Itâ€™s that time of year again when towns and cities play host to the colourful Christmas markets, welcoming visitors from near and far to join in the festive celebrations and soak up the unique atmosphere. Iâ€™m a bit of a sucker when it comes to Christmas Markets, so when a trip to the Yorkshire Christmas Markets â€“ markets Iâ€™ve not visited before â€“ came up, I had my bag packed and my Santa hat on faster than you could say â€˜mulled wineâ€™.
In a change to our usual working location in Leger's Design Studio, my colleague, Tammy and I were joining the tour to get some new photographs for the brochures and the website, and to check the tour out â€“ listening to what the customers thought of the trip and experiencing the Yorkshire Christmas markets first hand... After Grassington Dickensian Festival, our final stop was York.
Yule love York!
The medieval city of York is known for its impressive cathedral â€“ the York Minster, its historic city walls, the famous Jorvik Viking centre and its various museums, but in the run up to Christmas, the markets â€“ as we found â€“ provide another great reason to visit. It was a clear crisp day with bright skies as we arrived and still quite early, so we decided to take a quick look around Yorkâ€™s historic parts before the Christmas shoppers descended on the city. We took a walk past Cliffordâ€™s Tower â€“ the surviving keep of Yorkâ€™s main medieval castle â€“ for a panoramic view of the city; walked down the famous, ancient street known as the â€˜Shamblesâ€™, full of quaint shops in half-timbered, medieval buildings dating back to 1400s; and had a very short stroll down â€˜Whip-ma-Whop-ma-gateâ€™, the shortest street in York with the longest name â€“ once the location of Yorkâ€™s pillory and whipping post. Some say this was the inspiration for the streetâ€™s name.
The centre of York has no shortage of shops, ranging from big named, high street stores to the unique little shops that can be found on The Shambles and among the maze of the cityâ€™s charming cobbled streets. We wandered along, listening to buskers and watching street entertainers who appeared on most corners. Parliament Street, in the centre of the city, was the location of this weekendâ€™s Christmas market â€“ the St. Nicholas Fayre.
The market stalls were once again a mix of handicrafts and food and drink, with one half of the stalls selling wooden ornaments, handmade silver jewellery and Christmas decorations; the other half, marked by the now-familiar smells of hot roast nuts, mulled wine and roasting meat, with stalls offering fudge, cupcakes, different flavoured toffees and gifts from Yorkshire brewery. We were never very far from something to sample, whether it be a locally-produced chutney or sloe gin jam, and now and then, little stalls selling hot chocolate with rum or brandy appeared.
Tammy: â€œYork was the highlight of the tour for me. The atmosphere on the coach was different by the third day, people were chatting, laughing and joking â€“ there was a real sense of camaraderie. Even though Iâ€™ve worked at Leger for a number of years, Iâ€™ve not been on a coach holiday before but definitely understand the appeal of holidaying by coach â€“ everything was done for us: no driving, no navigating our way through the country roads, nothing to think about... we just had to turn up and get on the coach. Then we just sat back and enjoyed the scenery.â€
So that was it. Three days and three different markets, all full of festive cheer and an atmosphere you only get at this time of year. And hereâ€™s one final observation: Christmas markets are not the place to be if youâ€™re on a diet! There are so many wonderful smells coming at you from every direction that it would be hard for anyone with even the highest levels of willpower to walk past without a taste. We didnâ€™t even try â€“ afterall, thatâ€™s all part of the attraction of the Christmas markets! The diet will have to wait for another day!
For more information about the York St.Nicholas Fayre, Leeds Christkindelmarket, and the Grassington Dickensian Festival visit our Yorkshire Christmas Markets Tour page