10 exciting things you didn’t know about York!

10 exciting things you didn’t know about York!
My pork pie in York! ©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner

Isn’t the North of England just so interesting?

If you’re just tuning in, I’ve just returned from visiting the UK and travelling around Cheshire, Staffordshire, Manchester, Blackpool, Derbyshire and Yorkshire! And Liverpool!

I love living in Germany, but I also very much enjoy visiting my home-country of England and showing my German-British family, the country of my birth!

Here’s what you missed:

Ground-breaking stuff!

And of course, if you want to read about Scotland and other British things, just follow the link here!

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A fishing village in Yorkshire!

Yorkshire, otherwise known as Yorks or the County of York, is a county in Northern England, and the largest in the UK!

Within the borders of the historic county of Yorkshire, are areas which are widely considered to be among the greenest in England, due to the vast stretches of unspoilt countryside in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors!

The emblem of Yorkshire is the White Rose, of the royal English House of York.

The War of the Roses – Elizabeth & Edward IV – The White Queen

If you are versed in English history, you’d know well the Wars of the Roses between the two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster – a red rose – and the House of York – a white rose. If you enjoy watching British cultural dramas, you might recognise the name in the wonderful BBC TV series – The White Queen!

I have happy childhood memories of camping in the Yorkshire Dales, but this time we visited the lovely historical city of York!

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The Tall Young Gentleman in York, for the very first time!

Ha! Ha! Ha!

You won’t believe it, but before this visit, I had never previously been to York!

I know!

How to spend 48 astonishing hours in Lucerne, otherwise known as Luzern – On a budget!

It’s as bad as when I didn’t go to Switzerland, even though Switzerland is literally next door!

We used VIP press passes in order to experience the attractions of the York Pass.

In order to rectify this, I reached out to the very nice people at Visit York, and they were great! We used VIP press passes in order to experience the attractions of the York Pass.

We visited many important historical attractions, and I’ll be writing about them in the following weeks!

Thanks so much!

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It's embarrassing! I had never previously been to York, but that all changed!
It’s embarrassing! I had never previously been to York, but that all changed!

We were travelling with The Tall Young Gentleman, and when travelling with a teenager in tow, you have to spend time doing more exciting things!

So we did.

Here are some of them below:

  1.   Diagon Alley is in York!
An illustration of Diagon Alley ©Pottermore

I’m a huge Harry Potter fan.

No really!

So I was amazed to walk down a narrow street in York that looked an awful lot like Diagon Alley!

Victoria outside the real Diagon Alley – York!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner
The real Diagon Alley – York
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner

It was!

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Harry Potter franchise films was inspired by this very same street, and copied almost to the letter! Not only that, but there’s a recently opened shop on the Shambles called The Shop That Must Not Be Named!


The North York Moors Steam Railway was actually the location of the very first Harry Potter film! Once you see for yourself, you’ll be in doubt that you’re in the world of Harry Potter!


Diagon Alley – The Shop That Must Not Be Named – the Shambles – York
©Monica Harmony

Note: The crowds are huge, and the street is quite narrow, so watch your handbag and wallets, queue smartly, and elbows at the ready!

2.   York is a Viking city.

Return of the Vikings ©JORVIK Viking Centre

York was once dominated by the Norse warrior kings and known as Jórvík!

As far back as 866, the south of Northumbria – otherwise known as modern-day Yorkshire – was invaded and conquered by fierce Norsemen from Scandinavia. Previously before that, York was the pre-Roman Anglo-Saxon trading port, known as Eoforwic!

The JORVIK Viking Centre was created to show visitors the sights, sounds and even the smells of York or Jorvik, and what it was like in AD960!

We decided to find out!

Experience the ‘time capsule’ at the recreated Coppergate JORVIK Viking Centre – York!
©Anthony Chappel-Ross

We used the York Pass.

There are great artefacts and exhibits and depending on the time of year, performances, but the bit that we liked the best, was the seating in a ‘time capsule’ which transports visitors around the basement. There’s a touch screen display so that you can choose your own language, and off you go.

Some of the animatronic models were so realistic, it was difficult to know if they were actors or plastic!
© JORVIK Viking Centre

It reminded me a little of the York Dungeon where the actors pop up surprisingly!

In fact, some of the animatronic models were so realistic that it was sometimes difficult to know if they were actors or plastic! At one point, we almost got the scare of our life when one of the “models” picked a piece of fish up. She was real!

Note: Queues at the JORVIK Viking Centre are long. Pre-book your time slot if you can.

Cost: Adults – £10.25. Children ages 5-16 – £7.25. York Pass holders – £0.00 – Included in the price. Most importantly, if you live in the UK or visit the UK on a regular basis, there is free admission for 12 months included in your ticket, so don’t throw it away!

3.   York is one of the oldest cities in the UK!

The plaque on Bootham Bar, shows the history of York City Wall – York!

York is a historic city, and like Chester, is also a walled one!

York has a rich heritage and has been around for more than 2,000 years!

It was previously an Anglo-Saxon trading port known as Eoforwic, and then became more established under the Romans. In 71 AD, it was known as Eboracum!

As far back as 866, the south of Northumbria – otherwise known as modern-day Yorkshire – was invaded and conquered by fierce Norsemen from Scandinavia, which is present day Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, known as Jórvík!

Outside Monks Bar – York City Wall – York!

In medieval times, York became a most important political region via the House of York and an even more important religious symbol from which people did pilgrimages, and the seat of the Archbishop of York since AD 735!

By the 19th & 20th century, York was part of the Industrial Revolution that would turn the fortunes of Britain forever!

4.   York and chocolate are one and the same!

York and chocolate are one & the same – Chocolate all over!

If you thought chocolate was the preserve of the Americas, you’re very wrong! We went to the York Castle Museum and discovered the history of making chocolate, at the new exhibit Chocolate: York’s Sweet Past. We had contemplated on visiting the York’s Chocolate Story too, but figured it would pretty much be the same, and anyway, I don’t like chocolate, ‘cos it takes like coffee!

I don’t like coffee either!

Rowntree’s Cocoa advertisement – York ©York Castle Museum

The story of chocolate in York can be summarised as Rowntrees (otherwise known as Nestle), Tuke, Craven, and Terry’s (otherwise known as Kraft), and began in York 300 years ago!

The world’s first chocolate bar ever made was in 1847, in Bristol, by Joseph Fry! After that came our most beloved John Cadbury (1849) of Cadbury’s milk chocolate fame, in Birmingham!

The first succesful chocolate bar to be launched in York was Kit Kat in 1935 by Rowntree, and it’s still the biggest seller of chocolate bars today!

However, the chocolate that I can just about tolerate is an English milk chocolate bar.

Even better, if there’s no cocoa in it. At all!

Cost: Adults – £9.09. Children 16 and under – free, with a paying adult. York Pass holders – £0.00 – Included in the price.

5.   York has the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe!

York Minster – the largest Gothic cathedral in North Europe – York!

York Minster is 800 years old, took 250 years to build – from 1220 to 1472 – and is home to almost 2,000 years of the most important and irreplaceable art, of the medieval art movement!

It’s also the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe!

York Minster – the largest Gothic cathedral in North Europe – York!

We’re not religious people, but we enjoyed a splendid time going from floor to floor. My husband and son also went up the 275 steps and 230 foot, winding Central Tower – the highest point of York – and were rewarded with breathtaking views over York. There’s even a museum – the Undercroft – in the basement!

A side view of York Minster – York

We spent a little over three (3) hours at the Cathedral, and could quite happily have spent much more!

Cost: Combined Ticket (Minster cathedral and Tower) Adults – £15.00. Children under 16 – free, with a paying adult. York Pass holders – £0.00 – Included in the price. Note: To climb the tower kids must be 8+ Most importantly, if you live in the UK or visit the UK on a regular basis, there is free admission for 12 months included in your ticket, so don’t throw it away!

6.   Guy Fawkes was born in York. Or was he!

Guy Fawkes was a Catholic rebel who had planned to assassinate King James I & blow up parliament!

Guy Fawkes was a Catholic rebel who had planned to assassinate King James I, in order to restore a Catholic monarch, to the English throne.

Thankfully, the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 – in which he planned to blow up Parliament at Westminster Palace – was a disaster and everyone was discovered…

Guy Fawkes was born in Stonegate – York

Legend states that Guy Fawkes was born in Stonegate – York, and records confirm that he did indeed go to school there, but there is much speculation as to how he died.

Some say he was questioned, tortured, and eventually hung, drawn, and quartered. Others say, he fell from the hangman’s scaffold, and broke his neck!


Since 1605, every English school child knows the song:

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot!

A burning effigy of Guy Fawkes. ©Gareth Fuller – PA Archive

And then we make an effigy of Guy Fawkes, put him in a wheelbarrow, ask for “A penny for the Guy,” then at the end of the evening, throw him on a bonfire, and burn him!

7.   York is a bloody gruesome city.

Mad Alice – York ©The Bloody Tour of York

York has had over 2,000 years of death, blood and gore.

Is it any wonder that the city is choc-a-bloc with stories and tales of Viking invasions, battles of the Normans, civil unrest, unusual sightings, mysterious disappearances, and ghosts?

We were in York during the best time of all – Halloween – and it was thrilling!

Halloween isn’t fun in Germany!

The Music Producer and The Tall Young Gentleman had never been in the UK during Halloween before, and seriously, Halloween in Germany, just isn’t the same.

And there’s no Bonfire Night in Germany, either!

It’s all wrong!

Nightshade Productions – York Terror Trail – York © York Terror Trail

We partnered with the York Theatre Royal who were promoting a Halloween Special production of the York Terror Trail.

We joined a historical night walking tour of the dark side of York’s past – The Hallows Gate: The Eyes of Time!

Hallows Gate – The Eyes of Time – Nightshade Productions – York Terror Trail – York © York Terror Trail

It started at the Golden Fleece Inn – reputedly the most haunted pub in York – and ended up with our small group of local and international visitors, sprinting through the nooks and crannies of historical York with torches, a Dr. Who-like character, and being chased by zombies!

Having fun in York!

It was such great fun as York is quite tiny, and the other tourists that we bumped into, were either completely shocked by our shrieks and screams, or utterly delighted, to be unsuspecting witnesses of a free show!

Stay together – Nightshade Productions – York Terror Trail – York ©York Terror Trail

There are loads of night events and ghost activities in the city. York is pretty small, so we frequently met other groups, but it was pretty well organised, as times were staggered so that you weren’t all standing in the same corner!  There were a couple of whoops, and “get them,” but it was all in good fun.

Other ghost walks in York....!
Other ghost walks in York….!
The Great York Ghost…. ©Visit York

They say, York is the most haunted city in Europe!

It probably is!

Cost: Adults – £5.00. Children – £2.00.

8.   The smallest street with the longest name in the world, is in York!

The smallest street in York is called Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate!
The churchview of the smallest street in York – Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate!

We’re all about breaking world records in the UK.

The shortest street in the world is called Ebenezer Place – Wick in Scotland and the smallest street in York is called Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate!

I know!

The origin of the name is unclear however, there’s a plaque that indicates the origin of the street derives from the phrase used as far back as 1501 – Whitnourwhatnourgate – meaning “What a street!” Nevertheless, modern sources translate the phrase as “Neither one thing nor the other!”

9.   York is home of the Yorkshire Pudding!

A Yorkshire Pudding in the making! © J. Kenji Lopez-Alt – Serious Eats Inc.

To put it plainly, Yorkshire Pudding, otherwise known as a Yorkshire pud, is a British meal from batter made out of eggs, flour, and milk. It was even found to have been written in a (modern) controversial Georgian book The Whole Duty of a Woman… published in 1737!

A Yorkshire pud is often served with roast beef, roast potatoes, a selection of seasonal vegetables, generous lashings of thick gravy, and is part of the all-important traditional Sunday roast!


A traditional Sunday lunch anywhere in Britain! ©Time Out London Food & Drink

As a British expat living abroad, you can’t under-estimate how important this is.

We used to have a British restaurant in Berlin that would serve a lovely Sunday roast, and if you didn’t pre-order the day before, you wouldn’t be having any! The food was the best British food I have ever had in Germany. Sadly, the locals complained that it was “too authentic,” there wasn’t enough custom to keep it open, and it had to close down!

10.    York, isn’t New York!

York, isn’t New York!

In fact, without York, there would be no New York!

If you look deeper into American history, most of the most influential and fairly important places, are named after European locations. Hence:

  • York (England) – New York. Tick!
  • Orleans (France) – New Orleans. Tick!
  • Jersey (Channel Islands – UK) – New Jersey. Tick!
  • Mexico (Mexico) – New Mexico. Tick!
  • Harlem (Holland) – Harlem New York. Tick!
  • Berlin (Germany) – Berlin New Hampshire. Tick!
51 reasons to visit Manchester. And more!
51 reasons to visit Manchester. And more!
  • Manchester (England) – Manchester New Hampshire.

And let me just say that the film Manchester by the Sea is most annoying, as everyone now things that Manchester is a sleepy little fishing village in Massachusetts! It isn’t! Tick!

  • England (England) – New England.

I mean, come on. That’s just plain lazy! Tick!

Ah well. That’s it for now!

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10 exciting things you didn’t know about York!

This article isn’t sponsored, and even though we received VIP press passes, courtesy of Visit York, all opinions and the delightful York Castle Wall that we skipped across, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

I’ll be writing about my visit to the UK, and travelling around Cheshire, Staffordshire, Manchester, Blackpool, Derbyshire and Yorkshire! And Liverpool!

I’ll also be visiting Hamburg in December. Watch out on Twitter!


December is going to be twinkling!

Victoria in front of the carousel fairground – York ©Frank Böster – The Music Producer

Watch this space!

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10 exciting things you didn’t know about York!

Have you ever been to York? Have you ever seen a ghost or been to a haunted house? Let me know in the comments below!

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12 Comments on “10 exciting things you didn’t know about York!

  1. I don’t know much about York but it looks interesting. I would go just for that Sunday roast– that’s the best looking one I’ve ever seen!

  2. York is definitely incredible place with a long history! There’s so much there you have to plan what to see or pass depending on your travel time. (Plus opening/closing hours are subject to change) Seeing your pix brought back memories of my visit there last August. I enjoyed the night ghost tour with our costumed guide who said his name wasn’t important.

    Thanks for sharing your autumn tour of the northern UK–it was fun to read!

    Of interest, “The White Princess” TV series has crossed the pond from here in the US, its UK broadcast is in full swing…

    • Thanks so much Elisa!

      It’s true. You have to plan really well ‘cos even though York is tiny, there’s so much stuff to do, and I’ll be writing about that next week! 😉

      p.s. Isn’t “The White Queen” so good? I live in Germany, so we’re far behind, and can only see Season 1, which I have watched at least 10 times! I can’t wait for Season 2. As well as Season 2 of “Victoria,” and Season 4 of “Reign.” It seems all I do all day is watch historical dramas…! 😉

  3. So, we can say Vikings found also New York indirectly. Oh, wait! Actually it’s first name was New Amsterdam… whatever 🙂 Vikings had done it! After all they are in fashion there days 🙂

    • Ha! Ha! Ha! Thanks so much Miro!

      I’m sure that the vikings would have conquored the Americas if the could, but I think they preferred colder waters…!

      And yes, New York was previously, New Amsterdam, before Holland lost the city. And that was what I meant, most of the names previously came from Europe. However, what’s most annoying is when you google York, what comes up isn’t the original York that is hundreds of years old, but York in South Carolina!

      I didn’t know there was a South Carolina! 😉

      • Actually New Mexico originated from the Mexican native tribes located in the southern part of the state.

      • Ah! You’re right. Thanks Joshua!

        New Mexico was indeed named Nuevo México after the Aztec Valley of Mexico by Spanish settlers, more than 250 years BEFORE the establishment and present-day country of Mexico.

        It isn’t named after the country known as Mexico today, as didn’t exist at the time! 😉

        It’s true that New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the US, but as far back as prehistoric times, that land mass was the ancestral home of Puebloans, Mogollon, Comanche and Utes. As well as being home to part of the Navajo Nation, 19 federally-recognized Pueblo communities of Puebloan peoples, and 3 different federally-recognized Apache tribes.

        As such, New Mexico was actually habited by Native Americans thousands of years before Spanish colonisation, and NOT Mexican native tribes!

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