York at Christmas 2018: Your complete guide to the festive season

Nowhere like it… York at Christmas. Photograph: Carl Oliver
16 Sep 2018 @ 5.41 pm
| Entertainment, Food & drink

A new Santa’s Grotto and York’s first ever city centre Christmas tree shop – two of the new attractions lined up for the 2018 festive season.

But there’s no Ice Trail this December – instead that is moving to Saturday, February 2 – which will boost a quieter time of year.

And the outdoor lightshow Christmas In Museum Gardens, launched by Lunchbox Productions last year, is not coming back for 2018.

Festive First Night
The Christmas tree lights in St Helen’s Square will be switched on

  • Thursday, November 15
  • St Helen’s Square, York

This year York Christmas Festival will run for 39 days – an extra two days – from November 15 to December 23 with a return of Thor’s Tipi and Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland.

Coppergate Centre will host Santa’s Grotto and Stockeld Park will deliver the Christmas Tree shop.

York has a lot to live up to – it was named Britain’s most festive city in 2017.

Head of Visit York Paul Whiting said:

  • From the ever-popular St Nicholas Fair to a host of special events at York’s world-class attractions, it’s no wonder that York is now firmly on the map as Britain’s most festive city.

New for Christmas 2018

Santa’s Grotto in Coppergate

‘I want a nicer jumper for Christmas Santa’

November 15-December 24 10am-6pm
You and your little ones can come and meet Santa in his beautiful Grotto in Coppergate in the heart of York. Meet a real elf, talk to Santa and leave with a wonderful gift and souvenir photo.

A Magical, Medieval Christmas Rediscovered at Barley Hall

November 17-January 5
This is your chance to discover the hidden history of the use of charms, potions and magic during Christmas celebrations in medieval York at Barley Hall. Join the lady of the house, Joan Snawsell of Barley Hall, as she prepares her household to welcome the great and the good of York into her home for the festive season.

Christmas tree shop

Photograph: Erin Walker / Unsplash
November 15-December 23
Stockeld Park, the Yorkshire adventure park, already sells Christmas trees at its HQ off Wetherby Road. But this year you’ll be able to buy one of their trees in the heart of York for the first time.

Where to find Santa

Father Christmas looks quite at home at Castle Howard
Father Christmas is going to be a busy man this year. Here’s what he’s up to…

  • Helping Santa save Christmas, York’s Chocolate Story
  • York’s Santa Experience on the river, City Cruises York
  • Santa’s Grotto, Coppergate Centre
  • Storytime with Father Christmas, Treasurer’s House
  • Santa’s Grotto, The Ice Factor, York Designer Outlet
  • An Audience with Father Christmas, Castle Howard
  • Santa Specials, North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Returning Christmas favourites

St Nicholas Fair

Photograph: visityork.org
November 15-December 23
One of Britain’s most popular Christmas markets, it attracts thousands of visitors to York. The fair offers crafts and farm produce and the city comes alive with bustling stalls, carol singers and buskers. Mulled wine, brandy-laced hot chocolate and chestnuts roasting on the street corner will all add to the festive feel.

Thor’s Tipi

November 15-January 1
The Scandinavian-style tented food and drink outlet has been revamped for 2018. Friends and family can sit on cosy furs around a roaring fire, and enjoy a winter barbecue, sweet treats, festive hot chocolate, mulled wine, draft ales and Christmas cocktails.

Yorkshire Yuletide Village at Shambles Market

November 15-December 23
Following the success of its launch in 2017, Made in Yorkshire returns to host their Yuletide village featuring everything from ceramics to fine art Yorkshire prints. It’s a place to find that unusual or special gift and see demonstrations by design makers from around Yorkshire.

Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland

November 17-January 6
Featuring the north of England’s largest ice rink, The Ice Factor, the wonderland at York Designer Outlet is also home to an Alpine-themed café, vintage funfair, Santa in his log cabin and live weekend entertainment.

York Christmas attractions

A Victorian Christmas at the Castle

Take your little ones back in time at the Castle Museum. Photograph: York Museums Trust / Mike Cowling
November 17-December 24
Take a stroll over the cobbles of York Castle Museum’s twinkling Victorian street this festive season and experience the award-winning Victorian Christmas at the Castle. Walk under the beautiful garlands and meet Victorian residents before making a visit to Father Christmas.

An Edwardian Christmas at Treasurer’s House

November 15-December 16 (Thurs-Sunday)
Nothing looks more Christmassy than Treasurer’s House decorated to the nines. Tour the elegant home and enjoy delicious Christmas pudding scones in the café. Then head up to the rooftops and festive attic spaces to meet Father Christmas. New for 2018 – take inspiration from the house and join a wreath making workshop to create your for your home.

The Night Before Christmas at Goddards

November 16-December 16
Discover the Terry family Christmas and how it changed in different years of family life. From the laughter and fun of Christmas games when the children were little, to more reflective years after the war and how the Terry business changed during the Christmas period.

Santa’s Sweet Adventure at York’s Chocolate Story

Festive treats at York’s Chocolate Story
November 24-December 24
Visitors will get a chance to meet Santa and join themed walks, in which they will complete a mission to help him save Christmas. On the way, visitors will learn festive facts about iconic brands and how chocolate was involved in Christmas past as well as make their own Christmas-themed lollies.

The Keeping of Christmas at Fairfax House

November 13-December 31
Experience Fairfax House in all its splendour as it celebrates The Keeping of Christmas with a festive installation inspired by the traditions of the eighteenth century. See the Georgians’ festive food, extravagant dining table displays, elegant decorations, and remarkable Twelfth Night Cake. And enjoy mulled wine and minced pies too.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Castle Howard

November 17-December 31
Christmas 2018 at Castle Howard will see the return of the creative team behind last year’s hugely successful, beautiful and evocative Angels on High, with an exuberant display celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas. Charlotte Lloyd Webber and Brette Gerecke will apply their theatrical vision and skill to transform Castle Howard’s already grand state rooms with festive decorative magnificence, inspired by the theatrical splendour of Castle Howard itself, and its outstanding collections.

Christmas music

York’s Community Carol Concert

Steve Cassidy and Steve Flanagan supported by the pupils of Huntington Primary Academy and Lord Deramore’s Primary School at the Barbican carol concert 2016
December 16
The 61st annual carol concert at the Barbican. Performing this year on stage will be Shepherd Group Youth Band, York Light Youth Choir, Hempland Primary Academy “Hempland Starlings, All Saints RC School Combined Choirs, 4 On Demand and Steve Cassidy. Musical Director, Mike Pratt, will be joined by co-hosts Rev Andrew Foster and, BBC Radio York’s, Adam Tomlinson.

York Early Music Christmas Festival

December 8-15
The perfect antidote to a chaotic Christmas, enjoy a relaxed and music-filled yuletide with the National Centre for Early Music’s much-loved annual York Early Music Christmas Festival – celebrating its 20th anniversary. Ten events over eight days, highlights of which include Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, presented by Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, and a mix of established and new artists including Voces8, Ex Cathedra, Spiritato, The York Waits and Joglaresa.

York Minster Christmas Carol Concerts

December 13 and 14
The evenings feature traditional Christmas music sung by the full York Minster Choir, with the Yorkshire Volunteers Band leading the audience in Christmas carols and celebrity readers performing seasonal poetry and readings.

Christmas shows

Cinderella – Grand Opera House

Emily Thane as the Prince and Danielle Cooper as Cinderella, the Grand Opera House panto. Picture David Harrison
December 14-January 5
Three Bears Productions returns for the third year and this time it’s with everyone’s favourite pantomime, Cinderella. The cast include Star of Liberty X Michelle Heaton as The Fairy Godmother, Channel 5’s Milkshake Amy Thompson as Cinderella, the magical Martin Daniels as Buttons, Coronation Street’s Ken Morley and Britain’s Naughtiest Dame Steve Wickenden as Covonia and Calpol.

The Grand Old Dame of York – York Theatre Royal

December 14-January 5
Celebrate Berwick Kaler’s 40th year as York’s legendary Dame in The Grand Old Dame of York. this year’s show will be a gag-laden, song packed extravaganza featuring stunning costumes, jaw dropping sets and choreography to thrill. Featuring all the gang and plenty of silly slapstick.

A Christmas Carol – Joseph Rowntree Theatre

November 14-17
One cold Christmas Eve Scrooge, who is nasty to everybody, is visited by 3 ghosts; Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present and Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, who show him the error of his ways.

Sleeping Beauty – Joseph Rowntree Theatre

December 8-15
It’s Princess Aurora’s Christening and Maleficent isn’t too happy at not being invited – so she takes matters into her own hands with a deadly curse. It’s a race against time to save the Princess. Will there be the usual madness, mess and mayhem from the Rowntree Players team? There’s only one way to find out…

Kate Rusby At Christmas – York Barbican

December 18
After 15 years of enchanting audiences up and down the land, Kate’s Christmas tour has for many, become as much a part of the festivities as Christmas pudding itself.

The Magic Hatter’s Christmas Cracker at Manor CE Academy

December 8-9
Join The Magic Hatter for magic, comedy and fun. Plus special guests Frostbite the Penguin, Aunty Madge Hatter – and Santa himself.