York at Christmas – Festive things to do in 2021

York at Christmas – York is a truly enchanting place at Christmas. With our lovely cobbled medieval streets providing a backdrop to the festive lights festooning every tree it really is a magical place to visit at Christmas.  Have a look below for lots of information of what’s happening this Christmas from festive markets, to pantomimes, visiting Father Christmas and where to stay.  

If you like Christmas Concerts (and who doesn’t?) then you will love this:


Big Christmas Concert with Alistair Griffin

December 3rd and 10th 2021 within St Michael le Belfrey Church next to The Minster

Taking place next to York Minster in the beautiful medieval Michael Le Belfrey Church. A brass band will play you in, then Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert will take you on a musical journey from acoustic versions of traditional carols through to Wizard, Slade and The Pogues.  Sing along and sip mulled wine whilst enjoying the fairytale of old York.

Buy Tickets for the Big Christmas Concert here.

christmas in York


Candlelit Concert with Alistair Griffin

Sat, 11 December 2021 within Holy Trinity Church, on Goodramgate

Alistair Griffin presents a very special Christmas show by candlelight in the unique Holy Trinity Church. Take a seat or in this case a medieval pew and soak in the festive atmosphere. While you warm your cockles with a mulled wine listen to classic Christmas tunes, acoustic renditions of famous festive numbers and a Christmas carol singalong.

Buy Tickets for the Candlelit Concert here.

christmas in york


The Big Winter Lights Switch On


The city-wide Christmas lights are also set to be bigger and better than ever. 


york at christmas
Christmas in York – Credit to Visit York


The National Centre for Early Music will be holding their popular York Early Music Christmas Festival (3 rd -11 th December). This year’s festival includes the return of Joglaresa, whose exuberant music and wassailing sums up Yuletide in music and song; The Gesulado Six, returning to York after playing to packed houses in the York Early Music Festival 2021; and award-winning young artists Prisma, from Germany.


Residents and visitors can also look forward to a host of other festive events taking place at the city’s attractions – not to mention a fantastic choice of entertainment at the city’s theatres and venues, with pantomimes and Christmas carol concerts.


christmas in York
Christmas in York – Credit to Visit York


Following the success of last year’s virtual Christmas market, an online market will also run on visityork.org throughout the whole festive season. Helping to bring the magic of St Nicholas Fair into homes across the country, the virtual market will offer a safe and snug option for those looking to purchase their festive gifts online this year, whilst also supporting York’s traders, retailers and attractions.  


York Christmas Market


Indeed, York BID – which organises York’s annual display of Christmas lights throughout the city centre – has commissioned even more lights for Duncombe Place, including sympathetic lighting that will highlight well known landmarks such as the Boer War Memorial, St Michael Le Belfry and the Minster.


“Creating a welcoming winter lights scheme for the city – including the historic Bar gateways themselves – has been one of the most visible parts of York BID’s work over the last few years, funded by city centre businesses to give the city even wider appeal during the darker, winter months,” comments Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID.  “We try to extend the displays slightly each year, and with the move of the light switch-on to Duncombe Place, we’ve added a number of new elements here, which will no doubt delight hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to the city centre to stay, shop and socialise at this special time of year.”


Lights and projections will also adorn the magnificent West Front of York Minster for the event, with plans to use the lights periodically in the run-up to Christmas when there are not services or events taking place inside.


Christmas in York – Credit to Visit York


York Minster’s Canon Chancellor, The Revd Canon Dr Christopher Collingwood said:


“York in winter is an absolute gem, full of light, energy and excitement and people preparing for the festive season. York BID and Make It York have worked wonders in extending the lighting show to Duncombe Place and in designing the Minster into the scheme. We hope that the lights will not only draw people to view the Minster but also encourage them to come inside. They will find a warm welcome and quiet spaces to rest and reflect upon the real meaning of Advent and Christmas.”


York at Christmas


To add to the atmosphere the York Christmas Market runs from the 18th of November to the 23rd of December 2021.  Do have a look at my York Christmas Market post as there is a great video of what to expect taken just last year. In Parliament Street. There are stalls to buy all manner of Christmas gifts, from wooden toys to handmade candles and soaps, as well as artisan food trucks sending enticingly savoury scents into the crisp winter air. Or you could warm your hands by holding a cup of Gluhwein or hot chocolate, laced with Bailey’s and topped with marshmallows!

In the middle of the market, you’ll also find Thor’s Tipi a great place to stop and relax in front of the fire, or have a drink and something to eat.

Thor's Tipi Bar York Christmas Market (12)

Looking for somewhere to stay in York?

We have some lovely luxury hotels in the centre of York like The Principal and The Grand.  We also have a list of some lovely family friendly hotels too.  This post contains affiliate links, please see my disclosure page for more info.


Pantomimes in York

We have a rich tradition of pantomimes in York. People travel from far and wide to see the famous panto triumvirate of Berwick Kaler (the Dame), Martin Barrass (lovable village idiot (sorry Martin!) and Suzy Cooper (lead girl).  This year sees Berwick back in action but at The Grand Opera House rather than the York Theatre Royal.

What's on at Christmas in York

York at Christmas

Alternatively you could head over to The York Theatre Royal to see a different style but equally fabulous pantomime. This year they are staging Cinderella and they will star different TV celebrities and pop stars every year.

Christmas in York

Alternatively, for a truly special thing to do at Christmas in York why not take in a Carol Service in the magnificent York Minster?

On the outskirts of York – if you would like to visit Santa then consider taking the kids on the magical sleigh ride at Piglets. Or you can also see Father Christmas at Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland. While you are there you could also ice skate or visit the vintage funfair.

Christmas in York


A bit further afield (half an hour’s drive) is the lovely Castle Howard and it is always a treat to visit to see the house decorated for Christmas.  This year Castle Howard will welcome back theatrical designers Charlotte Lloyd Webber, Bretta Gereke and team who have worked their magic on Castle Howard at Christmas for the past four seasons. Inspired by the much-adored novels by C. S. Lewis the historic house will be turned into the wintery, magical land of Narnia . Visitors will journey through the grand state rooms and experience installations based on scenes from the epic stories.

york at Christmas
Castle Howard at Christmas


Christmas in York

There are many medieval buildings in York that will captivate you at Christmas. Have a look at the festive events at Barley Hall, the Merchant Adventurer’ Hall or The Treasurer’s House for example.  Oh and don’t miss the York Castle Museum – it’s so Christmassy!

If you would like a decadent relaxed couple of hours in the day, in York at Christmas treat yourself to a elegant afternoon tea in York.

Christmas at York


There are so many great restaurants and places to eat in York, it’s hard to decide what to go for. Have a look at some of my the family friendly restaurants we have reviewed.

The Best Christmas York

There is lots to do in York all year round, but for a lovely Christmas weekend away I don’t think you can find a more wonderful city!

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