A Weekend With English History

I’ve never been the guy who just parks my butt in front of the TV with an infusion and signs off.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to relax with a movie or watch a Netflix series, but this has to be both educational and entertaining. Recently, all the historical docu-dramas I’ve seen somehow belong to the city of York in the north of England. Many ruling powers tried to rule the recalcitrant people of York, from Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans to medieval English monarchs. With a convoluted history so fused, I thought that today’s York would be quite interesting.

I was right.

A visit to York is like walking through a history book with high Roman walls, Norman castles, quaint medieval buildings, Victorian railways and narrow cobblestone streets lined with quaint Georgian townhouses.

For every historical building there is a story of conquest,debate or rivalry, and even a story of ghosts or three. York’s backstory had no shortage of drama, and the modern city celebrates its past, warts and all, creating a charming mix of the classic and the whimsical that’s ripe to be explored.

On this 3-day itinerary, I discovered interactive museums, sailed along the River Ouse, admired beautiful architecture and tasted delicious international cuisine.

Day 1

Get your York Pass 3 days

The York Pass includes admission to the most popular attractions in central York, as well as to some parks, castles and museums outside of York. The passport can be purchased online and sent to a residential address in the UK, downloaded as a digital passport or collected from the Visit York information Center. I picked up my Visit York Pass and got a nice little package with a York Pass card, vouchers for a hop-on hop-off bus and a river cruise and an information book.

Day 2

walk along the Pagailles

Start your morning with a relaxing walk along York’s narrowest and most picturesque pedestrian street, The Shambles. Some of the second floors of the houses stretch so far down the street that they almost touch each other. Apparently, it was a sneaky tactic to build bigger houses without paying taxes on a larger area. Today, nostalgic buildings are shops selling chocolate, jewelry, souvenirs and Harry Potter items. Yes, there are actually 3 Harry Potter shops on this street that served as inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Behind the chaos lies the aptly named Chaos Market, which sells handicrafts such as paintings, wood carvings, jewelry, plants and clothing.

Day 3

Let Castle Howard surprise you

3 Days is not enough to visit many of the attractions of the York Pass beyond York, but Castle Howard is not to be missed. It is often celebrated as one of the most beautiful castles in the world. If you have a car, drive 35 minutes northeast to Castle Howard, otherwise take a bus 1 hour from the Station Avenue bus stop. Bus tickets can be purchased online in advance. The goal is to arrive at Howard Castle at 10 am.

You could easily spend a whole day at Howard Castle, walking in the woods, rowing on the lakes and picnicking in the parks, but since I didn’t have the time, I just took a walk around the 300-year-old big house to admire the excellent architecture and art collections, and then wandered around the elegantly landscaped gardens.

Where to stay in York

During my visit to York I stayed at the centrally located Middletons York Hotel, the perfect base to explore the city. Middletons has a small parking lot for guests traveling to York, but most of the attractions visited on this route are within easy walking distance from the hotel. I enjoyed Middleton’s cozy living feel with recently renovated stylish rooms, breakfast cooked to order every morning, and an outdoor relaxation area for a drink or two.

end result

York has substance. It combines history with enjoyment, legend with fantasy and chocolate with well, pretty much everything goes with chocolate.

Unlike most cities steeped in history, York’s museums are not just filled with ancient ruins to admire. They are aimed at educating, telling stories with actors, replicas, films, props and, of course, the original archaeological finds.

Along with a 3-day York Pass, this route will save you a pretty penny as you explore the best of this quirky but wonderfully beautiful city for pedestrians. This means that you will have to spend more money to fill your ram’s horn with cider, hot chocolate or polyjuice potion.

Having experienced York firsthand, I now realize the untouchable, whimsical appeal that has attracted emperors, kings, invaders and Netflix fans for centuries.

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