York Christmas Shopping Guide9 DEC
I don’t mean to panic anyone but THERE ARE ONLY 16 DAYS LEFT UNTIL CHRISTMAS!
Now, maybe you are one of those people who get their Christmas presents bought and wrapped by early October. However, if you’re like me (i.e. normal) you will be staring at your Christmas list with a dim but growing sense of dread.
But never fear, we’re here to help.
Team brightfive have compiled our ultimate York Christmas shopping guide. Here are our favourite places to find thoughtful presents for your loved ones - whatever they’re into. We’ll be focusing on York’s independent stores and smaller brands, helping you find unique gifts that support small businesses (we’re pretty into that, we are one after all). Because I am a massive glutton and food is always on my mind, there are also plenty of suggestions on where you might chose to eat during your shopping trip.
So, you have one day in York - here’s where you need to go.
Let’s start on the north side of town on Gillygate. Gillygate is full of small, interesting, independent businesses including some great places to eat. But food is not our mission at this point. If you’re looking for gifts Gillygate has some great options including…
Snowhome specialises in contemporary home design. After 13 years in business, Showhome have been listing amongst ‘York’s best independent shops’ time and again.
They stock a wide range of quirky pieces, showcasing collections from smaller manufacturers and emerging designers, alongside their own designs. The aesthetic: modern with a focus on simple well-made pieces, sometimes a little offbeat and humorous.
If you’re looking for a significant gift or a stocking filler, there’ll be plenty in their range to suit your budget.
Bubbles provide beautiful children’s presents, offering a nice alternative to your standard Toys ‘R’ Us fayre. Specialising in more ‘traditional’ gifts, here you’ll find classic wooden gifts, beautiful soft toys, educational games and a nice selection of carefully chosen books. The staff, in my experience, are happy to help and share their considerable knowledge to make recommendations.
The Inkwell, Gillygate
The Inkwell primarily sells an eclectic selection of vinyl, alongside interesting pieces of pop culture memorabilia. The staff really know their stuff and are generally up for a natter.
A great option for that impossibly cool friend who's really hard to buy for.
Next head up Petergate, and on to Stonegate to…
The Bottle (below House of Trembling Madness), Stonegate
Booze is good gift when you’re otherwise unsure of what someone will like (assuming the person in question drinks). The Bottle has a staggering range of sauce - including a whole room with different beers stacked floor to ceiling, a wide range of ciders and a basement full of spirits. You won’t find any Magner’s or Smirnoff here - The Bottle stocks products from small breweries, including a wide range of local products, imported drinks and unusual products. At the till you can also find a few grown-up stocking filler options including those sweets with insects in, cigars, and those tiny spirit bottles that make you feel like a giant.
Now we turn back onto Petergate to…
Christmas Angels, Low Petergate
Christmas Angels is pretty bonkers. It looks like cute little shop when you walk in, full of curious little toys and puzzles (perfect stocking fillers BTW). But step in further and you’ll see it goes on and on. It’s like Narnia. As you venture deeper you'll see more traditional children’s toys and games until eventually you reach Christmas. The back half of the shop is always Christmas, all year round. Fully kitted out with trees and lights and ornaments.
When I was a kid this shop was a destination in itself, and my mum and I would regularly visit just to wander round. They also stocked a great selection of Beanie Babies and it was the late 90’s. So y’know, it was a must.
At the end of the street we take a right onto Goodramgate to pay a visit to a foodie favourite...
Rafi’s Spicebox, Goodramgate
Rafi’s is another York institution and their specialty is their ‘curry packs’. These freshly prepared spice mixes for a wide range of main and side dishes make it easy to prepare a delicious Indian feast at home.
All mixes are made by hand, to order, so you can dictate your preferred heat strength. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic, so don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions.
Rafi’s also sell plenty of other tasty and interesting larder gifts such as various pickles, teas and handmade kulfis, sourced - whenever possible - from small and independent producers. Oh and they also do special Christmas hampers - ideal for your foodie friends.*
* Full disclosure here - my partner works for Rafi’s so I arguably I have a vested interest here. But this also means I have tried a wide range of their products, countless times and I assure you, I continue to be a big fan.
Now, round to corner to…
Blossom & Walker, Lord Mayor’s Walk
Situated just outside the city walls, Blossom & Walker is always an interesting shop to puruse. The place is filled to the brim with beautiful homewares - so much so, you need to be cautious not to knock something over at every turn.
Originally an antiques shop, B&W specialise in vintage-inspired pieces. There’s generally a lot of shabby-chic/ handcrafted looking stuff going on.
Right, come on, back up Goodramgate, to King’s Square where we find…
Daisy Taylor’s, King’s Square
Daisy Taylors sell of trinket gifts for every occasion, many of which can be be personalised. They also sell some lovely cards. This is one of Ellie’s favourite shops in York and Ellie is an excellent gift giver - take note.
Getting hungry? You have the option to bear right here down to Shambles Market. If the weather’s good you can visit one of the many stalls selling fresh and tasty street food, or you can pop into York's pop-up Christmas bar, Thor's Tipi, for a drink, a snack and to warm your cockles by the fire .
Otherwise, onwards and upwards to…
Barnitts is a stalwart, trading in York since 1896 and selling pretty much EVERYTHING. Originally a hardware store, Barnitts has gradually expanded its range and its footprint, literally, by gradually buying up the shops either side. I estimate Barnitts will cover half the city centre by 2025.
Whatever you’re looking for, Barnitts will have it. Kitchen wares, pet supplies, lighting, furniture, bedding, everything. Thankfully the staff seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of this sprawling store and its myriad products. It can be pretty difficult to find what you’re looking for otherwise.
Our next destination in Fossgate. This is another great street for independent shopping. If you’re ready for a break here, you can stop at The Hop for a swift half (and, if you’ve not had lunch they have a wood-fired pizza oven...and prosecco on tap) or Fossgate Social if you’re in the mood for coffee. As for shopping…
Give the Dog a Bone, Fossgate
Give the Dog a Bone proudly declare that they specialise in ‘things you don’t need...but really want’. Which sums it up rather nicely.
Spread over two floors, the shop is always interesting to browse, stocking a wide range of fun, colourful gifts. Their wares range from the practical and pretty - mugs, bags, wallets, stationery etc - to the downright silly.
This is a great place to shop for film/ TV buffs and gamers - as they have a good range of pop-culture inspired pieces an official merchandise from various franchises.
The Hairy Fig, Fossgate
This is one of my favourite shops, full stop. In fact, it is two of my favourite shops, as The Hairy Fig is spread across two building side-by-side (no knock-through), so make sure to visit both.
Stepping into the shop feels like travelling back in time. It’s how I imagine well-to-do Victorian’s bought their ‘fine fodder’. Every possible bit of wall space (and some of the floor and ceiling) is crammed with attractive, high quality, tasty treats. Stocking plenty of local produce as well as carefully selected imports from around the world, The Hairy Fig as a mind-bending choice of coffee, tea, sweets, biscuits, preserves, pastas, olives - you name it! Specialties include their wall of oils and aged balsamic vinegars, poured and bottled to order. They also sell a lovely selection of handmade chocolates and sweets, including nostalgic favourites such as marzipan fruits and licorice wheels (I always get a few of these for little presents).
While you’re there it would be a real shame not to check our the counterful of cheeses, breads and pork pies. It’s been a hard day’s shopping - why not treat yourself to a little something to take home for supper.
It would be criminal at this juncture not to point out that you are mere yards away from Walmgate and the Polish cafe Barbakan. Everything there is so good but their cakes are arguably the best in York. Just putting it out there, knowledge is power and all that.
Now, I’m not sure how tired you are at this point. Maybe you’re ready to head home. but, if you’re up to it, we’re going to wander a bit off the beaten track -south of the city centre to Bishopthorpe Road.
Bishy Road is the hub of York’s desirable South Bank. This shopping street is full of independent businesses with plenty of great shopping opportunities. In fact, it has just been voted best high street in Britain! Highlights include...
Frankie & Johnny’s Cookshop sells ‘nice things for your kitchen’. This is all the kind of thing that you probably wouldn’t get for yourself, but would for someone else - like a really nice fruit bowl and an expensive set of cook’s knives. For more fancy foodie bits there’s also The Good Food Shop selling lots of lovely (albeit pricey) edibles for your christmas hampers.
Another great option for a special Christmas gift this year can be found at The Pig & Pastry. This cafe has been a York favorite for years and has recently begun to attract national attention. This year, The Pig & Pastry have released their very first cookbook. Featuring some delicious recipes for breakfasts, lunch, cakes and pastries, all proceeds of the book are being donated to Candlelighters - making it a gift to really feel good about. If you can’t make it down there, it can be purchased through the Candlelighters’ website . It goes without saying that here is yet another chance for refreshments (if you can get a table, that is).
We’re very spoiled in York for interesting, independent shops. There are plenty of other great places we could have featured and some honourable mentions to Paper Doll in The Quarter (children’s clothes & toys), York Cocoa House on Blake St (handmade chocolates) and Me & Mrs Fisher on Lord Mayor’s Walk (crafts & homewares).
Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in the Comments or through Facebook/Twitter.