Christmas in York is Magical. York to begin with is a magical city in my opinion but experiencing it for the first time at Christmas was something else. If you are thinking of visiting York at Christmas, I can highly recommend it.
I unfortunately lost the phone which had the pictures from this trip on it. I do have some from my camera but because it was raining for part of the day I was using my phone more often. So I am very disappointed that I lost the photos but hopefully you can see the beauty of York in the ones I do have.
I had the opportunity to visit York this past Christmas with a tour group through my universities students union.
We started the day off with a short walking tour of the city. The old town, at the centre of York, is surrounded by walls originally built by the Romans. We entered the old town through Bootham Bar where we climbed the steps to begin walking along the wall. Bar is the name for the gatehouses which sit along the wall. In York when you hear someone talk about a gate it usually refers to a street such as Gillygate. I know it’s kinda confusing but apparently it comes from the Norse word for street as York was originally a viking settlement (called Jorvik).
The walk along the walls was very cool, and it provides some really nice views of York Minster. Because some of the walls have been destroyed over the years, they remain in sections so If you are just wanting to walk a little bit then Bootham Bar is a good place to start because you get to see quite a bit without going too far.
After making our way along the wall for a bit we headed over to see York Minster, the cathedral. One of my favourite things to do is visit old churches and see the architecture and stained glass. York Minister is stunning.
Because of covid they were only allowing people inside if you pre-booked, which I did not think of, so I just enjoyed it from the outside. We were still able to admire the architecture and see some of the stained glass (though it is obviously always much more impressive from the inside). The green space along the Minster is called Dean’s Park and on nice days its a good place to relax or have a picnic.
After seeing York Minster we wandered down the shambles. The shambles is a medieval street in York. You’ve probably seen pictures of it before with it’s crooked buildings leaning every direction. Despite what you may think the name does not come from the streets crooked and thrown together appearance but from the fact that it used to be a meat market.
Walking down the shambles was like being transported back it time. Sometime I get these moments were I have to just stop and pause and take in the fact that I get to be here and see all of these amazing places. This was definitely one of those moments. I am slightly heartbroken that I don’t have a good picture of the shambles but I guess that’s just an excuse to go back!
Finally we stopped at Clifford’s Tower, a 13th century castle which was unfortunately covered in scaffolding (It is set to reopen in April 2022). A heads up if you are visiting England, odds are that something you are wanting to see will have scaffolding all over it.
For the rest of the day we had free time to explore the Christmas Market and the city on our own.
I decided to go off on my own to shop the market and explore.
This Christmas Market is held every year from the end of November through December. The streets are lined with little chalets, each selling something different. There were ornaments, lots of food like fudges and brownies, and much more. I bought my mom a little glass Christmas ornament.
You can also find hot cider and mulled wine on every corner. I got myself a toffy apple hot cider to keep my hands and my insides warm. There was also someone selling roasted chestnuts, though I didn’t end up getting any.
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Once I had wandered through all the stalls I headed back to the shambles to explore some of the shops and just enjoy the street.
After that I decided to walk further along the walls. I crossed over the River Ouse to walk the walks on the other city so I could get a view of York Minster in the Distance
After exploring on my own for a while I was getting hungry and a little bit cold, so I thought it would be a good idea to find somewhere to eat and get warm.
I went into a few pubs but it was just starting to rain so everyone had the same idea and there was nowhere to sit. I was defintely out of my comfort zone at this point and started to get a bit anxious but I eventually found a nice little cafe right by the Minster where I was able to get some soup and a hot tea.
As I was sitting there the bells of the Minster began to ring. They went on for awhile and I just got to sit there and enjoy the music. Apparently the Minster holds over 56 bells, so it was quite the arrangement.
When I had finished eating I headed back out to the Christmas market to wander through the stalls again. It was starting to get darker and so the Christmas lights in the city started to come on. Again, Magical.
I found this shop that was stuffed full of Christmas decorations, in an old Tudor building, and just walking through the shop was an experience in itself. They had rooms of Nutcrackers, a whole area dedicated to Christmas baubles and then upstairs they had German Christmas Pyramids of all sizes and Black Forest cuckoo clocks.
I had wanted to get my mom a nutcracker, as she collects them, but they were a little outside my budget 😬.
Finally, I met back up with the tour group at Thor’s Tipi. Thor’s Tipi is bar that’s setup in the winter inside a massive tipi. They have fires going and live music playing inside. It was definitely a great way to end the day.
Other Things to Do In York
Some other things that I didn’t have a chance to check out include:
- The Jorvik Viking Centre
- York Castle Museum
- The York Dungeon
- York Ghost Tour
- York’s Chocolate Story
- Yorkshire Museum
Let me know if you have any questions about York down in the comments or even share your favourite part if you’ve been before!