If you are planning on visiting York on a budget, check out our list of the best free things to do in York.
York truly has medieval roots. It was founded by the Romans in around 71 A.D. when several thousand men marched from Lincoln and set up camp there. Originally known as Eboracum, York has been of significant historical interest ever since.
Almost 800 years later, on November 1st 866, just as York was celebrating All Saints’ Day, the Vikings invaded and successfully took over the city.
Much of this history has survived and today York is a vibrant city filled with reminders of times gone by. It is well worth a visit at any time of year. There is much to see and do and it is the perfect place to spend a weekend, or even longer.
If you are looking for ideas of what to see and do in York, you are going to be spoiled for choice. If you are on a budget and want to visit some of the best that York has to offer, look no further than our list of the best free things to do in York.
Best Free Things to do in York
1. A free guided walk around York
I think York is perhaps the city with the greatest choice of different free walking tours you are ever likely to find. We know of at least three different options. There are other tours which charge a small fee, but go to many of the same places.
The Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York
The Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York have been offering free walking tours for almost 60 years. The team of more than 80 expert guides take pleasure from showing you around their beautiful city and don’t even ask for tips. The tour lasts 2 hours and visits many of the highlights in the city centre.
- Meeting Point: Outside the York City Art Gallery in Exhibition Square, YO1 7EW
- Tours Run: Every day (except Christmas Day) at 10:15 am and 1.15pm. Between 1st June and 31st August also at 6.15 pm
- Duration: 2 hours
- Booking Required: No
- For more information including a map of the route, go to the AVGYork website
Footprints Tours offer several (paid for) tours in York, as well as other cities, but also a free walking tour of York.
- Meeting Point: 49 Stonegate (Opposite Links of London)
- Tours Run: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11 am and 2 pm
- Duration: 2 hours
- Booking Required: Yes
- For more information including and to book a place on the tour, go to the Footprints Tours website
White Rose York Tours
If you have the energy for a longer walk, White Rose York Tours go that little bit further, with their three-hour free walking tour of York.
- Meeting Point: Outside the West Entrance of York Minster, under the tree on the wide pavement opposite the Group’s Entrance and close to Cafe Concerto.
- Tours Run: Every day at 11 am. Fridays & Saturdays also at 1 pm. Between 1st April and 31st October, also every day at 3 pm.
- Duration: 3 hours
- Booking Required: No
- For more information including the list of places the tour will visit, go to the White Rose York Tours website
If you are interested in a Ghost Walk in York (no longer free of charge, but only a few pounds and well worth it for the scares), check out these three: The Original Ghost Walk of York, Ghost Hunt and Ghost Trail.
3. The Shambles
Take a while to explore The Shambles, one of the most picturesque streets in the whole of England. Many of the buildings overhang the street like they are leaning in to get a better view. Many of the buildings date back to the 14th century. The Shambles is a great place to while away an hour, checking out the local York Souvenirs, pick up some old-fashioned sweets and maybe stop off for a coffee and a snack in one of the many eateries you will find.
4. York Minster
While you do have to pay to go inside, York Minster is mighty impressive from the outside too! Why not take a walk around the outside and look up at the amazing architecture and intricate detail. It is really worth paying to go inside if you could be persuaded…
5. Walk the York City Walls
York has been a walled city for almost 2000 years when the Romans started constructions of the walls. Even though they are no longer used for defences (not even against tourists), many sections of the walls remain intact today. The York City Walls and gateways (known as ‘bars’) make for an excellent walk
6. The National Railway Museum
Entrance to the National Railway Museum is free. Regardless of whether you are an avid trainspotter, or just interested to learn about the history of the railways, you’re bound to enjoy your visit to The National Railway Museum in York.
Since most of the museum is inside, a visit to the National Railway Museum is surely one of the best free things to do in York on a cold or wet day.
Once inside, you will find a huge number of trains in the Great Hall, starting with the Age of Steam, right up to the present day. Several carriages from the Royal Train are also on display.
If it is a nice day, venture outside and take a short trip on a steam train.
- Address: National Railway Museum York, Leeman Rd, York YO26 4XJ, UK
- Opening Hours: 10 am to 6 pm, 7 days a week
- Website: https://www.railwaymuseum.org.uk/