Christmas in York, December 2018

by Emma Bumpus on December 3, 2018

Careertraveller heads north to the medieval streets of York where chocolate, celebration and culture bring festive cheer in the city’s famous Christmas Festival.

Just a 2 hour train ride from London Kings Cross to York station awaits this playground of adventure, which bursting with history stands proud with it’s ancient walls, all 3.4 kilometres long!

In the footsteps of Roman soldiers we step back in time where almost 2000 years ago these guarded walls once shielded the town’s fort and folk. Stunning views of York’s skyline are a radar for sightseeing and amongst the occasional in-built café and stone gateways we step into the historic heart of the city.

Bustling and beautiful narrow cobbled streets bring treasure in the form of trendy independent shops, cafes and eateries that ignite the Careertraveller taste buds. Aromas of fresh artisan bread, pear, ginger and chocolate tea and wizard-themed butterscotch or ‘Hotterscotch’ beer are alluring city centre magic which sweeps us towards the Shambles, York’s most celebrated street. A stroll down one of Europe’s most complete medieval streets is an introduction to Elizabethan architecture, whose overhanging buildings once sheltered this thoroughfare of butcher’s shops.

Now a tourist magnet for fine jewellery, gifts and chocolatiers we observe no 35 is a shrine commemorated to former 16th century resident and English Martyr Margaret Clitherow. It is here we dip into York’s darker past and discover how, this prosperous butcher’s wife met her death by refusing to betray her faith and family in 1586.

Caught in a labyrinth of 50 snickelways connecting the old city is an introduction to York’s quirky street names that echo tales of a bygone era, including the likes of Mad Alice Lane. Named after a woman hung in 1823 for poisoning her husband, it is little wonder York is renowned for it’s Bloody Tour of York.

In need of a little sweetness we head to York’s Chocolate Story with a York Pass that after purchase gives us gives us free entry to 40 York attractions! Inside is a three-floor multisensory experience of chocolate making, tasting and learning plus superb guide who narrates the story of York’s well-known chocolatiers and confectionery industry. From factory to laboratory we become acquainted with entrepreneurs Joseph Rowntree and Joseph Terry, whose claim to fame originate with the legendary Kit Kat, Fruit Pastilles and Chocolate Orange.

Caught in a tardis of bitter sweet creations we journey from 19th to 21st century where Nestlé (formerly Rowntree) and Terry’s (now owned by Kraft) bring us up to date on why York is celebrated as the UK’s home of chocolate. A cocoa fuelled encounter at the chocolate tasting wheel is a perfumed appetiser before watching chocolatiers at work. Further tastings make way for a finale of interactive chocolate decorating that gives everyone a piece of history to take away, sublime!

Educated and elevated we head waterside for an alfresco river cruise with City Cruises York to absorb further historical delights in this vibrant city of culture. Spoilt for landings, we opt for Lendal Bridge and learn this beautiful iron bridge contains an additional York coat of arms representing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

With stories of Vikings, Romans and Victorians we take a one-hour guided tour on the River Ouse and soak up riverside landmarks including the majestic 15th-century Guildhall and 13th century English Heritage Clifford’s Tower, the oldest remaining part of York Castle.

Calm and scenic, York’s skyline and architecture sparkle above the rowing clubs and motor cruises on a river, which once delivered goods to bankside warehouses, now apartments. An inside and outside deck make this an all year round city attraction whatever the weather and fit for lunch, afternoon tea and parties, gives tourists a wonderful sightseeing alternative.

Sight of York Minster’s spectacular central tower, the city’s highest point, takes us back on land to the largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe where we are dazzled by wonderful stained glass, stone towers and gargoyles. We opt out of climbing the 275 steps (all 230 feet high) for a panoramic photo-shoot, in favour of a 75-minute scary adventure at The York Dungeon.

Inside this deceiving redbrick building awaits a series of 10 entertainingly gruesome shows that bring York’s gloomier bygone times alive with a cast dressed in character, such as Dick Turpin and The Plague Doctor. Immersed in fantasy we time travel 2000 years through a warren of darkness and are distracted with a string of exhilarating experiences worthy of Goosebumps! Captivating actors bedazzle the audience with sinister acts full of satire, recounting tales of York born Guy Fawkes and York’s AD 66 Viking invasion all in a haze of spontaneous props and special effects.

As day becomes night we turn to York’s famed Christmas Fair where alpine chalets bring festive treats in the form of roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and plethora of handmade gifts that turn York into a city of festivals. Twinkling lights, chocolate kisses and naughty elves bring the streets alive with a carnival Christmas Festival placing York firmly on the Careertraveller map.

A final quick getaway on the LNER takes the strain out of travel with Wi-Fi, power sockets and windows that bring the outdoors in. After a whirlwind day in York we step things up in First Class with reclining leather seats, complimentary food and drink and extra space, the sort that makes travel addictive!

Further Information:
Visit York
York’s Chocolate Story
City Cruises York
The York Dungeon

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