25 things you won’t know about York unless you’ve lived there

Forget the guide books – adopted local Joel Draba-Mann reels off 25 surprising things you won’t know about York unless you’ve lived there.


[Flickr/CC – savagecats]

Whip-ma-Whop-ma-Gate. That’s right. Such a long name for a tiny street. The length of the road actually encompasses only a few metres of pavement along a nearby wall – and it’s one of the smallest streets in the country.

It’s got more ludicrous tours than any other UK city

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The Plague tour perhaps? Bloody Execution anyone? Or maybe the Historic Toilet Tour will be more to your liking… (website)

It’s popular with ghosts, allegedly…

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Sporting a grand total of 504 officially recorded hauntings, York proudly holds the title of most haunted city in Europe. A bustling capital of the paranormal world then… (website)

You can prepare for a nuclear fall-out

Cold War Bunker

There’s a Cold War bunker – built in the ’60s to monitor atomic explosions and fallout in the event of a Yorkshire-based nuclear war. Fortunately that hasn’t happened yet, so you can now pay a few quid to have a walk about this semi-subterranean hideout. (website)

It’s like Trainspotting, only different…

The famous Shinkansen line bullet train now resides in the National Railway Museum. Capable of 150mph back in its day, this speed-demon has since retired from service, but still attracts trainspotters the world over. (website)

You can brush up on your quilt knowledge

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Ever had an insatiable desire to know more about quilts? Well, the York Quilt Museum is the place for you – brimming with wonders from the world of blankets, and enough textiles to last any budding bedding enthusiast a lifetime. (website)

It’s a chocaholic’s heaven

Willy Wonka

The city was the birthplace of Rowntree’s and home of the confectionary giant until its merger with Nestle in 1982. Anyone with a sweet tooth can now take a tour of the old factory works, visit York’s Chocolate Museum or observe chocolate being made at York’s Cocoa House cafe. If you’re feeling brave, try the cafe’s infamous 100% pure cocoa hot chocolate. (website)

You’ll find (more than one) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

There are 25 cat statues hidden on rooftops throughout the city centre. For some reason. See if you can spot them all – but remember to look where you’re going once in awhile as you gaze up towards the sky.

Remember, remember the 5th of November…

guy fawkes

York was the childhood home of iconic revolutionary Guy Fawkes. Visit his birthplace on Stonegate, or the themed Guy Fawkes Inn just down the way. (website)

You can drive a Lamborghini

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Take the wheel of a luxury sports-car as part of the 6th Gear Experience at Elvington Airfield. If Lamborghinis aren’t your style, you can also book in for a session in a Ferrari, Audi or Aerial Atom. (website)

You can visit the grave of Dick Turpin

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The infamous highwayman now resides in St. Georges’ Graveyard on Fishergate following his execution in York. Don’t believe anyone who tells you he is buried with his horse however…

You can ruin your liver

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York, supposedly, has 365 pubs. That’s a watering hole for every day of the year – though we doubt your constitution would make it past that far, so here are 10 of the best.

You can walk the butcher’s road

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Many people have heard of The Shambles, the oldest road in York. Yet what people don’t know is that “Shambles” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “Fleshammels” literally meaning, Flesh Shelves. So called because the road is the former epicentre of York’s butchering trade, with as many as 25 stores on this street alone.

Eternal love can be sealed with a kiss

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Kissing your S.O. beneath the western window of York Minster is supposed to mean that you’ll remain together for eternity. Look up and see the ‘Heart of Yorkshire’ within the beautiful stained glass. Just make sure you don’t make any wrong decisions here…

What is love? Baby don’t hurt me…

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Staying with the theme of love, York Castle Museum sports the largest collection of historic Valentine’s Day cards in the world. It also contains the oldest recorded Valentine’s Day card, sent in 1797 by a Catherine Mossday to Mr. Brown. How sweet. Wonder if they’re still together? (website)

B&B with some nuns

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York is home to the oldest functioning convent in the UK: The Bar Convent. Here you can check in for a night and have breakfast and board with the resident religious community. (website)

B&B with some ghosts

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If the idea of a sleepover with nuns scares you – then how about staying the night with a bunch of ghouls? The Golden Fleece and The Black Swan, two of the most haunted establishments in the nation, both offer paranormal B&B experiences. Visit at your peril… (Golden Fleece / Black Swan)

A ‘haunted funeral bus’ roams the streets

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Talking of ghosts, why not take a ride on York’s very own haunted funeral bus? Spot the black bus, adorned with horrific charms and statues, making its way around town, luring in unsuspecting tourists who are never heard from again…

Selfies with a Stormtrooper are on the cards

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The city’s most famous street performer is straight from the set of Star Wars. Have your photo with the guy, who is sometimes seen hanging around with other sci-fi stars, Predator and Yoda.

It’s where the Strictly craze began…

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Once of the city’s most iconic buildings holds the record of being the oldest custom-built dance hall remaining in the UK. It’s now home to an Italian restaurant however – so throwing shapes may be frowned upon.

It’s been the hometown of many famous faces

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Along with Guy Fawkes, York has also gifted us the likes of actress Dame Judi Dench, politician Vince Cable and ex-England manager Steve McClaren.

It has its own music festival

Leeds may get all the attention, but York’s one day music extravaganza YO1 occurs in May of every year, and has been graced by acts like Sub Focus and De La Soul. Every year it gets bigger and better as more hear about this relatively new event, so expect 2015 to be even grander than the last. (website)

You can check out Betty’s Mirror


Everyone’s heard of Betty’s tearoom (the queues often run round the block for hours at a time). But what many don’t know however is the story behind Betty’s Mirror. This looking glass is covered with the signatures of service airmen, who visited the cafe following the outbreak of WWII. Interestingly, no one actually knows who Betty is… (website)

You can wear a Kigu all day long

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Everyone remembers the weird and wonderful societies from their student days – but how about checking out KiguSoc? Dedicated to the procurement and wearing of the Japanese equivalent to Onesies, it’s probably one of the more oddball clubs on show at the city’s University. (website)

It’s the sound of da Police…

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York Minster is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, filled with the hustle and bustle of jostling tourists. Order is needed here – and the York Minster Police Force provide that. Yep, the cathedral has its own specialist police force consisting of 1o members. Nowadays, they mainly act as Minster custodians, but they still have the power to arrest would be wrongdoers.

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