Best 7 free things to do in York city centre!

Best 7 free things to do in York city centre!

York is a historic city in the north of England. It has been an important settlement for over 2,000 years and today it’s home to some of the best preserved medieval buildings in Europe. The city also has a thriving modern culture scene with amazing restaurants, bars and cafes. Add over 1,500 listed heritage sites including Roman walls, medieval churches and Georgian townhouses, York is a city you won’t want to miss. As a tourist hot spot in the north of England, York has many places that you have to pay to enter. Below we compile a list of places that you can visit for free! For more blogs from York, you can find them via the following button:

In this blog post we:

  • List the best places to visit for no charge at all
  • Show all places on an interactive map to help you locate each place easily.

York has many free things to do in the city. You could visit the National Railway Museum, go back in time down the bustling Shambles or walk round the city via the York City Walls. 

Things to do
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    The table above lists the free things to do in York. Click on the name of the place to be taken to the part of the blog post for information on that place to visit.

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    Museums and Galleries

    free things to do in york city centre

    National Railway Museum

    National Railway Museum

    The National Railway Museum is one of the world's largest railway museums, attracting over 200,000 visitors annually. It has a collection of approx. 100 locomotives and hundreds of other items of rolling stock. The museum tells the story of Britain's railways and how they changed society from the industrial revolution up to today. Find out about the story of the Flying Scotsman and experience the thrill of being on the footplate of the fastest steam locomotive 'Mallard' through the Mallard Experience. A large number of other steam engines; many examples from different eras are preserved including some old diesel shunters used at London’s King Cross Station. There is also an extensive collection of associated transport material such as railway signs, signals and tickets plus models showing how railways developed around the world.

    History and Culture

    what can you do for free in york

    York City Walls with the York Minster in the background

    Holy Trinity Church

    Holy Trinity Church is a beautiful church with an interesting history. The church dates back to the fifteenth century and is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe. It’s also home to some incredible stained glass windows, the one on the east side of the church that was donated in 1470 by the Reverend John Walker, is a marvelous sight. The church is small but definitely worth a visit.

    The Shambles

    The Shambles is a medieval street in York. It was once the most densely populated area of the city and today it's one of its best preserved streets. This historic street has been used as a backdrop for many films and TV shows, in fact, this cobbled road is so iconic that it attracts lots of Harry Potter fans due to the similarity between the streets and Diagon Alley in the books! If you love history or are just looking for something different to do while visiting the city then we recommend taking a walk down this atmospheric street with its narrow alleyways and hidden courtyards. You can also find some great shops here selling everything from antiques to handmade crafts!

    York City Walls

    The York city walls are one of the best preserved Roman and medieval defensive structures in Northern Europe. At 3.4 kilometres long, the beautifully preserved walls are the longest medieval town walls in England. These impressive stone fortifications were originally built around 71 AD but most construction seen today was around the 13th Century. You can walk along the walls which takes roughly two hours stopping along the way to admire views over this historic city from both sides! A perfect walk for couples, families, students and everyone alike!

    Walks and Nature Trails

    things to do in york for students

    St Mary's Abbey and Museum Gardens

    St Mary’s Abbey and Museum Gardens is what remains of one of the wealthiest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England. The abbey estate occupied the entire site of the Museum Gardens and the abbot was one of the most powerful clergymen of his day, on a par with the Archbishop of York. You can explore the ruins of an ancient monastery, as well as beautiful gardens that were once tended by monks that stayed there. The abbey was built in 1088 with the remaining ruin standing now for over 930 years!

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    Rowntree Park

    Rowntree Park was created in memory of employees of Rowntree's who died in World War I, and was opened in July 1921 by local entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph Rowntree. The park has children's playgrounds, tennis courts, bowling greens, basketball court, a skateboarding area and general areas for picnicking. In 2006 the park won a Green Flag Award. This is awarded for reaching the English and Welsh national standard for parks and green spaces.

    Askham Bog Nature Reserve

    Ashkam Bog Nature Reserve is an area of wetland and woodland to the south west of York. It’s home to many species of birds, plants, insects and mammals. The reserve has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is regarded as one of the most ecologically diverse sites in Northern England. Askham Bog is remarkable survivor of the ancient fenlands of Yorkshire. It occupies the site of an ancient lake, left behind by a retreating glacier 15,000 years ago. The bog is 44 acres in size and has a boardwalk for walking across.


    Use the map below to locate all the best things to do in York mentioned above to create your itinerary for your trip. We’ve also added places in the city to eat that offer good food at a decent price for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Open Google Maps to see distance information between locations and directions on how to get to each place.

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