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The history of York is the story of England in stone, wood and chocolate. Western Christianity was born here, so was the KitKat. No other place in Britain preserves so much of the country's past in such a concise area. From the Romans to the Vikings and the Railways, the streets of York are a living picture book of 2000 years of history.


Perhaps the most authentic way to visit York would be on horseback. Failing that, York remains a compact, medieval city best explored on foot. We will guide you through the ancient streets, hidden alleys and secret corners that couldn't be experienced from the top of a bus (or a horse, for that matter). 

There’s an overwhelming amount of things to do in York. It is a city overflowing with museums, monuments and attractions. But why not let the streets speak for themselves? They have a lot to say. In most places, the past lies buried. Not in York. Here the past is alive and present, sometimes in ruins, but still above the ground. 

Visit York and let us lead you through the maze. Though the Romans planned York in regular straight lines, by the Middle Ages it had all become a bit of a muddle. But we can show you all the key points of interest in a walk around the medieval heart of York. Not only world-famous streets such as the Shambles, but also the secret short-cuts and hidden passages (‘Snickleways’ we call them here) where, if you’re not lost, you must be local. 

York is a very walkable city. The distances are not great, and there are no hills. The medieval centre is contained within a ring of stone walls designed to defend the original York Castle, which have kept enemies out and the spirit of the city in for over 800 years. You can make a complete circuit of these ramparts in under an hour. It’s not an experience that can be gained from an open-topped bus. 

Whether you have an hour, an afternoon or a whole week to spend, we want you to make the most of your time in this inspiring city.

Things to see in York - The Minster


YORKTOUR is the longest-established walking tour company in York and has been welcoming visitors to the city for over forty years. Our friendly, informal guides aim to assist you with their local knowledge rather than bombard you with facts. We can provide a range of languages including French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. All YorkTour guides are qualified to take visitors into the cathedral.

We’re not lecturers - we’re locals 

All Yorktour guides live in the city. Most of us were born here. We’re passionate about the place, and our tours are designed to reflect this. With Yorktour, you don’t just get the services of a historian. You get the company of a friendly inhabitant who loves showing visitors round town.

History of the Company

Yorktour was founded in 1974 and is the oldest, continually running tour operator in the city. It was initially set up by coach-hire company Eddie Brown, and still provides a loyal service to the many visitors, British and foreign, who make coach excursions to York. The company was subsequently bought by Stephen Lusty, a highly experienced guide, fluent linguist and former chairman of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, who greatly expanded the company’s business and profile. Now the company continues to evolve with the appointment of two new directors, whose aim is to provide the same great service while creating a twenty-first century context for York’s ancient past.

Things to see in York - The River Ouse


We have a range of routes to meet all interests - or can advise to help you design your own. Our standard itineraries include: 


Our most popular introduction to the city - 2000 years of history in a two hour walk. The route includes all the key sights, including the Minster, the Shambles and the city walls; though we will also lead you deep into the medieval maze to reveal secret corners you might otherwise have missed. 


In town on business? Only free after 6pm? York appears at its most magical around sundown, and though there are many ghost-walk options, this tour focuses on sights rather than frights. Authoritative, engaging and 100% phantom-free. 


For those who prefer their history horrible, York has its fair share of grim and grisly events. Guy Fawkes was born here, Dick Turpin swung here; and the ancient streets have witnessed any number of medieval executions, Tudor tortures and unholy archbishops. A fun tour for under-12s; not for the fainthearted but entertaining for the whole family. And if you like, we can even put your head on a pike above Micklegate Bar… 


If you have more time to spend, we can arrange half-day, whole-day or even whole week packages tailored to your interests or requirements. From photography tours to textile trails we can provide guides who speak French, German, Italian, Russian and Mandarin with other languages available on request. 


York has the most extensive set of medieval fortified walls in the country (to give Chester its due, theirs are more complete, but ours are longer). A few small sections fell prey to Victorian developers; and there’s a stretch that never had a wall as there was an impassable marsh instead. But otherwise the walls form two and three-quarter miles of glorious, yellow limestone with astonishing stories every step of the way. There’s no better way to get the measure of the city than by tracing its perimeter. The views are breathtaking; and there are some fabulous cafes and remarkable museums tucked into the turrets along the way.

Things to do in York - The Shambles

Never mind the history - where are the shops?

York has its full complement of high street stores and chain restaurants. Anybody can find those. But the incredible array of specialist, independent shops is what gives the place its character. And because we live here, we know where they are. 

The true delight of York is that you don’t have to make a choice between history or shopping - it’s all in the same place. Some of the city’s most quirky medieval buildings are also its finest fashion stores. Even the Shambles is full of some highly recommendable craft stores and tea rooms. Along this crooked, cobbled street are two brilliant bakeries and a shop selling the best sausages in York. The kids may recognise it as the place where Harry Potter bought his wand. Remarkably, it’s a real street rather than a tourist trap, where local people actually do their shopping. And to buy a pound of sausages from the medieval street of butchers - what could be more historically authentic than that?

Things to see in York - Unique shopping streets

Please note: York Minster makes a separate entrance charge for visitors, though our guides are qualified to take you round the cathedral. Please enquire for further details.


Please click on a question to see the answer.

  • Q: How long is the average tour?
    A: As long as a piece of string - Yorktour is a bespoke, personal service and we will devise an itinerary to match your requirements. But two hours is a sufficient length of time to see all the key sights and places of interest.
  • Q: What time are the tours?
    A: Whenever you’re ready. We don’t run scheduled daily walks - it is a personalised, pre-booked service for groups or individuals.
  • Q: What is the itinerary?
    A: That depends where you would like us to meet you, either at a designated landmark in the city centre or at your hotel. But a good place to start is Exhibition Square where 2000 years of York’s history is visible from one spot.
  • Q: How far will I have to walk?
    A: Again, that’s entirely up to you. But York is a compact city, and as a rough rule of thumb, two hours at a gentle pace would cover approximately a mile-and-a-half.
  • Q: Can you walk along the city walls?
    A: Yes! It’s one of the very best ways to get to know the city, as well as providing some of the most spectacular photo opportunities. The complete circuit of the walls is 2-and-three-quarter miles. But the quarter-mile stretch between Bootham Bar and Monk Bar takes twenty minutes and is the most picturesque portion if you only have time to see part of it.
  • Q: What if it rains?
    A: Bring an umbrella! We never cancel due to adverse weather conditions. The extremes of British climate have been known to make the experience more memorable. (Please note, however, that the raised walkway along the city walls is closed if it becomes icy).
  • Q: Are other languages available?
    A: We can provide guides who speak French, German, Russian, Italian and Mandarin - for other languages please enquire. We are also experienced at running tours in clear, uncomplicated English specially designed for language students.
  • Q: Are admission prices included?
    A: No. The Minster has an entrance fee of £10.00 per person (or £8.50 for groups of ten or above) which needs to be paid by cash or card on entry. All of our guides have completed the Minster’s accredited training course and are qualified to take visitors round the cathedral.
  • Q: How long should I allow to see the Minster?
    A: A lifetime, if we’re honest; about an hour, to be realistic.
  • Q: What if I, or a member of my party, isn’t very mobile?
    A: Because Yorktour is a personal service rather than a prescribed route we can concentrate on a step-free, concise area. For example, there’s a huge amount of York’s story to be told within the Museum Gardens - a beautiful botanic garden of only a few acres right at the heart of the city.
  • Q: Is shopping time included?
    A: Absolutely, if that’s what you want. York is full of unique independent businesses and we know where all the best ones are. But the great thing about York is that you don’t have to make a choice between shopping or sightseeing - it’s all in the same place! Some of the finest old buildings now contain the best shops and restaurants.
  • Q: Can pets come too?
    A: As long as you don’t want to go inside the Minster or onto the city walls, we’d love to meet them!
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‘The tour was beyond excellent - thank you so much…’ Northleach Decorative and Fine Arts Society

 'Bringing over seventy international students to any new city is always a challenge. However York Tours took the stress away and gave our students a wonderful insight into their beautiful city. Thank you and see you next year'. Neil Bullett Social Officer, University of East Anglia

 Your tour was really enjoyable, genuinely interesting, coherent and funny at the same time with everything coming nicely together. Despite the rather adverse weather all the guests loved it and have asked me to pass on their thanks. So, once again many thanks for a very special experience and please rest assured that myself and my colleagues will have no reservations in recommending your company wholeheartedly….’ Department of Health Sciences, University of York

 ‘It was great meeting you, everybody thoroughly enjoyed the tour and we had a great day in York. Thank you so much for making the day memorable’. Lincoln University History Society

 ‘Gave a real sense of the whole city - we will have to come back!’ Babel Language School, Perugia, Italy

 ‘You were a very nice talking man’ RK Travel Group (Sweden)


York Tour Guide Book

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