York

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The largest county in England, Yorkshire has stunning countryside, an intriguing history, lively cities and a multitude of quaint stone villages. Its county town is the ancient and picturesque walled city of York, an extremely popular destination for tourists. No matter what time of year, you'll find its narrow medieval streets packed with people of all nationalities enjoying all the quirky attractions this fascinating city has to offer.  

The first thing you'll notice is that actually, it's not that big at all. Most of the city is contained within the walls: the magnificent cathedral, the atmospheric cobbled streets, alleyways and ginnels with their leaning half timbered medieval buildings. The place literally oozes with history and everywhere you look there are reminders of York's past, from Clifford's Tower, originally built by William the Conqueror to the Castle Museum. But it's not just a place for history buffs, there's a wealth of different attractions here; upmarket shopping, hundreds of restaurants and bars, the York Eye - a huge Ferris wheel that allows you stunning views across the surrounding countryside and all kinds of interactive museums.

From your first view of the city as you enter via one of the 'gates', you'll feel as though you've stepped back in time as you wander the narrow streets, some of which are literally no more than alleyways or ginnels.  You'll find layer upon layer of history within the walls, starting with Viking York at the Jorvik Museum, which is built on the site of the ancient city of Jorvik.  This interactive museum has recreated York as it was during Viking times as authentically as possible, complete with sounds and smells.  Since it opened 25 years ago, more than 15 million visitors have passed through its doors.  

Built nine centuries ago, York Castle is really a sequence of castles, prisons, law courts and numerous other buildings which line the south bank of the River Foss. One of the 'keeps' of the Norman castle, Clifford's Tower is a very popular attraction, but for a taste of Victorian York, head to the Castle Museum where you'll find a replica of Victorian Kirkgate, complete with Victorians in period dress. Here you can discover how both the rich and the poor lived under the reign of this famous queen, together with the police cell, schoolroom and an original Hansom cab.  All the shops are based on real York businesses which operated in the city between 1870 and 1901 and you'll find saddlers, gunsmiths and even a taxidermist alongside toy shops and milliners.

If you're a train lover, the National Railway Museum, the largest railway museum in the world, covers over three hundred years of history and boasts over a million wonderful objects on display. It's a great place do see iconic locomotives, such as the Royal Trains and the futuristic Japanese Bullet Train. You can browse their warehouses; take the kids to play in the outdoor play area or take a ride on the miniature train. And what's more, it's all free.

Of course no trip to York is complete without taking in the cathedral which dominates the city. York Minster, home to the Archbishop of York is also known as St. Peter's.  There's been a church on the site since 627, but the present cathedral was started in 1220 and took until 1472 to build.  It's undergone many restorations since then, the latest being the opening of the Undercroft with its interactive displays.

But if you want a history lesson with a difference, complete with all the blood and gory details, a visit to the new updated York Dungeon is a must.  Here you'll find not only exhibits and displays, but professional actors dressed in authentic costumes, who will really help you to get into the action as they treat you to their interpretation of the history of York adding their own touch of humour and more than a touch a horror. You certainly won't fail to miss the accompanying aromas which will really transport you back through the ages.

And if your appetite for the supernatural and gory hasn't been satisfied in the Dungeon, you can always join in one of the organised ghost walks which take place around the city each evening. Once again professional actors will introduce you to all the spooky incidents and places within the walls, so that you get a good taste of what it was like to live here before the arrival of electric lights and modern conveniences. 

York has something for everyone: it's a great place to explore, to watch the street artists and entertainers, sample the relaxing café culture, take tea and cake at the iconic Betty's Tearooms (be prepared to queue) or a champagne afternoon tea in one of the upmarket hotels, sip cocktails by the River Ouse, see the city from the deck of a boat, or simply wander the streets and mingle with all the other visitors who come back time and time again.