Hidden York – 5 places you’ve never heard of (but will wish you had)

York is about more than Vikings and steam trains. There’s another side of this Yorkshire city to explore – hidden York.

1. Explore the secret passages of medieval York

The one for: exploring the narrow labryinth of passages that made up medieval York

Pope’s Head Alley. Mad Alice Lane. Lady Peckett’s Yard. The names leap out at you like something from Dickens. But these aren’t works of fiction - these narrow alleys and winding lanes typified medieval York.

Normally going down the side of a building or through a wall, these walkways are known locally as ‘snickelways’ – a term coined by local writer Mark W Jones, who wrote a book guiding you around them. Explore these to get a feel for the city in medieval times. But don’t forget the book, A Walk Around the Snickelways of York.


2. Wince at York’s grisly medieval past

The one for: learning about York in medieval times when Henry VIII’s dad ruled the land

Severed heads of traitors and rebels were displayed outside Micklegate Bar in medieval times. Thankfully it’s much safer these days.

It’s been transformed into a museum dedicated to Henry VII. He’s a pretty important monarch, and also Henry VIII’s dad. Learn about the 24 years he spent on the throne.

Micklegate Bar itself is fascinating too. But what’s a Bar? And why’s it so important? York is surrounded by medieval walls. And in medieval times entry was only granted through one of 4 bars, or gates.

Micklegate is the most famous of these bars, and looks like a little castle. Fascinating stuff.


3. Pulled pork on The Shambles 

The one for: fantastic pulled pork sandwiches served from York’s most historic street.

Pulled pork is everywhere these days. It’s even found its way on to York’s oldest street. The Shambles is one of the best-preserved medieval streets in the country – Google named it the most picturesque street in the UK in 2010.

And the pulled pork butties served up at the Shambles Kitchen taste as good as the street looks. The locally sourced meat is flavoured with a top secret rub and slow cooked for 12 hours. Served with slaw in a soft white bun.  

In days of yore, The Shambles was home to medieval butchers – the pulled pork of today is continuing that tradition.


4. Find the Cats of York

The one for: cat lovers

Not so much a place, but a great thing to keep your eyes peeled for during your explorations of York. Mostly focused on the city center, the cat statues of York are scattered on eaves, rooftops, and chimneys all around the town. 

Many of the statues date back 100 years. It's believed the cats started appearing to scare off rats from the river. 

So why not join the cat hunt and see how many you can tick off. 


5. Step inside a real Cold War bunker

The one for: a day out less ordinary – how often do you see a bona-fide nuclear fallout shelter

The Cold War and its fears of nuclear attack gripped the world from the end of the Second World War ‘til the early 1990s. York Cold War Bunker was designed as a nuclear fallout shelter, this restored bunker harks back to those days.

It’s got its own decontamination room and blast-proof doors. There are also authentic maps, technology and period furniture.

It opened in 1961 and was decommissioned in 1991. It’s run by English Heritage.