To say it’s the old capital of England, York is an often overlooked destination when it comes to UK travel! If you haven’t got York and the beautiful green county of Yorkshire on your list of must-see English places, you really should! Yorkshire is England’s largest county, and has a rich cultural heritage and history, along with its very own distinct dialect. A trip to its capital, York, can’t be missed! Spend time wandering around its enchanting ginnels (small alleyways), where there’s always summat (something) going on. We’ve made a list of 10 cheap things to do in York, which shouldn’t cost you more than £20!
1. Take afternoon tea at Betty’s
England’s famous for its tea rooms, and you won’t get a much more English cup of tea than at Betty’s, founded by a… Swiss baker. The combination of Swiss confectionary with the typical English brew or cuppa (common words for a cup of tea in Yorkshire) was a hit from its opening, and to this day you can enjoy beautiful cakes, twee cucumber sandwiches, and quality loose leaf teas at Betty’s.
Betty’s offers the full afternoon service for just under £20, at £19.95. If you’re really watching your pennies, a Yorkshire Cream Tea at a very reasonable £9.95 will get you two scones with jam and cream, and a pot of tea.
2. Walk the city walls
Walking the impressive city walls might take you a while, but it’s completely free and will allow you to take in picturesque views of York from many different viewpoints! York has more miles of intact wall to walk than any other city in England, most dating back to the 12th or 14th century. Stop at the ‘bars’ as you go, which are actually ancient gateways to the city, not places to drink!
3. Visit Jorvik Viking Centre
If you’re a history buff, you’re definitely in the right place – York has centuries of it, influenced by the Romans, the Angles, and, importantly, the Vikings. If you’re a fan of the famed Netflix series, Jorvik is a must, as you can (sort of) travel back through time and experience what York was really like in the time of the Norsemen, down to even the smells!
A ticket costs under £20, and there are also concessions for students, children and families.
4. Go on a ghost tour
For a spooky tour that won’t break the bank, check out York’s themed ghost walks! With such a rich history, it stands to reason that the paranormal and the supernatural have a special place in York, with the city often touted as ‘the most haunted in Europe’. While that might not be true, it certainly has its fair share of ghost stories, and going on a ghost walk around the city is a great way to spend an evening – as long as you can get to sleep afterwards!
Ghost walk prices vary, but just walk around the historic city centre and you’ll find plenty on offer.
5. Check out the National Railway Museum
A museum about trains? Yes, we promise it’s interesting, even if you’re not a trainspotter. Check out international trains including the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train), take a trip to the past in the Flying Scotsman or on a steam train ride, and step into luxury as you board the Royal Carriages and see how the royal family travelled in true style.
What’s more, the museum is free for you to enjoy, so if your goal is to find cheap things to do in York, this is the perfect choice!
6. Marvel at York Minster
A trip to York wouldn’t be complete without visiting the famous York Minster, one of the world’s finest Gothic cathedrals. With York’s low skyline, the Minster is a true emblem for the city, towering over the surrounding streets and filling the city walls with the chime of its bells. The Minster is home to some impressive stained glass windows, and if you’re lucky, you can catch open days to watch the stonemasons shaping and preserving the cathedral.
Entry is £11.50 for adults and £9 for students, with an extra cost if you want to climb the tower for views across York. The Minster also offers free tours throughout the day.
7. Gorge on fudge
If you’ve never had fudge before, you’ll be dying to try it as you smell melted sugar wafting through the tiny streets of York. Fudge is a treat that’s made by mixing sugar, butter, and milk, so your teeth and waistline will thank you for trying it out. York is home to some really good fudge, and if you walk through the Shambles, the famed 14th century street which inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films, you’ll be able to see fudgemaking going on through the shop windows.
Once you’ve tried fudge, it’ll be up to you to resist spending less than £20 on it!
8. Stroll around the York Museum Gardens
Weather permitting, a walk through the York Museum Gardens is a welcome calm and quiet in the centre of the city. With medieval ruins, a Roman fortress, and a large botanical garden, it’s a great space for history and nature aficionados. It’s also home to the Yorkshire Museum, where you can find out more about the capital of the North through the ages.
The Museum Gardens are free to explore, and the museum costs £7.25 for an adult ticket, or £5.60 for students.
9. Live like the Crawleys at Castle Howard
If you want to get out the centre to experience some of the beautiful countryside surrounding York, and see a slice of stately home life just like in Downton Abbey, Castle Howard is a great choice for a day trip. Castle Howard is not actually a castle, but a private residence and one of the UK’s most celebrated historic houses.
You can take the bus to Castle Howard, and what’s more, you can enjoy a discount on the £19.50 house and gardens admission if you show the staff your bus ticket. A trip just under £20, but a full day out to be enjoyed!
10. Tremble at The York Dungeon
If you’re into grime, gore, and gruesome tales, the York Dungeon is the place to be! Showing the dark side of York’s history, the dungeon is an actor-led experience letting you see and feel the horrors firsthand. Test your bravery as you experience the plague’s devastating effect on the city, and watch the beginnings of Guy Fawkes, the mastermind behind the famed Gunpowder Plot.
Tickets start at £16.95, with a discount if you buy online.
Excited to visit? There’s so much on offer, and it needn’t be an expensive trip, with so many cheap things to do in York. Experience the city like a local through a study abroad in its historic streets.