Exploring Yorkshire’s Rich History: 5 Must-Visit Museums

Yorkshire is home to a wealth of history waiting to be discovered in its museums. From the fascinating Jorvik Viking Centre in York to the impressive National Railway Museum in Leeds, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Explore the rich heritage of Yorkshire through these must-visit museums.

Exploring Yorkshire’s Rich History: 5 Must-Visit Museums

Yorkshire, located in the north of England, is a region steeped in history and culture. From ancient Roman settlements to Viking invasions, Yorkshire has a rich and diverse past that is waiting to be explored. One of the best ways to delve into this history is by visiting the many museums scattered throughout the region. These museums offer a glimpse into Yorkshire’s past, showcasing everything from prehistoric artifacts to industrial revolution relics. In this article, we will take a closer look at 5 must-visit museums in Yorkshire that are sure to captivate history enthusiasts and casual visitors alike.

The Yorkshire Museum, York

The Yorkshire Museum, located in the historic city of York, is a treasure trove of artifacts that span thousands of years of history. From Roman coins to Viking weaponry, the museum offers a comprehensive look at Yorkshire’s past. One of the highlights of the museum is its collection of Anglo-Saxon artifacts, including the famous York Helmet. Visitors can also explore the museum’s beautifully landscaped gardens, which are home to a variety of rare plants and trees.

Yorkshire Museum

The Yorkshire Museum, York: Tourist Guide Information Table

Category Information
Location York Museum Gardens, York, England
Website Yorkshire Museum website: yorkshire museum ON York Museums Trust yorkshiremuseum.org.uk
Established 1830 (one of the earliest purpose-built museums in England)
Collections Archaeology, Biology (including extinct animals and plants), Geology (including rocks and minerals), Palaeontology (including dinosaurs), Astronomy, Numismatics (coins and medals)
Highlights * Medieval treasures (including the Middleham Jewel) * Findings from Star Carr (Britain’s most important Mesolithic site) * William Smith’s geological map * Viking and Roman Yorkshire
Architectural Style Greek Revival (designed by William Wilkins)
Interesting Fact Built on the grounds of St Mary’s Abbey, with some of the Abbey remains visible in the basement
Nearby Attractions York Museum Gardens, St Mary’s Abbey ruins

Key Features:

  • Extensive collection of Roman, Viking, and Anglo-Saxon artifacts
  • Beautifully landscaped gardens
  • Interactive exhibits for all ages

The National Coal Mining Museum for England, Wakefield

The National Coal Mining Museum for England offers a unique glimpse into the industrial history of Yorkshire. Located in Wakefield, the museum is set in a former coal mine and provides visitors with the opportunity to descend underground and experience what life was like for coal miners in the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum also features interactive exhibits, a working steam engine, and a recreated coal mine village.

National Coal Mining Museum

The National Coal Mining Museum for England, Wakefield

Location: The museum is located on the A642, in Overton near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England [between Wakefield and Huddersfield]. Postcode: WF4 4RH You can find directions on their website: https://www.ncm.org.uk/your-visit/

Getting Here:

  • Car: There is ample free car parking available.
  • Bus: The Arriva 232 bus stops at the Reindeer pub with a few minutes walk to the Museum.
  • Train: The nearest mainline railway station is Wakefield Westgate, with a taxi ride of about 20 minutes to the museum.

Opening Hours:

  • Museum: Wednesday – Sunday
  • Underground Tours: 10am – 2:30pm (every 15 minutes, more frequent in summer)
  • Some attractions: Limited hours, check website for details (https://resources.ncm.org.uk/)


  • Descend 140 meters underground on a guided tour with a former miner.
  • Explore the Caphouse Colliery, a former working coal mine.
  • Learn about the history of coal mining in England.
  • See mining equipment and machinery.
  • Ride the “paddy train” (seasonal).
  • Explore nature trails and meet pit ponies.
  • Suitable for all ages (with some περιορισμοί (periorismoi = restrictions) for young children on underground tours).

Additional Information:

  • Admission to the museum and underground tour is free.
  • There is a cafe, shop, and playground on-site.
  • The museum is regularly featured on television programs.

Overall, the National Coal Mining Museum is a great place to learn about the history and culture of coal mining in England.

Key Features:

  • Underground tours of a former coal mine
  • Interactive exhibits on coal mining history
  • Working steam engine demonstrations

The Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds

The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds is home to one of the largest collections of arms and armor in the world. The museum showcases weapons and armor from various time periods and cultures, including medieval knights, samurai warriors, and modern military equipment. Visitors can watch live demonstrations of historical combat techniques, as well as participate in hands-on activities such as archery and sword fighting.

Royal Armouries Museum

The Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds


  • National museum of arms and armour
  • Free Entry
  • Location: Leeds Dock, Leeds City Centre (South bank of the River Aire) [directions can be found online by searching for “Royal Armouries Museum directions”]
  • Highlights:
    • National Collection of Arms and Armour
    • Exhibits from ancient times to the present day
    • Henry VIII’s armour
    • Samurai suits
    • Movie weapon props
    • Daily live shows and combat demonstrations


  • The museum has six themed galleries showcasing arms and armour from around the world throughout history.


  • Check their website for current events: https://royalarmouries.org/
  • As of today, March 11, 2024, they have:
    • Escape Room Experience
    • Book Launch: Gunpowder Technology in the Fifteenth Century by Axel Müller

Additional Information:

  • The Royal Armouries Museum is part of a larger group of museums under the Royal Armouries. Other locations include the Tower of London and Fort Nelson.
Category Information
What it is The national museum of arms and armour in the United Kingdom, housing a vast collection of weaponry and armor from across history.
Location Leeds Dock, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England (near Leeds city center on the South bank of the River Aire)
Highlights * National Collection of Arms and Armour * Exhibits from ancient times to the present day * Henry VIII’s suit of armour * Japanese samurai armor * Iconic movie props * War history exhibits * Experimental weaponry * Daily live shows and combat demonstrations
Admission Free
Website Royal Armouries Museum Leeds: https://royalarmouries.org/leeds
Events Check website for current events (e.g. Escape Room Experience)

Key Features:

  • Largest collection of arms and armor in the world
  • Live combat demonstrations
  • Hands-on activities for visitors

The Jorvik Viking Centre, York

The Jorvik Viking Centre in York offers a fascinating look at Viking life in Yorkshire. The museum is built on the site of a Viking settlement and features reconstructed Viking houses, interactive exhibits, and a ride that takes visitors through a recreated Viking village. The museum also houses a collection of Viking artifacts, including weapons, jewelry, and everyday objects.

Jorvik Viking Centre

Jorvik Viking Centre, York: Tourist Guide Information Table

Feature Information
Category Museum, Visitor Attraction
Location 19 Coppergate, York YO1 9WT, UK
Opening Hours Check website for latest times (https://www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk/book-your-visit/)
Admission Fee £15, Free with York Pass
Pre-booking Recommended, standby queue available again from February 21st 2024
Description Step back in time to 10th-century York and experience Viking life through reconstructed streets, life-size dioramas, and authentic smells. Ride through the recreated city in a carriage and explore a gallery showcasing real Viking artifacts.
  • Time capsule ride through Jorvik (Viking-age York)
  • Lifelike mannequins depicting Viking life
  • State-of-the-art gallery of Viking-age artefacts
  • Educational exhibits
    | Accessibility | Wheelchair accessible capsule currently unavailable (as of February 2024) | | Website | https://www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk/ |

Key Features:

  • Reconstructed Viking settlement
  • Interactive exhibits on Viking life
  • Ride through a recreated Viking village

The National Railway Museum, York

The National Railway Museum in York is a must-visit for train enthusiasts and history buffs alike. The museum is home to a vast collection of locomotives, carriages, and railway memorabilia, showcasing the evolution of rail travel in the UK. Visitors can explore famous trains such as the Flying Scotsman and the Mallard, as well as learn about the impact of railways on society and industry.

National Railway Museum

National Railway Museum, York: Tourist Guide Information Table

Category Information
Location Leeman Road, York, YO26 4XJ, UK
Getting There Accessible by foot from York railway station. Roadtrain runs from city center during peak times. Car parking available at York Park and Ride (Line 2).
Opening Hours Currently (as of March 11, 2024): <br> Seven days a week, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. <br> Note: Early closures on Friday, March 15 (4:00 PM) and Monday, March 18 (3:00 PM).
Admission Free entry (donations welcome).
Highlights * Mallard (world’s fastest steam locomotive) <br> * Replica of Stephenson’s Rocket (first ‘modern’ steam locomotive) <br> * Flying Scotsman (famous steam engine) <br> * Japanese Shinkansen bullet train <br> * Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery (interactive family experience) [subject to opening date confirmation]
Website National Railway Museum: https://www.railwaymuseum.org.uk/
Important Notes * Station Hall and other sections are currently closed for renovations (due to reopen late 2024). Check website for latest updates.

Key Features:

  • Collection of historic locomotives and carriages
  • Interactive exhibits on the history of rail travel
  • Famous trains such as the Flying Scotsman and the Mallard


Exploring Yorkshire’s rich history through its museums is a rewarding experience that offers valuable insights into the region’s past. From Roman artifacts to Viking settlements, Yorkshire’s museums provide a comprehensive look at the diverse history and culture of the area. By visiting the 5 must-visit museums highlighted in this article, visitors can immerse themselves in Yorkshire’s fascinating past and gain a deeper appreciation for the heritage of this historic region.

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