York’s Chocolate Story – exploring the city’s rich history at this attraction
What is it?
York is known as the City of Chocolate.
Kit Kat, Aero, Smarties, After Eight, Yorkie, Chocolate Orange and Black Magic were all created in York.
York’s Chocolate Story is an attraction where you are given a guided, interactive tour which takes you through the history of chocolate-making in York.
It is set over three floors – it’s not a huge building but it is laid out well.
Where is it?
It is in King’s Square, in the heart of York at the top of the Shambles.
What did we think?
This was my favourite part of our trip to York. An excellent guide led us through the different sections. My children enjoyed it too even though my daughter doesn’t actually like chocolate (a bonus for me as she gave me all hers)!
Inside York’s Chocolate Story
*The ‘free’ samples you get along the way, starting with chocolate how it used to be made.
*The clever chat between founders of the city’s chocolate dynasties in framed pictures, interacting with each other and also with the guide. As the guide handed around a tin of Quality Street, one even says: “That’s not very Yorkshire!”
*A lesson in the best way to eat chocolate.
*Making and decorating chocolate lollipops (then eating them just-set later, yum).
*Watching chocolates being made in a mould and then getting to taste the results.
Our top tips
*Book in advance, especially in the school holidays, don’t expect to just walk in. Tours run every 15 minutes at peak periods but take a maximum of 25 people.
*There is a film shown at one point which may be frightening to some children, with scenes of ancient combat. It was in the second area of the tour, in a small theatre. We sat at the front and I wish we’d sat at the back.
The film might be a little frightening to some children
*Children under four are free of charge but buggies may not be allowed during busy periods.
York chocolate facts
*Five million Kit Kats are produced in York every day – more than oen billion every year.
*The Rowntree factory once employed 14,000 staff.
*Terry’s first created the Chocolate Apple before the Chocolate Orange. There was also a Chocolate Lemon in the 1980s.
York produces 80,000 tonnes of confectionery a year
Kit Kat is very popular in Japan where the name sounds like ‘kitto katsu’ – a Japanese phrase that means “surely you will succeed”.
York’s Chocolate Story information
Food: There is a café and shop at the start/end of the tour.
Opening hours: From 10am daily. Last tour at 4 or 5pm depending on the season.
Cost: Adult £12.95, child (aged 4-15) £10.50, children under four free, family of four £41.95 and family of five £49.95. Or buy a York Pass*.
Best for: Ages six and above
Time needed: One hour
Access and restrictions: A lift can be used to access all floors and there is an accessible toilet.
Most guests will stand throughout but there are a few chairs in each room.
Allergies: The chocolate products are produced in an environment where nuts may be present. Nut free, dairy free and gluten free chocolate is available on request.
Address: York’s Chocolate Story, King’s Square, York, Y01 7LD
York with children – the City of Chocolate is rich in history, but will it prove a sweet treat for this family?
Our children jumped up and down in excitement when we said we were going to York.
When our daughter asked about the aeroplane and our son mentioned Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, we realised they thought we were spending our two-day break in the Big Apple.
Thankfully they were still pleased when we explained that York is walled city in northern England.
Our Harry Potter-mad son was especially keen when we said we would visit the real-life Diagon Alley.
Shambles – Diagon Alley
Shambles – the oldest shopping street in Europe – was the inspiration for the wizarding street in the films and it didn’t disappoint.
A few businesses in this narrow medieval lane have capitalised on the link – The Shop That Must Not Be Named and other wizarding stories were selling Harry Potter wands and other goodies.
The City of Chocolate
York is also famous for chocolate. Its popular products include Rowntree’s Kit Kats, Smarties and Aero and Terry’s Chocolate Orange and All Gold.
So, a guided tour at York’s Chocolate Story was top of my wish list (make sure you book in advance, it’s popular).
We learned about the city’s famous chocolate-making families and how to eat chocolate like an expert.
Best of all we had some ‘free’ samples along the way and got to make chocolate lollipops!
For our full review of York’s Chocolate Story read here.
York is great to explore on foot – all the attractions we did were within walking distance and lots of the centre is pedestrianised.
Presiding over it all is the city’s huge 13th-century Gothic cathedral, York Minster.
It is magnificent but we feared our eight and four-year-old might still find it dull. Thankfully, they were given a treasure trail and binoculars which saved the day.
On a treasure trail
Also go armed with facts if you can – ours liked hearing that it took 250 years to build and is 160 metres long, for example.
York Castle Museum
Most of the activities we enjoyed celebrated the rich history of this city, which was founded by the ancient Romans.
York Castle Museum doesn’t go back quite this far but it does showcase 400 years of York’s past.
The Victorian street
Our son’s school topic this term is the Victorians. So, a replica Victorian Street here really grabbed his interest.
A Victorian sweet shop
Toy exhibits were also a highlight, along with old prison cells which held criminals including highwayman Dick Turpin.
For our review of York Castle Museum and tips, click here.
National Railway Museum
Another place with a huge collection is the National Railway Museum, home to around 60 vehicles
National Railway Museum
Our favourites here included the collection of royal train saloons. You can peep through the windows to see the lounge and bedroom carriages on trains used by monarchs from Queen Victoria through to Queen Elizabeth II. For a full review and pictures, see here.
Entry here is free but you have to pay for extras – a ride on a miniature train cost £10 for the four of us. For our full review and tips, click here.
Jorvik Viking Centre
Next we had to travel further back in time to discover The Vikings.
Jorvik Viking Centre is built on the site of amazing archaeology finds.
It tells the story of an excavation in the 1970s which pieced together the story of the Vikings of Jorvik.
A ride takes you around recreations of 10th century York, then you can see 1,000-year-old artefacts from the dig on display.
Jorvik Viking Centre
There was a long queue to get in when we visited – apparently it is quieter first thing and around 3pm.
Our eight and four-year-old were not as interested in this attraction but their eagerness to get around quickly may have had more to do with the fact it was nearly lunchtime.
City Cruises York
We found a nice warm place with a great view to eat our picnic – aboard a York City Cruise.
This 45-minute ride up and down the River Ouse was accompanied by excellent commentary from the driver.
City Cruises York on the River Ouse
And it was nice to relax for a bit amid all the activities.
Staycity Aparthotel York
After a day of history we were able to enjoy the modern comforts of our base – Staycity York.
This aparthotel was built in 2016 and has studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
Our lounge/diner/kitchen area
We had a roomy two-bedroomed apartment with a lounge/dining/kitchen area and two modern bathrooms. It was fully equipped with everything you could need including a cooker, microwave and dishwasher.
But it also has he benefits of a hotel – there’s a gym, café, laundry and 24-hour reception. Plus there’s a nearby multi-storey car park where you get a discount – we left our car here for the whole trip.
Staycity York is in a good spot next to the Barbican theatre (for our full review click here). We could even see part of the city walls we had walked earlier from our room.
York City Walls
The walls are the longest medieval walls in England at over two miles.
York city walls
There are some good views but make sure to keep hold of little ones as only the higher drops seem to have railings.
Cobbled streets, tea rooms, a city steeped in history and a bit of Harry Potter thrown in made for a magical two days.
New York can take a back seat. Our children love old York.
For more ideas and information go to the VisitYork website.
A York Pass is the city’s official sightseeing card. It gives you free to more than 40 attractions in York and beyond. For more information see here.
We were given York Passes for the purpose of this review (all views are our own).