The Shambles in York is one of the ancient city's most photographed streets. Quaint and crooked, it has gift shops and houses that seem to lean into each other, giving it a strange sense of history come to life.
Harry Potter and The Shambles
The street is so unique that JK Rowling based Diagon Alley, the magical shopping street, on The Shambles in her Harry Potter books. It's not hard to see comparisons - and that's why hundreds of Harry Potter fans visit York and The Shambles every month to enjoy its beautifully crooked roofs and mysterious nooks and crannies.
There are also plenty of shops on the street selling all things Harry Potter. It's a perfect destination for Potter fans, so grab your wand and join the tourists taking pictures outside each gift shop.
What is The Shambles?
A market and shopping street, The Shambles has been a meeting place since the Middle Ages, and some of its buildings have stood since the 14th century. The word "shambles" was originally the name of the meat market and row of butchers that once stood in its place - although you'd be forgiven for thinking its name describes the muddle of houses and buildings that zig-zag along the cobbles.
Shopping on the Shambles and at Shambles Market
Nowadays, The Shambles is a picturesque shopping street, packed with gift shops and artisanal boutiques selling anything from Harry Potter merchandise to hand-made candles and soaps.
It's the perfect place to pick up souvenirs, and you can support independent businesses by buying your gifts, treats and knick-knacks from stores all along the street. Continue along the street to Shambles Market and explore its stalls heaving with fresh local produce, crafts, art and photography and antiques.
Eating and Drinking near The Shambles
The Shambles and the area around it in York's old centre is packed with restaurants, cafés and pubs.
York restaurants serve international fare down hidden back streets and on cobbled squares. Eat Italian in a Tudor terrace, Mexican on the high street or enjoy a traditional Sunday lunch in a classic Victorian pub by the river. Remember to book beforehand if you plan to eat out during your visit - it can get very busy in this part of town.
Taste handmade chocolates and fudge made before your eyes in shops on The Shambles and sit down for a traditional currant teacake and a pot of tea at Betty's. Walk around the market and find delicious pies, pasties, pastries and cakes made by local bakers, perfect for a lunch on the go.
For craft beer, real ale and special bottles, The House of Trembling Madness is one of York's quirkiest bars, decorated with antiques and taxidermy. Visit its bottle shop to buy your favourite beers and ciders - or pick up something unusual to take home.
Christmas on The Shambles
The Shambles is a perfect Christmas shopping experience. Even if you're visiting in the midst of summer, you'll find Christmas shops selling handmade decorations and festive must-haves.
From October through to the end of December, festive lights and decorations drape along the street, and each shop window displays perfect Christmassy scenes. Visit for a long weekend to make sure you take it all in. For many visitors to York at Christmas time, The Shambles is the main reason they travelled to the city.
Where to find The Shambles in York
The Shambles is part of York's large pedestrianised area. By far the easiest way to get around York is to use the park and ride. There are several large car parks on the outskirts of the city where you can park all day and ride the bus to convenient drop-off points. Costs for park and ride vary, but they are cheaper than using short-stay car parks and thanks to the dedicated bus lanes are often more convenient and a faster way to get around, too.
Q-Park Shambles is a short walk away and probably the best parking spot for a visit to The Shambles.
The Shambles is just off Colliergate and Pavement. It's around a ten-minute walk south from York Minster following either Goodramgate or Low Petergate to Colliergate.
Planning a trip to York to see the famous Shambles for yourself? Take a look at our hotels in York to book your stay.