A mock Viking battle in York
© York Archaeological Trust
A mock Viking battle in York

Top 10 Things to See and Do in York

By Rhonda Carrier

As a family we visit York a lot without exhausting its many attractions, many of which are free and many of which deal with the city’s rich Roman, Viking and Victorian history. The following are our favourite tried-and-tested recommendations, some of them available on the money-saving York Pass.

Must-sees in York

Jorvik and DIG! These sister attractions bring the city’s Viking history to life. In the first, you board a ‘time capsule’ to explore re-created period streets (warning: the tour includes authentic Viking pongs); in the second, you get to dig for treasures from various eras and even handle fossilised poo.
York Castle Museum. A stroll through the city’s social history, this venue is best known for its mock-up Victorian street, including a school room, a sweet shop and a jail, complete with sound and light effects. The Toy Gallery is full of adults and teens waxing nostalgic about the good old days, while young kids follow the Teddy Trail.
York Dungeon. One for over-10s, this schlocky but belly-laugh-filled tour of York’s murkier past takes the form of grisly scenarios acted out by costumed actors, who often drag in members of the audience too.
Clifford Tower. Great views over York and podcasts on local history make this last remnant of William the Conqueror’s tower come to life for all ages.
Yorkshire Museum. There’s yet more local history in store here for those who haven’t overdone it, but the highlight with kids is the Extinct gallery, where you can ogle dinosaur footprints, huge sea reptiles, a moa skeleton, dodo bones and much more.
National Railway Museum. This free-entry treasure trove of transport history includes a themed play area, a miniature railway, mighty trains to explore from around the world and interactive gizmos galore.
Yorkshire Air Museum. There’s more vehicular fun in store on this former RAF Bomber Command base a few miles outside the city itself, with lots of World War II planes to climb aboard.

Great places to stay in York and awesome eats

• The Holiday Inn York has a quiet location out by the city’s famous racecourse, family and interconnecting rooms, and an ongoing Kids Eat Free deal in its casual restaurant, while The Lawrance is a collection of swish family-friendly apartments perfect for a flexible city break.
 • You’ll need to book ahead for the Mumbai Lounge, so popular is its superior Indian cuisine, which includes old favourites and new takes. If your kids don’t like spicy food, head for Ate o’clock, a cosy brick-walled bistro squirrelled away down a tiny alley – Monday is burger and steak night, with everything from classic cheeseburgers to Mexican and Greek incarnations. York also has many of the well-known family-friendly chain restaurants.

For more on what to do and see in York and the surrounding area with kids, and other child-friendly places to stay, see our Yorkshire destination guide.

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