Free Walking Tour of York, England

Updated: November 13, 2019    This website uses cookies, ads and affiliate links.

A Walking Tour York, England should include the 14th century Hospitium building.
Once we visited York, it quickly became one of our favorite places for us in England. From the impressive York Cathedral to the beautiful medieval entry gates, York is packed with really cool things to see. In addition, our kids really enjoyed a couple of museums.

Come along with me as we take a walking tour of York, England. York is a very walkable city with a beautiful location. You can immerse youtself in the past as well as take leisurely strolls by the river.

My Favorite Tourist Attractions in York, England

Let me start with a summary of my favorite things to see in York.

  • York Minster is the center of town and impressive indeed.
  • Walking on Stonegate street and the few narrow, cobbled streets coming from it.
  • The impressive medieval entry gates and walking on the wall.
  • York riverfront at River Ouse
  • National Railway Museum is a great place to see, even for kids.

Walking Tour Map of York, England
Walking Tour Map of York, England
Red: see, Blue: walk
See my photos from York

With our comfortable walking shoes on and our map in hand, let’s go on our walking tour of York, England.

1. York Minster

The first sight on our walking tour of York, England is the magnificent York Minster, a sprawling 13th Century masterpiece. York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, and its stunning cross-shaped (or cruciform) floor plan is adorned by almost one hundred and thirty vibrant stained glass windows.

York Minster should be the beginning of your walking tour of York
The imposing York Minster
See my photos from York

York Minster, along with other large churches like Ely Cathedral form the rich British Gothic architecture heritage.

Near the Southern walls of the cathedral, you will observe a statue of Roman Emperor Constantine, who was coronated here when York was a Roman settlement.

2. Stonegate St

I love walking on Stonegate Street! Charming old English buildings line up the street while a few old narrow and crooked alleyways that take you back into time.

York walking tour on Stonegate St
People walking on Stonegate street
See my photos from York

3. Bettys Café Tea Rooms

Tired of walking already? Not to worry, our next stop is the famous Bettys Café Tea Rooms on St. Helen’s Square. We may pass by the Stonegate location of this cafe during our walk through the narrow cobblestone streets, but this location is much larger and more historic.

Betty's Cafe Tea Rooms in St Helen's Square is a favorite spot for tourists walking through York.
Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms in St Helen’s Square. It has very ornate interior and old fashioned service.
See my photos from York

The cafe opened in 1936 and features decorations inspired by the Queen Mary ocean liner (which is now a museum in Long Beach, California).

The Queen Mary ocean liner served as inspiration for the interior design of York's Betty's Cafe Tea Rooms in St Helen's Square.
Now a museum in Long Beach California, The Queen Mary ocean liner served as inspiration for the interior design of York’s Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms in St Helen’s Square.
See my photos from York

While the tea rooms can be crowded, you won’t regret waiting in the queue when you take your first sip of soothing tea and bite of a buttery scone with clotted cream and jam.

4. Museum Gardens & St. Mary’s Abbey Ruins

Next, we will visit the lush Museum Gardens, situated on the bank of the River Ouse. Explore the greenery as well as the historic sites in the gardens, including the remains of a Roman fort and the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey.

The ruins of St Mary's Abbey in the Museum Gardens.
The ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in the Museum Gardens.
See my photos from York Museums

The original Abbey was founded in 1055 and constructed on this site, with the gardens serving as its grounds. Now, only the North and West walls remain, but their charm extends throughout the garden. Take the opportunity to relax under the trees before we continue our walking tour of York, England.

Ruins of entry gate to the side of The Hospitium inside Museum Gardens.
Ruins of entry gate to the side of The Hospitium inside Museum Gardens.
See my photos from York

5. Medieval City Walls and Entry Gates

After we exit the park, we will catch our first glimpses of York’s historic city walls. Various walls surrounding the center of York have been erected and destroyed since the city’s founding in 71 C.E., and the ones we see today date back to the 12th-14th centuries. While only portions of the city walls remain, all of the city’s original entry gates or “Bars” have been preserved. The entry gates served as traffic control, defense, and tax collection stations. Shortly, we will arrive at Bootham Bar, and then we will continue our walking tour of York atop the historic city walls until we reach Monk Bar.

Bootham Bar provides easy access to walk the old York medieval walls
Bootham Bar provides easy access to walk the old York medieval walls
See my photos from York

We will observe views of Dean’s Park along the way, which houses the York Minster Library. This charming walking path allows you to experience firsthand a piece of the city’s history that has been present for centuries.

6. Jorvik Viking Center

On the way to our next stop, you may want to pause to take a photo of the historic Fairfax House, a Georgian-style mansion with a gorgeous façade. Shortly, we will reach the Jorvik Viking Center, where you will be treated to a taste of Viking life in York.

Viking village house reconstructed inside the Jorvik Center.
Viking village house reconstructed inside the Jorvik Center.
See my photos from York Museums

This interactive experience is located on Coppergate Walk, a narrow pedestrian street with many shops and eateries to entice you – if you need a quick rest before or after the Viking Center, you will have plenty of delights to choose from. The Jorvik Viking Center recommends that you book your tickets online in advance for this exciting experience, as this allows you to have a guaranteed entry time. Don’t forget to arrive a few minutes early for a security screening.

7. York Castle & Clifford Tower

A brief walk will take us to a peninsula at the intersection of the River Ouse and the River Foss – the geographic feature that made York an ideal location for an ancient Roman settlement.

Clifford's Tower, the keep of York Castle overlooks the whole city.
Clifford’s Tower, the keep of York Castle overlooks the whole city.
See my photos from York Museums

This location was also perfect for William the Conqueror, who first constructed a castle on the promontory in 1068. Not only does the intersection of the rivers provide natural protection from invasion, it also provides increased potential for trade routes and travel throughout the rest of England. Clifford Tower, the original castle bailey, sits atop a grassy hill overlooking the nearby streets. You will find stretches of the original castle walls surrounding the York Castle Museum, which is housed in two former prison buildings.

If you have extra time, you can also walk atop York’s medieval wall on the southern side. Walking behind York Castle, shortly, we will arrive at the smaller Fishergate Bar, and then we will continue our walking tour of York atop the historic city walls until we reach Walmgate Bar. Walmgate Bar remains the only town gate in England to have a barbican, a type of reinforced defense tower. This charming walking path allows you to experience firsthand a piece of the city’s history that has been present for centuries.

8. York Riverfront

From York Castle, simply crossing the street we come to the beautiful Tower Gardens city park. Depending on how much time you have, you can take a stroll on the beautiful tree lined walking path or simply rest on a bench overlooking the River Ouse.

Lendal Bridge over River Ouse connects old town with the train station
The beautiful Lendal Bridge crosses River Ouse and connects old town with the York train station.
See my photos from York

Walking upriver and staying on the banks of River Ouse you can enjoy the hip riverfront area with lots of restaurants and beautiful views of the river. In addition, you can quickly walk up to the famous York Dungeon and visit this very popular attraction.

9. National Railway Museum

Finally, turn back to the River Ouse and take advantage of the city’s beautiful riverside walking paths to lead you to the final stop on our walking tour of York, England. We arrive at the National Railway Museum, which is conveniently located by the train station if you are traveling out of the city after completing the walking tour.

Beautiful steam engine and train cars on display at the National Railway Museum.
Beautiful steam engine and train cars on display at the National Railway Museum.
See my photos from York Museums

Entry is free, and it is recommended that you leave at least one hour to fully explore what the museum has to offer. Objects on display at the museum include paintings, historic railway station benches and signs, and more. There is also a collection of unique locomotives, and if you plan ahead, you can even book a ride on a steam engine for £4 in advance.

Is it Worth Visiting York, England?

Absolutely yes! If you plan on visiting England, York should be one of your destinations to visit. We found York to be charming and very interesting for visitors.

My Best Resources for Planning Your Trip to York

We spent an entire day in York and we loved it.  However, if you are in the planning stages of your trip to England, I suggest budgeting two days for visiting York. This way you can also enjoy the town a lot more, especially walking along the river.

Find budget hotels in York. With over 700 properties, you can easily find a place that suits your budget and travel style. You can stay very central by Monk Bar at Double Tree Hotel or in the charming Churchill Hotel conveniently located by Bootham Bar.

Book a local walking tour of York that will take you to most of York attractions. This is a beautifully conducted tour. You can also book a gorgeous afternoon tea river cruise.

Parking inside old town York is somewhat difficult.  If you have a car, my suggestion is to park at the York Castle parking area. If this area is full you can also try the nearby Coppergate Car Park.

Getting to York by train is the most convenient way to visit the city.  This is especially true, if you are coming from London, as the car ride will take you a very long time compared with the high speed train. Picking up the train in King’s Cross London station will put you in York in about 2 hours. Once in York, the train station is withing easy walking distance from most York attractions.

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