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The Shambles, York – Our guide

shambles york

If there’s one place you must visit on your trip to York, it’s the famous Shambles. It’s a street steeped in history that parents will love, but there are also plenty of magical reasons that children will adore it too. Take a look at our ultimate guide to the Shambles in York to find out what you’ll discover, our top picks for kids and some tips for making the most of your visit.

Why is the Shambles famous?

York’s famous medieval street, Shambles (an old word meaning meat market or open-air slaughterhouse) is one of the the city’s most popular places to visit. Formerly a street of butchers’ shops adorned with hanging meat and with raw sewage running along it, it’s an immaculately preserved street that could tell a story or two. Cobble-lined and with overhanging windows, it still has its original charm but is now a sweet-smelling experience for locals and visitors alike. There’s a host of quirky independent shops to visit, cafes to refuel in and even some wizard-themed experiences (including a new one, The Potions Academy, opening in summer 2024) that are bound to appeal to young Harry Potter fans. Speaking of which….

Was Harry Potter filmed in the Shambles?

Shambles York

One glimpse of the Shambles and you’ll see why it’s rumoured to have inspired Harry Potter’s wizarding world. While The Shambles bears more than a passing resemblance to Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series, it wasn’t actually featured in the films. But don’t let that put you off a visit; step into the Shambles and you’d be forgiven for imagining that you’ve stepped into a film set. The quirky architecture, vintage shop signs, costumed characters and enchanting atmosphere – as well as a brilliant selection of shops and experiences – make the Shambles a must-visit destination for Potterheads of all ages.

What shops are on the Shambles?

Potions Cauldron York

There are lots of lovely shops on the Shambles that are well worth a visit, and it’s a great place to pick up a souvenir or even do your Christmas shopping. Here are some of our highlights.

– Top of our list for kids is The Potions Cauldron (9 ¾ Shambles), a magical drinks emporium selling famous Potions Cauldron drinks, wizard-themed gifts and much more. You can even book their fun Cauldron Experience that takes place in the themed back room or pick up one of their TikTok famous butterbeers. 

butterbeer shambles york

York Ghost Merchants (6 Shambles) is another unique Shambles shop that’s a viral sensation. Selling over 600 handcrafted ghosts from their beautiful themed shop, it’s a York experience like no other. Prepare to queue and get there early or you’ll be waiting for hours (no exaggeration!). 

york ghost merchants

The Shop That Must Not be Named (30 – 31 Shambles) is another popular shop, not least for its broomstick parking display. Stock up on Potter merch and chat to the knowledgeable staff.

The shop that must not be named york

The Society of Alchemists (18 Shambles) – For a slightly more grown-up souvenir, but with a nod to all things enchanting, head to The Society of Alchemists where you’ll find mystical fragrances, candles and homeware.

Society of alchemists york

When’s the best time to visit?

Shambles is a lovely place to visit at any time of year, whether the sun’s shining or we’re experiencing a rare snowstorm (it looks lovely in the snow!). Visit at Christmas and you should be lucky enough to see it lined with trees, while during the summer many of the shops adorn their windows with floral displays. As one of York’s most popular landmarks, Shambles can get VERY busy, so whatever the time of year, we would always recommend going early if you can to avoid the crowds.

Places to eat near the Shambles

Parlormade scone house review york

There are loads of great, family-friendly places to eat on or near the Shambles with kids, and these are our favourites:

  • Bluebird Bakery (2 Little Shambles) – Small but perfectly formed, this tiny family-run bakery is a great place to pick up some tasty treats to eat on the go, from amazing cheese straws to rich brownies, vegan pastries and salted caramel slices.
  • Krep York (Shambles Market)For crepes and galettes galore, head around the corner to Shambles Market where you’ll find Krep, home of the best crepes in town. It’s an outdoor eating experience, so grab a bench and enjoy not worrying about crumbs dropping on the floor of a fancy restaurant.
  • Crumbles (Shambles Market) – In the mood for something sweet? Make a beeline for Crumbles in Shambles Market, where you’ll find a selection of hot and cold fruity crumbles to make your heart sing.
  • Dough Eyed Pizza – (7 Jubbergate, York YO1 8R in Shambles Market) – If you’re in the mood for pizza, Dough Eyed is two minutes’ walk from the Shambles and is seriously good.

Visiting the Shambles – Top tips

Wizard Walk of York tour
  • – Avoid the crowds by going early if you can.
  • – If you’re planning to browse or pick up a ghost from York Ghost Merchants, go REALLY early! There’s always a queue, and people start queueing earlier than you’d think.
  • – Cobbles can be a pain if you’re pushing a buggy. There is a narrow pavement on either side but it gets busy; take a baby carrier if you can. 
  • – The popular Wizard Walk of York, a family-friendly walking tour of York, begins on the Shambles so why not explore the city with one of York’s most entertaining characters? Pre-booking required.

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