These are in no particular order, and there are definitely more things to do in York, but these were our stand out moments.
1.Jorvik and DIG. With a city that has been in constant occupation by Romans, Britons, Saxons, Vikings, and Normans and with so many churches and abbeys enclosed with the city walls, history is alive and accessible. The York Archaeological Trust manages these and all proceeds go towards further research. Jorvik depicts life in Viking York, as gleaned from a 5-year archaeological dig in the middle of the city in Coppergate. The results are preserved under a glass floor over which people can walk and wonder. The museum also has recreated a realistic Viking street, complete with models and smells, through which you journey with commentary. DIG allows you to be an archaeologist and ‘excavate’ different settings, such as a Victorian house, medieval abbey, Viking village and Roman fort.
You got the chance to help sort out the type of artefacts found on a dig, as well as look at and touch what we discovered to be some very old poo! Afterward there were other interactive activities to keep the little BGs occupied, from answering an online questionnaire on if you would make a good Viking, to matching skeletons with their gender and occupation. It was one of the few museums where the kids wanted to stay, who declared it to be ‘nearly as good as Legoland’.
2. Rowntree Park was originally developed by the owners of Rowntrees to commemorate the staff of the chocolate factory who died in the Great War. It’s a park with a playground, putting greens, bowling greens, tennis and basketball courts and skateboard park, and a 10 minute walk from the city centre. Thunderstorm notwithstanding, we had a great time there! Walking to and from the park along the river was a delight in itself.
3. The National Railway Museum. This was a surprise, as I thought it would be one of those dark dusty places staffed by old men who used to work on the railways, or staffed by volunteers who never outgrew their Thomas the Tank obsession. Well, it wasn’t dark and dusty, but it proved to be an entertaining day :-) . There was an Art Gallery of railway posters with a current theme of summer holidays, a hall of royal carriages and other passenger carriages to show how technology and styles have evolved, as well as the engines, all of which were immaculately presented. There were engines from around the world, such as an early Shinkasen, and the famous Flying Scotsman.
There was an archive section, staffed by librarians, called the Search Engine :-) . It provided access to largely print ephemera, drawings and books and journals about the history of railways.
4. I had the yummiest icecream since we were in Florence from an icecream van just near the York Minster. It was vanilla with lemon curd mingled through it. I couldn’t take a photo as I was too busy eating it :-) . Mr BG had to get one for himself as I did not wish to share!
5. Just go for a walk. The city centre is small and compact (the city walls are about 4 1/2 km in circumference) and you can just wander the streets just soaking up the atmosphere. You can walk past the house where Guy Fawkes was born, stroll through the gardens of the Museum and see the ruins of an abbey which rivalled the size of York Minster, have a roast lunch dinner with Yorkshire pudding for under £10, walk off said pudding by climbing up to Clifford’s Tower, one of the few castles built by William the Conqueror, all in an afternoon. You were utterly spoiled for choice in cafes and tea rooms, and much of the small streets are car free. It’s a pedestrian friendly town, and a brilliant place to visit.
Our accommodation was fantastic and the owners were very friendly. Little touches to the apartment like fresh flowers and fresh milk in the fridge made it stand out. Looking out on to the river, it was also surprisingly quiet, the only noise from the geese outside!