Review: Santa in the Shambles with York's Chocolate Story

The question we’re asked most at this time of year is where the best place is in York to see Santa. And as it’s our mission to recommend the best things in York for kids, we’re on our annual adventure to visit Father Christmas in various places across the city and let you know what it’s like.
First up is Santa in the Shambles, the second outing for York’s Chocolate Story’s Father Christmas offering. This year it’s moved to a new setting in Shambles Market and is the better for it – it’s less busy with Christmas shoppers than King’s Square and it’s also a good opportunity to check out the new food court area and all the lovely shops on the Shambles.
Santa’s home in Shambles Market is a cosy log cabin. Depending on how busy it is when you visit – you can’t pre-book, which is brilliant for spontaneity but does mean you’ll have to wait your turn if there’s a queue – you might have to wait in the entrance area which has been decked out like an old fashioned sweet shop. We all know that kids aren’t known for their patience, especially when it comes to meeting Father Christmas, but luckily there are chocolate-themed colouring activities to keep them occupied. We probably waited around 15 minutes, which was fine, even with three excitable kids. There are also friendly elves on hand to control the queues outside and make sure it doesn’t get too snug inside.
When our turn came, an elf came to get us by name and asked the children to knock on the door. A big ‘Ho! Ho! ho!” was our cue to go into Santa’s study and have a chat with the big man himself. The kids all told him what they’d like – even the youngest, who is a bit terrified by the whole Father Christmas thing, was relaxed enough to tell him she’d like a Peppa Pig – and then we posed for a hilarious family photo that was instantly printed and put into a nice wallet to take home. The kids then got to help deliver their own presents down a conveyor belt before bidding Santa a very happy Christmas and heading back into the real world with a festive spring in their steps. They loved the experience, the chocolatey treats and the present; a great start to the annual grotto visits.
Best for

  • Spontaneity, as you can’t pre-book
  • Combining with some Christmas shopping: you can’t get more central than Shambles Market
  • A great value experience: a photo, present, meeting with Santa and free ride on a ride in the King’s Square fairground is included in the price

Opening times

  • Weekdays (3rd-16th December) 12pm – 5pm & all weekends 10am-5pm
  • Weekdays 17th – 24th December & all weekends 10am-5pm
  • The Grotto will close at 3pm on Christmas Eve


  • £9.95 per child; siblings £7.95 (one photo per family)
  • Extra photo prints £2.00

Visit the Santa in the Shambles website

Thank you to York’s Chocolate Story for inviting us to visit Santa in the Shambles. As always, our review is entirely independent.

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