The Shambles is a busy, bustling Medieval street in the center of York, in the UK. The street dates from the Norman period and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book, but the fabric of the buidlings are now almost entirely Medieval. It is widely considered to be the best preserved Medieval street in Europe, though I'm not sure if that isn't just bait for tourists. It can be found branching off Pavement or King's Square in the center of town.
If you are familiar with the work of Terry Pratchett, then the Shambles are easy to visualise as The Shades in Ankh-Morpork. The street in York is very narrow with the houses appearing to lean inwards in their upper storeys. So much so in fact, that people could have shaken hands across the street from the upper windows! The buildings were once filled with traders and butchers, and there is still evidence of hooks for hanging up carcasses on some of the buildings. Now the shops are filled with trinkets, ice cream palours and restaurants to entice money away from visitors.
In the daytime the Shambles is always teeming with people as it is a hot spot on every tourist guide in York, but it is far better to visit at night when there are more shadows, less people and tonnes more atmosphere.
An interesting and little publicised fact is that the Shambles in York were only saved from demolition by one presiding vote at council elections in the 1960's. If the street had been demolished, York would have lost one of its most treasured historical gems, and one of its most lucrative retail areas.
Many other historical towns in the UK have a road or area known as the Shambles, such as Leeds, Guildford and Worcester, to name but a few. Look at shambles for a definition of what that area means.