York Festival of Lights


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As the autumnal twilight embraces the historic city of York, a tapestry of vibrant hues and sparkling lights unfolds before our eyes.

Illuminating York is not just a festival; it’s a magical journey through a nocturnal rainbow that paints the town’s rich history in every shade of joy.

Join us as we explore this luminescent spectacle, where every beam tells a story and every shadow holds a secret.

York Festival of Lights illustration
Festival highlights

About Illuminating York Festival

Hailed by The Guardian as one of the top ten lighting festivals in Europe, Illuminating York is an annual celebration of light and artistry that transforms the timeless beauty of York’s historic landscapes into a canvas of wonder. The festival offers an immersive experience that highlights the city’s natural charm and architectural marvels, bathing iconic buildings, ancient city walls, and cobbled streets in a cascade of colors and designs that breathe contemporary life into the stories etched in their stones.

York Festival of Lights illustration
York Festival of Lights illustration

At the heart of Illuminating York are the featured lighting displays that draw enthusiasts and curious onlookers alike, each with its own story to tell:

  • Light Art Installations: Each installation is a constellation of creativity, where artists use light as their medium to craft interactive and thought-provoking pieces that invite spectators to engage with light in new and unexpected ways.
  • Light Projection: More than just beams of light, these projections are the brushstrokes of artists who paint the night with stories and images, turning the very fabric of York’s architecture into an open-air gallery of moving images.
  • Audiovisual Light Displays: Where light meets sound, a symphony for the senses unfolds. These displays are not just seen but felt, as synchronized audio enhances the visual spectacle, creating a holistic experience that resonates within the soul of the viewer.

Each element of the festival is meticulously crafted to celebrate not only the heritage of York but also the infinite possibilities that light holds as a medium for expression and connection.

Festival Dates

As the leaves turn in October, York transforms under a vibrant spectrum of lights. The Illuminating York festival bathes the city in a glow that blurs the lines between its storied past and the vibrant present, creating a nocturnal wonderland that beckons visitors from near and far.

With the deepening of autumn nights, the festival sparks to life, setting the stage for a series of days where light artistry becomes the city’s heartbeat. Be sure to mark your calendar for this immersive experience; no matter which part of October it claims, Illuminating York is a phenomenon that promises to enchant with its brilliant fusion of history and light.

York Festival of Lights illustration (4)
Inspired by the York Festival of Lights

Where It’s Located and How to Get There

Nestled within the rich tapestry of England’s history, the city of York becomes a living canvas for the Illuminating York festival. As twilight descends, iconic structures, from the imposing city walls to the majestic York Minster, are set ablaze with a symphony of light, inviting visitors to wander through a city transformed. This annual light spectacle casts a new glow on old stones, guiding spectators through a journey of heritage and innovation as they traverse the labyrinth of medieval streets under the watchful gaze of illuminated landmarks.

Traveling to the Heart of the Festival

York, while steeped in antiquity, is never far from modern convenience. The nearest airport, Leeds Bradford Airport, sits approximately 31 miles away. Visitors can choose a taxi or bus service from the airport, with the taxi offering a direct route to the city center and buses serving as a budget-friendly option with a combination of bus and train connections. For those opting for car hire, the drive offers a scenic route into the historical core of York, with clear signage leading the way to the festival’s glow.

By Train: York’s Connected Tracks

  • From London: Board a train from King’s Cross Station and enjoy a direct route to York, with a journey time of under two hours.
  • From Edinburgh: Take a train from Waverley Station, and in about two and a half hours, the spires of York await.
  • From Manchester: A direct train from Manchester Piccadilly will have you stepping into the heart of Illuminating York in less than two hours.
  • From Birmingham: Depart from Birmingham New Street Station, and a direct journey will bring you to York in around two hours.

Each train route into York offers not just a journey through the British landscape but also a seamless transition from the hustle of urban life to the enchanting, light-filled streets of Illuminating York.

If you’re in United Kingdom, you might want to check out these other breathtaking lights festivals as well:

Light Up Lancaster

Festival of Lights Longleat

Festival Hours

As the day’s light gently fades and sunset brushes the skyline with its dusk palette, Illuminating York comes to life. The city, already rich with history, begins its nocturnal transformation as the festival ignites with the fall of evening’s curtain. From this magical hour, stretching into the depth of the night, the festival offers a continuous spectacle of light, allowing the darkness to become a stage for an unforgettable performance of illumination.

Visitors are invited to join as the city unveils its evening attire, adorned with a myriad of lights, from the earliest convenience of post-dusk wanderers to the late-night admirers who revel in the midnight glow. The festival’s lights remain, offering an open invitation to explore, engage, and be enchanted, until the very last twinkle fades with the night’s end, promising return with the next sunset.

Tickets Cost to York Festival of Lights

While the intricate details of ticketing for future iterations of Illuminating York are still under wraps, the anticipation doesn’t need to come with a side of worry about cost. To give our readers an idea of what to expect, the festival has historically been a beacon of accessibility, with past events pricing the tickets within a modest range of £3 to £20. This approach ensures that the festival’s glow is within reach, allowing a broad spectrum of light enthusiasts to partake in the spectacle without the need to dig too deep into their pockets.

Stay tuned as the organizers are working behind the scenes, weaving together the next breathtaking experience. As soon as the ticket details for the upcoming event are released, we will be the first to shine a light on how you can secure your passage to this luminous event.

York Festival of Lights illustration

Weather and What to Wear

October in York is a portrait of early autumnal charm, with a climate that complements the ethereal beauty of the Illuminating York festival. During this month, the city is often graced with a cool, temperate climate, with average temperatures that tend to hover between a brisk 8°C (46°F) to a mild 13°C (55°F). While the days may be graced with the soft warmth of autumn sun, the evenings bring a cooler atmosphere, perfect for the festival of lights to paint the town in its vibrant palette.

As the sun sets and the lights begin their dance, you’ll want to dress in a way that lets you embrace the festival’s wonders without a shiver. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Thermal Layers: Start with a comfortable base layer that retains heat.
  • Insulated Jacket: A must-have to keep the chill at bay as you wander through the light displays.
  • Warm Footwear: Comfortable boots or shoes with good insulation will let you explore without cold toes.
  • Gloves and Scarf: Keep your hands and neck protected from the nippy evening air.
  • Hat: A beanie or a warm hat can be a stylish way to retain heat.
  • Waterproof Outer Layer: October can be unpredictable, so a waterproof coat could save the evening if the skies decide to open.

With these clothing items, visitors can comfortably immerse themselves in the festival’s luminescence, staying warm and cozy as they journey through the illuminated heart of York.

Where to Sleep – Hotels Nearby

As the festival lights dim, rest easy knowing these nearby hotels offer a cozy end to a night spent under York’s illuminated skies.

Holiday Inn Express York

  • Location: A short, starlit drive from the city center situates you at the doorstep of this convenient and cozy stay.
  • Description: A modern hotel with a welcoming atmosphere, perfect for recharging after a night under the lights.
  • Amenities:
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi to share your illuminated experiences.
  • Comfortable rooms with plush bedding.
  • A complimentary Express Start™ breakfast to fuel your festival adventures.

DoubleTree by Hilton York

  • Location: Nestled within a stone’s throw from the historic York Minster and the vibrant festival streets.
  • Description: An elegant establishment that marries contemporary comfort with classic charm, offering a tranquil respite from the festival’s excitement.
  • Amenities:
  • Free Wi-Fi for all your connectivity needs.
  • On-site restaurant serving delectable local and international cuisine.
  • Fitness center to stay refreshed and energized.

Radisson Hotel York

  • Location: Positioned in the heart of the city, this hotel puts you at the center of the festival’s glow.
  • Description: Chic and stylish, the Radisson offers a luxurious stay amidst the historical grandeur of York.
  • Amenities:
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi to keep you connected to the world beyond the lights.
  • Spacious rooms with premium comforts.
  • Access to a state-of-the-art gym and indoor pool for a touch of relaxation.

What to Eat

Fuel your festival journey with culinary delights from some of York’s finest eateries, where the ambiance is as inviting as the menu.


  • Location: Castlegate, within a gentle stroll from the city center and the radiant festival activities.
  • Description: A charming bistro offering a taste of France amidst the historic backdrop of York.
  • Foods Served:
  • Specializes in rustic French classics, from hearty boeuf bourguignon to délicate tarte tatin.

Delrio’s Restaurant

  • Location: Beneath the city walls, tucked away in a cozy basement setting on Blossom Street.
  • Description: An intimate Italian oasis, Delrio’s serves up a warm, family-friendly atmosphere.
  • Foods Served:
  • Authentic Italian cuisine, with homemade pasta and sumptuous tiramisu on the menu.

Bill’s York Restaurant

  • Location: Coney Street, overlooking the River Ouse and a short walk from the luminous festival heart.
  • Description: Bill’s offers a quirky, modern setting with a menu that’s as eclectic as the decor.
  • Foods Served:
  • A diverse menu that spans from classic British breakfasts to vibrant evening dishes like pan-seared sea bass.

More Things to Do in the Area

Beyond the brilliance of the festival, York’s historic charm offers a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered.

York Minster

  • Location: Deangate, the heart of York, towering above the city.
  • Description: One of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe, York Minster is a masterpiece of stained glass and stone.
  • Activities to Explore: Guided tours revealing ancient history, climbs up the central tower for panoramic views, and quiet contemplation in the Chapter House.

Museum Gardens

  • Location: Situated beside the River Ouse, these botanical gardens are a peaceful retreat from the city’s buzz.
  • Description: An enchanting green space that houses the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey and the Yorkshire Museum.
  • Activities to Explore: Leisurely strolls among historical ruins, picnics on sunny lawns, and educational visits to the Yorkshire Museum.

York City Walls

  • Location: Encircling the city, these medieval walls are accessible from multiple points around York.
  • Description: The most complete city walls in England, offering a unique perspective of York’s past and present.
  • Activities to Explore: Self-guided walks along the historic ramparts, photo opportunities at Micklegate Bar, and sunset watching from the ancient battlements.

A Final Sparkle: Wrapping Up Your Unforgettable Visit to Illuminating York

As the final flickers of Illuminating York’s lights fade into the crisp October night, we’re left with memories as vivid as the lights themselves, reminding us of the city’s timeless allure. This festival is more than just a display of light; it’s a communal canvas that brings together history, art, and the joy of shared experiences. Until the lights beckon us back next year, we carry the glow of Illuminating York in our hearts, a beacon of inspiration in the everyday.

York Festival of Lights illustration (4)
Inspired by the York Festival of Lights


Is there parking available near the festival venues?

Yes, there are several parking options around York, including both on-street parking and secure car parks. However, spaces fill quickly during the festival, so consider using Park and Ride services for convenience.

Can I smoke at the Illuminating York festival?

Most outdoor areas of the festival permit smoking, but please be considerate of non-smokers and avoid smoking in crowded spaces or near children. Indoor venues and specific areas may enforce a strict no-smoking policy.

Are pets allowed to join in on the fun at Illuminating York?

While York is a pet-friendly city, the festival can be quite crowded and may not be suitable for pets. If you do decide to bring your pet, please keep them on a leash and be mindful of the festival’s environment.

What should I do if I lose something during the festival?

If you lose an item, you can visit the lost and found area designated by the festival organizers or contact the festival staff for assistance.

Are there any accessibility provisions at Illuminating York?

The festival aims to be accessible to all, with many areas equipped for wheelchair access and staff available to assist visitors with special needs.

Is the festival suitable for children?

Yes, Illuminating York is a family-friendly event with many displays and activities designed to delight visitors of all ages.

Are there any first aid facilities at Illuminating York?

Yes, first aid stations are strategically located throughout the festival, staffed with qualified first aid personnel ready to assist with any medical concerns.

What are the food and drink options inside the festival?

A variety of food and beverage vendors are available throughout the festival, offering everything from quick snacks to full meals and warm drinks to combat the autumn chill.

York Festival of Lights illustration
Inspired by the York Festival of Lights




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