As the festive season approaches, it’s time to plan your Christmas getaway in York. There’s simply no better place to immerse yourself in the magic of the holidays than this historic and charming city.
York is renowned for its rich history, stunning architecture, and timeless beauty. When the city dons its festive finery and Christmas spirit flows through the old streets, even Scrooge himself would have to admit it’s quite something.
York at Christmas truly offers something for everyone. Here’s our selection of special experiences that await you.
York Christmas Walking Tours
Begin your holiday adventure with a leisurely Christmas walking tour through the heart of York. The city has played host to winter celebrations for almost 2000 years, from the Romans’ hedonistic capers to Viking Midwinter Festivals.
As you stroll along fairy-lit cobbled streets, you’ll understand how events of the past have helped make York the UK’s most festive city. The tours offer an intimate glimpse into York’s history and its holiday traditions – and perhaps even a cup of mulled wine to warm your cockles on the way around.
Several operators run tours, so shop around to find one that suits your schedule. This popular tour runs every day at 4pm from mid-November to Christmas Eve.
York Christmas Market
York’s famous Christmas Market is where you’ll find all manner of delicacies and unique holiday gifts. Over a hundred charming chalets line the streets, offering an array of treats and trinkets. You’ll find all your Christmas classics like mulled wine, chocolate and knitwear, as well as eclectic delights such as chilli jam and Viking drinking horns.
Whether you’re searching for presents that’ll warm the hearts of your loved ones, or simply want to indulge yourself, York Christmas Market won’t let you down.
Be enchanted by a Christmas concert
For Christmas music like you’ve never experienced before, Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert promises a soul-stirring evening in a majestic setting. Rejoice in acoustic versions of traditional carols and sing along to Christmas classics from the likes of Slade and The Pogues. The annual event will be held at the stunning Q Church for the first time and runs on the first two weekends of December. It’s guaranteed to sell out, so early booking is recommended.
If you prefer things a little more genteel, the Candlelit Christmas String Quartet concerts offer a more serene but equally enchanting experience. Join them in the beautiful St Olave’s Church on 1st or 2nd December.
You can find out more and book tickets for the concerts here.
York Minster: Choir Music and Candlelit Performances
On the 3rd of December, York’s most famous landmark begins the Christmas season in mesmerising fashion with the Advent procession. A packed roster of festive events follows that. Highlights include carol performances, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, and Christmas with Jethro Tull.
And of course, the annual Christmas Tree Festival sees the Minster’s interior decked out with over sixty Christmas trees, all fabulously decorated by local businesses, schools and charities. If that doesn’t get you into the festive spirit, nothing will.
Yuletide Elegance at Treasurer's House
In the shadow of York Minster you’ll find the Treasurer’s House – a historic gem at any time of year. At Christmas, however, it’s transformed into a festive wonderland.
Admire the unique decorations, hand-made by volunteers, as you wander through the house. Each room presents new wonders, inspired by the travels of Frank Green, the House’s eccentric former owner, who donated it to the National Trust in 1930.
This eclectic and timeless Christmas experience is open Saturday to Wednesday from 13th November to 17th December 2023.
Cave in to your chocolate craving
Chocolate and Christmas go hand in hand. So it makes perfect sense to indulge your cocoa craving in the UK’s chocolate capital.
As well as being the birthplace of household brands such as Rowntree’s and Terry’s, York also hosts several luxury chocolatiers, such as Monk Bar Chocolatiers, situated on the famous Shambles. And of course, you’ll find all manner of delightful confections in the markets.
But if you truly live for chocolate, then a trip to York Chocolate Story is a must. They pull out all the stops at Christmas time. While it’s a magical experience for kids and families, it also offers a unique adult chocolate-making masterclass, complete with boozy hot chocolate.
Why limit your indulgence to just chocolate? York is brimming with world-class eateries showcasing the best seasonal produce. You won’t have to go far to find a festive feast.
In fact, one of our recommendations is in the shadow of the Tower itself. Star Inn The City offers casual yet exquisite dining in a beautiful riverside setting.
For those with a fervour for flawless food, York’s only Michelin-starred restaurant is a must. Roots York takes produce from the family farm of renowned chef, Tommy Banks and uses cutting-edge techniques to conjure up culinary wonders. The tasting menu is constantly evolving, which means you’ll get a truly once-in-a-lifetime dining experience.
For something a little different, try Skosh. This eclectic, open-plan restaurant offers small plates of English classics with a twist, often infusing Asian influences.
Several York restaurants are featured in the Michelin guide, so you’re sure to find something that suits your palate.
The beauty of York is that one doesn’t need a plan. With so many wonders crammed within the ancient walls, simply roaming the streets is an experience. With hundreds of shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and galleries, all beautifully adorned for Christmas, you’re sure to stumble across countless delights wherever you go.
York truly offers everything you could need for a luxurious and enriching Christmas getaway. And with the Tower’s interior festooned with decorations, you’ll have a beautiful and historic festive refuge for the duration of your stay. A truly unforgettable Christmas experience.