My alarm blared out around 7am on a misty December morning as I was eager to start my Christmassy day in York. I arrived just after midnight on the train and went straight to the hotel (a few minutes walk from the station), so hadn’t really seen any of the city – but I had one place in mind first and foremost…

Shambles in York at Christmas

1) The Shambles | Photo spots in York

I can’t remember when this medieval street captured my imagination, but for years I’ve wanted to photograph York’s famous Medieval street and see what else this historic city has to offer.

The Shambles is brimming with character – the uneven timbered buildings overhanging the narrow street, the strip of cobblestone and old shop windows creates a very enchanting scene, particularly with the sparkling Christmas lights and decorations.

Wrapped up warm I made sure to stop by this street first before the hustle and bustle of the day unfolded. Even though I could’ve done with a few more hours of sleep I enjoyed having this tranquil time to see York waking up for a busy working day.

2) York Minster Cathedral

I made my way around to York Minster Cathedral, pausing for a moment when I caught sight of the Cathedral towers shrouded in the morning mist above the city street. It was an incredibly atmospheric view and just how I envisioned York to have looked back in the Medieval period from all the chimneys pipping away.

York Minster in the mist, black and white photo

After freshening up in the hotel I returned to Minster Cathedral along High Petergate. By now the pace had ramped up with the shops open, dozens of people soaking up the city sights and a street performer playing a delightful tune on an accordion.

View over York from the Minster

York Minster Tower Challenge

I purchased a ticket to enter York Minster on the day, but you can also prebook in advance which may save you some time. The Tower Challenge was an additional £6 and took me just under 45 minutes – and it is a challenge – there’s 275 steps up the tower with a break around halfway, so a good level of fitness is required (there’s a disclaimer to read before you do it), but the view from the top was very rewarding!

York’s Cathedral has many notable features – the most memorable for me was the Medieval Great East Window, an exhibition detailing the conservation work of the St Cuthbert Window and information about the making of The Queen’s statue that was recently unveiled by His Majesty King Charles on the exterior of the Cathedral.

York Minster Christmas Tree Festival

During the festive season York Minster has a collection of Christmas trees that have been individually decorated by locals, including many businesses.

The view from the top of York Minster Cathedral

3) Stonegate | Photo spots in York

I spent some time walking down Stonegate in the afternoon, and it was a hive of activity thanks to the shops and businesses along this pretty street – two that caught my eye was a timbered pub called Punch Bowl which looked so inviting with its festive baubles and flags, and a queue of people waiting to go inside a German Christmassy shop called Kathe Wohlfahrt.

View my post on Medieval towns and villages in England for photography

4) Bettys, York

Besides The Shambles another famous place I knew about in York was Bettys, and as you may know if you’re familiar with my blog or follow me on Instagram – I love a cream tea, so I was eager to sample theirs. I arrived around the peak lunch hour so there was quite a queue, but knowing my trip wouldn’t feel complete without having one of their Instagrammable dishes, I joined, and was seated in about half an hour.

The ‘Yorkshire Fat Rascal Scone’

Bettys menu included some seasonal treats like mince pies, which I was tempted by, but right before my York adventure I had the pleasure of chatting to Jess, author of The Travelista, who knows the city well as a local and gave me lots of helpful tips. Jess mentioned the ‘Yorkshire Fat Rascal Scone’, it’s a bit like half a scone and half a rock cake in one with a crumbly texture and absolutely scrumptious served warm with butter.

Fat Rascal scone in Bettys, York

Bettys Mirror

The mirror downstairs has signatures scratched into it by those serving in World War II who were temporarily in York – it’s a significant piece of history so thought it was worth mentioning.

5) Parliament Street

York Christmas Market

The area around Parliament Street felt more modern than other parts of the city centre with its collection of familiar High Street brands. It’s also where York’s Christmas Market is located which links together nicely with Shambles Market and the pop up stalls along Davygate. If you plan to do Christmas shopping in York, I also spotted advertisements for an artisan Craft Market in The Guildhall which is close to Bettys.

View my post on The Bishop’s Palace and Gardens in Wells

I feel like I timed my first visit to York well – seeing the historic buildings decked out with lights and decorations just made these locations feel like I’d jumped inside a festive picture postcard, all that was missing was a sprinkling of snow!

Join me on Instagram for more festive photos and updates on my latest UK adventures.


  1. Nice old town!

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