There’s no shortage of things to do in York at Christmas. It is such a charming city and has been described as England’s most Christmassy city! There are just so many festive things going on in my home city of York. I haven’t got around to doing them all yet, but I hope to get through this list myself.
From twinkling lights to bustling markets, and captivating tours to unique shopping experiences, the city offers countless reasons to celebrate the holiday season.
Things to do in York at Christmas
I wanted to take you on a whirlwind adventure through the top Christmas activities in York, showcasing the very best of the city’s festive events and attractions. I know it’s not Christmas yet, but some of these things sell out quickly so you need to plan ahead!
Grab your scarf and gloves, and let’s dive into the enchanting world of York’s Christmas wonders!
- Things to do in York at Christmas
- 1. York Christmas Market: St Nicholas Fair
- 2. Explore the Shambles: A Christmas Shopping Adventure
- 3. Christmas Lights and Decorations: A Sparkling Spectacle
- 4. A Pantomime Treat: Theatre Royal York
- 5. The Muppet Christmas Carol
- 6. Christmas Tree Festival: A Unique Tradition
- 6. York Minster Carol Concerts: A Timeless Tradition
- 7. Fairfax House: A Georgian Christmas Experience
- 8. Tales of The Christmas City: Guided Walking Tour
- 9. Santa Experience on York City Cruises
- 10. The Snowman at York Minster
- 11. Betty’s Christmas Afternoon Tea
- 12. Christmas at York Castle Museum
- 13. York’s Chocolate Story
- 14. Big Christmas Concert with Alistair Griffin
- 15. Christmas at Treasurer’s House
- 16. Christmas at Barley Hall, York
- 17. Christmas Social & Quiz at Impossible York
- 18. Christmas at the National Railway Museum
- Things to do near York at Christmas
- 19. Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland
- 20. Murton Park, York – Yorkshire Farming Museum
- 21. Beetle Bank Farm
- 22. Christmas Festival at The Web Adventure Park
- 23. Magical Sleigh Ride at Piglets Adventure Farm
1. York Christmas Market: St Nicholas Fair
Dates: York Christmas Market will return from 16th November to 22nd December 2023.
Location: Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square, York
York’s historic city centre transforms into a winter wonderland, with the hugely popular St Nicholas Fair attracting visitors from far and wide. Running from the 26th of November until the 23rd of December, this bustling market is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the true magic of Christmas in York.
The York Christmas market gets busy, so I would advise against going at peak times. I once went on a Saturday, in mid-December, and it was shoulder-to-shoulder with people. I’d recommend going early in the week, first thing. I went one Tuesday morning in November and it was a delight!
Alpine Chalets and Festive Shopping
Stroll along the charming alpine chalets lining Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square, basking in the cosy glow of twinkling lights. Here, you’ll find unique handcrafted gifts, artisan food items, and seasonal treats, perfect for ticking off your Christmas shopping list. Don’t forget to warm up with a steaming cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate as you meander through the festive stalls. There’s also lots of local flavoured gin and alcohol, as well as festive beers which make great fits.
The Winter Hütte: A Swiss Dining Experience
The traditional Swiss chalet was new to York Christmas Market in 2022 – The Winter Hütte. Offering a ‘Swiss with a Twist’ dining experience, this cosy retreat is the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef, Andrew Pern (Star Inn the City). Indulge in delicious food and delightful company in this charming addition to the market. It’s dog friendly, has a child-friendly menu and serves some local beers. It’s coming back in 2023 – but dates are to be confirmed!
2. Explore the Shambles: A Christmas Shopping Adventure
The Shambles, York’s famous medieval street, becomes even more enchanting during the Christmas season. Adorned with festive decorations and boasting vibrant window displays, this bustling thoroughfare is the perfect place to find those unique, hard-to-find gifts for your loved ones.
The Shambles is home to an array of independent shops, offering a treasure trove of artisan gifts and food items that are sure to delight even the pickiest of recipients. Popular shops are the Harry Potter-themed ones as well as The York Ghost Merchants. Take a leisurely stroll down this charming street and tick off your Christmas shopping list while soaking in the festive atmosphere.
3. Christmas Lights and Decorations: A Sparkling Spectacle
One of the simplest yet most enchanting Christmas activities in York is to simply wander the city’s streets, admiring the dazzling array of festive decorations. From the stunning lights that illuminate Betty’s Tearoom and The Ivy in St Helen’s Square to the spectacular storefronts of independent jewellers like Bradley’s on Low Petergate, the city comes alive with the glow of Christmas cheer.
4. A Pantomime Treat: Theatre Royal York
Dates: Friday 8th Dec 2023 – Sunday 7th Jan 2024
A visit to the theatre is a fantastic way to get yourself in the festive spirit, and York Theatre Royal is the perfect place to catch a traditional pantomime performance. One of the oldest theatres in the UK, this historic venue offers a wonderfully atmospheric setting for a fun-filled family outing.
Jack and The Beanstalk
In 2023, the pantomime of choice at York Theatre Royal is the captivating Jack and The Bean Stalk. Fe-Fi-Fo-Fun extravaganza for all the family, this is a fresh take on the classic tale written by Paul Hendry
Book your pantomime tickets here.
5. The Muppet Christmas Carol
Date: 8th December 2023, 6:30 pm
Where: York Barbican
Get ready to experience the magic of Disney’s The Muppet Christmas Carol like never before! This winter, the beloved film will come alive on stage across the UK in an extraordinary live concert event. Brace yourself for an unforgettable experience as the musical score is performed live, perfectly synchronised with the heartwarming story.
Following its premiere last year, this second instalment of the UK tour promises to be even more spectacular.
Join the beloved Muppets as they bring Charles Dickens’ timeless holiday tale to life. Kermit the Frog takes on the role of Bob Cratchit, the humble clerk working for the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, portrayed brilliantly by the legendary Michael Caine. But that’s not all! Prepare to be enchanted as Gonzo, with the help of his trusty sidekick Rizzo the Rat, steps into the shoes of Charles Dickens himself, narrating the captivating story.
6. Christmas Tree Festival: A Unique Tradition
Where: York Minster
Start a new festive tradition by visiting the York Minster Christmas Tree Festival. Set within the awe-inspiring surroundings of York Minster’s medieval Chapter House and Lady Chapel, this unique event showcases around 40 beautifully decorated trees, each with its own individual theme and vote for your favourite.
Trees with a Purpose
Local businesses, schools, and charities come together to decorate these stunning trees, creating a truly community-driven event. Before you leave, be sure to add your own Christmas message to a tag on the festival’s prayer trees.
The Christmas Tree Festival runs from early December until early January, giving you plenty of time to marvel at the spectacular displays. Entry to the festival is included in the general admission ticket for York Minster.
Read my post about my visit to York Minster here.
6. York Minster Carol Concerts: A Timeless Tradition
Where: York Minster
No list of Christmas activities in York would be complete without mentioning the joy of singing carols at York Minster. Throughout December, this iconic cathedral hosts a variety of carol concerts, including traditional performances and the annual Christmas Carols by Candlelight event, which has been a cherished tradition since 1965.
A Choral Delight
Under the leadership of Musical Director Benjamin Morris, the York Minster Choir is one of the finest chamber choirs in the North of England. Their spectacular performances, set against the awe-inspiring backdrop of York Minster’s Nave, are a truly festive treat not to be missed.
7. Fairfax House: A Georgian Christmas Experience
Dates: Mid-November – December (TBC)
Where: Fairfax House, York
Fairfax House, a stunning Georgian townhouse in the heart of York, offers a truly unique Christmas experience. Experience the splendour of Fairfax House as it celebrates The Keeping of Christmas. From mid-November to December’s end, this Georgian townhouse is decorated for Christmas. Explore eighteenth-century Christmas traditions, distinct from the Victorian era, and still cherished today. Immerse yourself in history, and embrace the beauty of Fairfax House adorned with timeless elegance. Don’t miss this captivating celebration of holiday heritage.
A Townhouse At Christmas
For Christmas 2022, this remarkable museum has gained over two hundred new residents – adorable, felted mice who have chosen Fairfax House as the location for their festive celebrations.
As you explore the beautifully decorated rooms of Fairfax House, you’ll follow the mousey party from Christmas Day breakfast to Twelfth Night. Along the way, you’ll learn about traditional Georgian Christmas customs while trying to spot the many mice hidden throughout the house. It’s not confirmed if this will be on this year, but I’ll update you when I find out!
8. Tales of The Christmas City: Guided Walking Tour
Where: York City Center
If you want to delve deeper into the festive history of York, take a Christmas walking tour of the city. These guided tours last around 90 minutes and are led by experienced guides who know all the best Christmas sights and hidden gems.
Uncovering York’s Festive Past
On these tours, you’ll discover why York has been called England’s most Christmassy city, learning about Viking feasts, Victorian authors, and medieval Christmas rituals along the way. All the while, you’ll be admiring the city’s most famous landmarks, bathed in the warm glow of festive decorations.
Find out more information here.
9. Santa Experience on York City Cruises
Where: The Boatyard, Lendal Bridge, York, YO1 7DP.
Experience a marvellously magical festive cruise on the River Ouse with Santa! Despite his busy schedule, Santa loves visiting City Cruises in York to spread joy every year. Step into Santa’s Grotto at our Boatyard beneath Lendal Bridge. The cruise lasts one hour.
Your Captain will verify children on the VIP guestlist from Lapland. Leave your pushchair in the secure Reindeer Pen. Meet Santa’s friends, Mary Christmas or Ernie/Ellie the Elf, and be guided to your reserved seating. The rest is a secret, but expect Santa Claus himself to join you for a truly wonderful family experience.
10. The Snowman at York Minster
Where: York Minster
Create unforgettable Christmas memories with a special screening of the beloved family-favourite film, The Snowman, accompanied by a live orchestra. Presented by Carrot Productions, the world’s leading performers of The Snowman film with a live orchestra, this award-winning show showcases the talents of some of the UK’s finest musicians.
In addition to The Snowman, get ready to delight in The Flight Before Christmas, a sensational new film featuring Shaun the Sheep, brought to life with a live orchestra for the very first time. Join Shaun and his flock on a merry adventure as they embark on a farmhouse raid gone awry, discovering the true meaning of Christmas along the way. It’s a ‘Santastic’ experience suitable for all ages!
Set in the majestic surroundings of York Minster, this magical and acclaimed show is perfect for the entire family to enjoy together. Get ready for an enchanting evening that will leave you with cherished memories and a heart full of holiday spirit.
11. Betty’s Christmas Afternoon Tea
Where: Betty’s Café Tea Rooms, 6-8 St. Helen’s Square, York YO1 8QP
After a day spent exploring the festive delights of York, there’s no better place to warm up and indulge in some delicious food than Betty’s Tea Rooms. First opened in 1936, this iconic establishment offers a truly grand dining experience, with its beautiful interiors inspired by the Queen Mary ocean liner.
A Delicious Menu
Betty’s menu features Christmas cakes, Christmas coffee, stollen, mince pies and plenty of other Christmas treats over Christmas
Read this post about when I went to Betty’s for Afternoon Tea on my birthday.
12. Christmas at York Castle Museum
Date: TBC (19 November 2022 – 4th January 2023 last year)
Where: York Castle Museum, Tower St, York YO1 9RY
Experience the magic of Christmas at York Castle Museum, a delightful festive adventure for the entire family!
Immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere as you stroll along Kirkgate, our renowned Victorian street blanketed in snow. Marvel at the period decorations adorning the street and peek into our captivating shopfronts displaying historical ornaments and objects from our extensive collection. Delight in a range of free, family-friendly Christmas activities that cater to all ages.
In addition to the joy on Kirkgate, take a step back in time and explore our popular Period Rooms, each beautifully adorned with authentic decorations spanning from a 17th-century dining room to a 1980s kitchen.
The Christmas event is included in the general admission to York Castle Museum, granting you access for a whole year! Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to book additional activities and events to enhance your Christmas visit even further.
13. York‘s Chocolate Story
Where: York’s Chocolate Story, 3-4 King’s Sq, York YO1 7LD.
York’s Chocolate Story is a museum in York, England, dedicated to the history of chocolate-making in the city. Discover the origins of chocolate, learn about famous chocolatiers, and indulge in delicious samples. Interactive exhibits and demonstrations bring the story of chocolate to life.
Ready for a Chocolate covered Christmas? York Chocolate story has Christmas experiences over the Christmas period. Typically, these involve things like a Santas Grotto and Christmas chocolate workshops.
It’s a perfect place for any chocolate lover this Christmas!
14. Big Christmas Concert with Alistair Griffin
The 2022 York Christmas concert was hailed as a sensational event that captivated audiences. Featuring a talented lineup of performers, including world-class musicians and renowned artists, the concert delivered an extraordinary musical experience with performances of popular Christmas songs.
The grandeur of the venue at St Michael Lle Belfrey Church, York, combined with the festive atmosphere, created a truly magical evening. This highly acclaimed event has become a highlight of the Christmas season, leaving attendees in awe and spreading joy and cheer to all.
Although I’ve not seen any official announcement of this returning this year, I did stalk Alistair Griffin’s Twitter page where he said plans were underway to make 2023’s concert even better!
15. Christmas at Treasurer’s House
Dates: Saturday to Wednesday, 11 am – 4 pm, 13 November to 17 December 2023
Where: Treasurer’s House, Minster Yard, York YO1 7JL
The Treasurer’s House in York is a historic museum near York Minster. Built-in the 17th century, it showcases art, antiques, and beautiful interiors. Visitors can explore its rooms and gardens, and learn about its intriguing history. The house is known for its connection to a ghostly tale and offers guided tours and special events. It’s a must-visit for history and architecture enthusiasts in York.
The house is decorated for Christmas with a new theme every year. Tours are paused during Christmas so you can soak up the beautiful house in your own time.
16. Christmas at Barley Hall, York
Where: Barley Hall, 2 Coffee Yard, York YO1 8AR
The restored medieval townhouse is decorated throughout Christmas for all visitors to enjoy. There are also Christmas events on such as a Christmas Feast and Mead Tasting.
17. Christmas Social & Quiz at Impossible York
Date: 23rd November 2023
Where: Impossible York, 3 St. Helen’s Square, York YO1 8QN
There’s a Christmas quiz on at the popular bar Impossible York to get you into the Christmas spirit. Book now to save your place!
18. Christmas at the National Railway Museum
Where: National Railway Museum York, Leeman Rd, York YO26 4XJ
The National Railway Museum in York showcases the history of railways in the UK. Explore a collection of historic locomotives and exhibits that highlight the development and impact of railways. The museum offers interactive experiences and is a must-visit for railway enthusiasts and families.
The official activities have not been announced yet, but there are usually free Christmas craft activities for kids on at the museum. The National Railway Museum is already free to enter, so it makes a great day out that will save you money!
Read my The National Railway Museum Review here.
Things to do near York at Christmas
Now we’ve discovered what you can do in York at Christmas, let’s look at things to do outside of the city centre.
19. Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland
Where: The Designer Outlet
Just a short drive or bus ride from York city centre, you’ll find the enchanting Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland at York Designer Outlet. This magical event offers something for everyone, with an outdoor ice rink, vintage funfair, Santa’s Grotto, and The Chalet Alpine café.
The Ice Factor: Skating Fun for All Ages
The Ice Factor, the North of England’s largest outdoor ice rink, boasts 975 square meters of real ice, with a 30-foot-high sparkling Christmas tree at its centre. Surrounded by illuminated trees, log cabins, and a rinkside café, this festive setting is perfect for creating unforgettable memories with family and friends. Book in advance as tickets go fast!
A Winter Shopping Spree
While you’re at Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland, why not take advantage of the fantastic shopping opportunities at York Designer Outlet? With a wide range of high-quality brands and unbeatable discounts, it’s the perfect place to find those last-minute Christmas gifts.
20. Murton Park, York – Yorkshire Farming Museum
Date: Throughout December
Where: Murton Park, Murton, York, YO19 5UF
Experience the joy of the holiday season at Murton Park with their magical Santa event! Discover the enchantment of Murton Park’s festive celebration, filled with activities for the whole family. Meet Santa himself in his charming grotto. There’s a Christmas fayre with stalls offering a range of gifts from local companies and crafters, crafts and more!
21. Beetle Bank Farm
Date: Every weekend in December
Where: Beetle Bank Farm, Moor Ln, Murton, York YO19 5XD
Beetle Bank Farm is one of our favourite places, we have an annual pass and go there often. Read my blog post about it here. Have a farmyard Christmas at Beetle Bank where there’s a Santas Grotto every weekend throughout December! Don’t forget to book online!
22. Christmas Festival at The Web Adventure Park
Where: The Web Adventure Park, Clifton gate business park, Wigginton Rd, York YO32 2RH
The Web Adventure Park is a big indoor soft play with an outdoor playground, fairground and animals. Over Christmas, it hosts a Christmas festival. You can meet Santa, his reindeer and go on the rides at the Christmas Fairground and have a stroll around elf village.
23. Magical Sleigh Ride at Piglets Adventure Farm
Where: Ride at Piglets Adventure Farm, Towthorpe Grange, Towthorpe Moor Ln, Towthorpe, York YO32 9ST
Piglets Adventure Farm turns into a winter wonderland over Christmas. You can meet Santa in his grotto, explore the enchanting woodland village, enjoy Christmas treats and sweets, watch an Elf show and have fun on a magical sleigh ride!
Read my full post about Piglets Adventure Farm here.
With so many incredible Christmas activities in York, it’s no wonder that this charming city is a favourite destination for festive celebrations. From the sparkling lights and bustling markets to the captivating tours and unique shopping experiences, York truly comes alive during the holiday season. So, get your winter woollies on and immerse yourself in the magic of Christmas in York – you won’t be disappointed!
How dare you get me excited for Christmas in MAY! Sounds like there’s loadsss to do in York around Christmas. I love a Christmas market (even though they’re pretty much all the same haha!) I definitely want to do more Christmassy things in Lincolnshire this year as I’d have moved by then and want to really embrace Christmas in a new place x
York really does look beautiful at Christmas, I can’t even begin to think about Christmas yet though! x
Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk
Your post on Christmas activities in York is enchanting! You’ve captured the festive spirit and offered wonderful suggestions. Thanks for spreading the holiday joy!
These are great things to do. If we spend Christmas in York, I will make sure to try some of these with my partner. Thank you for sharing!
I LOVE York at Christmas! And I’m so happy to be getting excited about it already. Might have to get something booked in.
I don’t live in the UK but these truly sound magical! So many options I would like to visit but the Swiss dining experience caught my eye. Christmas is my favorite holiday. I have in laws that live in the UK so maybe it’s time to plan a family trip thank you for sharing!
I love York at Christmas time – but then again, I love it at any time of the year! When I was at Uni we went to the Minster for a carol service which was lovely, and we used to have drinks in Thor’s at the markets 🙂
I’ll be planning a long trip to York once Jack is a bit older – having read this, I may have to plan it on the run up to Christmas because there is just SO much magic!
What a lot of great looking activities!
No, not Christmas already! (I work in book retail, so I dread the sound.)
But also, I am definitely going to be in York this coming holiday season, so this list is actually quite excellent (even if I don’t want to think that far ahead). Thanks for sharing!
Oooh you’re early with the Christmas content! Haha. I love York at Christmas time though – It feels extra magical! We’ll definitely be visiting this year. X