The city of York is, without a doubt, a shopper’s paradise. Offering everything from funky souvenir shops to the mainstream High Street giants, you can’t fail to find something here to spend your money on. The beauty of York is that the shops are laid out in a rabbit warren style amongst the old city and each turn of a corner offers another undiscovered gem or two.
The first place to head is the area around Daveygate and Parliament Street, which is a massive square lined with the all the main High Street names including the Disney Store, Thorntons, Boots and the main banks. This is a nice place to start as it’s centrally located and will help you get your bearings when you are looking for other shops. There are also plenty of cafes around here for a quick stop between shops and there is often a travelling market located along the centre of the square; we’ve seen German Christmas markets and the local farmers markets in previous trips and they were both excellent, offering choice and quality that you don’t often get elsewhere.
Leading off this main square many side roads that spread out around the centre and offer even more of your favourite shops. If you wander down towards the river, you’ll find WHSmiths and many clothes shops including Monsoon and Coast. Wandering up towards the impressive Minster will find you in the midst of the souvenir shops, where you kind find many hundreds of things proclaiming that ‘I’ve been to York’ in the guise of fridge magnets, keyrings and chocolate bars. Walking out towards the city walls with find you a plethora of cheaper shops, such as Poundland and The Works, as well as specialist shops offering things as varied as fancy dress, fishing tackle and even guns.
If you walk across the River Ouse, you’ll find an excellent selection of Chinese restaurants and a very cheap and well stocked Chinese supermarket. This is a good place to find specialist ingredients or even Chinese ready meals at very good prices. The restaurant that is attached to this supermarket in particular is excellent – it offers a tasty food in stylish surroundings and the service is second to none.
One of the most popular places in York and somewhere that shouldn’t be missed is Shambles. Shambles is a very narrow, cobbled street that runs parallel to Parliament Street. It is one of the most popular streets in Europe (according to its very own website) and details of it were recorded in the Doomsday Book, which makes it at least 900 years old. Shambles is what I imagine foreign visitors to this country picture when they are thinking about a stereotypical English town. It is a very small and narrow street that is lined with fifteenth century buildings that lean rather alarmingly towards its centre. It is almost always crowded, not only with shoppers but with tourists taking a photograph of the very pretty street. The shops here are mainly small boutiques offering antiques, hand made chocolates and wooden gifts amongst others.
If you prefer the hustle and bustle of a market atmosphere then head to Newgate Market, again just off Parliament Street. With over 120 shops offering fresh flowers, local meat and a glittering array of fruit and vegetables, you are bound to find everything you need. I’ve always found that the things on sale here are very cheap, even compared to supermarkets, and the quality is exceptional. The market is actually a nice way to walk from the main shops to Shambles. Its open daily and has done since the Middle Ages.
Another thing to enjoy in the centre whilst you are shopping is the outstanding street performances. The performers actually have to do auditions before they are allowed to perform here and this has ensured that some very talented people work here. I have seen musicians, magicians, dancers and comedians all work their thing and have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. Do make sure that you give money at the end of the performances as this is a full time job for these people and they are worth every penny you give them.
Outside of the centre, there are more shopping opportunities including a series of retail parks (Monks Cross and Clifton Moor are the main ones) and these offer larger versions of the High Street shops as well as all of the main supermarkets. For those of you who like designer outlets though, make the trip to the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet, just outside the city centre. A dedicated shuttle bus leaves York Station every ten minutes, so it is very easy to get to.
It’s open from 10am until 6pm everyday except Thursday when it opens late until 8pm and there is plenty of free parking if you are arriving by car. The outlet is very well designed over two floors and is easy to walk around without missing anything. On the ground floor is where you’ll find all the shops offering up to 60% off regular prices on designer items from Paul Smith, Armani and Ted Baker to name a few. There is also a good smattering of kitchen accessory shops, toy stores and electrical shops all with good discounts. On the second floor is the food hall where you can get burgers, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, pizza and fish and chips from all the major food chains. Even if you don’t buy anything, the outlet is worth a trip because its a thoroughly modern place, all indoors, that makes for excellent window shopping.
So, whatever you’re shopping desires, York has it all. Whether you are a hard core shopper who loves sniffing out a bargain or an occasional shopper who likes to enjoy the atmosphere of an historical city, you can’t fail to be impressed with York.