York is well known for many things – Vikings, medieval buildings and study, chocolate makers, Bettys’ Tea Rooms – but there’s one cultural aspect that you might not expect: York’s thriving geeky scene. There’s loads going on, and with York Unleashed Comic-Con growing every year, it’s something that’s only going to get bigger! Here’s my pick of the independent geeky shops and places in York that you need to add to your quest itinerary next time you visit.
Your first stop should be Travelling Man on Goodramgate (just up from the York Hog Roast company – there’s a recommendation for a really good pork sandwich). Travelling Man has an encyclopaedic range of comics, manga, board games and related merch for sale. You can also try out some of the games in their upstairs games room. The staff are friendly and seriously knowledgeable about what they sell and host events, game nights and tournaments on a regular basis. I’ve definitely lost more than a few hours in this shop.
For more card and board games, near the bottom of the Shambles you can find OG Games, tucked away on the fabulously-named Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate. They run events four nights a week for a variety of card and board games, and they’ve got an extensive online shop.
Any visitor to York has to have a nosey down the Shambles. This is one of the best preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe. For centuries it was where all the butchers’ shops were sited, but now this narrow cobbled street houses lots of quirky independent shops and cafes. One of these is The Shop That Must Not Be Named, the original specialist Harry Potter themed shop in York. Why here? Look around – the Shambles was inspiration for the design of Diagon Alley, the famous wizarding shopping street. Selling officially licensed Potter wares, The Shop That Must Not Be Named has a great selection of film prop replicas, jewellery, homeware…basically anything Harry Potter related. The staff are super friendly and also total Potter nerds. There’s nothing they don’t know about Mr Potter and the wider wizarding world. They’re also the nicest retail assistants in York – ok, I’ll admit a slight bias because I know a lot of the staff here, but I wouldn’t mention it if it wasn’t true. Be aware, this shop is rather popular and there are often queues during school holidays and weekends. I’d suggest arriving early in the day or late afternoon.
Continue down the street to Fossgate and you’ll find The Shop That Must Not Be Named’s sister shop, …give the dog a bone. (Again, I must declare my slight bias – pop in and tell ‘em I say hi.) The shop’s described as “two floors of things you don’t need but really, really want” and that’s 100% accurate. Downstairs is a right mixed bag of cute and quirky gifts and homeware: for example, a random selection of what they have at the moment includes llama doorstops, Funko Pop! Figures, origami-style dinosaur lamps and awesome skull-shaped decanters. Upstairs is the pop culture section, with merch for Star Wars, Marvel, Zelda, Game of Thrones and more. I can always find birthday presents here for my pals, you’re sure to find something cool here! There’s also a section of incredibly sweary greetings cards, for when you want to insult your closest friends (and yes, there’s “nice” cards too).
For you computer game fanatics, a visit to Sore Thumb Retro Games on Gillygate is a must. This place is a treasure trove of games and consoles from the 80s and 90s. Sega, Nintendo, Commodore, Atari, PlayStation, it’s all here. Their shelves are absolutely rammed – if you’re looking for an elusive game, you’re more than likely to find it here. And I just love diving into see what you’ll find. They’ve also got accessories and retro toys and figures. You’ll spot the shop easily as it’s got a life-size Stormtrooper stood guard in the window (he’s not for sale).
Finally, finish your tour of geeky York by whiling away a few hours at Random Encounter. Just next door to Sore Thumbs, this board game and computer game café only opened last year but has rapidly become one of my favourite places in York. I mean, Bettys is lovely, but you can’t whup your mate’s ass at Mario Kart while eating cake there, can you? For a small fee, you have access to Random Encounter’s huge collection of board games and consoles, ranging from the Nintendo Switch to more old-school Atari 2600. There’s loads to choose from, plus the food and drink on offer is lush. Try the brownies, they’re amazingly squishy. TRY THEM. Random Encounter is all about being inclusive and friendly, and they run various events throughout the month, including beginners’ D&D nights, game nights and quizzes. We went to last month’s quiz and enjoyed a round where we had to guess the advert, but the jingles had the products blipped out by the sound of men screaming. Hysterically fun.
That’s my pick of independent geeky places in York. What’s your favourite? Anywhere else good I should know about? Drop me a comment below!