For a city that was founded almost 2000 years ago when the ninth Roman legion marched in and set up camp, York (which began life as Eboracum) certainly has longevity. That is not to say it hasn’t adapted with the times, however. Today there exists a vibrant oasis of culture, with numerous attractions and events, situated within easy reach of some of England’s most endearing countryside. Whether you have an interest in the varied historical aspects of the city, or you are more interested in the more recent additions, there is plenty to entertain people of all ages for a great day out, a short break or even longer. And the good news is York can be reached in less than two hours by rail from London Kings Cross, often with some excellent deals on train tickets.
So once you’ve arrived in the place the Vikings dubbed Jorvik, where should you begin? Well, why not head straight to the Jorvik Viking Centre to find out there was much more to the Scandinavian invaders than destruction and pillage. Built on the actual site of a Viking settlement from over 1000 years ago, a visit will teach you, through a number of well-constructed interactive displays that the Vikings, among other things, were pretty decent farmers. I remember visiting soon after it opened on a school trip (a few years ago now!) and I can still recall the images I saw that day, and of course the pungent odours that add that level of authenticity most museums don’t strive for. Kids will love it.
If you fancy dipping into more recent history, check out the York Castle Museum, complete with an excellent reconstruction of a Victorian street. Or – better still on the basis that it is free of charge – take a look at the National Railway Museum, with the chance to get on board some of the great locomotives of times gone by. There are loads of interactive exhibitions and, at weekends, science and storytelling shows that will keep the children more than occupied.
For sheer awe-inspiring architecture, a visit to York Minster is highly recommended. Despite some areas being out of bounds while a major restoration project takes place (due for completion in 2016), it is certainly still worth visiting this masterpiece of workmanship.
When you need a bite to eat, there is little better than refuelling at one of the many pubs in York. Legend has it there is a pub for every day of the year in the city, and many date back centuries (the oldest being the Olde Starre, continuously licensed since 1644!). Many are child-friendly and you are all but assured a dose of Yorkshire hospitality along with your hearty fare and real ale.
There are plenty of other attractions and events in the city, but half the fun is finding them yourself as you explore the medieval backstreets as they criss-cross enticingly. Once you tire of traipsing over cobbled streets, however, why not end your trip with a relaxing cruise through the city as you consider all you’ve seen… and why it took you so long to visit in the first place.