York is up there with my favourite cities I have visited in Britain. Take a walk along the walls, soak in views of the minster and explore the shambles. Shopping is plentiful and tea rooms are everywhere. I have to confess I’m not a massive city lover but York is a pretty city with cobbled streets and amazing architecture – the oldest building dating back to as far as 1350!
However I had never been at Christmas time so this weekend (the last weekend in November) we ventured there to take in the city once again and get in the festive spirit around the Christmas Markets.
In York I have a go to hotel… it’s up there with my favourite hotels ever! If you are going to York and want a bit of luxury the only hotel to stay is the Grand Hotel and Spa. It’s a grand Edwardian railway hotel and very deserving of it’s five stars – the only hotel to boast such in Yorkshire. The whole hotel is very grand as per its name, Edwardian features are kept but blended effortlessly with more contemporary colours. The corridors alone are wider than I’ve seen in any hotel, the ceilings are high and the stone staircase magnificent. I was pleased to see on arrival that their Christmas decorations were up instantly putting me in the festive mood.
As we arrived late afternoon we wanted to make a quick exit to go exploring but not before seeing our room. We were staying in a classic double room which as expected was gorgeous but definitely worth a mention here is the double shower in the bathroom and heated floor – bliss. The Christmas decorations in the hotel were beautifully done.
Recently hearing about Evil Eye lounge which hit the Guinness world records for having the most gins available for sale (if you want numbers approximately 1028!) whist in York it would be crime not to check it out. We had to queue outside maybe 15 minutes however if you just wanted to go in the shop you could walk in.
Inside it’s just a quirky laid back bar complete with sticky tables and menus ha ha! If your after a sophisticated affair this isn’t it but all the same worth a little stop off. It’s more of a cocktail bar but does offer plenty of options. I settled on a ‘gin and sonic’ and the other half on orange gin and tonic.
Next stop was the St Nicholas fair Christmas markets. Apparently they are easy to find but we did a fair bit of wandering ha ha! Once stumbling on them they were everything you would expect from Christmas markets. Little chalets with twinkling fairy lights line the streets selling your usual christmas wears, jewllery and gifts. Plenty of goodies are available to eat and of course your mulled wine. They were busy but show me a Christmas market that’s not! (This was taken the next morning as I forgot to take one at night!)
I really enjoyed browsing the little stalls and admiring hand crafted items, some people are so talented. We came away with amazing cheeses, different flavoured tonics, a Christmas tree decoration and some cool peaky blinder coasters.
A few mulled wines later (with an extra shot of brandy!) we started to head back to the hotel stopping off for two drinks in other bars along the way. If drinking is your thing you won’t be disappointed in York! Back in the Grands bar called 1906 it was nice to be out the cold and in an intimate plush setting. More gin and tonics followed but the rhubarb gin with elderflower tonic was the best! It’s not cheap in the Grand – £30 for two doubles but service was impeccable and the lovely setting made the prices worth it.
Now no visit to York is complete without a visit to the Shambles. So we swerved breakfast at the Grand as we had a lie in (I can say though from a previous visit it’s very nice but £20 per person it’s pricey) breakfast in a quaint little cafe up the road did the trick.
The Shambles are amazing to see… made even more famous after being revealed as J.K Rowlings inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the likeness is easy to see. Dating back to medieval times the street was once full of Butchers shops. Despite visiting the shambles several times I learned this time that the quaint looking timber frame buildings actually were built close set to protect the meat hanging outside from direct sunlight. Outside the shop windows (the shambles is now a street of shops) you can still see the meat hooks.
It was raining and soooo busy so we headed back to the Grand to enjoy the spa. As a self confessed spa addict I will tell you although nice the spa in the Grand is nothing special. It compromises of a pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and relaxation lounge. Of course an array of treatments are on offer and a bonus is Espa is the brand of choice (Espa is my favourite).
It’s £15 per person just to use the Spa facilities and they give you a gown, slippers and towel. We had an hour or so hanging out there and yeah it’s nice but it’s just lacking a few things for me like no room to relax properly by the pool, no experience showers and no drinks in the relaxation room – nobody came and offered to get us one either. You don’t really want to come out and wander down the corridor to quench your thirst when relaxing. For a five star hotel it’s just not quite up to par for me.
Is it worth a visit? Yeah if you want a little relaxation and it would probably be enhanced by adding treatments (I already had a massage and facial booked back home by my regular go to beauty people so gave it a miss with the expense of Christmas looming too!) but I would not recommend it as a spa break, it’s merely a supplement to an amazing hotel.
All in all we had ourselves a lovely little weekend break away and did it get me in the Christmas spirit? It certainly helped. Have you visited York at Christmas time?
Rachael 🙂 x