IT'S beginning to look a lot like Christmas in York where the festivities have now been launched.

Curtains of light adorning the gateways into the city centre have been switched on, the popular St Nicholas Fair has opened today and the twinkling THOR’s Tipi is back in Parliament Street offering winter warming drinks around a real log fire.

The Christmas market features 69 alpine chalets spread across Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square.

One of the changes made this year is the number of stalls - with a third fewer than usual in a bid to create more space for the anticipated crowds.

As part of efforts to keep the city safe, city leaders are encouraging both traders and visitors to wear face coverings if possible.

St Nicholas Fair runs until December 23, with stalls offering a range of gifts, seasonal food and drinks and local produce, featuring local traders and craftspeople.

Among those are York Gin, Taste of Yorkshire, Shambles Kitchen, KREP, and Sloemotion and independent designers and craftspeople such as Millie’s Designs and Staves Art.

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Harri Marshall and Hannah Fish, from York Gin, with Ross Johnstone, commercial manager of First York, toasting their winter warming hot gin treat for bus passengers in York.

THOR’s Tipi is back until January 2, offering hot beverages such as mulled wine and hot chocolate, along with refreshments by Yuzu Street Food.

The rustic Yorkshire Barn in St Sampson’s Square is also open to welcome guests with festive food and drink while King’s Square plays host to the vintage carousel throughout the festive season.

  • Pictures from the St Nicholas Fair's first day here.

eanwhile, York Gin and bus firm First York have teamed up to greet passengers when they arrive in the city centre with a free winter warming gin treat. Here's what you need to know to get yours.

The festive backdrop of winter lights has been organised by York BID in partnership with Make It York and includes Christmas trees on St Helen’s Square, Parliament Street and Shambles Market and York’s historic bars illuminated with thousands of twinkling lights.

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Shops and restaurants are also trimmed up, including The Ivy Picture: Jonathan Allison, The Press Camera Club

The Tree of Light at the Eye of York will also be lit up over the festive period.

Following last year’s virtual Christmas market, an online market will also run on throughout the festive season to support York’s traders, retailers and attractions.  

City of York Council leader Cllr Keith Aspden said: “Christmas celebrations are always special in York and many of us undoubtedly missed our usual city-wide festivities last year.

"With the return of so many well-loved events and additions of many new ones, I am sure residents and visitors will once again be looking forward to safely enjoying all that our city has to offer this festive season.

"York has a fantastic range of independent and small businesses offering exceptional services and products. Christmas is a great time to support our local businesses by purchasing unique gifts and local produce.

“We look forward to welcoming residents and visitors to safely enjoy the magic of the festive period in York.”

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Coppergate Centre Christmas tree Picture: Jonathan Allison, The Press Camera Club

Sarah Loftus, who took over as managing director at Make It York on Monday, said: “We’re delighted St Nicholas Fair is returning to the city this year and to be working with so many local businesses to make the event extra special for residents and visitors.

"York has so many wonderful attractions, retailers and hospitality businesses and there is a huge array of unique experiences on offer this Christmas. This is all set against the magical backdrop of the winter lights scheme which creates a special ambience for those visiting the city centre during the festive period.

"Our team have been working hard behind the scenes with the support of York’s Safety Advisory Group to ensure robust event plans are in place. This includes a new layout to help the flow of people visiting and fewer alpine chalets to give all visitors more space to enjoy the market safely.

"We’re supporting the council’s initiative to keep York safe and open this Christmas, by encouraging our traders and visitors to wear face coverings if possible.”

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Picture: Amanda Louise, The Press Camera Club

* St Nicholas Fair will be open until December 23, from 10am to 6pm on Sunday to Thursday, and from 10am to 8pm on Friday and Saturday.