Successive waves of civic leaders have seen York as a showcase place, creating the rich selection box that the modern city presents to the visitor.
Few English cities have got off so lightly from the ravages of time. No wonder the city gets 7.1 million visitors a year (17% from abroad), and is buzzing even in the depths of winter. And at only four hours' drive from Scotland's Central Belt, York is short-break heaven.
I'm there for the architecture and the history, my wife for the shops and the chocs, our 11-year-old for anything fun to be eked from the cultural stuff that her parents insist on imposing on her. All of us came away happy.
We stayed at the Hotel du Vin, a pleasant 20-minute stroll along the ancient city wall from York Minster, and 10 minutes from York's main rail station. This super-comfortable, subtly smart hotel was once an orphanage. Now its rooms and bathrooms, excellent food and service mark it out from the run of characterless corporate upmarket hotels.
York combines plentiful stuff-to-do with high quality shopping. This is a city where every quality retailer in the UK has to be, and even a retail refusenik like me can tell that these shopping streets are more interesting than most, even if the iconically quaint Shambles has its fair share of tourist tat.
Window shopping is of course free, but sightseeing in York does cost. Even visiting the city's greatest asset, the medieval masterpiece York Minster (completed 1472) will cost you – £14 for an adult ticket that includes a breathtaking (in both senses) climb to the top of the 60m tall central tower.
If you plan on fitting in more than a couple of the city's sights then a York Pass, on offer up to the end of March at £48 rather than £58, pays for itself after 2 or 3 of the 30-plus participating attractions.
There is much to do. The minster itself, might be a hard sell to kids, but it is one of the most spectacular spaces in the British Isles, and current renovation work offers a rare chance to see its glorious stained glass at close range. Even kids will be struck by the character of the ancient stone work.
We also loved the Yorvik Viking Centre, the York Castle Museum, with its spectacular reconstruction of the city's Victorian heyday, and York's Chocolate Story, which tells the story of the nation's favourite indulgence, and how it became a mass-produced speciality of the city.
We left with the satisfying feeling of having done a lot, but having saved plenty more for the next time.
The Hotel Du Vin, 89 The Mount, York YO24 1AX (Tel: 01904 557350) is offering "Winter Sparkle" dinner bed and breakfast packages from £109 per room.
Visit York's "York Wrapped Up" break offers include savings on the three-day York Pass (£48 per adult), plus discounts at a number of the city's top restaurants and shops