Spectacular winter and Christmas lights planned for York this year

A magical winter light experience, using over 160,000 LED lights, is being planned for historic York this year.  The city will be awash with lights in white and warm white, creating a beautiful and magical atmosphere in keeping with the architecture of the city. York’s four historic Bars, the traditional gateways to the city since medieval times, will be lit with thousands of tiny twinkling white lights. These Winter Lights, returning for a second year, will brighten the city throughout the York Christmas Festival (16 November – 22 December) and continue right through to the end of February. 

York Business Improvement District (BID) and Make It York, the city’s Destination Management Organisation, have joined forces to roll out the city’s best ever winter and Christmas lights display.  New plans this year will see the illumination of Lendal and Ouse bridges as well as the city’s famous gateways.  York Bar Walls are the most complete examples of Medieval city walls still standing in England and this winter the main gatehouses or ‘bars’, Micklegate, Bootham, Monkbar and Walmgate, will be transformed into shining gateways. 

One hundred four foot Christmas trees and twenty five real trees will be brightly lit too and be dotted around the city.  The traditional Christmas tree switch-on in St Helen’s Square will take place on Festive First Night, Thursday 16th November, when the city’s winter lighting will also be turned on.   Andrew Lowson, Director, York BID, said: “The winter months are a vital time of year for local businesses and the tourism industry. York’s Winter Lights and new Christmas Lights are part of our commitment to enhancing the inviting atmosphere and will be a must see for residents and visitors alike.” 

Countdown to Christmas


The Lord Mayor of York, councillor Barbara Boyce, will be joined in St Helen’s Square by stars performing in Jack and the Beanstalk,Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass from York Theatre Royal, who will, together with BBC Presenter, Clare Frisby, lead the traditional countdown to illuminating the St Leonard’s Hospice ‘Light up a Life’ Christmas Tree and Christmas lights around the square, accompanied by the Lucy Mclean Choir.

 Sally Greenaway, Head of Visit York, a part of Make It York, said: “York’s new lighting will create a really special atmosphere in the city.It will be wonderful to see York lit by thousands of tiny white lights.  The Bar lighting means that whichever gateway you pass through into York, you’ll see these beautiful structures in all their glory.  We hope visitors and locals alike will enjoy them this winter.” 

The months running up to Christmas are a vital time of year for tourism businesses, especially retailers and organisers hope that this new lighting will add to the Christmas Festival programme to ensure the season is York’s most successful yet.  Christopher Stille, Managing Director, Gala Lights, said: “We designed York’s new lights to complement the important and historic nature of the city, whilst extending the display to areas previously unlit. The display will illuminate many of York’s bridges, trees and buildings, as well as include decorations across streets and on lamp columns.”

Steve Brown, Managing Director, Make It York, said: “This is a really good example of Make It York and the BID joining together and pooling resources to create a much better Christmas experience for the city.”  Festive First night will mark the start of late night Christmas shopping as well as the ever popular York St Nicholas Fair, which will be open every day until 6pm and until 8pm everyThursday, Friday and Saturday up until 22 December.