Visiting York Minster with kids may not be top of your list of family friendly attractions in York. But it should be.
York Minster works hard to attract families and you will be pleasantly surprised how much your kids will get out of a trip to this magnificent building.
The Minster has family facilities, activities and is good value for money for families.
York Minster information
York Minster tickets
There is a charge to enter York Minster although you can attend a service, pray or light a candle for free. The Minster costs around £15,000 a day to maintain so ticket revenue provides vital funds.
York Minster tickets cost £12 for adults and £9 for non York based students. However, up to four children under 16 are free with each paying adult so visiting York Minster is good value for money for families. Plus, as tickets are valid for 12 months, you can visit as many times as you like during your trip to York.
Alternatively, purchase a combined York Minster and Central Tower tickets which cost £17 for adults, £14 for students and £5 for children aged over 8. Children under 8 years old are not allowed to climb the tower.
You can buy York Minster tickets just inside the cathedral entrance or in advance online here.
York Minster opening times
York Minster is open to visitors on Mondays and Wednesday through to Saturdays from 9.30am – 4.30 pm.
On Sundays the Minster is open from 12.45 pm until 3.15pm.
Religious services are held daily; check the timetable for York Minster services here.
Getting to York Minster
There is limited parking near York Minster and no parking at all outside the church. However, there are two fee paying car parks within a ten minute walk.
Park in Monk Bar car park, walk under Monk Bar and along Goodramgate to reach the rear of cathedral. Alternatively, park in Marygate car park, cross Museum Gardens to Bootham Bar and walk along High Petergate to the front of the Minster.
If you are visiting York by train, York rail station is 15 minutes walk from the Minster.
Bus numbers 1, 5, 5A, 6 and 40 stop very close to York Minster.
Activities for kids
In addition to the daily tours, there are family oriented tours every Saturday at 10 am.
Children can also borrow backpacks at the entrance to help them explore York Minster. These free backpacks contain age appropriate activities and a mirror to help kids view the ceiling.
If you want to have a rest or need to breastfeed, The St Nicholas Chapel is set aside for family use.
Furthermore, during the school holidays, the Minster offers drop-in art activities for families in the Chapter House or in a marquee in Dean’s Park. These drop in activities are either free or incur a small charge but are lots of fun.
There are toilets and a baby change inside the cathedral as well as the York Minster shop (for souvenirs). The cathedral does not have a cafe but there are several cafes within a one minute walk across the precinct.
Pushchairs and prams are welcome and there are ramps for easy access except for the crypt and the central tower.
After your trip to York Minster with kids, go for a good runaround in Dean’s Park directly behind the Minster. This small, enclosed park has fantastic views of the cathedral and is a great spot for a picnic.
Attending a service at York Minster
All visitors are welcome to attend one of the daily religious services but the cathedral is not open for sightseeing during these times. You will not be able to wander around the cathedral before, during or immediately after a service.
I recommend attending a service so you can hear the Minster organ and fantastic singing by the Minster choir.
Things to see and do inside York Minster with kids
The best way to learn the history and stories behind York Minster is to join a tour. We have done several general tours with kids and we learn something new on each tour.
One hour tours are induced in your entrance fee and run at regular intervals during the day.
Alternatively, you can sightsee around the cathedral on your own.
Wander through the north and south Early English style transepts and quire.
Visit the Undercroft Museum where you can see the remains of the Roman fortress that the Minster was built on. The museum houses a range of historical artefacts such as The Horn of Ulf, a 1,000-year-old elaborately carved elephant tusk which was a gift from a Viking nobleman. Don’t miss the beautiful 1,000 year old illuminated manuscript that is still used in important ceremonies in the cathedral today.
Sit in a bishop’s seat in the highly decorated, octagonal Chapter House (my favourite spot in the church).
Other points of interest include a 400 year old mechanical clock and an astronomical clock which shows the movement of the sun and stars around York.
The Central Tower
Weather permitting, anyone over 8 years old can climb the Minster’s 71 metre tall central tower. The tower has 275 spiral steps in a gloomy, narrow and enclosed staircase. Young children and anyone who suffers from claustrophobia will not like it.
Your efforts are rewarded with an incredible view of York city centre and the surrounding Yorkshire countryside. There are close up views of the Minster’s stonework and gruesome gargoyles.
You can buy tickets for the central tower in advance online or on the day of your visit. The staircase is enclosed, narrow and winding so it will not suit everyone.
York Minster’s Rose Window
The 16th century Rose Window is in the south transept opposite the Great East Window.
Unlike the Great East Window, the Rose Window is a myriad of light and colour depicting red Lancastrian roses and white Tudor roses.
This much loved window had a miraculous escape during the devastating York Minster fire in 1984. The ceiling adjacent to the window collapsed in the fire but the window thankfully did not. It is incredible considering the heat from the flames created 40,000 cracks in the Rose Window.
Look up at the new ceiling next to the Rose Window. When the ceiling was reconstructed in the late 1980’s, a competition was launched by the ‘Blue Peter’ television programme for children to design the new buttresses. The winning design themes include save the whale, the raising of the Mary Rose and Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. Sadly, although I entered the competition as a child, my design is not up there!
Facts about York Minster
If you do not join a tour, then these facts about York Minster will help you learn a little more about this iconic and much loved church.
York Minster’s official name is ‘The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter.’ Minster is an Anglo Saxon word for an important church.
There has been a church on this site since 627 AD and the cathedral used to sit in a walled precinct called the Liberty of St Peter.
The cathedral was built on the site of a Roman fortress, which was once home to legions of the Roman Empire. A statue of Emperor Constantine sits outside the Minster. On 25 July 306 AD, Constantine was in York when he was proclaimed Emperor of the Western Roman Empire.
On 9 July 1984 a lightning bolt struck York Minster and set fire to the roof which collapsed a few hours later.
York Minster was built between 1230 and 1472, taking over 250 years to complete.
It is the largest Gothic style cathedral in northern Europe.
No building inside York city walls is permitted to be higher than York Minster so the church can be seen for miles around.
York Minster was constructed using magnesian limestone and was built in the shape of a cross.
The Minster is 524 feet /160 metres long and 235 feet / 72 metres high.
The central tower is estimated to weigh the same as 40 jumbo jet airplanes.
York Minster today
A permanent team of 16 stonemasons maintain the cathedral’s stonework.
York Minster’s organ is currently undergoing restoration. It’s a big job as it has 5,403 pipes.
The cathedral has 12 bells and a team of bell ringers.
York Minster contains more stained glass than any other religious building in England and the enormous Great East Window is the largest expanse of stained glass in the world.
York Minster’s status is the ‘mother church of the Northern Province of the Church of England’ and is the seat (home) of the Archbishop of York.
Hotels near York Minster
If you are visiting York for an extended stay you can check our our recommendations for the best hotels in York for kids here.
The closest hotel to York Minster is Dean’s Court Hotel which is directly opposite York Minster.
The next closest hotels are The Fawkes Inn (the birthplace of Guy Fawkes) and The Lamb and Lion pub. Both options are a two minute walk from the cathedral. The Lamb and Lion is also a good option for food as there are lovely views of York Minster from its beer garden.