York Metro Map
SIGHTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
The best introduction to York is the 4km walk along its medieval walls. Beware of the tourist stampede, which slows only in the early morning and just before the walls and gates close at dusk. A free 2hr. walking tour is offered daily by the Association of Voluntary Guides ( 630 284); tours leave from the York City Art Gallery, across from the tourist office. Everything in York converges at the EYork Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in Britain. If the interior seems to glitter, it’s because an estimated half of all the medieval stained glass in England lines the walls; the Great East Window depicts the beginning and end of the world in over 100 scenes. Climb the 275 steps to the top of Central Tower for a view over York’s rooftops. (Cathedral open daily 9:30am-6:30pm. £2.50, children £1.) After having seen the heights of the Minster, check out its depths. The Undercroft, Treasury, and Crypt are filled with interesting sights, including the spot where Constantine the Great was proclaimed emperor and the 12th-century Doomstone upon which the cathedral was built. (Open daily 9:30am-6:30pm. £2.50, concessions £1.50.)
The HiYork Castle Museum, at the Eye of York, between Tower St. and Pica-dilly St. is arguably Britain’s premier museum dedicated to everyday life. It contains Kirkgate, an intricately reconstructed Victorian shopping street complete with carriage, and Half Moon Court, its Edwardian counterpart. (Open daily 9:30am-5pm. £6, concessions £3.50.) The Jorvik Viking Centre, on Copper-gate, is one of the busiest places in York; visit early or late to avoid lines, or call at least 24hr. in advance. Visitors pass through the York of AD 948 in floating time cars, past authentic artifacts, eerily life-like mannequins, and painfully accurate smells. ( 643 211. For advance booking, call 543 403; M-F 9am-5pm. Open Apr.-Oct. daily 9am-5:30pm; Nov.-Mar. daily 10am-4:30pm. £7.20, concessions £6.10.) Hidden within the four gorgeous hectares of the Museum Gardens, the Yorkshire Museum presents Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Viking artifacts, as well as the £2.5 million Middleham Jewel from circa 1450. In the gardens, peacocks strut among the haunting ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, once the most influential Benedictine monastery in northern England. (Enter from Museum St. or Marygate. Open daily 10am-5pm. £4, students £2.50, families £10. Gardens and abbey free.) Clifford’s Tower, Tower St. is one of the last remaining pieces of York Castle, and a chilling reminder of the worst outbreak of anti-Semitic violence in English History. In 1190, Christian merchants tried to erase their debts by destroying York’s Jewish community. 150 Jews took refuge in the tower, where faced with the prospect of starvation or butchery they committed mass suicide. The wall walk provides information on the pogrom and the history of the castle. (Open July-Aug. daily 9am-7pm; Sept. and Apr.-June 10am-6pm; Oct. 10am-5pm; Nov.-Mar. 10am-4pm. £2.50, concessions £2.)
The monthly What’s On and Artscene guides, available at the tourist office, publish info on live music, theater, cinema, and exhibitions. In King’s Square and on Stonegate, barbershop quartets share the pavement with jugglers, magicians, and politicians. The Gallery, 12 Clifford St. has two dance floors and six bars. (Cover £1.50-7.50. Open daily 9:30pm-2:30am.) The excellent Toff’s, 3-5 Toft Green, plays mainly house and dance music. (No sneakers. Cover £3.50-7. Open M-Sa 9pm-2am. Gay-friendly Alternative Sundays 9pm-lam.) Fibber’s, Stonebow House, the Stonebow, has quality live music playing nightly at 8pm. In July, the York Early Music Festival celebrates composer Henry Purcell ( 658 338).
DAYTRIP FROM YORK
CASTLE HOWARD. The Baroque Castle Howard, still inhabited by the Howard family, presides over four square kilometers of stunning grounds that teem with gardens, fountains, and lakes. The Castle made its TV debut in the BBC adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. The long gallery provides a dazzling and dwarfing promenade between enormous windows and shelves stuffed with books. Be sure to see the domed Temple of the Four Winds, with a hilltop perch that offers views of grassy fields, still waters, and lazy cows.
The castle is located 24km northeast of York. Yorkshire Coastliner bus #840 runs to the castle once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and bus #842 takes passengers back twice in the afternoon (40min. round-trip £4.40). Reduced admission with bus ticket, (a1 (01653) 648 333. Castle open mid-Feb. to Nov. daily 11am-4:30pm. Gardens open daily 10am-6:30pm. Both £9, concessions £8. Gardens only £6.)