Top 10 totally awesome facts about York (that you never knew!)

Pinterest image of old ruins of a catholic church in York with Mel stood in front of it wearing a black coat and glasses with the text: "Top 10 totally awesome facts about York (that you never knew!)"

Top 10 totally awesome facts about York (that you never knew!)

Steeped in history and brimming with timeless charm, York stands as a living testament to centuries of captivating stories. Nestled in the heart of England, this city wears its medieval past with pride, inviting modern explorers to uncover its rich heritage. Delve into the mysteries and marvels that make York an unmissable destination for history enthusiasts and curious wanderers alike. Here are the top 10 most awesome facts about York (that you never knew!).


1) York used to be the capital of Roman Britain

That’s right! York was established as a Roman settlement in AD 71 and named ‘Eboracum’. It served as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior and became a hub for military, political and economic activities.

Cooler still, several Roman emperors including, Septimius Severus and Constantius Chlorus made York their imperial headquarters during their campaigns in northern Britain!

The city’s Roman roots are still evident today with archaeological remains and sites offering glimpses into its ancient past.

You can learn more about York’s history on the York Walking Tour. This is also a great way to see some of the highlights of the city in one go too!

Roman walls in York with the old cathedral in the background
Roman walls protecting the settlement of York

2) York was the capital of a Viking Kingdom in the 9th and 10th centuries

During the Viking Age, York was known as ‘Jorvik’, and was a significant Viking settlement in the 9th and 10th centuries. The Norse Vikings invaded and captured the city in 866 AD and it became a major trading and cultural centre.

The archaeological site of Jorvik (now the Jorvik Viking Centre today!), offers amazing insights into Viking life in York. Excavations in the late 20th century uncovered a wealth of artefacts and structures providing an important glimpse into the daily activities, crafts and trade of the Viking residents.

I highly recommend visiting the Jorvik Viking Centre if you’ve never been! It allows you to explore the reconstructed Viking settlement and learn more about York’s Viking history, which is so cool!

You can visit the Jorvik Viking Centre for free with a York City Pass. The pass also gives you access to 20 attractions for one great price!

A small group of vikings running angrily with weapons out of a boat in water

3) The Shambles in York is one of the oldest and best preserved medieval streets in europe

The Shambles is widely considered one of the oldest and best-preserved medieval streets in Europe. The street retains much of its historical character with many of its buildings dating as far back as the 14th century!

The street features narrow, cobbled lanes, overhanging timber-framed buildings, and a unique atmosphere that transports visitors back in time. It’s just incredible to walk along it!

The Shambles has a rich history and has served various purposes over the centuries, including as a street of butchers’ shops during medieval times.

Today, it’s a popular tourist destination, known for its charming architecture, independent shops and vibrant atmosphere.

The street’s historical significance has contributed to its preservation, making it an amazing time capsule of medieval urban architecture and design.

You can learn more about the history of the Shambles on the York Walking Tour. It’s also a great way to get to know the city in more depth!

Medieval main street in York, UK with brown facades, windows and signs which looks like Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter film series

4) The Shambles was also one of the inspirations for diagon Alley

This is such an awesome fact about The Shambles it needed to have its own moment on this facts about York list!

If it looked familiar you now know why! The Shambles was in fact one of the real-life inspirations for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books!

J.K. Rowling visited York in the 1990s, and the unique, medieval charm of The Shambles is said to have left quite an impression on her!

You’ll get to see and learn more about York’s influence on the wizarding world if you go on the Harry Potter Walking Tour. But I highly recommend taking some time to browse around all the Harry Potter shops down this magical street afterwards!

Mel stepping out of the 'Shop that must not be named' grabbing a broom from outside down The Shambles in York

5) The legendary highwayman Dick Turpin is said to be buried in St. George’s Churchyard

Richard “Dick” Turpin was a notorious English highwayman and thief who lived during the 18th century.

He was executed in York in 1739 for horse theft but was not known for being a particularly successful or romanticised highwayman during his lifetime!

The exact location of Dick Turpin’s grave continues to be a subject of debate, speculation and mystery. Some accounts suggest he was buried in an unmarked grave whilst others claim he was buried elsewhere nearby.

You can learn more about York’s dark history on the York Dark History Walking Tour.

View of York from above the Cathedral with trees and rows of old buildings

6) York is the most haunted city in Europe

In 2022, York was declared “the most haunted city in Europe” thanks to its long dark history of bloody battles, torture, witches, murder and plague. It even beat out London, Edinburgh, Dublin and Transylvania!

There are over 500 recorded hauntings in York with ghost stories in the thousands! Which has led to it sometimes being called the ‘City of 1000 Ghosts’.

You can learn more about York’s dark history on the York Dark History Walking Tour.

I also recommend the York Ghost Bus Comedy Tour which I went on during my last trip. You tour York in a gothic double decker bus and hear all the classic ghoulish stories but in a more fun and campy way!

Clifford's Tower at night with the moon bright behind it

7) The infamous Guy Fawkes was born in York

Guy Fawkes was born on April 13, 1570, in Stonegate, York. He became infamous for his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 as many will know!

Fawkes and his co-conspirators aimed to protest against the persecution of Catholics in England. The plan was to assassinate King James I and blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament.

However, Fawkes was caught red-handed and the first of the plotters to be arrested. He was executed for treason on 31st January, 1606.

Ever since then, Fawkes’ effigy has been burned on Bonfire Night on 5th November to celebrate the thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot. But the night has since evolved into more of a festive gathering with fireworks.

A plaque on the wall in Stonegate still commemorates his birth. Whilst the building he was born in is now the historic Guy Fawkes Inn!

Large bonfire with a crowd of people in front of it

8) York Minster is one of only seven cathedrals in the world with its own police force

York Minster is one of the largest and most impressive cathedrals in Northern Europe!

Construction started in 1220 and took a staggering 250 years to finish! It’s one of the many highlights of visiting historical York.

York Minster is renowned for its stunning gothic architecture. Its features include intricate stonework, pointed arches, soaring spires and the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world!

But what many people don’t know is that York Minster is one of only seven cathedrals in the world with its own police force!

The existence of a dedicated police force for a cathedral is relatively unusual. However, York Minster attracts so many visitors from all over the world, Minster Police are in place to ensure the safety of visitors, staff and the historical property itself.

You can learn more about the history of York Minster on the York Walking Tour. Alternatively, you can enter for free with a York City Pass.

Gothic cathedral in York

9) York has some of the most complete medieval city walls in England

York’s medieval walls have encircled two miles of its city centre for over 2,000 years!

The well-preserved state of York’s medieval city walls truly contributes to the city’s charm and is a reminder of its rich history.

What’s more, walking the walls allows visitors to step back in time and appreciate the architectural and historical legacy of the city.

One of the walls’ most well-known features is Micklegate Bar which is one of four main medieval gateways into York. It’s now a popular tourist spot but the gateway was once a place where heads were impaled on spikes!

People were hung, drawn and quartered for being traitors and rebels! The heads would remain in place for years, no doubt gradually disintegrating on passers-by. Yikes!

You can learn more about York’s dark history like that of Micklegate Bar on the York Dark History Walking Tour.

Mel walking under Micklegate in York a large medieval structure with arches for cars to pass

10) York is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the UK

Being famous for Sunday roasts and Yorkshire puddings, you wouldn’t immediately think of York as a vegan-friendly destination. But! With 4.63 vegan restaurants for every 15,000 residents, York has become one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the UK!

A popular vegan restaurant in York is The Orchid Vegan Restaurant which provides a vast array of vegan Chinese dishes.

In addition to this, there’s the Goji Cafe Vegetarian Cafe & Deli and Doner Summer which I personally recommend to vegan travellers!

Vegan fish and chips with mushy peas in a pot

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Which facts about York were your favourite? 😊

Quick FYI guys – this ‘Facts about York’ post contains affiliate links to various tours and products. I will receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. Furthermore, thanks so much for your support!

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