out my Instagram stories for more play-by-play details of our most recent trip to this beautiful and historic city.