I visited York, England, for the first time in 2016 and I was impressed by how pretty the city is. When I found out I would get the chance to visit again, I was excited that I’d get to see York at Christmastime. With only one day to explore Christmas in York, I decided to check out the St. Nicholas Fair York Christmas Market. If you are looking for more Christmas inspiration nearby, you need to visit Castle Howard during the Christmas season.
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Location of York England Christmas Markets
St. Nicholas Fair is made up of several Christmas markets that are all close to each other in the center of the city of York. The majority of the activity is along Church Street and Parliament Street. You will also find markets at Coppergate and the Judge’s Lodging. Behind the Shambles, you can visit the York Shambles Christmas Market and the Made in Yorkshire Yuletide Village.
York City Centre is a very walkable area and is not car friendly. The York St. Nicholas Christmas Markets are walking distance from the York Train Station. If you are driving, the closest parking for the York Christmas market is the Piccadilly York car park.
York Christmas Markets Dates and Hours
Unfortunately, the 2018 dates for St. Nicolas Fair are November 15th until only December 23rd. The York Christmas market opening time is 10 am daily. From Sunday through Wednesday they close at 6 pm. Thursday through Saturday, York Christmas Market opening hours go a little later (until 8 pm). Maybe in future years, the dates will be extended – we can hope, right?
York Christmas Market Food
Make sure you go to the Christmas Markets in York hungry because there are so many yummy food options! It was nice most places were offering samples, but no one was pushy about getting you to buy anything.
I think the most common food I saw was cheese, but there were plenty of unusual flavors – including charcoal cheese! I had to ask what it was and I was told it was cheese with a little bit of charcoal mixed in. The cheese was actually black. I tasted it and to me, it just tasted like a sharp cheese. I couldn’t taste any smokiness or flavor from the charcoal. Another unusual flavor was sticky toffee pudding cheese. I tasted it and thought it was a little too sweet for my liking.
Some stalls at the Christmas market had a wide variety of jams and spreads. As well as the basics like strawberry jam, mango chutney, etc and typically English flavors like lemon curd and blackcurrant jam, I found plenty of unusual flavors. These included strawberry prosecco jam, chocolate curd, and beetroot. These were all delicious and would pair nicely with the cheese.
Pies and Pastries
Savory pies and pastries are a big part of food culture in England, and I was pleased to find a range of them at the York Christmas market. For my lunch, I tried the Christmas roll, which was puff pastry with turkey, bacon (Canadian bacon), and cranberry. I also saw lots of interesting pork pies. You couldn’t sample them, but I bought a few small ones for our train ride back. They were delicious!
They had a lot of good looking desserts at the market. There is a history of making chocolate in the York area, and the city still has a reputation for good chocolate. One stall had huge, different flavored chocolate kisses. Unfortunately, they didn’t offer samples. I also found some delicious fudge, cookies, and brownies at the market. I sampled quite a lot of these!
St, Nicholas Fair Drinks
Can you have a Christmas market without mulled wine? You don’t have to worry about that here, there were plenty of choices for mulled wine and you could add an extra shot of alcohol if you wanted. I also saw some hot cider too.
In addition to the typical drinks that you might find at a Christmas Market, I found some interesting ones in the booths. It was nice that you could taste them. My favorites were a Toffee Vodka and the Sloe Gin. The chocolate wine tasted a little odd to me.
Kids Activities at the York Christmas Market
Kids might not be interested in all the stalls at the market but in King’s Square, there is a mini-carnival with a few rides that younger kids will love. When I wandered over to the area, it was pretty quiet, but I am sure it gets busier on the weekends.
Shopping at the York Christmas Market
You can definitely get your Christmas shopping done in York. I found a couple of interesting gift ideas at St. Nicholas’s Market. Kids will love the little boat that was powered by a mini candle. I didn’t understand how it was moving, but they were fun to watch. In the Judge’s Lodging area you can find some beautiful and intricate handcrafted gifts. I also saw some nice wooden gifts at the Coppergate Christmas Market. You should be able to find that gift for the’ hard to buy for’ person on your list among the York Christmas market deals.
There is a Marks and Spencers and Fenwicks right next to the York Parliament Street market. While I was shopping at M&S, I also used their bathroom. It can be busy but it’s nice to know that there is a nice bathroom close to the York Christmas Fair.
Thor’s Tipi is a pop up bar with a great atmosphere conveniently located in the York Xmas market, which I just loved. I went at about 1:30 pm on a Tuesday and it was packed and I had to wait in line for my drink.
They had a selection of both warm and cold drinks. I had already had a glass of mulled wine, so I decided to try a hot chocolate. You can choose to have any of several different alcohols added to your hot chocolate. I decided on Bailey’s and figured I might as well have the whipped cream and marshmallows too.
I took my drink and scanned the room for a seat. I wanted to sit by the fire in the middle of the tipi but clearly, everybody else did as well, because there was no space. Luckily, I found a spot on one of the benches around the perimeter. It was nice to find a warm atmospheric spot to relax and enjoy a drink. You can also bring in food from the market. I can only imagine how crowded Thor’s Tipi gets on the weekends.
Christmas Decorations in York
York did a great job with the Christmas decorations. I saw several different streets that had Christmas decorations and lights strung across them. The Shambles is a pretty street normally, but at Christmas, it gets even prettier. I also passed several beautifully decorated Christmas trees.
In 2017, they had a light extravaganza at the York Museum Gardens. We didn’t get a chance to go because we had to catch our train. Hopefully, they will bring it back in the future.
Traveling to the York for the Christmas Markets
Of course, you can drive to York, but you won’t need your car while you are there. It might be best to take the train. The Christmas markets are about a 15-minute walk from the station and it’s only a two-hour ride from London’s King Cross Station. If you book your train tickets early, avoid peak trains, and choose specific train times, you will get the best deal. Click here to check the schedule and prices.
If you want to stay overnight in York so that you have more time to also see the city, I recommend the Park Inn by Radisson. The location is perfect, right on the river. It’s a short walk from both the train station and the Christmas Markets. The rooms are comfortable and price is reasonable too. Check price and availability for the Park Inn York here or check out the reviews on TripAdvisor here.
For more ideas on what to do, check out my post about the best places to visit in York.
St Nicholas Market York Video
Check out our video to get an idea of what the York Xmas Market is like and get a little peek at the York Christmas lights.
I enjoyed the York Christmas markets and I hope to make more Christmas trips to York in the future. York is one of my favorite cities in England and they know how to celebrate Christmas. What cities are on your list to visit during Christmas?
Expert Tips for Visiting the York Christmas Markets:
- Come hungry, the food here is delicious and you can have samples.
- Most places will accept credit cards, but it is always good to have some cash with you when visiting a market like this.
- Thor’s Tipi is a lot of fun, but it may be crowded.
- You should also check out the Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Market in Suffolk.
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