York’s rich history, charming cityscape and festive atmosphere makes this city in the north of England the perfect destination for a Christmas getaway.
I experienced York at Christmastime last week, when the lord mayor illuminated the official Christmas tree in St. Helen’s Square as several hundred cheerful onlookers celebrated the occasion.
St. Nicholas Fair along Parliament Street is the city’s main holiday market. Here you will find around 100 purveyors housed in charming wooden chalets selling everything from local crafts, knitwear and Yorkshire fayre to deliciously good mulled wine and hot cider.
Surrounding the market are streets with countless shops, both local and big British retailers. Most of them are open late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings through December 23.
If you go
Not only is the minster one of the great Gothic cathedrals in all of Christendom, but it purportedly stands on the site where Constantine the Great, who declared Christianity the official religion of the Rome, was proclaimed emperor in the year 306.
If you like churches then you picked the right city, as many of York’s 45 historic churches survive. One of the best is Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, a so-called redundant church. While no longer an active house of worship, it has a magnificent interior that includes box pews and fine examples of stained glass.
A stroll through the Shambles takes one back through time as the cobblestone street — little more than a narrow lane — weaves through timer-framed buildings that have changed little since the medieval era. There are also several even narrower streets and alleys, known locally as snickelways, to explore. And for the best views of the cityscape walk the old walls, which have existed in some form or another since York’s founding by the Romans in the year 71.
I stayed at the Mount Royale Hotel & Spa, which is located about 15 minutes, by foot, from the minster. The 3-star hotel has friendly staff and clean rooms. Oxo’s, the hotel restaurant, is surprisingly good and the menu includes both nightly specials and a comprehensive wine list.
I left the restaurant at the Dean Court Hotel very disappointed in the lunch I ordered. It just wasn’t worth the price. The Ivy, located in St. Helen’s Square only feet from the Christmas tree, was a much better experience, despite being a chain.
Getting to York from London is easy if you fly into Heathrow. Just take one of Grand Central Railway’s frequent train services from King’s Cross Station to York. The journey takes about two hours.
Alternatively, you can fly to nearby Leeds Bradford Airport from major U.S. airports on Delta and its partner airline KLM via a connection in Amsterdam.