Having never been widened to accommodate cars, The Shambles has retained its picturesque medieval form. Timber-framed Tudor buildings host tea rooms, taverns, and souvenir shops, and project out at the upper levels—a medieval building technique used to create extra living space.
With its well-preserved 14th and 15th-century buildings, and independent shops selling everything from artisan chocolate to jewelry, the Shambles is one of York’s most-popular sights. While many travelers come here to window shop, it’s worth taking a tour to discover more about the long history of the street. Walking tours and ghost tours of York’s historic center typically include a stroll down the Shambles, as do Harry Potter tours—the Shambles is said to have inspired the fictional Diagon Alley.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Shambles is a must for history buffs and anyone looking to buy unusual gifts or souvenirs.
- The pavements are narrow and cobbled, which make moving around difficult for travelers using wheelchairs or strollers.
- A couple of Harry Potter-themed shops are situated on the Shambles, ideal for fans of the book and film franchise.
How to Get There
The Shambles is in the historic center of York, and is best visited on foot. Access is via King Square, Pavement, or the narrow and amusingly-named Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate street off Colliergate.
When to Get There
As one of York’s best-known attractions, it’s not uncommon The Shambles to be filled with crowds of snap-happy visitors. For a little extra elbow room, come early in the day. It’s also quieter after dark, though the shops are closed at this time.
What’s Behind the Name?
The Shambles is one of the oldest streets in Britain; its mentioned in the 11th-century Domesday Book. Its name, a reference to a time when more than 20 butchers were situated on the street, is believed to be a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon word “shamel,” which referred to the shelves upon which slaughterhouses displayed their meats. This York street is just one of several places with this name in the UK, with others found in Manchester (Shambles Square), Worcester (the Shambles), and Sevenoaks (the Shambles).