For our recent weekend break in York, we wanted to get the most out of our visit. York’s widely talked about for its pretty streets and shops, but it’s also got some pretty well-known attractions to check out.
Being pretty budget-conscious at the moment, we’d looked into the cheapest way to do as much as possible while we were there. We were about to buy ourselves some YorkPasses anyway, when Visit York kindly gave us a pair of passes for us to enjoy the city’s attractions over the weekend. Yorkshire folk are great, aren’t they?
The YorkPass offers free entry into a wealth of attractions, mainly in the city of York but also the surrounding areas, if you’re planning to venture out into the Yorkshire countryside. There are also discounts available for other tours, restaurants and shops, and a handy guidebook.
With our YorkPass in hand, we set out onto the streets of the city, to discover the best attractions in York – and whether the saving made was worth the £50 for a two-day pass…
York Minster cathedral is hands down one of the most breath-taking buildings I think I’ve ever been inside. Seriously, it’s absolutely BEAUTIFUL. High ceilings you have to squint up at to take in, the most intricate stained glass windows and memorials, shrines, carvings and plaques everywhere you look.
The undercroft is packed with info about the history of York Minster, which was really interesting to learn about. And if you’re feeling adventurous, for an extra couple of quid you can climb the 275 steps to the top of the tower…
Normal entry fee: £10 YorkPass: FREE
I always get super excited about visiting a city with a Dungeon in, because you can be damn sure I’m gonna go there. Spooky fun always gets me interested, and as much as snobby travel types might look down on them, I absolutely bloody love these places.
At the end, I even got involved with the spectacle in a pretty cool way…but hey, no spoilers!
Normal entry fee: £16.95 YorkPass: FREE
JORVIK Viking Centre
The JORVIK Viking Centre reopened this year, after falling victim to flood water in 2016. £4m went into the renovation, and it tells the story of the city’s Viking history using real archaeology.
The main aspect of the centre is the ‘Experience Coppergate’ ride – where you sit in a ‘time capsule’ and are taken around a reconstruction of a Viking-age York street. Don’t worry – this isn’t a theme park style thrill ride, although the stories as you go along are definitely fascinating, and the models you encounter are creepily life-like.
The sights, sounds…and smells…of the JORVIK Viking Centre really do transport you back in time, using technology to make history come alive. Afterwards, you explore a gallery of amazing artefacts discovered during the Coppergate dig. Including an ACTUAL FOSSILISED VIKING POO. And it’s huge.
Normal entry fee: £10.25 YorkPass: FREE
York’s Chocolate Story
If you like chocolate, you’ll definitely love this one. I’d heard rumours that it was a pretty awesome tour, and that you got some samples along the way – but I didn’t realise quite how much chocolate I’d be able to taste.
The first part of the tour takes you through the history and process of chocolate making. Our guide, Serena, was an absolute delight and super enthusiastic (I probably would be too if my job was giving people chocolate all day…).
Once we’d learnt about York’s history in chocolate and confectionery – with multiple tasty samples – we got to make our very own chocolate lollies. And, of course, eat them. The final part of the tour involved a chocolatier demonstration, which we got to scoff the results of. Seriously, this is an awesome tour for anyone who likes a lil’ bit of the sweet cocoa stuff.
Normal entry fee: £11.50 YorkPass: FREE
Nothing to do with the Big Red Dog, if you get that reference. This tower is all that’s left standing of York Castle, and in the past it’s served as a prison and royal mint. Oh, and Henry VIII had the bodies of his dead enemies displayed here. Gruesome.
Nowadays, it’s known for offering panoramic views of York from its wall walk. Making our way up winding staircases, we were greeted with stretching views – although perhaps not as far reaching as the York Minster tower climb, it’s still a great little vantage point to check out.
Normal entry fee: £5 YorkPass: FREE
York Castle Museum
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the York Castle Museum. It wasn’t initially top of my ‘to do list’, but after our Sunday afternoon visit, I’d really recommend it.
The museum is a hodge-podge of different exhibits, some more linked to York itself than others. One particular highlight is the impressively reconstructed Victorian street, where you can buy some sweets, check out a police cell and even pay a visit to the undertaker’s place.
Those with an interest in fashion, food and fitness will love the Shaping The Body exhibit, and if you want to unleash your inner child, Toy Stories will be a playful walk down memory lane. The swinging sixties are in residence, and anyone who still hasn’t had their fill of creepy should check out York Castle Prison – featuring original cells and stories from infamous inmates.
Normal entry fee: £10 YorkPass: FREE
We actually found out about the Treasurer’s House on our Bloody Tour of York, where Mad Alice told us all about the ghosts that allegedly inhabit it. It’s said that sometimes, staff have experienced a strong, unexplainable smell of cigar smoke – associated with previous owner, Frank Green. There are also tales of ghostly women in mirrors, and a whole Roman army in the cellar.
Whether you believe in hauntings or not, the grandeur of the Treasurer’s House is pretty awesome. The volunteer guides were the sweetest and loveliest people, all with amazing stories to tell about the house’s history. I always prefer to hear stories told by actual people rather than just reading things on walls or in guidebooks, and the informative folk here made a real impression.
Normal entry fee: £7.50 YorkPass: FREE
Richard III Experience
A short and sweet final visit for the weekend, we popped into this one just before making our way to the train station. Made up of just two rooms, the experience tells the story of Richard III…quite obviously!
Here, you can try on medieval helmets, sit in a tower prison cell (it’s TINY) and buff up on your history. Always useful for that sneaky pub quiz answer…
Normal entry fee: £3.50 YorkPass: FREE
Is a YorkPass worth the money?
I worked out that the total cost of the attractions we visited would have been £64.70 , so with YorkPasses coming in at £50 each , it made for a £14.70 saving – plus £1 off our Bloody Tour of York too. Which is more than enough for a Yorkshire Pudding Wrap and a pint or two in Ye Olde Starre Inn.
One tip I do have though – the YorkPasses aren’t fast track, queue jump ones, like you get if you book a specific time online. So for attractions such as The York Dungeon and JORVIK, I’d advise getting to them as early as possible. That way, you can spend the rest of the day going to the ones with smaller queues!
A 1 day YorkPass costs £38, a 2 day pass £50, a 3 day pass £65. Passes are available in advance online, or at the Visit York tourist information centre.
*We were given complimentary YorkPasses for the weekend, for the purpose of writing this post.
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