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Top Ten Unusual Things To Do In York

York is an ancient city, its origins stretching back as far as 1st century Roman settlement Eboracum. It boasts a world-renowned Gothic cathedral, a medieval castle and is circled by walls that are, in places, over 1900 years old. These are all major attractions for the city, but some of its best features are less well known. Below is our top ten list of unusual things to do in York.

Top Ten Unusual Things To Do In York Secret City Blog

1) Practice medieval magic at Barley Hall

Meet real-life alchemists, wizards and witches as you take a deep dive into the history of magic. Uncover the shifting faces of Arthurian legends Merlin and Morgan La Fay, and learn how magic was once more closely related to science than you might think. All this inside a stunning, reconstructed hall with parts dating back to the 12th Century. Barley Hall is one not to be missed.

2) Burrow deep into cold war paranoia at York’s Cold War Bunker

This 1961 bunker was built with hopes that it would never have to be used. Its purpose: to monitor the explosions and fallout of a nuclear war. For 30 years volunteers met weekly to rehearse the roles they would play should this worse case scenario ever come to pass. The building was designed to support 60 workers for a 30 day period before water ran out. Thankfully, it never came to that. The bunker was closed in 1991 and has since reopened as a Heritage landmark.

3) Explore the historic city with a Secret City Trail

Fancy an immersive, interactive tour of the city streets? Secret City has got you covered. Their trails are part city tour, part outdoor escape game. Solve a shameful murder from York’s medieval past, or take on gods and monsters from mythology, solving riddles intertwined with the city itself. At the same time experience some of the best sights and sounds, buildings and statues, pubs and cafes the city has to offer. The perfect way to explore York.

4) Indulge your sweet-tooth at York’s Chocolate Story

Chocolate. Enough said. Need more convincing? York’s Chocolate Story tells the tale of chocolate, taking you back thousands of years to the discovery of the cocoa bean by Central American tribes, then showing you how this simple bean is transformed into the confectionery we all know and love, before finally giving you a chance to make the stuff yourself. And if this wasn’t enough, it gives you a glimpse into the future too, detailing how the art of chocolate could evolve over the coming decades.

5) Discover archaeological secrets at JORVIK Viking Centre

York’s dedicated Viking Centre is a hall of unexpected delights. Come for the state of the art reproduction of a 10th Century Viking city, stay for the preserved dig site and the fascinating archaeological secrets it holds. This is the only museum where you’ll learn about the lives of people over 1,000 years ago and experience the sights, sounds and the smells of the Viking age.

6) Delve into the history of business at Merchant Adventurers' Hall

Beneath the 14th century oak roof of Merchant Adventurers' Hall, you’ll find a fascinating exhibition on York’s entrepreneurial past. Discover 660 years of merchant history, covering everything from the medieval wool trade, to railways, to York’s 21st century status of a science city.

7) Ride a steam train at Murton Park

York’s very own living museum. Visit working reconstructions of Yorkshire throughout history, from prehistoric settlements, to Roman forts and Viking towns, to Dark Age farmhouses and beyond. Find out how farming has developed and improved from generation to generation and, if that wasn’t enough, top it all off with a ride on the park’s heritage railway.

8) Buy a York Ghost on the famous Shambles

York has the reputation of one of the world’s most haunted cities, so it’s no surprise that its Shambles is full of ghost walks and tales of supernatural horror. One shop, however, has taken a very different approach to the city’s spooky heritage: York Ghost Merchants. Here, it isn’t just tales of ghosts that are for sale, but the ghosts themselves. Continuing in the long, if fictitious, tradition of York’s Sorrowful Master Ghost Makers, they hand-make ghosts in house, a unique keepsake for you to remember the city by.

9) Experience one of Europe’s most celebrated museums at The National Railway Museum

Trains, trains and more trains. With over 100 vehicles on display, from historic steam locomotives to revolutionary bullet trains, this former European Museum Of The Year is a giant of its kind. Ready for a whirlwind tour of everything from 1815 wagonway locomotives to the trains of today? Then what are you waiting for!

10) Uncover the hidden secrets of York Minster

York Minster is as iconic as it is well-known. This doesn’t stop it from having secrets of its own, however. Once you’ve dared the climb up its tower and marvelled at its stained glass windows, be sure to linger a while and check out some of its lesser known treasures. Inside and above the front door are the Semaphore Saints, headless human figures that spell out ‘Christ is here’. Further on in is the ‘Doomstone’, a 12th century monolith depicting deadly sins and the hellish torments they might earn you, and ‘Veteran Miner’, a depiction of a 20th century miner working at Barnsley Main Seam.


Unusual Things To Do Blog

Unusual Things To Do In York: The Pubs

Whilst exploring these unusual things to do in York, why not stop off in a couple of the city’s most unusual drinking holes?

11) Uncover Roman remains at The Roman Bath

This 1920s Tudor Revival pub is a beautiful building in its own right. Its main attraction however lies 15 ft below, in its basement. The pub was unwittingly built on top of the buried remains of an ancient Roman bathhouse. This was discovered in 1930, when a new cellar was being dug. That cellar has since been made into the Roman Bath Museum. History with inbuilt pints!

12) Unleash your inner warrior at Valhalla Viking Pub

A timber-framed drinking hall devoted to the banqueting place of Norse mythology’s fallen heroes, the perfect place to indulge your inner warrior over a horn of mead.

Promotional blog written by Secret City.

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