York Castle Museum Review Guide

We usually visit York Castle Museum every year as it’s one of my favourite things to do in York. I first went there as a kid and walking around the recreated Victorian street is a really strong childhood memory of mine. It’s just so well done and although there are a few across Yorkshire this is by far my favourite. This was also the first in the UK and remains the biggest.

York Castle Museum is located opposite Clifford’s Tower on the outer edge of the city centre. It is just a short walk away from the shops and restaurants plus other things to do such as Jorvik Viking Centre and Hole in Wand crazy golf. Clifford’s Tower was once part of a larger castle area in York plus prisons, law courts and other buildings. It was once the biggest castle in the north of England, although very little remains so it’s difficult to imagine its size.

York Castle Museum Things To Do Review

The museum itself is located on the site of parts of York Castle which was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068. It is housed in prison buildings that were built on the site of the castle back in the 18th Century. The museum is consistently voted as one of the best things to do in York.

In the past, you were encouraged to start your visit by heading left which takes you to the Victoria Street area of the museum. However, on our last visit, we were asked to head right first which we regretted doing. It was a real bottleneck of people and didn’t work well at all sending people into this part of the museum first. I’d certainly ask to visit left if I was asked to head right again.

Our visit started with some WWII exhibitions including a small trench kids can crawl through. It is an excellent exhibition with lots to look at including a few interactive things for kids to do. Sadly we raced through as it was so busy. I didn’t even take any photos.

Next, we headed into the 1960s. This exhibition is displayed as a recreated street with music and lots of visual things to see. It’s an excellent look back at such as nostalgic era. It was less busy now as we’d got ahead of the crowd so we could relax and enjoy our visit more.

York Castle Museum Review Guide

After the 1960s you enter the York Castle Dungeons. You can get a flavour for what life was really like in the original prison cells. The lighting is dimmed and there are many of the original doors.

York Castle Museum

There is one cell you can shut the door on which my son loves. He always has to throw one of us in there for photos, including himself.

York Castle Museum Review Guide

Many of the prison cells have films playing on the walls. These are actors playing past inmates that were once imprisoned there. One includes the last woman to be burnt at the stake in Yorkshire. Another is a young tearaway who went on to lead a successful life in Australia. There’s even the legendary and most notorious prisoner Dick Turpin the highwayman. You can even check your own family name against their database of prisoners.

York Castle Museum

Once you have left the prison you arrive back in the cafe area. We then crossed over to the left-wing of the museum. Here you start by looking at a few recreated rooms. These are really interesting and it’s fun to stay awhile and see what you can spot.

York Castle Museum

Toy Stories is a fun trip back into childhood with recreated rooms to look at and lots of different toys on display. You can even have a go at playing Pong. There is also a Teddy Trail for kids around the exhibition.

York Castle Museum

They also have a small play area for younger kids. This was the first time I’d seen it with no one in. In fact from the prison onwards, we hardly saw any other people. It was a complete contrast to the start of our visit. The next exhibition looks at fashion and there’s a pretend catwalk area if you fancy a bit of a prance down it.

York Castle Museum

There’s then an exhibition looking at how our lives compare to Victorian life before you enter Kirkgate, the recreated Victorian street. They now have a one-way system around here which seemed to work quite well as it made sure you saw everything that there was to see. We usually spend quite a while here as there is lots to see. It’s nice to just even have a sit down to take everything in. Everything you see is original, even store fronts that have been rescued and recreated at the museum.

York Castle Museum

Each shop on Kirkgate is named after a real business that operated in late Victorian York. They have costumed guides wandering around that are on hand to answer your questions or tell you true stories about what you are looking at. We had one of them come over to us while we were seated and he told us all manner of interesting things about the sweet shop.

York Castle Museum Review Guide

There is even a ‘Victorian slum’ that you can look around. As you walk around you will come across many different smells. In this part, there is a working-class home and some businesses including a cocoa room and candlemakers. The candlemakers are my least favourite smell in the street.

York Castle Museum
York Castle Museum Review Guide

Back in the main street, you can see a Sweetshop, Gunsmith’s, Taxidermist and Ironmongers. Plus a Toy shop, chemist, milliners and more. Some you can’t go in but there are a few you can wander in. There is a Victorian schoolroom with tables you can sit at, a police cell and more. It’s a great place to set kids imaginations alight and see how people once lived.

York Castle Museum Review Guide
York Castle Museum

I can recommend remembering some 20ps. They have some automatons in the above area of the museum. I sadly didn’t have any for this visit and my son was really disappointed.

There is also a mill you can visit although it is currently closed. I had prebooked a timeslot online in advance. When we arrived there was a long queue outside. This turned out to be people that hadn’t prebooked. So although prebooking isn’t essential it is recommended so you don’t have to stand in a long queue.

York Castle Museum FAQ & Further Information

Address: Tower St, York YO1 9RY, North Yorkshire. Phone: 01904 687687

Category – Museum – Indoors – Suitable for all ages.

What are the ticket prices?

Adults £13, children £6.50, once you have purchased your ticket you can return as much as you like over the next 12 months. Under 5s are free, other pricing options are available.

What are the main facilities and things to do?

Museum with a Victorian recreated street, toy exhibitions, original prison cells, WWII exhibition and more. There are toilets and a cafe.

When are they open?

They are currently open from Wednesday until Sunday. Please visit their website for up-to-date opening times.

Is there food available?

There is a cafe serving cakes and hot and cold drinks.

Is there parking?

There is parking nearby, charges apply. This fills up quickly. The best way to visit is by using one of their excellent park and rides.

Are they dog friendly?

Only assistance dogs are permitted.

Are they accessible?

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