11 Free Things to Do in York

York is the perfect location for your next staycation, but, as with any city break, the costs can soon add up. You don’t need to worry though! While York is a city that’s steeped in history and has so many attractions on offer, a lot of them are actually free.

Keep reading for 11 free things to do in York. Your bank balance will thank you later!

Visit The National Railway Museum

Museums are ideal for rainy days and the National Railway Museum is no exception. Here, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the past, present, and future of railways. What’s more, entry to the museum is entirely free! 

The museum is located near to the train station and is just a 20-minute walk away from the hotel. It’s open Wednesday-Sunday from 10.00-17:00. Book your visit over on their website.

Black steam train with red wheels set up in a museum showroom setting

Amble Down The Shambles

The Shambles is one of York’s most popular attractions – and for good reason! This little street is one of the oldest in the whole of Europe and is home to some of York’s best independent retailers. Get taken back in time as you walk down the cobbled street and take in the overhanging buildings. It’s free just so long as you don’t buy anything!

Discover more about The Shambles here.

York shambles with old sinage and buildings on a slant

Walk around the York City Walls

The York City Walls are a reminder of mediaeval times and are beautifully preserved despite having been built in the 13th century. They go all around the city and offer stunning views of York’s most interesting architecture. If you want to walk around the full length of the walls, it takes around 2 hours, making it the perfect afternoon out of the hotel! 

The walls usually open from 8am until dusk. For more information, you can learn more here.

View of castle walls around York

Visit Homestead Park

If you fancy being at one with nature, then look no further than Homestead Park. It’s home to some of York’s most diverse species and is a fantastic place to view wildlife. The park features many different areas and zones, such as a wildflower meadow, pond, rock garden and a children’s play area. All you need is to stock up on snacks and you’re good to go! 

Homestead Park is located around 1.5 miles west of the city centre, which you can access by bus, car or bike. There are also downloadable walking trails within the park ahead of your visit. Explore them here

Squirrel sat on the arm of a park bench

Take a Guided Walking Tour 

Some of York’s finest buildings and attractions are best accessed on foot. So why not book a free guided walking tour of the city? The Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York has been offering complimentary guided tours since 1951. They’re the perfect way to soak up all the history and culture that York has to offer. There are usually two walks a day – one in the morning and one in the evening, but booking is recommended as their numbers are limited to 30 per tour.

You can find out more and book here

View of York with blue sky in the background

Stroll Around the York Museum Gardens

The York Museum Gardens is a wildlife haven, with many plant species and historical features to uncover. Walk around and appreciate the peace and tranquillity of the gardens, while learning about the wildlife that resides there. You’ll also find the historic St Mary’s Abbey here too, which was once one of the most powerful monasteries in England. Today, you can explore the ruins and see the stone walls that once defended the abbey.

Learn more and plan your visit here

View of St Marys Abbey - ruins of an old cathedral

Get Lost in the Shambles Market

The Shambles market is one of the most vibrant places in York. Here you’ll find a large collection of York’s finest independent retailers selling a variety of items including food, flowers and local produce. It’s free to enter, provided you can resist the temptation of the stallholders! You never know, you might be able to pick up a few free samples. 

Plan your visit to The Shambles Market here.

Image of nachos in a street food style box

Relax in Rowntree Park

Rowntree Park is situated on the banks of the River Ouse, and is the perfect space for relaxing with friends or family and enjoying nature. The park is a beautiful haven featuring woodland, children’s playgrounds, ponds, and much more. Pack yourself a picnic of goodies, and settle down for a fun-filled day.

Learn more about the park and its history here

Yellow close up of daffodils

Take in the Incredible York Minster

York Minster is an iconic attraction and a must-see when you’re visiting the city! Although entry inside the Minster is only free to residents of York, you can stand outside and snap some pictures of this magnificent building. Another option would be to book a service at the Minster, as admission for this is free. 

Discover what’s on at York Minster here

Close up of the detailing on the walls and stained glass of York Minster

Check out the York Observatory

The York Observatory is located inside the York Museum Gardens, so is ideal if you want to visit two main attractions in one day. The Observatory was built in 1832, and is the oldest working observatory in Yorkshire. It is open most days to the public with free entry. It’s run by a team of dedicated volunteers, who also put on evening events on occasion for you to get a taste of stargazing.

Discover more about York Observatory here

Starry night sky

Explore some of York’s Snickelways

For those of you who haven’t heard of Snickelways, they’re a collection of small alleyways and paths which are usually in cities. York has many of these and they’re just perfect for wandering down and exploring. Many of York’s snickelways are actually hidden, and require some effort to find, but there’s thought to be over 50 within the city walls. Why not make it your mission to see how many you can find?

Explore some of York’s Snickelways here.

Image of an old wall with the sign 'Little Shambles' printed on it

We hope that this blog has helped you prepare for your staycation to York on a budget! 

To discover more places to add to your York bucket list, check out our blog.

Book your next York stay with us here.

Food & Drink in York

Sip on local gin, craft ales, familiar favourites, and creative cocktails at No.88 Walmgate. Pair with one of our delicious Rustic Pizzas.

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We proudly stand in the historic neighbourhood of Walmgate, just a short walk from all the city has to offer.

At one point Walmgate had 20 pubs on the street, today it is a cool mix of independent restaurants, bars and shops and continues to Fossgate – which boasts even more independent shops, delis, bars and restaurants. Walmgate Bar proudly stands at the end of the road. It is the only existing bar in York with a Barbican and forms part of the York City Walls walk.

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York Hotel's Chocolate Story

Discover the history of chocolate, how to make it and how to taste it like an expert at the York’s Chocolate Story.

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