Whether you’re on the higgledy-piggledy Shambles or sloping Stonegate, shops in York are super-cute. Enjoy the warm glow of a well-dressed window, or the creak of an old staircase, with these eight retro sweeties...
1. Kathe Wolfahrt
Wish it could be Christmas every day? Well, look no further than Käthe Wohlfahrt on Stonegate. Open all year round, there’s enough here to sate the biggest Christmas junkie, with the world’s largest selection of Christmas ornaments, cuckoo clocks, snow globes and nativity scenes. Taking up two festive floors of the 15th-century Mulberry Hall, it’ll brighten your worst Grinch day. Even in July.
2. Stonegate teddies
Guarded by a g igantic raggedy bear which you WILL end up hugging, this little shop sells nothing but toys and tea. It’s packed to the rafters with cuddly critters, so pick your favourite and go for a teddy-bear’s picnic in the tea room upstairs. Or indeed, a glass of wine. It’s all housed in a 700-year-old building made of shipwrecked parts - spot the mermaid figurehead on the side. One of the best things to do in York, it comes with gooiness guaranteed.
3. Monk Bar Chocolatiers
When you picture a dream chocolate shop, it probably looks like Monk Bar Chocolatiers on the ancient Shambles. Pretty on the outside, with an equally soft centre, you’ll find row-upon-row of shiny, glazed choccies in 70 flavours. Everything is made by a father and son team who work with Belgian and French chocolate exclusively. Watching them at work is poetry in motion.
4. Bowler Vintage
Well-dressed in bottle green and shiny brass, Bowler Vintage is a jaunty number on Fossgate, specialising in reproduction and authentic vintage clothing. Doth your cap and rifle through laden racks and bureaus - you may find a real Horrocks 1950 dress or some vintage Chanel. Or why not fulfil all your Pretty Woman fantasies and try on some fancy hats and gloves, 1980s montage style.
5. The Imaginarium
Golden carousel horses. Chandeliers. This is how you do window displays. The Imaginarium is the closest thing you’ll find to a grown-up toy shop. Here, Victoriana meets Alice in Wonderland - think clockwork owls and giant ornamental ladybirds - and it's stacked to the rafters with imaginative homeware, textiles and things you don’t-need-but-want. Housed on Blake Street, just step through the looking glass.
6. The Shop That Must Not Be Named
Where else would you set up a Harry Potter shop, but the Shambles? It’s a dead ringer for Diagon Alley. This quaint little shop is a must for Pott-heads everywhere, selling a range of merchandise within its rickety walls. Staff are all committed Potter fans, and will happily discuss the boy wizard for hours, plus its independent status makes it all the more magical. Don’t miss out, muggles.
7. Fossgate Books
Everyone loves the smell of old books, and this shop on Fossgate is as old-school as it gets. Towering shelves heave with second-hand titles, from popular fiction to crime to first editions and collectibles. It’s a voyage of discovery. Climb up the steep staircase, get cosy and find your next read. One of the best things to do in York.
8. Roly's Fudge Pantry
You’ll often find people salivating at the window of Roly’s Fudge Pantry - watching the staff pour molten fudge onto marble slabs is a simple joy. Inside, the shop is buttery, warm and quaint, with retro tiles and big copper pans. And the fudge is delicious. Try the toffee-apple autumn special. Then the peanut butter, then the lemon meringue, then all the flavours. Find this cutie on the Shambles.
9. The Hairy Fig
This specialist deli and café is a feast for the eyes. The postcard-perfect front makes it appear deceptively small, but once you’re inside you’ll find yourself in gourmet haven with shelves stacked high with specialist foods sourced from around the world as well as closer to home. Order a cheeseboard and then bag some truffle oil and fancy chocolates.