Posted by Sophie
What To Do In York Christmas 201729 NOV
York’s bustling cobbled streets, cosy pubs, and general olde worlde vibe, mean that the city naturally seems to feel rather Christmassy.
This year (likely thanks in part to the York BID), it seems like the city is working harder than ever to prove itself to be THE ultimate festive destination. There are more cockle-warming, wintery activities taking place around the centre than you can shake a candy cane at.
Here is our round-up of just a few of the season’s highlights, that residents and visitors alike can enjoy...
Shop, eat and drink at St Nicholas’ Fair
St Nicholas’ Fair comprises of over 100 wooden, Scandinavian style chalets. Inside you will find a diverse range of traders specialising in gifts, crafts, and local farm produce. These festive huts can be found across the city centre: the largest concentration lining Parliament Street and smaller collections at St Sampson's Square, The Judges Lodgings and Coppergate.
Crucial for any enjoyable shopping experience, there are plenty of opportunities to feed and water yourself with food stalls, pop up bars and even a roaring fire to gather around at Thor’s Tipi, Parliament Street.
A very important point to note here: The Shambles Kitchen will once again be selling their Christmas bratwursts. Now, I’m personally attempting to be mostly vegetarian at the moment. I also promised myself I wasn’t going to eat pork anymore because someone once told me that pigs are as smart as 7-year-old humans. BUT I have spent the last 11 months thinking about these sausages and I really think I’m going to have to eat one.
Wandering through the busy market with a mulled wine (and, yeah, maybe a sausage) in hand is a much more pleasant way to do your shopping than haunting the same old high street shops (which, by the way, don’t let you drink hot booze while you queue).
The market is open from 10am to 6pm Sun - Weds and 10am to 8pm Thurs - Sat, and goes on until the 22nd December.
‘Ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the twinkly lights
In the last few years, York has definitely stepped up its Christmas light game.
Bask in the artificial glow of over 160,000 LED lights twinkling from lampposts, shopfronts and over 100 Christmas trees. Nets of fairy lights once again drape Micklegate, Monkbar, Bootham and Walmgate Bars, and this year Lendal and Ouse Bridge have also got the full festive treatment.
If that wasn’t enough for you, the freshly-illuminated Museum Gardens will open each evening until 1st January. The 10-acre park will host a plethora of festive light installations, as well as a ‘Christmas Village’ featuring funfair rides, food and drink concessions.
Now it must be noted that this experience costs the not insignificant sum of £14.95 per adult/ £8.95 per child. Noone in the office has been yet, so whether it is worth the admission remains to be seen.
Experience a guaranteed White Christmas
The charmingly squiffy, much-celebrated street, The Shambles, (said to be JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley) has long been a draw for tourists. This Christmas sees even greater crowds heading to the historical site to enjoy a special installation.
As part of this year’s late night shopping experience (which includes free council parking and late running buses), it will snow on the Shambles every Thursday evening until Christmas.
Earlier this year, the Shambles Area Traders Association raised over £2,800 to buy snow machines for the street.
There are precious few Thursdays remaining until the 25th (as if you needed reminding) so don’t dilly dally if you want to experience this one-street winter wonderland.
Marvel at the biggest ice trail in the UK
2017’s Ice Trail features 45 sculptures dotted throughout the city.
On 9-10th December, head into town to hunt out the pieces (or you could just download the map). You can even see some live ice sculpting in St Helen’s Square from 3pm each day.
Boo and cheer your winter blues away at the Panto
York is now the home of THREE pantomimes (‘oh no it isn’t’, ‘oh yes it is’ etc.).
The Theatre Royal, Grand Opera House and Barbican each have their own competing panto. I haven’t been to a pantomime yet this year, but I was raised on the Theatre Royal panto. So, deeply biased as I am, I maintain that this is York’s One True Pantomime.
Now everyone knows pantos are a delightfully quirky, quintessentially British phenomena. They are, I suspect, principally designed to baffle unsuspecting foreign relatives or lost tourists. However, the famous York Theatre Royal Panto is especially bonkers (and that really is saying something).
Unlike your average panto, YTR doesn’t cast ex-Gladiators and contestants from Pop Idol. Instead, a regular cast of rep actors (some of which are well into their second decade’s worth of shows) strut the stage in outlandish costumes, while writer/director/Dame Berwick Kaler has been ruling over York’s panto for 38 years. In-jokes abound such as the obligatory appearance of Queen Victoria, a meerkat and ITV’s Harry Gration. This year they are revisiting Jack and the Beanstalk and it's bound to be as amusingly nuts as ever.
Remember: if you do have a guest from overseas coming to stay, it is your obligation to take them to the panto.
Attend a service at York Minster
What, I ask you, is more Christmassy than a carol service? York Minster, in its towering Gothic splendour, is surely the perfect place to attend a Christmas service.
Every year, I take my Nanna to the Minister Carol Concert (alas, long sold out, sorry). Although I’m not much of a churchgoer, I enjoy the candlelight, beautiful music and grandeur of this yearly tradition.
While you can't come to the Carol Concert with me and Nanna, do not despair. There are plenty of services you can attend (it's a pretty big deal in the Christian calendar, after all) for which no booking or tickets are required. As over 10,000 people attend York Minster for services over Advent and Christmas each year, understandably they get pretty packed so it's advisable to arrive nice and early.