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Welcome to the York Christmas Festival, where the city comes alive with a warm, festive glow. As the streets light up and the festive buzz begins, enjoy the city's charming shops, cosy restaurants, and iconic attractions all decked out in their festive finery, there's a wonderful winter experience waiting around every corner.

Amidst this bustling holiday cheer, there's a serene side to York waiting to be discovered. In this blog, we'll guide you through the city's peaceful festive havens - tranquil spaces where you can find moments of calm. Whether you're staying in a local B&B or just out for a day trip, discover calming places for you to relax and enjoy the Christmas spirit at your leisure.

These are not just places to escape the festive flurry; they are destinations in their own right, offering a chance to reflect, appreciate, and soak in the quieter side of Christmas. Whether it’s the stained glass beauty of a serene chapel, the grandeur of an ancient hall, or the intimate charm of a hidden historic house, each space promises a unique experience that complements the city’s festive spirit.

Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate

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“Everything takes place by candlelight at Holy Trinity, Goodramgate. That is the way it has been for 800 years. Wrap up warm and come to experience a truly historic Christmas.”

Behind the hustle of Goodramgate, one of York's busiest shopping streets, Holy Trinity, Goodramgate emerges as a hidden treasure. Nestled in a small, leafy churchyard with the grand Minster in the backdrop, it’s a serene escape. To enter, you'll pass through an 18th-century archway, connecting to buildings once bustling with 14th-century artisans.

Full of character, the church offers a unique Christmas setting. Its uneven floors and arcades are a charming reminder of times long past. As light filters through the windows, the honey-coloured stone is bathed in a warm glow. The east window, adorned with exquisite stained glass gifted in the 1470s, casts a kaleidoscope of coloured light, creating a festive atmosphere.

Dating mainly from the 15th century, with features spanning from its 12th-century foundation to the 19th century, the church encapsulates York’s history. The unique box pews, a rarity in York, are a sight to behold, especially during this season of joy. An array of monuments and memorials illustrate the city's vibrant life through centuries, providing a backdrop to a reflective and peaceful Christmas experience.

The Bar Convent

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In 1686, a mysterious woman named Mrs Long bought a house on Blossom Street in York. To the outside world, Mrs Long and her simply-dressed companions were widows who kept to themselves. To those in the know, Mrs Long's real name was Mother Bedingfield - and she had just founded an illegal Catholic convent.

At a time when the Catholic faith was still punishable by death, Mother Bedingfield risked her life by operating a secret school for girls under the watchful eyes of her neighbours. Today, more than 300 years later, The Bar Convent is open to the public and attracts visitors from all over the world.

This festive season, discover a remarkable story of survival through a fascinating exhibition, featuring interactive displays alongside original artefacts. With special activities for younger visitors, and the chance to indulge in festive treats at an award-winning café and garden, the Bar Convent is a unique experience for the whole family to enjoy. You can even stay overnight!

Merchant Adventurers' Hall

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This Christmas, step into the Merchant Adventurers' Hall, where tales of York's past mingle with the festive spirit.

This stunning Grade 1 listed building, framed in medieval timber, stands as a testament to charity, worship, and business since its establishment by a fraternity of York citizens. During Christmas, its ancient walls, adorned with decorations, invite a sense of wonder.

The Hall houses three significant spaces: the Great Hall, where medieval merchants once conducted business and socialized; the Undercroft, a former almshouse; and the Chapel, offering a tranquil space for reflection amidst the holiday bustle.

And what's Christmas without indulgence? Enjoy a locally roasted coffee and freshly baked festive cakes and snacks in the Merchants’ Coffee House, a perfect treat after delving into York's intriguing history.

Bedern Hall

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Amidst the seasonal charm of York, Bedern Hall stands as a hidden gem with a rich history stretching back to the 14th century.

Originally the dining hall for the Vicars Choral of York Minster, it has witnessed transformations from medieval grandeur to its restoration from a Victorian-era pork pie factory. Today, as Christmas cheer fills the air, visitors are welcomed to discover the hall's intriguing past. They can enjoy a festive coffee and cake or a warming glass of wine in the peaceful courtyard cafe.

The Hall, also home to three of the City’s ancient Guilds, offers a journey through time, from learning about the lifestyles of the Vicars Choral to the stories behind its meticulous restoration. A visit during the Christmas season adds a special layer of magic to its historical allure.

York Mansion House

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Explore four fascinating floors of York Mansion House, dressed in festive finery from 15 November to 23 December.

Let York Mansion House take you back 300 years, where the traditions we still see today were born, borrowed and celebrated… and some forgotten. Past the grandeur of the prominent green doors lies a home built for entertaining royalty. As the oldest purpose-built home for a Lord Mayor in the country, the stories of scandal and frivolity are still being told, and York Mansion House invites you to discover them.

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of York streets and witness a weird and wonderful delicacy during an historic cooking demonstration. Time for a fabulous ball, better learn the language of the fan to prepare!

  • 11.30am: Georgian cooking demonstration
  • 2.30pm: Language of the Fan

These events are included in the price of admission, and your ticket lasts all day so you can participate in both activities!

The hobs are also back in full force for a new trail for little ones!

Please note York Mansion House is open Wednesday to Saturday, and there is no need to pre-book. It's open on Sundays for tours as usual.

Fairfax House

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Tucked around the corner from the hustle and bustle of the Christmas Market stands Fairfax House, a beautiful Georgian historic house which is celebrating Christmas this year in a rather unique way.

In amongst the festive decorations, hundreds of adorable miniature mice are having Christmas celebrations of their own!

Causing mayhem and mischief, these cheeky townmice will charm all the family with their festive antics.

Don’t miss this enchanting exhibition that melds the grandeur of a traditional Georgian Christmas with whimsical mousey fun. The best part? Children 16 and under go free!

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