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Why you should visit York at Christmas

PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:49 28 November 2019

Two of the city's bridges will be illuminated, and there will be over 100 Christmas trees with lights.

Two of the city's bridges will be illuminated, and there will be over 100 Christmas trees with lights.

©2017 Charlotte Graham

York is lovely all year round, but it's particularly sparkly and atmospheric at Christmas. Tony Greenway delivers 12 glittering reasons for good cheer in his favourite festive city

Winter lights in York will twinkle for longerWinter lights in York will twinkle for longer

LIGHTS FANTASTIC

Let there be lights. Lots of them. A trip into the city centre on an evening is a bit of a must, just to goggle at the illuminations. Lights are decorating the historic Bar gateways, plus landmarks such as the Boer War Memorial and St Michael Le Belfry. They even feature on the West Front of the Minster and, in the run-up to Christmas, are being switched on periodically.  

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FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD

We could spend pages and pages just talking about the incredible festive grub on offer in York. But how about this for a start: seasonal food is a speciality of the massively acclaimed Roots York, which is owned by award-winning chef Tommy Banks. Top choices from Banks' Feast Menu with a Festive Twist are pig's cheek in blankets with a bread sauce, followed by sticky apple cake, brandy butter ice cream and chicory butterscotch. 

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THOR'S TIPI

50,000 people visited THOR's Tipi on Parliament Street last year, which brings a Viking vibe to York's festive goings-on. The inside is decked out with furs, wooden tables and benches, and features a fire pit where you can soak up some Scandinavian-style hygge. Cocktails with a Christmas twist, local ales and stouts, plus much more besides. Extremely convivial.

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SPARKFLIX

Spark, York's uber-trendy street food venue made out of shipping containers (although don't forget the fabulous Shambles food court, either), is showing a range of Christmas movies. These include ones you might expect and ones you might not, like Gremlins and Die Hard. sparkyork.org

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GET YOUR SKATES ON

The Ice Factor - the North of England's largest outdoor ice rink  returns to McArthurGlenn's York Designer Outlet, and is brought to you by the same people that give you THOR's Tipi every year. It's even good fun if you don't like skating because you can sit in the alpine-themed café overlooking the ice rink, slurping a hot chocolate, eating a mince pie and watching people glide past. 

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KATHE WOHLFAHRT

Käthe Wohlfahrt is a famous German Christmas decorations retailer - and this MADLY festive and beautifully atmospheric shop on Stonegate is its only UK outlet. There are literally thousands of baubles, models and decs inside in a rabbit warren of rooms. It's so Christmassy, it's very possible to go in feeling all 'bah humbug', and come out half an hour later full of cheer and glad tidings.

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YORK THEATRE ROYAL PANTO

For four decades this nationally reviewed York institution had Berwick Kaler at the helm playing the Dame. Kaler has finally hung up his frock and gone into a well-earned acting retirement, but he's written the script for Sleeping Beauty with regulars Martin Barrass, Suzy Cooper, AJ Powell and the hilarious David Leonard have all on board. 

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YORK CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL

The city's award-winning St Nicholas Fair - November 14 to December 22 - is part of the reason why York was voted the UK's most festive city a couple of years ago. There are Alpine chalets on Parliament Street, the chance to buy from local makers, plus festive fare at the St Sampson's Square Yorkshire Barn.

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KEEPING OF CHRISTMAS

A fascinating installation at Fairfax House ('the finest Georgian town house in England'), which reveals how the Georgians used to celebrate Christmas. It runs until December 31.

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YORK MINSTER CAROL CONCERTS

Taking place on December 12&13, these are massively popular events featuring the York Minster Choir performing Christmas music in the spectacular surroundings of the Minster's Nave. If you can't get into the York Minster concerts, then try bagging a seat for Carols at York Barbican (on December 15). Always a heart-warming show featuring choirs of school children.

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CHRISTMAS AT YORK CASTLE MUSEUM

Details were still to be announced at the time of writing, but Kirkgate - the Castle Museum's Victorian street - always looks extra magical at this time of year.

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CHEERS TO FESTIVE CHEERS 

Barley Hall opens its historic doors to a gin-tasting event on December 7. Sample York Gin's award-winning collection of gins, infused with delicious herbs, spices and fruits. Or try a taste of mead at a tasting evening on December 14. 

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