The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

the grimoire bookshop THE sHAMBLES

The Shambles York

Home to Diagon Alley York & the Shambles Market

Visiting the Shambles in York has been a dream of mine since I read about it in my high school history class many, many moons ago. The appeal of an ancient medieval street and area dating back to the Domesday Book inspired my imagination like nothing else.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

From that moment on I was determined to visit the Shambles York, and then came Harry Potter and I learned that the Shambles was the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Since that time several shops that have a Harry Potter focus have opened to much acclaim in the area.

York is an amazing city to wander and I highly recommend spending 2 days in York and simply soaking up everything there is to do.

Map of the Shambles in York

How to get to Shambles York

An easy trip since we were housesitting in Yorkshire so we drove in a left the car in a Park and Ride and took the bus into the City. It’s not a large city and you can ask the bus driver where to drop you for Shambles York. It’s very accessible from most areas of the City as it is smack dab in the heart of the place.

If you are coming from London you can grab a train at Kings Cross Station that takes around 1 hour 50 mins. From Manchester Piccadilly station, it’s 1 hour 20 minutes, and from Manchester Airport 1 hour 40 minutes.

You can easily access the Shambles from York train station, just 15 minutes walk away. 

When’s the best time to go to the Shambles?

The Shambles York gets particularly busy at the weekends, so for the best shopping and strolling experience, you should plan your visit midweek. Shops are open 7 days a week from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm.

It’s well worth taking the time to stay in York for a few days as there is so much to explore in the City.

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15 Things to see and do in North Yorkshire

Where to stay in York 

From the ultimate in luxury to some pretty quirky places York has all kinds of accommodation. Best to stay within the City walls as it makes York and the Shambles that much more walk-friendly.

Grays Court

Between York Minster and the walls, with a history dating back to the 11th century. With views across York’s medieval walls, Grays Court is a beautiful historic house with leafy gardens, an intimate restaurant and free Wi-Fi. The grand house is located beside York Minster and was once home to King James I.
 
 

The Bar Convent

As part of a still-working convent in a historic building, this is one of Britain’s more unusual guest-houses the bedrooms are modest yet roomy and well-equipped, there’s a charming café, peaceful garden and the city is walkable. You can take advantage of lower room prices with a shared bathroom – all in all great value for money.
 

The Grand York

York’s only five-star hotel has a luxury vaulted spa available and a swimming pool. Located in a Grade II listed Edwardian building the hotel maintains a splendid aura of luxury.
 

Lamb & Lion Inn

A Georgian pub, now operated by Best Western has a period feel, simple rooms and choice of good pub food or smarter modern British. There’s a straightforward bar, with cask ales and cosy snug, and a large beer garden with Minster views. Perfect for a stay right in the centre of the action.
 
 

Guy Fawkes Inn

Another historic pub-with-rooms, operated by Best Western in a plum position by York Minster, that oozes atmosphere from its gas-lit bar and dining-room. Bedrooms feature four-poster beds and a scattering of antiques, and the restaurant offers above-average pub classics. Standing next to York Minster, the Guy Fawkes Inn was the birthplace of the notorious plotter, Guido Fawkes. 
 
Don’t know who Guy Fawkes was – well he was the man who tried to blow up Parliament you can read more here
 
 

Trembling Madness Apartments

Located in a quiet little medieval courtyard behind the pub The House of Trembling Madness, The Old Gallery and The Chamber apartments offer visitors a quirky and delightful experience. With incredible interiors and ghost stories, this is a brilliant convenient place to hang out while in York. A 10-minute walk from the Shambles and the apartments overlook York Minister. 
 
 

Safestay York

last but not least a great hostel. This one is bright and fun with ensuite dorms and a few private rooms. There’s a breakfast room and a vivid bar all located in a Georgian building close to the centre of town.
 
 

The History of the Shambles York

The Shambles as a term is used to describe a maze of narrow twisty lanes in the centre of York. At the heart of the Shambles is the actual lane called The Shambles and it is obviously the best-preserved medieval streets in the world. The Domesday Book of William the Conqueror mentions the Shambles in 1086. Many of the existing buildings date back to 1350-1475 and are chock full of stories and interesting history.

the-shambles-streets

The Shambles was a street of butchers’ shops and houses, many complete with a slaughterhouse at the back of the premises, where they prepared there own “home-grown” meats.  The meat was hung up outside the shops and laid out for sale on what are now the shop window-bottoms.  It is still possible to see some of the original butcher’s meat-hooks attached to the shop fronts.

The Shambles York

Given the times, there was a constant issue of how to dispose of the waste produced by the slaughter of animals in the city.  One thing that was done that can be seen today is that the pavements are raised on either side of the street so a channel is formed that can be washed with buckets of water a few times a week.

newgate enry to shambles market

In parts of the Shambles, you will notice that you can touch both sides of the street with your arms stretched out. This has an extremely practical purpose.  It not only protected the materials (wattle and daub) that made up the buildings outward covering but it kept the meat out of direct sunlight allowing it to last longer without refrigeration.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

It is believed that the name Shambles comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for shelves which were obviously a major feature of the shops. The name is thought to derive from ‘Shammel’, an Anglo-Saxon word for the shelves or booth style shop fronts.  The other theory is that it comes from the word flesshammel that means flesh.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

One of the historic attractions in the Shambles York is Margaret Clitherow’s house. A butcher’s wife who lived in this street, Margaret Clitherow was brought up in the reformed religion. In 1574 she became a Catholic and allowed her home to be used for the shelter of persecuted priests. Over the course of 12 years of hiding them, she was arrested on several occasions and spent over 3 years imprisoned. Margaret refused to speak or plead at her trial and was condemned to be crushed to death, naked under a heavy stone on the Ouse Bridge in York.  Margaret was later made a Saint by the Church.

York is also attracting Harry Potter fans or Potterheads from around the world. Once they learned that the Shambles was the real “Diagon Alley” or rather the inspiration for it the fans came in droves.

What is the Shambles in York known for?

The Shambles is known these days for its connection with Harry Potter and that several scenes in the movie were filmed here. It is also known or its history as the oldest medieval street in the world. Cobbled streets lead you back in time and the wonky overhanging buildings create an atmosphere that brings history to life.

Experience Diagon Alley in York 

Often referred to as “Harry Potter Street”; the Shambles York is said to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley – the iconic alley that appears in a number of the books & movies. Once packed with butchers and meathooks; the beautiful street has been preserved over the centuries; maintaining a range of historic features and its original character.

The street is a must-visit for any true Potterheads, thanks not only to its uncanny resemblance to Diagon Valley; but for the 2 Harry Potter shops that currently reside there…

Harry Potter Gift Shops

The Shop That Must Not Be Named

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

Located at the 30 The Shambles, York – The Shop That Must Not Be Named is fabulous. With its free broom parking to the Potterized ice cube trays, this place is a wonderland of Potter merchandise.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world
©Theshopthatmustnotbenamed

Opened in May of 2017 they offer all the official Harry Potter merchandise including cloaks, wands, spell books, wizard hats,  Potter fans young and old. The shop sells everything a wizard could need, including cloaks, wands and official merchandise. However, I do recommend getting there early as the crowds of muggles do gather early to check it out. 

shop front in the Shambles of the Shop That Must Not Be Named from Harry Potter
©Theshopthatmustnotbenamed

The World of Wizardry

A few shop fronts down is another Harry Potter fan treat The World of Wizardry. So much Harry Potter merchandise the shop is literally overflowing.

world-of-wizardry-shop-exterior-shambles-york
©The World of Wizardry

This is more Potter heaven, similar to the Shop that must not be Named you will find Hogwarts student to wait on you and as much Potter paraphernalia as you can carry.

world-of-wizardry-shop-exterior-shambles-york
©The World Of Wizadry

Tucked away in the back of the shop though is some other merchandise for fantasy series fans such as Game of Thrones.

The Boy Wizard

The Boy Wizard has locations in Edinburgh, York and London and in York is the Harry Potter shop with the bright red front. Lots of great merchandise can be found here with some really good discounted prices if you are looking for a bargain.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world
©The Boy Wizard

The Cauldrons Potions

The Cauldrons in Shambles York is the place to mix up your own magical potions and become a trainee wizard. A drinks emporium for Wizards they serve the ancient recipes of Agnes de Molay a French witch from the 14th century. They have Serpents Venom, Lions Roar Elixir and Dragon’s Breath potions.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world
©Cauldrons Potion

Hidden away in the witches hole at the back of the shop you can visit beyond the magic wall to see a 6000 piece Hogwarts lego set. Why not drop by and mix up your own versions of Basilisk Blood and Elixir of Love

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world
©potions cauldron

Harry Potter filming sites in York outside the Shambles

York Rail Station

The pedestrian bridge across the platforms at York Station is used as a Harry Potter filming location in The Philosopher’s Stone. It looks quite different today though as the barriers are now made of plastic rather than thick metal beams.

Goathland Railway Station the Harry Potter Station York

A ride on a steam train has always been a dream, but the chance to ride the Hogwarts Express Train to Hogsmeade was an opportunity not to be missed.  The famous Harry Potter trains ran on the old steam train lines managed by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. 

Goathland Station Harry Potter Hogsmeade

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) heritage steam trains run on the NYMR line from Grosmont to Pickering and include a stop at the famous Harry Potter station in Goathland on its journey. These trains are all maintained and operated by volunteers.

A Whitby / Goathland Return ticket costs £23 per adult and £10.50 per child and you can find out more on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Website. 

Where to eat in the Shambles York

The Shambles Food Court

The Shambles Food Court, Located Within The Shambles Market

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

This area has a selection of international foods presented in small “sheds” in the Shambles Market in conjunction with the Shambles Farmer’s Market. Some of the sheds include;

Los Moros

Los Moros means the “Moors” in Spanish and has come to mean the people from Berbers, Arabic and Jewish populations that lived in Andalucia in the Middle Ages.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

A lovely taste of North African and Levantine street food and they have now opened a restaurant. You can have Chermoula Lamb’s Liver with Lebanese spicy potatoes (batata harra) there is some wonderful hummus, vegan falafels and salads so something for everyone. 

Krep

Krep serves their authentic French Crêpes and Galettes (savoury crêpes) from a vintage Citroen. They also serve amazingly good coffee that is from a local Yorkshire roaster.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

Pizzoli’

Pizzoli’ is a real Sicilian street-food experience that serves authentic, Italian, homemade pizza, lasagne and focaccia,  and they are known for their pizzolo (a flatbread pizza filled with different ingredients) and arancino (risotto croquette filled with Ragu’, ham & cheese or four kinds of cheese). Shambles Wraps:

Shambles Wraps

Shambles wraps is a range of Turkish sautéed meat wraps and grilled kufta kebab options. From grilled lamb to vegan and vegetarian options each wrap comes with a free soft drink.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

Shambles Kitchen

For gently smoked meat, cooked for hours over oak chips, the Shambles Kitchen’s kiosk serves a delightful range from hot sausage, spicy chicken thighs, turkey breast and pork ribs, with tasty sides such as homemade ‘slaw, potato salad or twice-fried chips.  

Winner Winner

Treat yourself at lunchtime with a visit to The Chicken Shack for some delectable delights. Local business, Winner Winner have brought their own recipe of marinated and brined (for 12hrs) rotisserie chicken, and their famous chicken wings to the Shambles Market for hungry visitors  

Café M

Café M serves delicious nibbles and hot drinks throughout the day. Their range of coffees includes Americano, Latte, Cappuccino, Mocha and their special Turkish coffee. For something less stimulating, pick a tea or herbal infusion; choices include Yorkshire tea, green tea (plain or flavoured with jasmine or lemon), earl grey, vanilla chai, and a range of caffeine-free options such as decaf black tea, redbush, peppermint, Chamomile and refreshing fruit infusions.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

The Shambles Tavern

A great gastropub the Shambles Tavern is well known for its Wall of Ales they offer you a vast selection of Yorkshire cask, keg, and bottled ales for your enjoyment. The food is all sourced locally and the Tavern has won numerous awards.

tavern in the Shambles York

The Punch Bowl Pub

Said to be haunted the Punch Bowl is a traditional pub with a vast range of real ales and great food.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

The Punch Bowl has been a pub for over 4 centuries but it has suffered two major fires and been restored.  The political connection comes from the Whigs party which preferred punch over claret which was a tory drink. 

 Gert and Henry’s

What a beautiful old building, Gert and Henry’s is timber-framed and dates from the 1600s. It has been a restaurant since 1929 and it serves classic English food. We had some traditional fish and chips and a steak pie and some great local ales.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

With so many classic pubs, alehouses, restaurants and cafes to choose from and a wealth of heritage, historic and truly unique buildings it worth a wander and perhaps a stop in every interesting place you find. You certainly won’t experience this in N. America lol.

The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

Have you been to Shambles York? What did you like the best?

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The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world

9 thoughts on “The Shambles York the oldest medieval street in the world”

  1. I only recently went to York but loved it. I’m definitely going again and going to look more closely at the things you mention. Plus I want to try some of that great food! When we were there we took the grandkids to Dig. I could have spent hours in there.

  2. I went to York on a day trip once, many years ago. I wish I had known about this street! I love your photos – it looks absolutely charming. If I ever make it back there, it’s going on my list.

  3. A lovely reminder of our trip there in December with friends. What a sad tale about Margaret though. I didn’t know that story. Beautiful.

  4. I went there 23 years ago and this post bought back those memories. Thanks. It was in the time before Harry Potter and now I want to go back and experience this side of the Shambles.

    1. I can’t wait to go back again myself love Yorkshire and York – well actually the whole area is just so beautiful and they have some amazing farm stores and restaurants everywhere.

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