Christmas Time in York

The historic city is such a magical place at Christmas time.  The Christmas markets, lots of events to visit, lights everywhere and I felt like I was thrown back in time to the Victorian era, being surrounded by all that history.  I hate to be a moaning myrtle but it has to be said, there was one thing that bugged me throughout our whole trip from 4-6 December 2019 – the busyness! 

Outside the ‘Shop that can’t be named’ – great for Harry Potter fans
I managed to get a solo picture outside my favourite brand
The Christmas Markets

It’s a shame, I feel like Christmas experiences are usually spoiled by crowds – especially when you’re with a toddler.  Pushing the buggy through masses of people, not being able to get in anywhere for lunch, avoiding main attractions such as The Shambles just because of the fear of losing everyone or getting squished – not enjoyable one bit.  So I thought I would give you an honest review on our York trip as we did still have a fantastic time, and this might help you if you decide to visit this glorious city during December.


Some chill time in our Airbnb
This year’s house was opposite The Barbican

Airbnb has been my saviour since having Sophia and we’ve stayed in two gorgeous houses in central York, both in December.  I love self-catering when we go away as a family – it offers us flexibility and a cosy space to relax in once the kids are in bed.  Check out one of these houses depending on your party size:

  • Cosy Cottage, with view of the walls. Sleeps 4 Adults.  We stayed here in 2018.  The house was full of quirky decor, was clean, tidy and had the most helpful host.  It was big enough for 4 adults and a toddler, who slept in our travel cot (but one was available if we wanted to use that one).  I would say the only downside to this house was the parking situation.  You can park for free on the local streets nearby as it’s based on a road, but obviously, you usually bring everything but the kitchen sink when you’ve got a baby so that was a bit of a struggle lugging everything to the property.  Once we were in and settled, we had the most lovely time here.  I would love to go back in the summer as it’s got a very cute yard at the back of the property where sitting out with a prosecco in hand was tempting, even in Winter.
  • Gorgeous Townhouse, amazing location and free parking to the rear of the property.  Sleeps 6 adults.  My Husband and his Dad visited the Snooker Championships while we were there, and this house faces the Barbican, where the snooker is held.  It’s a three-storey house, and had lots of space for us with 6 x adults and toddler.  Ground floor was the kitchen, first floor was the living area and 2 x single bedrooms, second floor was 2 x spacious doubles – and the whole place had 4 bathrooms! It also had a lovely garden terrace, and wasn’t overlooked. The house was cosy, modern, family orientated, and had another great host.  Dianne let us in early, which was great for nappy changes / feeding Sophia as soon as we had arrived, was relaxed with our leaving time, gave us a lot of advice on where to go / what to do. Dianne even stood in the rain and helped us park as the streets are quite narrow.  It was a pleasure to stay in her home.


An obvious one, but anything you want to do, book well ahead – even your lunch! Luckily, we had booked our meal on the Saturday night at Ate O’Clock restaurant.  I really like this restaurant, it’s cute and cosy, down a small alley way, has a great ambience, family friendly and comforting food.  I’ve gone for the lamb shank every time I’ve visited here and it’s so nice! 

Unfortunately, we didn’t book anywhere for lunch when we needed it on the Friday.  We tried a few places and everywhere was booked up – so we ended up at the Pizza Hut buffet ha! 

However, you can always eat at the Christmas Markets or at The Shambles Market (this was very cute) if the weather is good – but we didn’t fancy standing with a hot dog in the rain at this time.


I did a lot of research before we went this time, mainly because I wanted to book in something for Sophia on the Saturday day to keep her entertained.  We didn’t book any of the activities in the end for a few reasons – the cost, as it was costly to book things for 6 x adults and 2 x children, but also we didn’t want to be time restricted too.  Here were the options where I was tempted to book, but didn’t in the end:

To my surprise, there are lots of things to do in York for free.  

  • The National Railway Museum – donations only.  Great place to visit with kids, they had craft workshops on, there was lots of safe space for roaming toddlers and to admire the different trains, a cafe, and a play area outside including a miniature railway.  I would definitely go back here.
  • Street Entertainment – York is renowned for this, and if Sophia wasn’t asleep in the pram, she would have loved it!  She also loved the carousel, which wasn’t free, but wasn’t expensive either.
  • Walk the walls – I still haven’t done this because the walls are not really safe for kids due to the stairs and a few drops without railings.  It’s a must do if there’s just adults in your party – I’ve heard the views are amazing.

In summary, there’s lots of lovely places to eat, places to drink, places to visit and places to stay in York – and Christmas makes it that bit more special but also a bit more difficult to experience these things properly.  You can make it a budget trip for a family or you can book to go some of the amazing experiences on offer – such as I’ve always wanted to do the York Food Tour, but that’s definitely one I want to do without kids.  You can be organised and have a range of activities booked in, but there’s things to do for those that want to take it how it comes.

So I think that’s a mental note for me for the future – I would love to visit York again, preferably without kids or when Sophia is older so we can experience a bit more history and take it all in, and during the summer months would be lovely too.

Please let me know if you have stayed in York and if there’s anything you want to add to this post.  Here are a few options I was recommended from the lovely people of Instagram too:

  • The York Maze
  • Williams Den – great for kids
  • Phranakhon Thai Tapas Restaurant
  • Little Italy Restaurant
  • The Ivy Restaurant
  • Star in the City Restaurant
  • and obviously Betty’s Tea Room (still not managed to get in here yet!)

Happy Christmas 2019 everyone!

Sarah xoxox

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