York Castle Museum is a building I’ve walked past many times, it’s magnificent. But I’ve never actually visited. York Castle Museum is a must-visit attraction for both locals and tourists. It’s in the centre of York and lets you step back in time to discover the history of York. It has immersive exhibits, hands-on activities, and engaging storytelling. York Castle Museum is a great day out for all the family.
- Bringing History to Life
- Toy Stories
- Shaping The Body
- A Victorian Street Experience
- 1914 When The World Changed Forever
- Raindale Mill
- The Sixties
- York Castle Prison
- Mechanical Marvels
- Engaging Hands-On Activities
- The Quiet Room
- Tickets and Accessibility
- Local Tips and Recommendations
- Have You Visited Yet?
Bringing History to Life
Unlike traditional museums with dusty glass cabinets, York Castle Museum takes a refreshing approach to showcasing history. Instead of passive observation, visitors are encouraged to actively engage with the exhibits.
The museum features fantastic displays that transport you to different eras, from the Victorian era to the swinging sixties. Each exhibit is meticulously designed to recreate the sights, sounds, and even smells of the past. There are even hands-on activities for children do to through the museum.
For those who love toys and games, the Toy Stories exhibition at York Castle Museum is fantastic. This exhibition showcases toys through time, from traditional wooden dolls and tin soldiers to iconic characters like Buzz Lightyear. Both children and adults will enjoy reminiscing about their favourite childhood toys and discovering new ones from bygone eras. The exhibition is a joyful celebration of the playful side of life and is sure to evoke nostalgia and create lasting memories.
There’s also an area here for children to play, with a rocking horse, doll house, bricks, dressing up and various other things for them to do.
Shaping The Body
This exhibition looks at how fashion, food and fitness have shaped the body over the last 400 years. It looks at the extreme ways people would go to conform to fashion such as diet culture or clothing like corsets which modified the body.
It was quite interesting to see how things changed over time in the home. Especially the role of women. How there was an explosion of convenience foods and appliances like microwaves as women started working as well, so didn’t have as much time to cook.
A Victorian Street Experience
One of the highlights of York Castle Museum is the authentic recreation of Kirkgate, a bustling Victorian street. As you wander through this old-fashioned street, you’ll be transported back in time to the Victorian era. You will find displays of vintage toys, clothing, and household items in the shops. Don’t forget to step into the traditional sweet shop! Every single shop on the street is based on a real York business, all of which operated here between 1870 and 1901. How amazing is that?
This part of the museum was much bigger than I expected. I had seen photos of it but I was amazed about how many things there were to look at here! You can even go inside some of the shops and buildings to explore. It’s a lot of fun!
1914 When The World Changed Forever
Explore the global impact of total war in this centenary exhibition. From the pre-war era to the horrors of the frontline, witness the profound changes in daily life and the tragic consequences of Europe’s first global conflict.
In this section of York Castle Museum, you can learn about stories of Yorkshire residents amidst new technology and extensive collections. This £1.7 million project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, commemorates the war’s centennial. Step into history and experience the exhibition that brings the past to life.
Opened on 28 June 2014, coinciding with the fateful day of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination.
Explore Raindale Mill is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11am-2pm (subject to volunteer availability). Relax in the serene riverside space, where you can enjoy the River Foss bank, and learn about the Victorian watermill history, and see the remnants of York Castle walls.
The area underwent restoration in 2012, including new pathways along the riverbank.
Raindale Mill, a working Victorian watermill relocated from the North York Moors, is operated by trained volunteers. It’s a cute walk along the bank, with a cottage-style garden, a wildflower meadow, and trees. Experience a glimpse of the scale of York Castle’s remains, including the southern gateway and curtain wall, situated in our Riverside area.
The sixties were an exciting time, and this exhibition will show you why. Monumental changes swept across public and private life through household objects from social history, art, fashion, military, and astronomy collections.
From iconic scooters and record players to Beatles memorabilia and Mary Quant fashion, you can see the visual design and colour schemes are inspired by Sixties trends as you learn about key themes such as fashion, music, home, sport, childhood, the Space Race, counterculture, and women’s liberation. Discover both extraordinary events and everyday experiences, and witness the profound impact on people’s lives in both urban and rural areas.
I loved the household exhibits featuring food packaging, clothing, electronics, toys, and records. There are so many memories of the era! Plenty of things in this section reminded me of things that were around when I grew up in the 80s and 90s.
York Castle Prison
York Castle Museum is housed in 18th-century prison buildings. In this section of the museum, you can see original cells and learn about the lives of eight infamous inmates such as the legendary highwayman, Dick Turpin.
York Castle has been a site of justice and incarceration for almost 1,000 years. William the Conqueror built the first castle in 1068. There is a database of former prisoners and victims where visitors can check their own family names.
You can find fourteen wonderful twentieth-century machines across the museum for people of all ages to find, play and enjoy! These include Automata, Mutoscopes, and a Stereoscope, and depict stories of Dracula, Aladdin, Sooty and many more. We tried the Sooty show which was inside the Toy Stories exhibition!
The machines are operated using 20ps, 50ps and pound coins. Change machines are located throughout the museum.
Engaging Hands-On Activities
At York Castle Museum, there’s no shortage of interactive and hands-on activities to keep visitors engaged. From trying on historical costumes to handling old objects, the museum offers numerous opportunities for learning through play. Children can learn about the past as they explore recreated living rooms from different time periods and even step into a kitchen from the 1970s. Special activities and workshops are often organised throughout the year, providing even more fun and educational experiences for families. Whether it’s counting with an abacus or experiencing a Victorian school lesson, the hands-on activities at York Castle Museum ensure that learning is both enjoyable and memorable.
The Quiet Room
There is a quiet room at York Castle Museum which is there for anyone who may need a bit of quiet time to use. Great for those with sensory issues or even breastfeeding mothers. I thought this was a lovely touch.
Tickets and Accessibility
The best thing about York Castle Museum is that your ticket is valid for an entire year, allowing you to return as often as you like and explore the museum in your own time. This is great for us, because my toddler wizzed around the place in no time! It will be nice to go back in a few months when he’s a bit older and will appreciate it more.
York Castle Museum Ticket Prices
|Adult / Senior
|Admits one adult for 12 months
|Admits one child aged 5-16 years for 12 months. Must be accompanied by an adult
|Young Person / Students
|Admits students or visitors aged 17-24 years for 12 months. Valid ID required
|York Resident Child
|(YO postcodes under City of York Council only)
|Reduced Access Concession
|A ticket for those with reduced mobility who cannot access the whole museum
Please note that the prices and conditions are subject to change, and it’s always recommended to check the latest information before visiting.
Parking at York Castle Museum
The closest place to park is Castle Car Park. Address: Tower St, York YO1 9SA
This is very close to the museum. You can pay at the pay machines, or use the Pay By Phone app where you can add more time if needed without going back to the car.
In terms of accessibility, the museum provides wheelchairs and baby carriers for those who require assistance. You can’t take a pram through, there are just too many stairs and I struggle to see how a wheelchair would manage as I didn’t see any lifts. But according to the website, while some areas of the museum may not be accessible due to the age of the building, there are still plenty of exhibits and activities that can be enjoyed by all. The staff at York Castle Museum are friendly and knowledgeable, and they are always ready to assist visitors with any questions or concerns.
Local Tips and Recommendations
As a local, I have a few insider tips to enhance your visit to York Castle Museum. Firstly, pre-booking your tickets is preferred as it allows you to skip the queue and make the most of your time at the museum. Secondly, while pushchairs are not allowed inside the museum, you can leave them in the designated area and borrow a baby carrier for convenience. Lastly, make sure to explore the surrounding area, as there are many other attractions within a 5-minute walk, including Clifford’s Tower, York Army Museum, Fairfax House, JORVIK Viking Centre, and The Hole in Wand.
Have You Visited Yet?
York Castle Museum is a must-visit destination in the heart of York. So, grab your tickets, step through the doors, and embark on an unforgettable adventure through the fascinating history of York.