The history of York is the story of England in stone, wood and chocolate. Western Christianity was born here, so was the KitKat. No other place in Britain preserves so much of the country's past in such a concise area. From the Romans to the Vikings and the Railways, the streets of York are a living picture book of 2000 years of history.
Perhaps the most authentic way to visit York would be on horseback. Failing that, York remains a compact, medieval city best explored on foot. We will guide you through the ancient streets, hidden alleys and secret corners that couldn't be experienced from the top of a bus (or a horse, for that matter).
There’s an overwhelming amount of things to do in York. It is a city overflowing with museums, monuments and attractions.
But why not let the streets speak for themselves? They have a lot to say. In most places, the past lies buried. Not in York. Here the past is alive and present, sometimes in ruins, but still above the ground.
Visit York and let us lead you through the maze. Though the Romans planned York in regular straight lines, by the Middle Ages it had all become a bit of a muddle. But we can show you all the key points of interest in a walk around the medieval heart of York. Not only world-famous streets such as the Shambles, but also the secret short-cuts and hidden passages (‘Snickleways’ we call them here) where, if you’re not lost, you must be local.
York is a very walkable city. The distances are not great, and there are no hills. The medieval centre is contained within a ring of stone walls designed to defend the original York Castle, which have kept enemies out and the spirit of the city in for over 800 years. You can make a complete circuit of these ramparts in under an hour. It’s not an experience that can be gained from an open-topped bus.
Whether you have an hour, an afternoon or a whole week to spend, we want you to make the most of your time in this inspiring city.
YORKTOUR is the longest-established walking tour company in York and has been welcoming visitors to the city for over forty years. Our friendly, informal guides aim to assist you with their local knowledge rather than bombard you with facts. We can provide a range of languages including French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. All YorkTour guides are qualified to take visitors into the cathedral.
All Yorktour guides live in the city. Most of us were born here. We’re passionate about the place, and our tours are designed to reflect this.
With Yorktour, you don’t just get the services of a historian. You get the company of a friendly inhabitant who loves showing visitors round town.
Yorktour was founded in 1974 and is the oldest, continually running tour operator in the city. It was initially set up by coach-hire company Eddie Brown, and still provides a loyal service to the many visitors, British and foreign, who make coach excursions to York. The company was subsequently bought by Stephen Lusty, a highly experienced guide, fluent linguist and former chairman of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, who greatly expanded the company’s business and profile. Now the company continues to evolve with the appointment of two new directors, whose aim is to provide the same great service while creating a twenty-first century context for York’s ancient past.
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We have a range of routes to meet all interests - or can advise to help you design your own. Our standard itineraries include:
Our most popular introduction to the city - 2000 years of history in a two hour walk. The route includes all the key sights, including the Minster, the Shambles and the city walls; though we will also lead you deep into the medieval maze to reveal secret corners you might otherwise have missed.
In town on business? Only free after 6pm? York appears at its most magical around sundown, and though there are many ghost-walk options, this tour focuses on sights rather than frights. Authoritative, engaging and 100% phantom-free.
For those who prefer their history horrible, York has its fair share of grim and grisly events. Guy Fawkes was born here, Dick Turpin swung here; and the ancient streets have witnessed any number of medieval executions, Tudor tortures and unholy archbishops. A fun tour for under-12s; not for the fainthearted but entertaining for the whole family. And if you like, we can even put your head on a pike above Micklegate Bar…
If you have more time to spend, we can arrange half-day, whole-day or even whole week packages tailored to your interests or requirements. From photography tours to textile trails we can provide guides who speak French, German, Italian, Russian and Mandarin with other languages available on request.
York has the most extensive set of medieval fortified walls in the country (to give Chester its due, theirs are more complete, but ours are longer). A few small sections fell prey to Victorian developers; and there’s a stretch that never had a wall as there was an impassable marsh instead. But otherwise the walls form two and three-quarter miles of glorious, yellow limestone with astonishing stories every step of the way. There’s no better way to get the measure of the city than by tracing its perimeter. The views are breathtaking; and there are some fabulous cafes and remarkable museums tucked into the turrets along the way.
York has its full complement of high street stores and chain restaurants. Anybody can find those. But the incredible array of specialist, independent shops is what gives the place its character. And because we live here, we know where they are.
The true delight of York is that you don’t have to make a choice between history or shopping - it’s all in the same place. Some of the city’s most quirky medieval buildings are also its finest fashion stores. Even the Shambles is full of some highly recommendable craft stores and tea rooms. Along this crooked, cobbled street are two brilliant bakeries and a shop selling the best sausages in York. The kids may recognise it as the place where Harry Potter bought his wand. Remarkably, it’s a real street rather than a tourist trap, where local people actually do their shopping. And to buy a pound of sausages from the medieval street of butchers - what could be more historically authentic than that?
Please note: York Minster makes a separate entrance charge for visitors, though our guides are qualified to take you round the cathedral. Please enquire for further details.