We arrived in York in the afternoon, the same day of our tour of NPS shoes. Due to a slight technical hitch, google maps felt that we needed a quick tour inside of the walls before we reached our accommodation for our stay.
For this part of the trip, we organised to meet up with my parents. This was a great option so the kids could catch up with their grandparents, but it also meant that we got to have some time to ourselves. The only downside of this was although our apartment said it slept 6. Really it was 4 with a sofa bed which we ended up on as the girls obviously needed to go to bed before the rest of us.
The next morning, we were woken “nice” and early by some raucous, drunken singing. Which although not ideal did mean we were able to get up and out earlier for our only full day in York.
Our main plan for York was to take the girls to the Jorvik Viking museum. We had previously visited it whilst living in the UK but thought it would be a good introduction to the history for the girls. We were lucky as earlier this year it was closed for many months as the whole area was affected by heavy flooding.
The only difficulty we had walking from our accommodation to the museum was negotiating the Shambles. A legitimate site in York in its own right. It is where all the Butchers used to be in York. It is a street that has been there for 1000 years. Many of the current buildings date from the 1300-1400s, but now it is home to multiple Harry Potter shops with imaginative names. As you can imagine these slowed proceedings down considerably.
Luckily Jorvik doesn’t open until 10am so by the time we arrived, there was only a short queue before we were admitted with Vikings around keeping us amused.
The Jorvik Viking Centre begins with a lift down to the “excavation level” with Viking staff explaining what had been found and a glass floor so you could see the excavations below with replicas of what has been found. To see the real items, you can visit with a staff member in the corner who for us had examples of many different glass beads that had been discovered where we had just been walking
You have as much time as you like reading captions and looking for relics under the glass before you head around to the “ride” this is a hanging pod that has commentary in 5 different languages and carries you around a recreation of old York. It has many different styles of buildings and realistic looking wax figures (some modelled on skeleton’s discovered on the site) and the occasional real person to keep you on your guard.
Our girls found it interesting to experience all the sights and smells of this time. At the end, you disembark into the museum which has more finds from the area and more characters letting you know more about some of the exhibits including for an extra charge striking you a Viking coin and explaining about Viking money.
Despite it being a small space, there was plenty of cabinets to explore with a variety of exhibits including skeletons and even a petrified pooh. I could happily have spent longer finding out more, however, Mr OTC who has a lower threshold for museums was keen to leave.
We spent a good few hours here and so the entry fee of £32 for a family of 4 felt like good value. You can pre-book on the website which charges a £2 booking fee but gets you fast track entry which would be useful at busy times of the year.
After a quick bite to eat we headed back to Diagon Alley- I mean the Shambles. According to one of the Harry Potter shops, the reason they are all in York is that allegedly The Shambles was the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Although I can see the resemblance, depending on who you speak to Diagon Alley is also in London and in Edinburgh.
If you are looking for wizarding supplies, there is certainly an abundance of options in York. Almost every shop, no matter how seemingly unrelated will have some sort of Harry Potter Merch. Of the 4 in the shambles, my favourite name was “the shop who must not be named” but I felt the staff in “Boy Wizard” made it more pleasant. Whoever was on the morning we came past was happy to give our girls a wand and let them turn the lights on and off with “magic”. They mostly sell variations of the same things and the prices are certainly no more expensive than other places we looked. Luckily our girls are slightly too young to have seen and read all of Harry potter otherwise it could have been very expensive and time-consuming excursion.
On walking around York we found all sorts of interesting buildings including a St Mary’s Abbey, a ruined Benedictine Abbey in the York Museum gardens which the girls were happy to run and climb around exploring. One of the things I love about the UK is how giant ancient structures are intermixed into the everyday space so much so that most locals would think nothing of it. For us though a 500- 1000-year-old wall is so exciting.
We then went for a stroll around town and over some of the walls. We ran around trying to find the shortest street with the longest name. Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate. It took a lot of back and forth to find it. Unfortunately, by this stage, our girls were over walking and wanted to go home and rest. Code for “Cbeebies must be on TV now”.
The bonus for us was that my parents came back then too so they looked after the girls and we could race over to the National Railway Museum.
This is not the first rail museum we have visited. We saw a great one in Kewlona Canada. Mr OTC is a train lover from way back and I was excited to see the royal carriages. It had lots of trains you could go aboard including a bullet train from Japan and an ambulance train. We only had about an hour by the time we got there but it would easily be a half day excursion if you can spare the time. And even better news was that it had free entry ( donation suggested) It would be a great place to take the kids. If we had another day, we would have taken them back there.
There was a café on the platform where the royal trains were located. We were last to leave and could have spent hours there.
For dinner, Mr OTC tried a Yorky Pud from the York Roast Co. Roast meat and veggies inside a giant Yorkshire pudding. Certainly, a more portable way of eating a “roast dinner”.
York is certainly a destination that would benefit for a 2 or 3-day visit, especially with kids. The central area within the walls is not a large area but especially on weekends, it can get quite crowded. Also allowing time for kids ( and adults too) to just stop and chill is definitely recommended. There was a couple of museums I would have liked to see, the York Minster is very impressive and a river cruise would have been fun as well. I guess it just gives us another reason to go back on another trip to the UK.