Officially the UK’s Most Festive City, York comes into its own this time of year. If you’ve managed to bag yourself a room at The Fort in the winter months you’ll be greeted by a treasure trove of street markets and independent shops, festive takeovers of our much-loved attractions, and merriment in our theatres and bars.
What’s more, we’re in the heart of the action, meaning you don’t have to worry about traffic, parking or treating yourself to another mulled wine. Merry Christmas!
The decorations already adorn York’s streets but it’s not until 14 November that the Christmas festivities officially begin. Gather round the giant Xmas tree in Duncombe Place and get into the Christmas spirit as the city is illuminated in a red and green glow. York’s official switch-on has grown in wattage and popularity in recent years so you’ll need to get there early to get up close. A brass band will countdown the action which also marks the day when the UK’s top Christmas market, St Nicholas Fair, starts trading. Make sure you pop-round the corner to see us for a mulled wine afterwards!
This Nordic-inspired retreat has become somewhat of a Christmas institution in York. With a roaring firepit, fur-lined benches, a well-stocked bar and DJs spinning the tunes it’s easy to see why. Found at the tail end of Parliament Street Thors Tipi offers a welcome break from the busy streets and shops. With your seat bagged and cockles warmed we recommend the tasty Scandi sausages conveniently served next door. Shambles Kitchen’s Scandi twist on the Christmas Market essential are best followed by some sweet treats from the Donut Kitchen.
Don your winter jacket and take to the top deck of a York City Cruise where it’s a different take on the same route to Bishopthorpe and back, complete with Christmas songs, hot chocolate and mince pies. If you’re after something a bit more indulgent and longer lasting, the waterways are transformed to a full-on winter wonderland during weekend evenings in December. You’ll find a seasonal BBQ, festive cocktails and disco on board a lively party boat, much to the envy of riverside onlookers.
Give a more thoughtful gift this Christmas by paying York’s independent shopping streets a visit.
Venture down to Fossgate for ecletic gift shop Give The Dog A Bone, colourful interiors at Rise & Shine Living, time-honoured clobber at Bowler Vintage, house plants galore at Botanic, and tasty stocking fillers at The Hairy Fig and Spark. On the Shambles you’ll find The Potions Cauldron, beautiful British satchels at Zatchels, good luck charms at The York Ghost Merchants and countless Harry Potter shops. Other Fort favourites include designer/maker paradise Snowhome, urban contemporary gallery Art of Protest, Rafi’s Spice Box for their hampers and the Lottie Inche Gallery for carefully-sourced collectables.
A York institution! The final curtain might have come down on Berwick Kaler after 40 years as York Theatre Royal’s pantomime dame but the show must go on. Some things won’t change - the outlandish gowns, groanworthy gags and wagon wheels will still be out in full force – but this year’s tale is a new take on the old classic Sleeping Beauty. If C-list celeb appearances are more your thing, then head on down to Grand Opera House York for a double dose of family fun.
Hop on the number 180 or 181 bus outside York railway station and head to Castle Howard for the most magical Christmas experience of all.
Behold the breath-taking decorations taking over the House’s grand state rooms. With a 25-foot traditional Christmas tree dressed in over 3000 baubles and a theme of ‘A Christmas Masquerade’ producing a stunning array of flamboyant displays and installations it’s spectacle to remember. If you’re lucky your visit might just coincide with a surprise visit from Santa too.
Dig out your mittens as the largest outdoor ice rink in the north is returning for another year. Now a part of the festive furniture at York Designer Outlet there’s plenty on offer besides ice skating, including a 30ft high sparkling Christmas tree, an alpine-themed café, a Santa’s grotto and a pop-up fun fayre with all your favourite rides. That’s not forgetting the 125 designer brands all under one roof.
From hidden gem music spaces and big capacity concert halls, there’s a vast array of places to catch live music in York.
It’s been 20 years since we served our first drink on Little Stonegate and we’ve seen it all in that time. But which York bars and pubs do it best?
Venture beyond the guidebooks and you’ll find a wealth of free things to do in York - the UK’s favourite city.