There’s plenty of things York is famous for, many of which make it arguably on of the best uni cities to live in. Whether you’re a fresher, a seasoned postgrad, or somewhere in between, there’s no denying that we’re studying in one of the coolest cities in the UK. But what exactly makes York so special? We’ve found 20 things that make York famous and unique so you’ll have even more reason to brag about it to mates and family back home.

1. Historic walls

historic walls - what is York famous for

York’s Ancient Roots York isn’t just old; it’s like stepping into a time machine. Founded by the Romans, taken over by the Vikings, and home to one of the most significant cathedrals in medieval Europe, York is a history buff’s dream. The city walls, which you’ve probably walked (or staggered) along at some point, are the best-preserved in England. And let’s not forget the Jorvik Viking Centre, where you can literally smell the Viking era (it’s a bit funky, but totally worth it).

2. The iconic York Minster

York minister is an iconic building that makes York famous

This isn’t just any old cathedral. York Minster is one of the largest and most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe. Whether you’re religious or not, this place is awe-inspiring. The stained glass, the stone masterpieces, and the view from the top (if you can handle the 275 steps) are mind-blowing. It’s a must-visit, even if it’s just to get that perfect Instagram shot. It’s what York is known and famous for, so you need to get that snap.

3. The Shambles

The Shambles in York

Harry Potter Vibes Much? Walking down The Shambles, you might feel like you’ve wandered onto the set of a Harry Potter movie. This super old street, with its overhanging timber-framed buildings, is rumoured to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley. It’s quirky, it’s cute, and it’s packed with cool little shops and eateries.

4. A city of festivals

York Viking Festival
Source: York Viking Festival Facebook

York loves a good festival. From the Viking Festival to the Food and Drink Festival, there’s always something going on. It’s a great way to experience the city’s culture, try some amazing food, and, let’s be honest, find an excuse to procrastinate from studying.

5. Ghosts and ghouls

York haunted places - what is York famous for

Europe’s Most Haunted City Fancy a scare? York is reputedly the most haunted city in Europe. Ghost tours are a rite of passage here. They’re fun, freaky, and a great way to learn about the city’s darker history. Plus, it’s a good excuse to cling onto someone if you’re on a date!

6. Green spaces

Rowntree Park York - best parks in the city
Source: Wikicommons, Dashwortley

Need a break from the library? York is packed with beautiful green spaces. From the Museum Gardens to Rowntree Park, there are plenty of spots to relax, have a picnic, or just catch up on some reading in the sun.

7. The student scene

what is york famous for - students living in the city

Let’s not forget about us – the students. York’s student scene is buzzing. With loads of student-friendly pubs, clubs, and cafes, there’s always somewhere to hang out, meet new people, and enjoy student deals. If you’re still not convinced, read about our pick of the best student bars in York.

8. The River Ouse

The River Ouse, York

York’s River Ouse isn’t just a pretty backdrop for our city; it’s a living, flowing part of York’s charm. Whether you’re up for a leisurely boat ride, keen on some riverside dining, or just fancy a tranquil walk along the water, the Ouse offers a peaceful escape from the hustle of uni life. And for the more adventurous, there’s always the option of kayaking or rowing to get a different view of the city.

9. The railway heritage

National Railway Museum what is York known for
Source: National Railway Museum Facebook

Did you know York is a major railway hub with a rich history in train travel? The National Railway Museum here is not just what York is famous for in the past, but it’s actually pretty interesting to see it’s massive collection of trains, including the famous Mallard and a replica of the first-ever steam locomotive. Plus, it’s free entry – a student’s favourite price!

10. The unique York accent

As a student in York, you’ll quickly become familiar with the distinctive York accent. It’s part of the city’s charm and identity. The accent here is a warm, Northern lilt that you’ll hear in the streets, in the pubs, and in the markets. It’s a reminder that you’re in a city with its own unique character and history. Listening to locals converse is not just an auditory experience but a cultural one. The way people speak here is tied to York’s identity, from its Viking roots to its medieval heritage

11. The chocolate heritage

What is York famous for? Terry's Chocolate Orange
Source: Wikicommons, Evan Amos

York’s sweet history is one of its best features. This city was the birthplace of some of the world’s most famous chocolate brands, like Rowntree’s and Terry’s. The Chocolate Story in the city centre is a deliciously interactive experience that tells the tale of York’s chocolate-making history. It’s a must for anyone with a sweet tooth.

12. The quirky independent shops

independent, vintage and charity shops

Beyond the usual high street stores, York is brimming with unique, independent shops. From vintage clothing stores to quirky gift shops, there’s always something interesting to find. These shops add to the city’s charm and character, making shopping here a unique experience.

13. The University of York

University of York
Source: University of York

We can’t talk about York without mentioning its academic prowess. The University of York, with its excellent reputation and beautiful campus, is a big part of what makes this city special. It’s a place where innovation, research, and learning come together, creating an inspiring environment for us students.

14. Judi Dench

Judi Dench - what is York famous for? famous people from York
Source: Wikicommons, Caroline Bonarde Ucci

She might be down in the MI16 in London, but Dame Judi Dench is actually from York. She also went to York School of Art before heading down south to become one of the most respected and popular actresses.

15. The iconic Betty’s Tea Room

Betty's Tea Room York
Source: Bettys York Facebook

No student’s experience in York is complete without a visit to Betty’s. This iconic tea room, with its traditional English charm, offers the quintessential afternoon tea experience. From mouth-watering cakes to the classic Yorkshire Tea, it’s a taste of old-school British elegance that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s also one of the best brunches in York so make sure you head down there ready to feast!

16. The markets

Jubbergate entrance to Shambles Market, York
Source: Wikicommons, Richard Vince

York’s markets are a hub of activity and a great place to grab a bargain. The Shambles Market, located in the heart of the city, is a vibrant mix of food, crafts, and everyday essentials. It’s perfect for a budget-friendly shopping trip or just to soak up the lively atmosphere.

17. The York Maze

York Maze what is York famous for?
Source: York Maze Facebook

Just outside the city, the York Maze offers a fun-filled day out. Made from over one million maize plants, it’s one of the largest mazes in the world. It’s not just about getting lost in the maze; there are rides, attractions, and live shows – a great escape from the stress of studying. Just to note – the maze is normally open during the summer so make sure you check opening dates and times before hand.

18. The historical pubs and breweries

Guy Fawkes Inn famous pubs in York
Source: Guy Fawkes Inn Facebook

York is home to some of the oldest pubs in the UK, each with its own story. The unique and historical pubs, like the Guy Fawkes Inn or The Golden Fleece, offer a cosy atmosphere to enjoy a pint. Plus, the city’s breweries often offer tours and tastings – perfect for beer enthusiasts.

19. The York Dungeon

York Dungeon - famous things about York
Source: York Dungeon Facebook

For a mix of history and horror, the York Dungeon is a thrilling experience. It brings the darker side of York’s past to life with actors, special effects, and gripping storytelling. It’s a fun and slightly terrifying way to learn about the city’s history.

20. The architecture

Clifford's Tower, York famous architecture

Beyond the Minster, York is filled with architectural marvels. From the medieval Clifford’s Tower to the Baroque masterpiece that is Fairfax House, the city is a living museum of architectural styles. It’s a constant reminder of the city’s ability to preserve its heritage while evolving with the times.

So, there you have it – 20 reasons that show just what York is famous for. They show why York is not just a place to study, but a place to live, explore, and fall in love with. From its historical roots to its vibrant modern culture, York offers a unique experience that you, as a student, get to enjoy every day. Make the most of it, and let this historic city be the backdrop to some of your best university memories.