Museums in York
The city of York, located in the north of England, has a rich history that goes back to the Roman occupation and even before. York even spent a brief period as the capital of the Roman Empire. The city was also an important Viking settlement and became a major trade and population center in medieval England. As a result, York has had an outsized impact on the history of England and the world. And you can explore that fascinating history at some of the best museums in York.
If you're a history buff, York is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in the UK. And even if you're not so hot on history, the wealth of museums on offer in this northern city means there's a good chance you'll find attractions worth visiting. There are even museums that are some of the best things to do in York with kids - all you need to do is look around.
To make it easier to visit the best museums in York, don't forget to drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage. don't allow large bags inside, so it will be much easier to discover some of the city's top attractions if you're not carrying more than you need to.
The County of Yorkshire has a culture and history of its own, and this fiercely independent place has managed to retain an identity apart from the rest of the country. You can explore the history not just of York but of the entire county at the Yorkshire Museum. Opened in 1830, this museum houses permanent exhibitions that cover a broad range of human knowledge, including biology, geology, archaeology, astronomy, and numismatics - or coins, in other words. In fact, the eclectic collection here has something to offer just about everyone. Kids will love learning more about Alan the dinosaur, a fossil of unknown species that forms the centerpiece of the museum's virtual-reality Jurassic World exhibition. Yorkshire Museum also houses the Star Carr pendant, the earliest Mesolithic art ever found in the UK, a horde of Roman coins, the eighth-century Coppergate helmet, and various other historical treasures. The museum also hosts traveling exhibitions of historical artifacts from around the country and across the world, so there's always something new to explore here.
Don't miss the gardens of the museum, a beautiful botanical garden that contains the ruins of the medieval St. Mary's Abbey. Like the museum itself, the gardens are completely free to visit, making this one of the best free things to do in York.
National Railway Museum
If you have an interest in rail travel, York's National Railway Museum will need no introduction. Located in York Station, of the development of rail travel that shaped the history not just of Yorkshire but of the entire UK and the rest of the world.
In fact, this is the largest rail museum in the world, and you don't need to be a railway buff to get something out of a visit here. The museum attracts over one million visitors every year, making it one of the most popular attractions in the city. The collection includes historic trains, including the only bullet train outside Japan, alongside locomotives from the golden age of steam. Interactive exhibits will keep youngsters entertained, and the luxurious carriages of royalty will show you how the wealthiest people in the world used to travel. You can even have afternoon tea in a refurbished carriage to make you feel like you've stepped back in time.
Jorvik Viking Center
Located in the historic heart of York, the Jorvik Viking Center is not only one of the best museums in York but is one of the city's best attractions. And thanks to its central location, it's also a great place to get some of the best street food in York.
York was once a major Viking settlement, and at the Jorvik Viking Center, you can travel back in time to get a sense of what it would've been like to live in York during the Viking Age. This attraction straddles the line between museum and theme park, with its Time Warp ride taking you back to 975 AD. The ride transports visitors through Viking York, with animatronic figures used to tell the stories of the city. You'll even encounter the smells of the era, making this a truly immersive way to learn more about history. There are often lines to get into this popular attraction, and it's a good idea to book tickets ahead of time if possible. But it's worth the wait to have such an immersive encounter with ancient history in the heart of the modern city.
York's Chocolate Story
Often, finding museums that will appeal to children as much they do to adults can be difficult. Luckily, York has lots of museums that appeal to people of all ages, and York's Chocolate Story is definitely part of that group.
York has a long history of chocolate making, and some of the UK's most famous confectionery brands such as Rowntree were based here. Unsurprisingly, York's Chocolate Story focuses on the history of chocolate making in Yorkshire. But it also takes a wider look at the long history of chocolate from its origins in South America to its current worldwide popularity. Along with all the learning, you'll get to taste samples of delicious chocolate, making this one of the best museums in York for families and those with a sweet tooth.
York Art Gallery
Lovers of the arts will find some art galleries in York that are definitely worth exploring. Foremost among those is the aptly named York Art Gallery. Located in a Grade II listed building, the museum collects paintings from around the world. You'll find medieval religious paintings, Renaissance portraits, 17th-century Dutch artwork, and contemporary paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Visiting York Art Gallery is like taking a crash course in art history, making this place worth visiting both for confirmed art lovers and those less knowledgeable about the visual arts.
Also known as York Castle, Clifford's Tower may not be the most impressive medieval castle you'll ever see. But with a history that dates back to the Norman conquest of England and expansive views over the North York Moors, Clifford's Tower is a must-visit in York for both fans of history and appreciators of nature. As well as a castle, the tower has been a prison and a Royal Mint, and the exhibitions at this attraction will explain more about the role this ancient structure has played in the history of the city. It's a great place to get a better insight into the transition from Viking York to the medieval period, and also an excellent place to get a bit of fresh air while still exploring the city.
York Castle Museum
York Castle Museum offers an immersive and interactive experience that will bring history to life. As a result, it's one of the best places to visit in the city for those traveling with families as well as anyone with an interest in history. This ambitious museum brings to life various chapters in the history of York, and you'll feel like a time traveler as you wander along a recreated Victorian street or visit the chilling Castle Prison. You'll also learn more about York during the First World War, the 1960s, and lots of other periods of history.
There's even a play area for kids and an exhibition that lets children play with various toys from different areas of history. Kids will have so much fun here they won't realize that they're learning anything, and parents will probably learn plenty too. In fact, York Castle Museum offers some of the best experiences you're likely to have in any York museum.
York Army Museum
If you're a fan of military history, the York Army Museum is an unmissable place to visit on your trip. Over the centuries, Yorkshire has raised some of Britain's top combat units, and the collection of artifacts from these regiments is proudly displayed at this fascinating institution. The museum collects artifacts from around the world and just about every conflict the UK has been involved in, making this an excellent place to learn more about military history.
Richard III Experience
Richard III is one of England's best-known and most fascinating rulers. Often maligned as a murderous tyrant thanks to propaganda by Shakespeare among others, the reputation of this king has undergone some rehabilitation recently following the discovery of his remains. Richard was a major figure in the War of the Roses, a battle for the control of England between the noble houses of York and Lancaster, and therefore an important figure in the history of York too. The Richard III experience will explain the truth about the king's relatively short reign and get to the bottom of the stories and legends surrounding this controversial figure. You'll also learn more about life in 15th-century York, and the Experience makes a great place from which to explore York city walls. There's also a Henry VII experience located nearby where you can learn more about Richard's main adversary.
York Cold War Bunker
With so much history to explore in York, more modern periods often get forgotten in favor of the ancient past. But you can explore one aspect of the 20th-century history of the city at the York Cold War Bunker. This hidden gem is located outside the historic heart of the city and therefore doesn't get the tourist crowds that some of the other best museums in York do. But this well-preserved bunker will take you back to a time when the threat of nuclear war with Russia seemed very real. Guided tours of the bunker will show you the control center and staff dormitory that were used for more than 30 years in the late 20th century.
Merchant Adventurer's Hall
In a city with as many historic buildings as York, calling something one of the most impressive in the city really means something. The Merchant Adventurer's Hall is a Grade I listed building and a top destination for weddings and other events, meaning it stands out for its architecture even in a city with so many historic buildings to choose from. Dating back to the 14th century, this beautifully preserved structure was once the home of the Merchants Guild of York. Now, it's home to a collection of fascinating artifacts from medieval York. But it's the ancient timber beams and creaking wooden floors that most people visit for.
What are the best free museums in York?
If you're looking to save some money on your trip to York, you're in luck. Many of the city's top museums are free to visit. Foremost among these is the Yorkshire Museum, with both the museum and the gardens completely free. The National Railway Museum is also free, so you can visit two of York's top attractions without spending anything at all.
What are the best museums in downtown York?
York's historic city center is where you'll find many of the city's best museums. The Jorvik Viking Center, Clifford's Tower, and the York Castle Museum are all located in this area, making it easy to visit them or even on a relatively short trip.
Are there any cheap museums in York?
With so many free museums to visit in York, budget-conscious travelers are spoiled for choice. However, some of the museums that actually charge admission can be quite expensive. An affordable option is Clifford's Tower, which costs a little less than six pounds to visit. You can also look out for free entrance days that will let you see places like the York Castle Museum for free.