This spring…it’s all about York

Springtime is finally here so what better time than now to start thinking on an ideal place for a short break before the summer holidays. The north is not longer an unthinkable destination to enjoy the first sunbeams of the season, but that part of the country where an amazing countryside contrasts with thriving cities. Founded by the Romans and capital of the British biggest county, York is one of the most inspiring European cities. Its permanent attractions and the series of festivals and events hosted as part of city’s tribute to spring will give you a flavour of what this bustling and historical location has to offer. 

Four years ago, York was voted European Tourism City of the Year and since then, it has done nothing but grow in every aspect. Where Rome has the Pantheon, York has the Jorvik Viking Centre, one of the most famous discoveries of modern archaeology built on the same site as the remains of the Viking city of Jorvik. The JVC offers visitors a journey through the houses, workshops and backyards of the AD 975 Jorvik. All spring and summer DIG – owned by the same archaeologists who created JVC – hosts the exhibition Shipwrecks, where visitors can see the remains of the Swash Channel Wreck – from the Tudor era – and experience the adventure of becoming real archaeologists.

York Minster at sunset, York.
York Minster. Image: The Guardian

Musically speaking, York Spring Festival is city’s main event of the season, Martin Scheuregger, manager of the festival, presents it as a must-see for several reasons: “2011 marks the third year in which the festival is being run by an all-student committee. From 11 to 15 May YSF brings exciting musicians and ensembles to York, as well as presenting a wealth of local talent. Showcasing music from jazz and folk, to opera and ballet, the cutting-edge programme promises to appeal to a broad audience, whilst offering a new musical experience to the listener.”

Highlights include University of York Chamber Orchestra – playing music by Hans Werne Henze and Peter Maxwell Davies -, The Hebrides Ensemble – whose playing was described by The Herald as ‘a towering emotional interpretation’-, Ballet Bewegung – an exciting new chamber ballet group – and, to close the festival, a folk evening featuring innovative local acts.

The passion for music brought by this diverse and enthusiastic group provides a fresh take on contemporary music and has resulted in this exciting programme of concerts.”

The city also boasts an amazing array of historical museums and places, so there is no reason not to embark on a cultural route, too. The National Railway Museum is home to some legendary steam trains along its 300 years of history. It is the largest railway museum in the world and it is free. Apart from its various activities and exhibitions throughout the year, there are plans for the introduction of the most famous train in the world – The Flying Scotsman – this spring. Also, the York Model Railway Show is a traditional event held every Easter, and one of the longer running shows in the country. From 23 to 25 April the historic Knavesmire racecourse hosts the exhibition of trains’ models from all eras. Along between 110 and 130 stands and 40 working layouts, visitors can enjoy the best in railway modeling in the north.

The York Minster in the city centre is the northern Europe’s largest gothic cathedral, a treasure house of medieval stained glass, pinnacles, gargoyles and the traces of the Roman occupation of York. Also a must-see is the Clifford’s Tower for magnificent panoramic views of historic York and its surroundings. The tower is all that remains of York Castle, which played a crucial role in the control of northern England. Next to Clifford’s Tower, York Castle Museum is well worth a visit for those interested in discovering more about Victorian Life. The museum offers the most famous Victorian life experience in Britain, where visitors can meet true to life Victorian characters and enjoy different shows every 20 minutes.

York can also be the perfect fashion shopping destination this spring. The first weekend in April, Fashion City York presents Fashion Village and Catwalk York to celebrate the singularity of fashion shopping in York. Sarah Wells, one of the organisers, believes FCY is a chance to put the city on the fashion map, as well as to bring a major boost to local trade. “Fashion City York is a great opportunity for businesses in York, small and large; to come together and celebrate what variety they offer customers in York.”

With the collaboration of local stores and businesses, Shopping City offers a selection of in-store events and promotions all over the city throughout the weekend. Fashion Village brings visitors the opportunity to see and buy York’s best up and coming independent fashion designers and boutiques. Russell Norton, chair of FCY, wants the event to actively interact with visitors. “Fashion Village offers not only a fantastic shopping destination, but also a great level of interactivity. You can talk to the designers of the pieces you buy. You could commission an individual piece for yourself. You can witness a whole dress being made in a single day, from paper pattern to final piece. You can try new skincare products and techniques. You can treat yourself to something truly unique.”

A marquee set up at St. Sampsons Square, in the heart of the city, will showcase Yorkshire’s best fashion talent on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 April.

Fashion Village is a great opportunity for fashion retailers and related businesses to take advantage of the high levels of passing footfall in York city centre, at a fraction of the price of commercial rent and rates. This is a chance for the exhibitors to trade with, and expand their brand to a whole new audience.”

Set in the historic York’s Guildhall Catwalk York is an ‘extravaganza of fashion’. On Saturday 2 April the show will feature clothing, hair and make-up from local and independent businesses. It is the result of collaborations among local stores, independent designers, boutiques and beauty salons.

The summer holidays are still some way off and, apart from the permanent attractions, the city hosts a wide range of festivals and events to celebrate the new season. This becomes York the ideal spring break destination to enjoy a bit of culture, history, music and shopping.

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