York's history may be long and varied but its present and future are equally fascinating. This delightful city is a jewel in the north's crown and has long been thought of as one of the cultural capitals of the UK. Having been conquered and fought over by the Romans, the Danes, the Anglo Saxons, and later the Royalists and the Roundheads in the Civil War, York is something of a living museum to this area's storied past. Naturally that means there's a wealth of charming and attractive places to visit that should keep anyone interested in the heritage of old England fascinated for hours.
Almost every visit to York starts with the inimitable Minster. This is the largest medieval cathedral in northern Europe, and almost certainly one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in the world. The architecture on display here is sure to take your breath away, but it's also an ideal example of the ecclesiastical influence on York. For example, the first church here was a simple wooden chapel built in 627 to baptise King Edwin of Northumbria, while later a Roman basilica was built, then a Norman minster in the 11th century, and still later the beginnings of the cathedral we see now. It was built over an exceedingly long period - between 1220 and 1480 to be exact - but this has allowed the church to take in all the major styles in Gothic architectural development.
For another, slightly different taste of York's history, head even further back in time at Jorvik, the city's hands on, immersive experience of all things Viking. With interactive multimedia exhibitions complete with the sights and smells (yes, smells) of 9th century life, this museum is a great hit with children and families, but provides ample distractions for visitors of any age.
In a similar vein to Jorvik, Dig allows visitors to become 'archaeological detectives' by sifting through the York's past, and discovering its many secrets. The most popular museum, however, is the National Railway Museum, which far from being the boring, fusty memorial to the rails that you might imagine is a gleaming homage to one of the modern world's greatest inventions.
Much of the joy of visiting York can be found in simply wandering its crooked alleyways and narrow streets. Surrounded by its very own medieval walls, the city centre has atmosphere oozing from every brick, and nowhere more so than The Shambles. Looking like something out of Harry Potter, The Shambles is a narrow cobblestone lane with overhanging Tudor shopfronts and buildings and is easily one of the most attractive streets in Britain, and almost definitely one of the most visited in Europe.
Not far from The Shambles you'll find Stonegate, another historic, albeit slightly wider, York street which actually lies just six feet above the original Roman road, Via Praetoria, which connected the Roman basilica to the civilian settlement across the River Ouse. Now it is lined with shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants, with St Helen's Square at the end of it, where you'll find the famous Bettys Tea Room.