Blogmas: 6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December

If there was one place I truly missed last year it was the annual trip to York. A visit to the medieval city at any time of year is a cracking day out, but in December it’s a must to get all the festive vibes, and feel like Christmas is on the way. A popular trip because it’s on the main train line, and sits in the middle so it’s pretty accessible from most places. Add in the quaint ancient streets all decorated for Christmas, a very good Christmas market, and lots of unique shops, here’s what not to miss when visiting York in December.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December

The whole city is incredibly Christmassy, but I’ve picked 6 spots that will tick all the festive boxes, especially if you’re limited on time.

York Christmas Market

The main reason most people visit York in December is of course the Christmas market. It’s always a good one with over 100 stalls filling St Sampsons Square and Parliament Street. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the train station, over the bridge and into the city. The stalls take on a North Yorkshire theme, with many local traders selling their products. A few that spring to mind include York Gin, Harrogate Tipple, and the Yorkshire candle company.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December

It’s a great market for actual traders and not just all food stalls, or novelty Christmas gifts. There are plenty of Christmas themed stalls too, including a Nutcracker Emporium selling nutcrackers made in Moscow, and a traditional pot pourri dried foot stall that smells of Christmas. We spent a good few hours browsing the different ones, with a mulled wine or cider in hand. We bought a lot too, the bags were pretty heavy by the end of the day.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December

There are quite a few food and drink stalls or carts, selling mulled drinks as mentioned, Baileys hot chocolates, festive punches and brandy. Food wise the Yorkshire pudding wraps are there, as well as a crepe stand, a scotch egg stall and of course the usual German sausages for hot dogs. We got some scotch eggs to take away – the chorizo one and the cranberry and stuffing festive ones were amazing.

Find a full list of traders here.

At the end of the market on Parliament Street, you will find Thor’s tipi, complete with fire pit, benches and a fully stocked festive bar. It smells amazing when you go in, and it’s bigger than Hadrian’s Tipi in Newcastle so it’s easier to get a seat.

Further round the corner there are some Christmas fair rides, including a traditional carousel. With York being quite a compact city, there isn’t an ice rink in the centre. The Yorkshire Winter Wonderland at York Designer Outlet just outside the city has an open air ice rink, Santa’s Grotto and a Chalet cafe. If you’re visiting via train you’d have to get a taxi out to it. Find the details here, this is open until 9th January.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December
6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December

On a Saturday it wasn’t too busy earlier on, but it definitely got busier by lunchtime. It’s set up well along the street so there aren’t bottle necks or crowds gathering. The market is there every day until 23rd December, so only a few days left to make the most of it or squeeze a visit in. But it’s not just the market that makes a York visit so good in December, there’s plenty more to enjoy even if you miss the market and go between Christmas and New Year.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December

The Shambles Market

If you branch off from St Sampsons Square towards the Shambles you will come to the Shambles Market, which is there year round every day too. It has usual market stalls, but at the moment in December they take on a festive feel. The florists were my favourite ones, as they had all sorts of Christmassy flowers, arrangements or decorations. How cure are the candy canes?!

The Shambles market is largely made up of food stalls, but there are some other gift ones too.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December

The Shambles

The Shambles itself is obviously a York hot spot, being one of the oldest medieval streets in the city and still keeping the timbered facades and cobbles. The shops along there are just gorgeous too, with everything from jewellers and cafes, to stamp and coin traders, gift shops, and Harry Potter themed shops. These are the most popular, often with big queues outside. The potions shop doesn’t have quite as big a queue as ‘The Shop That Must Not Be Named’.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December
6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December

You can’t stroll along The Shambles in December without ducking into the Nutcracker Christmas shop. Filled with decorations, including the personalised ones you can get as a souvenir of your trip to go on your Christmas tree. Choose your bauble and they’ll add the names of everyone that went on your York festive trip with you.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December
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St Helens Square

In the centre of York, the city Christmas tree sits in St Helen’s Square, and here you’ll also find the iconic Betty’s tearoom, which will definitely have a big queue outside. You can book for afternoon tea here, but to sit in the tearoom it’s a waiting game, as is the shop. They have some gorgeous treats and Christmas gifts, I love the breakfast tea and the seasonal cakes.

St Helens Square is also where you will find The Ivy, another great spot for a cocktail and some food. The doorway displays of the Ivy are a good photo spot to for some festive snaps.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December


After The Shambles, Stonegate is my favourite street in York because it’s so gorgeous with all the Christmas lights, and shop displays. It looks beautiful at any time of year, as it has so much character but it’s exceptional at Christmas. Along here you will find more shops, including Oliver Bonas, the White Company, Hotel Chocolat and the much bigger Christmas shop – Käthe Wohlfahrt.

A City Guide to York, England

Käthe Wohlfahrt is in another very old fourteenth century building so looks gorgeous from outside, and it’s an Aladdins cave of Christmas decorations inside. There is often a big queue outside so be prepared to wait, but the choice for decorations and ornaments inside is a lot bigger. They have everything you could think of to make your home a Christmas grotto.

Stonegate also has some good bars, including the Botanist, Evil Eye gin shop and bar, and the York Roast Co, selling hog roast sandwiches. They must be pretty good as it always has a queue too.


There are many little side streets and alleys filled with more boutique shops and cute little cafes or restaurants, but I’m going to mention Lendal, as this is where you’ll fine the Judges Lodging. This old townhouse has hotel rooms and a restaurant, but the courtyard outside is always really festive in the run up to Christmas, often with mulled wine on offer, and this year a York gin van. It’s lovely with all the lights and Christmas trees up.

The Lendal Cellars pub is a great one to visit, it’s a traditional Yorkshire pub under brick archways, and is always very cosy and festive inside.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December

I’ve not even mentioned all the other things you can see and do in York, have a read of my city guide to York here, but for the purposes of this Blogmas post I’ve kept it focused on all things festive. If you’re there for a day trip these spots are the ones to visit. Even the chain shops and bars feel a bit more unique here because of the old buildings they’re in, and with all the Christmas trees and lights up a visit to York in December will get you very much in the Christmas spirit.

6 Festive Spots To Enjoy When Visiting York In December

Other posts you might like:

Blogmas: A 2021 Quiz for over the Christmas Break

Blogmas: Easy Christmas cocktails to make at home

Blogmas: North East walks to enjoy between Christmas and New Year

Blogmas: Christmas at Beamish

Blogmas: South Causey Inn Christmas market

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