Manchester doesn’t have the 12 days of Christmas – here there are 37. That’s how long the Christmas markets take over the city. Several times in December, we, together with the brave and hearty thousands, brace ourselves and squeeze into the frantic hustle and bustle of the markets.
Husband and I in days of old B.S. (before Son) used to always pack our case and head off to the markets in Germany for a weekend spree in December. Fifteen years ago an intrepid bunch of German traders did the opposite, came to Manchester, set up 17 stalls and never looked back. Now they take over the entire city.
This year there are over 300 wooden chalets with traders from all over Europe and the UK offering Christmassy treats. We, together with the vast hoards religiously visit the markets to get our festive cheer – huddled around a steaming Gluhwein helps with this, I find. It is true – you couldn’t swing an elf, never mind the proverbial cat and only ever seem to glance at the stalls without getting too close, but it’s Christmas and if the markets don’t get you in the festive spirit nothing will.
Son always makes a beeline for the Albert Square market – this is the main event in front of the Town Hall. It is not the giant Santa on the roof that lights up at night, or the fairly lights strung around the trees and chalet roofs but the pancakes with lashings of Nutella that are his irresistible draw.
There is some great food and drink to be found here. Numerous Gluhwein stalls selling hot, spicy Gluhwein in souvenir Manchester mugs – we did indulge in one or two of those! A German sausage, sizzling on one of the huge grills is also a must – be rude not to.
St Anne’s Square has lovely wooden toys and unusual German Christmas decorations, while King Street is French themed with wine, cheese, pate, lavender and other such delights. We like New Cathedral Street for quirky souvenirs but really all you have to do is wander. The chalets are everywhere, all lined together and you just stroll.
This year we found a great new addition – a group of funky camper vans in Spinningfields selling deliciously different foodie treats and even cocktails. Also along Brazenose Street they had some cute pop up shops – lots of bric a brac, antiques and artwork.
It is crowded (understatement) and horrendously busy. Save browsing for a weekday when everyone else is at work – that is much more successful. However there is nothing like a family day out at the markets to make you realise Santa is on his way.