My name is David and I am a shopaholic. It’s a fair admission and there is no better place than York to get the pulse and purse racing. Even the weariest shopper and their feet-dragging partner should find some pleasure.
The tightly-packed city centre is bulging with retail rewards, housed in historic stone and half-timbered buildings that have been welcoming customers over their thresholds for centuries. What’s more; in Europe’s largest single pedestrianised area there’s little traffic to get in the way, making for hours of safe buying and browsing time among the city’s atmospheric narrow streets, alleys and courtyards.
For me, the most appealing shopping thoroughfares are Petergate and Stonegate (which in 2010 was awarded 2nd Best Street in Britain). Close to the Minster both come with a mixture of highbrow clothing and accessory brands plus an array of independent stores selling everything from incense to antiquarian books; teapots to teddy bears; posh hats to cheese straws.
A relatively new kid on the retail block is Fossgate. A street that’s not only home to the increasing collection of fine gastro treats (now recognised as one of the top three streets in Britain for food) this is also worth venturing to for its small collection of independent stores selling retro and vintage clothing.
The Coppergate Centre housing the Jorvik Viking Centre also comes with a small collection of shops including the upmarket Fenwick’s department store. So too The Shambles which, while historically magnificent and an absolute must-see on any tourist itinerary, has to my mind never really been a destination for the pleasures of retail.
Coney Street is lined with the familiar high street names seen across the length and breadth of the country and includes the main post office. At the top end, between New Street and St. Helens Square, is a collection of riverside bars which all offer a pleasant spot in the summer months to take lunch outside on the terrace and watch the boats gurgle by along the River Ouse.
For some local colour, Newgate Market has been accommodating stalls between The Shambles and Parliament Street since medieval times. Today it offers all kinds of fresh produce alongside budget necessities and trinkets and is regularly complemented by a series of speciality markets held throughout the year on neighbouring Parliament Street. Look on my When to go to York page for more details of market events in 2011.
Just beyond the city limits, the York Designer Outlet (www.yorkdesigneroutlet.com) is a Cathedral of retail dedicated to brand discounting. In the region of 115 stores sell their branded fashion, shoes, kitchenware, luggage and books with up to 60 per cent off their normal high street prices. When it’s time to give feet and bank accounts a rest there’s a food hall on the first floor to regroup before the next assault below.
Hardly a visitor attraction, but anyone suddenly in the market for electrical, pet and clothing superstores during their visit should head to Monks Cross (www.monkscrossshopping.co.uk) to the north of the city for generic out of town shopping accompanied by the usual fast food suspects.
If wanting to get out of the city, then I recommend a visit to the lovely market town of Helmsley, particularly for foodies who should enjoy its collection of delis surrounding the market square. For information on getting there, see my pages on How to get around York and York car hire for help.