York has a rich heritage from Roman, Viking and medieval times. There is something for every age and interest, from parks and cobbled streets to railways and museums. The city’s tradition of colorful festivals stretches back to the medieval period and continues the whole year round. Read more about York festivals!
The Jorvik Viking Centre reconstructs city streets as they were during 975 AD. Viking-age timbers excavated from the Coppergate area are used in homes, workshops and backyards. You hear the townspeople speaking in Old Norse and feel a blast of heat from a blacksmith’s fire.
The annual 10-day Jorvik Viking Festival takes place in second week of February at various sites around the city. It is based on the old Viking festival of Jolablot that heralded the coming of spring. Vikings descend on York again with their encampments and saga telling. The festival also features a Viking wedding, combat simulations, longship racing and Viking walks. The Festival’s grande finale is a coronation of a Viking king in York Minster.
June is the time for York’s annual Roman festival. The Romans, led by Julius Caesar, invaded Britain in 55 BC and did not leave until 423 AD. They founded York, calling the city Eboracum, as a military base around 80 AD. They chose the city name after the Celtic term for where yew trees grow. The Romans favoured Yorkshire because of its ample supply of timber.
The festival lasts over three days in mid-June and features children’s events such as Roman ghost walks and troop inspections by the mayor. There are gladiator displays on Peasholme Green, talks about weapons and armour and a slave auction.
Beer and Cider
York’s Beer and Cider Festival is organised in mid-September by the local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). It is held partly on York’s Knavesmire, a marshy area outside the city walls that is popular with dog walkers and partly in York Racecourse. The festival highlights Yorkshire breweries and especially those within 25 miles of York. It also has local food and live music.
The city’s Literature Festival takes place over late March and early April. There are over 50 events, held in York St. John University, the Theatre Royal, Waterstone’s bookshop and many pubs and cafes. There are writing workshops and famous literary figures will come and talk about their work.
York has a long history of confectionery and chocolate making. There were eight confectioners in the city in 1781 when the total number of inhabitants was just 17,000. The nearby Nestle chocolate factory still produces one million Kit Kats, Britain’s favourite chocolate snack, every day. York’s first ever Chocolate Festival will take place over four days in April. This is part of the York 800 celebrations that mark the 800th anniversary of King John granting York a Royal Charter in 1212. The Charter made York a self-governing city.
The Chocolate Festival will focus on local chocolatiers. Shops and York hotels will be filled with delectable chocolates, cakes and deserts. There will be chocolate tastings, workshops, Easter-egg hunts and lectures on the history of chocolate making. Yorkshire chocolate traders will set up their stalls along Parliament Street.