Crowned ‘Britain’s Most Festive City’ in a consumer online poll last year, as we finally say goodbye to summer, Visit York will this week launch its longest Christmas Festival programme yet. 

York Christmas Festival will run for 39 days (an extra two days) from 15 November to 23 December with a return of Thor’s Tipi, Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland and so much more.

Coppergate Centre will host a new Santa’s Grotto and first ever city centre Christmas tree shop delivered by the award-winning visitor attraction, Stockeld Park. 

Visitors can soak up the city’s medieval charm, shop at over 100 stalls at the iconic St Nicholas Fair, don some skates at the Ice Factor or enjoy plenty of playful panto fun.

Berwick Kaler, who this year celebrates forty years as York’s most famous panto dame, will be switching on the Christmas lights in a ‘Festive First Night’ like no other on 15 November.

Snug wooden chalets, dressed with twinkling lights will line Parliament Street, St Sampson’s Square, Coppergate and Judge’s Lodging on Lendal. 

Father Christmas will make an appearance in the attic of treasurer’s House too, after crash landing on the roof, as well as at the York’s Chocolate Story, where Santa’s helpers will be on hand to entertain little ones.

Newly re-vamped Thor’s Tipi (15 November – 1 January) will offer a festive experience, where friends and family can sit on cosy furs around a roaring fire, all in the giant Scandinavian style tipi.  Designed and delivered by the team behind Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland (home of The Ice Factor), Thor’s will be serving a delicious outdoor winter BBQ, homemade sweet treats, festive hot chocolate, mulled wine, draft ales and Christmas cocktails.

Yorkshire Yuletide Village, hosted by Made in Yorkshire, will make a welcome return following a successful launch in 2017.   In a wooden chalet in Shambles Market, Made in Yorkshire will be bringing some of the region’s best creative talent to the heart of the city.

Over 150 stallholders at the St Nicholas Fair will once again be selling a variety of gifts including jewellery, ceramics, homewares, crafts and Yorkshire produce such as Yorkshire wines and cheeses.   Late night shopping will run every Thursday, Friday and Saturday throughout festive season.

Paul Whiting, Head of Visit York, said: “This year’s festival programme is jam packed and we’re delighted to have Berwick, York’s most famous panto dame, launching the season for us.  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.”

Seasonal events return to York’s world-class attractions including: ‘A Victorian Christmas at the Castle’ (17 November – 24 December), ‘A Magical, Medieval Christmas at Barley Hall’ (17 November – 5 January), ‘Edwardian Inspired Christmas Decorations’ at the Treasurer’s House (running Thurs – Sun 15 November – 16 December), and children’s favourite ‘Santa’s Sweet Adventure’ at York’s Chocolate Story (24 November – 24 December).

This Christmas will also see the return of Made in Yorkshire’s ‘Yorkshire Yuletide Village’ to Shambles market (15 November – 23 December). Not to mention a fabulous choice of festive entertainment at the city’s theatres, with pantomimes and Christmas carol concerts, as well as traditional services at York Minster.

York’s attractions will be offering a variety of Christmas treats alongside a unique collection of independent shops and boutiques. Further afield, at York Designer Outlet, not only will you find your favourite brands, there will be fun for the family at Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland, including the award-winning ice rink, funfair and Santa’s grotto.

Also, just outside of the city, traditional baubles, trees, wreaths, garlands and candles will transform 18th century Castle Howard into a truly magical place.  Meanwhile throughout the yuletide season York will be alive with festive music as it celebrates the 20th anniversary of the York Early Music Festival.

Book your visit now to shop, eat and experience Christmas at its very best.  For regular updates on what’s happening in York over Christmas, or a free guide to Christmas in the city, visit or email  Visitors and residents can share their festive experiences on social media via #YorkChristmas and @visityork. A new guide to Christmas will be available free of charge from the Visit York Information Centre, 1 Museum Street, from 17 September.


Festive First Night - Thursday 15 November
The Christmas tree lights in St Helen’s Square will be switched on.  Timings to be confirmed.

For further information please contact:
Kay Hyde – Head of PR and Corporate Communications – Make It York
Direct Line: 01904 554451
Mobile: 07506 048852

Katie Parsons - Senior Communications Executive
Direct Line: 01904 554436

KEY DATES – York Christmas Festival 2018

  • St Nicholas Fair – 39 days – 15 November – 23 December
  • Thor’s Tipi – 15 November – 1 January
  • Magical, Medieval Christmas Rediscovered at Barley Hall – 17 November – 5 January
  • York Minster Advent Procession – 2 December
  • York Minster Christmas Carol Concerts – 13 and 14 December
  • Made in Yorkshire ‘Yorkshire Yuletide Village’ – 15 November – 23 December

Made in Yorkshire “Yorkshire Yuletide Village” at Shambles Market:
15 November – 23 December

Made in Yorkshire has been bringing together like-minded designer artists for over 16 years and is keen to show visitors what great talent our county has to offer.  Following the success of its launch in 2017, they will once again be hosting their ‘Yorkshire Yuletide Village’ within the Shambles Market area - bringing their talent to the heart of the city.  A superb variety of exhibitors will offer everything from ceramics to fine art Yorkshire prints.  If you have a passion for arts or an appreciation of fine craftsmanship, and are looking for that unusual or special gift, why not visit to see the displays and demonstrations by design makers from around Yorkshire.  
For further information regarding the Made in Yorkshire shows and for a list of the exhibitors, please visit   

Santa Sightings
Father Christmas will make a special appearance at a variety of locations around York this festive season…

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

The popular St Nicholas Fair, a part of the York Christmas Festival, will run for 39 days from Thursday 15 November to Friday 23 December, featuring gifts and crafts from across Yorkshire and the UK as well as the very best in local farm produce.  York St Nicholas Fair is one of the most popular Christmas markets in the UK, with thousands of visitors coming to York to experience it.  The Fair offers crafts and the very best in local 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.

Traditional candle-lit carol services take place in majestic York Minster and in York’s smaller churches. Local museums and galleries offer a blend of both traditional and modern exhibitions and York’s theatres come alive with pantomimes and other Christmas plays. For relaxation, visit the city’s stylish café bars, with a ‘cool Yule’ atmosphere that’ll chill out even the most fraught of Christmas shoppers.  For regular updates on what’s happening in York over Christmas, or a free guide to Christmas in the City, visit or email

A Victorian Christmas at the Castle:
17 November – 24 December

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. Journey back in time to Victorian York to discover the magic and traditions of days gone by on York Castle Museum’s enchanting Kirkgate. Walk under the beautiful garlands, enjoy the intimate glow of our decorated Christmas tree and meet our Victorian residents before making a visit to our wonderful Father Christmas.
Enjoy the festive favourite one-man show of A Christmas Carol, see the shop windows as they display original Victorian gifts and follow the festive aromas to our working kitchen where you will learn about traditional Victorian Christmas recipes and perhaps even have a try.
Press contact: Lee Clark, T: 01904 687673

An Edwardian Christmas at Treasurer’s House:
15 November – 16 December (Thursday to Sundays only)

Treasurer’s House will be beautifully decorated for a traditional Edwardian Christmas. Promised to be a perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle and get into the festive spirit with home cooked food and delicious Christmas pudding scones. There is also an opportunity to head up to the rooftops and festive attic spaces to meet Father Christmas. And new for 2018, take inspiration from the house and join a wreath making workshop to create your for your home.
Press contact: Direct dial 01904 472017 / 07901 500565.

‘The Night Before Christmas’ at Goddards House and Garden:
16 November – 16 December (Friday – Sunday only)

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. Booking essential for Christmas lunch. Tel: 01904 771956
Press contact: Direct dial 01904 472017 / 07901 500565.

York Early Music Christmas Festival:
8 – 15 December 2018

Join us for the antidote to a chaotic Christmas and to set the tone for 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.
There’s also an opportunity for singers to find their own voice during a participatory choral workshop, led by James Weeks (Sat 8th).
Call 01904 632220 or 01904 658338 or visit the website for full programme and tickets at
Press Contact: Delma Tomlin, T: 01904 658338

York Minster Christmas Carol Concerts:
13 & 14 December

York Minster’s Christmas Carol Concerts are the most popular events in the cathedral’s calendar, with many people returning year after year to enjoy the festive tradition. 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.  For a full listing of services, events and activities at York Minster, visit
Press contact: Sharon Atkinson, Director of Communications. Tel: 01904 557248. Email:

NEW: A Magical, Medieval Christmas Rediscovered at Barley Hall:
17 November – 5 January

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.
As today, celebrations during the Christmas period in the Middle Ages were both social and religious occasions. For the wealthier households in the city there were also certain obligations that had to be fulfilled, as a medieval Christmas was not just about family, but about the community too.
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.
Expect to see much greenery and colour as you are transported back in time to explore the beautifully decorated rooms of Barley Hall, each dressed to reflect the different activities that would have taken place in the home and around the city in Lady Snawsell’s time.
This is a unique and colourful Christmas experience in York.
Plus; Magical Crafting 
Be sure to explore the rest of the hall and get hands-on with history with some fun magic-inspired crafting activities for all the family, including wand-making, telescope construction and an opportunity to make your own charms
Pre-booking is recommended but not necessary. Crafting activities are charged separately.

NEW: Festive Gin Tasting with York Gin at Barley Hall:
1 December 2018

In the run up to Christmas enjoy an evening sampling some of the delicious tipples on offer from the York Gin Company all in the beautiful surroundings of medieval Barley Hall.
Taste a variety of samples of gin to get you in the festive mood; including York Gin’s signature recipe, with notes of black pepper and cardamom as well as Barley Hall’s Magic & Mystery infusion, which takes inspiration from the herbs, spices and fruits that were employed in medieval charms and potions. Using pomegranate, associated with sanctity and abundance and rosemary, used for healing and for protecting the home we hope you enjoy this truly magical blend of flavours.
Emma and Paul, owners and chief-distillers of York Gin, which has the honour of being the only gin producer within the city, will be on hand to take you through the tasting notes of each libation and offer advice on the best garnish to serve with your gin.
Once you’ve finished sampling there will be opportunities to purchase the perfect gift for your loved ones, or even treat yourself to your new favourite drink, well it is Christmas after all!
Pre-booking advised, as places are limited to give attendees the perfect experience.

Ghostly Christmas Stories at Barley Hall:
8 December 2018

You are cordially invited to join a master storyteller as he shares his frighteningly-good festive ghost tales in the atmospheric surrounds of historic Barley Hall.
Many think of Christmas as time of merriment and cheer, and although this is true it is also a time of mischief and mayhem from the spirit world. So, join the storyteller as he regales you with tales of ghosts and ghouls from the medieval period all in the candlelit surrounds of the Great Hall.
You’ll also have the opportunity to explore the Magic & Mystery exhibition where you can continue to discover the fine line between science, religion and magic in medieval society.
Pre-booking essential due to limited capacity.

Festival: ‘The Keeping of Christmas’ at Fairfax House:
13 November – 31 December

Experience Fairfax House in all its splendour as it celebrates The Keeping of Christmas with a magnificent festive installation inspired by the traditions of the eighteenth century. See the Georgians’ love of the natural world as they decorated their homes for Christmas, as well as their festive food, extravagant dining table displays, elegant decorations, and remarkable Twelfth Night Cake. Included with admission to Fairfax House  

Mulled Wine and Minced Pies at Fairfax House:
13 November – 31 December

It’s that time of the year when something warm and spicy is needed to keep the winter chill out. All through the festive season join the Fairfax footmen and housemaids serving in the Georgian Kitchen and enjoy a glass of mulled wine and an all-butter Mince Pie.
What better way to get you in the mood for savouring The Keeping of Christmas at Fairfax House and seeing magnificent eighteenth-century inspired decorations displayed throughout.

Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland:
17 November – 6 January

The FOUR-time award-winning festive event - Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland - returns to the York Designer Outlet. Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland is home to the north of England’s largest and best-loved outdoor ice rink – The Ice Factor – with its magical setting, giant Christmas tree and rinkside Alpine-themed café. With vintage funfair rides dating from as early as 1933, Santa welcoming visitors in his enchanting log cabin, live weekend entertainment and of course Christmas shopping in over 120 designer brands for up to 60% less at York Designer Outlet, Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland really does have something for everyone. Skate, play, shop, and dine at Yorkshire’s winter wonderland.  or call 01653 619169 for more information.

Santa’s Sweet Adventure at York’s Chocolate Story:
24 November – 24 December

York’s Chocolate Story will undergo a festive make-over to welcome Farther Christmas. Visitors will get a chance to meet Santa and participate in a number of special 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 and watch special festive demonstrations with York’s talented chocolatiers.

NEW: ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ at Castle Howard:
17 November –31 December

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.
The Twelve Days of Christmas installations will not only bring to life the characters of the much loved Christmas carol but also reference the original 12 Day holiday which inspired it. Gifts were but one part of an extended period of feasting on specially prepared meals, rituals such as the bringing in of the greenery to “dec the halls”, making the kissing bough, the burning of the Yule log, and wassailing (singing both indoors and in the orchards to bless the fruit trees) accompanied by the special wassail punch. The holiday ended with a Twelfth Night party for which was baked a spectacular cake containing a hidden bean and pea, whose finders would be crowned King and Queen for the night.
As well as these flamboyant designs and breath-taking visual displays, Castle Howard will also feature Christmas favourites including: the awesome 25 foot Christmas tree in the Great Hall; festive food choices, live music in the House, and of course a wide range of gift opportunities in Castle Howard’s varied shops. For the latest information visit


York Theatre Royal – The Grand Old Dame of York
13 December – 2 February

Celebrate Berwick Kaler’s 40th year as York’s legendary Dame in The Grand Old Dame of York...
Celebrating the traditional art of pantomime, this year’s show will be a gag-laden, song packed extravaganza featuring stunning costumes, jaw dropping sets and choreography to thrill. With performances up to 2nd February, our panto is not only a great festive treat, but also an ideal way to banish those January blues.
Book at or call Box Office 01904 623568.

Grand Opera House York – Cinderella
14 December – 5 January

Three Bears Productions returns for the third year and this time it’s with everyone’s favourite pantomime, Cinderella. The panto will run from Friday 14 December 2018 until Saturday 5 January 2019. 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, with BBC’s Allo’Allo!’s John D Collins as The Baron and Danny Rogers as Dandini. 
To book call Box Office on 0844 871 3024 or book online at

Beningbrough Hall, Gallery & Gardens: Sounds of winter – whispering spaces
Weekends only from Saturday 11 November – Sunday 24 February, 11am–3.30pm
Get outdoors and closer to nature this winter at Beningbrough Hall, discover the ‘Sounds of winter’ through a series of artist sound pieces. Normal admission charges apply.

Notes to Editor

Make It York
Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nationally and internationally - as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business.  The company’s remit covers leisure and business tourism, city centre management, festivals and events, business support and inward investment.

Visit York is a part of Make It York and is the leisure tourism brand. Under the brand Visit York, Make It York’s aim is to market York as a must-see world-class destination to the leisure visitor and ensure investment to develop the quality of tourism in York.

Key tourism facts:
6.9 million visitors annually, £608 million total visitor spend, supporting 20,300 jobs

York – Britain’s Most Festive City
In 2017 a survey of Britain’s social media by Virgin Trains has studied 500,000 Christmas-related tweets, discovering that York is the most festive city in the UK. According to Virgin Trains, 89% of Christmas-themed tweets that come of out of York are positive. Nine out of 10 (91%) people from York love Christmas lights and 81% look forward to their work Christmas party.