10 Things You Might Not Know About York
1. York is home to one of the largest Railway Museums in the world.
With a collection of over 1 million objects spanning 300 years including the only Japanese Bullet ‘Shinkansen’ train outside of Japan and legendary speed record-breaker the Mallard.
The Railway Museum has a dedicated conference centre, and after hours the museum’s halls also provide an inspiring backdrop for events, parties and gala dinners for up to 600 people. Dine amongst the locomotives and inspire your guests with examples of human endeavour and achievement.
2. Some of the best-known names in chocolate began life in York.
Rowntree’s created KitKat, Smarties and Aero, while Terry’s came up with the Chocolate Orange. Around 5 million KitKats are still produced by Nestle every day in York.
Discover more of the city’s chocolate heritage with a private tour or reception at York’s Chocolate Story or explore contemporary chocolate-making at York Cocoa Works.
3. The iconic York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.
This medieval marvel took 250 years to build, from 1220 to its consecration in 1472.
The Chapter House is an architectural gem dating from the 1280s. Its magnificent, vaulted ceiling is supported by timbers in the roof, instead of a central column, and is the earliest example of its kind to use this revolutionary engineering technique. It provides an awe-inspiring setting for evening drinks receptions and presentations.
4. At 3.4 km long, York’s City Walls are the longest and best-preserved medieval town walls in England.
The full circuit contains four main ‘bars’ (fortified gateways), other smaller towers and details like arrow slits, musket loops, sculptures and masons' marks – as well as great views of many of York’s landmarks.
Walking around the walls is a fun way to explore the city. Find a map and further info here for a self-guided stroll or book a group walking tour.
5. The photogenic Shambles is believed to be the oldest shopping street in Europe.
It even got a mention in the Domesday Book of 1086. The restored buildings now house cheerful cafés and quirky boutiques. Named ‘most picturesque street in Britain’ in the Google Street View Awards, the cobbled street is believed to have been the inspiration behind Diagon Alley from the film adaptation of the Harry Potter series.
Explore the magical wizard-themed shops, mix a potion at The Potions Cauldron, and don’t forget to perfect your pose for this popular stop on the York Selfie Trail.
6. York was named Europe’s most haunted city in 2002 by the International Ghost Research Foundation.
Treasurer’s House has featured in the Guinness Book of Records for having the ‘Ghosts of Greatest Longevity’: built over the main Roman thoroughfare leading into York, the house was the site of a remarkable apparition in the 1950s when ghostly centurions wandered through the cellar along the Roman road.
Discover more of York’s spooky stories on a ghost walk, or book a tour of the York Dungeon, where immersive sets and incredible actors allow you to see, hear, smell and feel York's darkest history.
7. Grays Court is the oldest inhabited house in York.
Built in 1080 as the residence of the Treasurer of York Minster. The Grade I-listed building is now a luxurious 12-bedroom boutique hotel and winner of ‘Small Hotel of the Year’ in the Visit England Awards 2020.
Grays Court has a variety of spaces for private events, such as the landscaped garden overlooking the medieval bar walls and the Jacobean oak-panelled Long Gallery for drinks receptions, or enjoy The Bow Room Restaurant’s innovative menus of locally and sustainably grown food.
8. Fairfax House is the finest Georgian town house in England.
A classical architectural masterpiece of its age, its richly decorated interior was designed by York’s most distinguished eighteenth-century architect, John Carr, and is a popular film location - as seen recently in the BBC’s Gentleman Jack series.
Fairfax House can also be hired for private dining and receptions. Entertain guests with a private tour of the house, and let the house transport you to the grandeur of ‘polite society’ in eighteenth century York.
9. York Racecourse is one of the leading racecourses in the world.
In 2019 it won ‘Best Racecourse in Britain’ voted for by the members of the Racegoers Club – the 10th occasion York has won this award. York Races run from May to October, attracting thousands of visitors each year.
York Racecourse is also a popular venue for events, conferences and gala dinners.
10. The Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre is England's oldest living convent.
Founded in 1686, it was one of the earliest educational establishments for young women in the UK, the Grade I-listed building is still home to a community of sisters today.
An interactive exhibition shares the stories and secrets of the building and its inhabitants, and the Bar Convent also houses modern meeting rooms as well as a guesthouse, café and garden.