Plan a Visit to York Minster

York Minster From The City Walls
York Minster From The City Walls. Photo courtesy of

At least two million people a year visit York Minster in the medieval city of York. The 800-year-old cathedral that took 250 years to build is just the tip of the iceberg. It occupies on a site that has been connected with history and faith for almost 2,000 years. Its Great East Window, as big as a tennis court, is the largest expanse of Medieval stained glass in the world.

There's a lot to see and, during the summer months and school vacation periods, a lot of people who want to see it with you. So a little advance planning doesn't hurt.

What's New at York Minster

Revealing York Minster in the Undercroft  Don't miss the new exhibition. It's part of a £20 million, 5-year renovation and conservation project, scheduled to be fully completed in 2016, parts of it are already open to visitors. The largest state-of-the-art attraction in any UK cathedral, it relates the history of the cathedral and its site with amazing objects and interactive displays - including the 1,000 year old Horn of Ulf, given to the Minster by a Viking lord.

Did you know?

  • Some of York Minster's most interesting ancient history was only discovered in the 1960s and 70s during emergency excavations under the cathedral.
  • Constantine the Great, who chose Constantinople the capital of the Roman Empire and made Christianity its official religion, was declared Emperor by his soldiers while in York.
  • Minster is an Anglo Saxon word, originally used to describe monasteries with a teaching role. It's mostly used these days as an honorary title for some large cathedrals.

Great East Window Cleaning and Conservation

The work of restoring this immense stained glass window and the stonework of the East End of the Minster will take much longer than the 5-year York Minster Revealed project. At least 311 glass panels, made up of thousands of pieces of Medival glass, are being removed, repaired and reinstalled. It won't be completed until 2018. But in 2016, visitiors will, at last, be able to see it without the protective scaffolding that has covered it for years. 

The restored panels will be visible as they are returned to their positions in the window. Other sections still being restored will be protected with clear glass. Working on these windows is such a massive project that new technology is being used to prolong their lives. York Minster will the first building in the UK to use UV resistant glass as an outer protection for the stained glass.

If you want a challenge, see how many of the stained glass panels your can understand. The Medieval artisans who created it aimed to tell the entire story of the Bible, from Genesis to the Apocalypse, in the one, multi-paneled window.

Take a Guided Tour

  • Minster tours - Volunteers lead guided tours, six times a day - at 10, 11,12,1, 1 and 3pm - every day except Sunday. The tours take about an hour and are a great way to discover some of the Minster's hidden treasures and amazing history. The tours are included in the price of admission. If you are coming with a group of 10 or more, or need foreign language help, let staff know 28 days in advance by sending a group tour request to
  • Tower trips - Climbing York Minster's central tower is a very special experience if you are fit and fearless. It's the highest point in York and before you arrive at the 230 -foot-high top and step out into the open air, you get a chance to see some of the Minster's Medieval pinnacles and gargoyles close up.
  • There are 275 steps to the top. Some are narrow and uneven and some go through narrow passageways.
  • The Tower climb is not recommended for people with heart conditions, vertigo, claustrophobia, high blood pressure, angina, breathing trouble (asthma, hay fever, and bronchitis), poor mobility or who are pregnant.
  • Health and safety regulations are available to read when you buy your ticket and you must read them before tackling the climb.
  • Children younger than 8-years-old are not permitted to climb the tower.
  • School groups of ten or more must be accompanied by three adults, or two adults if there are fewer than ten. 
  • Trips up the tower take 45 minutes and are limited to 50 people at a time. They leave every 45 minutes or so throughout the day and there is an extra charge for the tower. Ask at the ticket office about tower trip times when you arrive. But before planning to climb, consider these factors:

How to Find York Minster

Just about all roads in York lead to the Minster. Head for the center of the small, walled city and you cannot miss it. If you can't see it, just climb onto the city walls at one of the many access points around York for a birds eye view.

Goodramgate, leading to Deangate and High Petergate, all lead to Minster Yard (in York, streets are called "gate" and gates through the city wall are called "bar").

When To Visit

As a working cathedral, York Minster may be closed from time to time for all the normal business of a church - weddings, christenings, funerals - as well as special events and concerts. In general, the Minster is open:

  • For services and prayer, daily from 7am to 6:30pm
  • For sightseeing, Monday - Saturday 9am to last entry at 5:30pm, Sunday from 12:45 pm. Parts of the cathedral may be closed for evensong preparation or special events during general opening hours.
  • For the Undercroft exhibitions, Monday - Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday from 1pm
  • For Tower trips, check on the day you visit. Because Tower trips have an open air element, their scheduling is tied to the weather.

Why Is There an Admission Charge?

People sometimes balk at having to pay for a ticket to visit a place of worship so it is important to consider a few things:

  1. There is no entrance fee to enter the Minster to attend a service, to pray or to light candles.
  2. Not counting the restoration and conservation projects, it actually costs £20,000 a day to cover heating, lighting, cleaning and other staffing to keep the Minster open to the public. Most of this has to be raised from admission charges.
  3. The people of York are admitted free.
  4. Admission tickets are good for unlimited visits for a full year from the date of purchase.

Other Visitor Essentials

  • Admission - as of 2015, tickets for the Minster, Chapter House and Undercroft cost £10 for adults and £9 for seniors and students. Up to four children accompanied by an adult are free. ​Tickets for the Minster and the Tower Trip cost £15 for adults, £14 for seniors and students and £5 for children from 8 to 16. Children under 8 are not permitted to climb the tower.
  • Photography and video recording for personal use is permitted everywhere except the Undercroft.
  • Visit their Official Website for lots more information and a range of contact information.
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