Christmas is upon us and what better way to kick off the festivities than a trip to arguably the best Christmas markets in the UK? I’m not biased, I swear… If you haven’t already heard or seen these little festive huts popping up around the city, then I’m happy to tell you that Manchester Christmas Markets are open, and they are as good as ever!
Now, for research purposes only… I spent a day at the Manchester Christmas Markets to see what is on offer. I went with my partner, but I think these markets are inclusive of all groups: couples, friends, family. There really is something for everyone – unless you don’t like Christmas of course!
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I started off my Christmas Market experience in the new section at Piccadilly Gardens and I was pleasantly surprised with what they had to offer. The first thing you notice is the huge fairy light bauble that is positioned outside of a white tent – on passing through the bauble, you’ll find a bar serving a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The one that caught my eye was the Baileys and Lotus Biscoff hot chocolate. I didn’t get to try one this time but I’m seriously considering taking a return trip just for this reason! Other options included hot gin and tonic, mulled wine, hot chocolates and a selection of flavoured teas.
Whilst in Piccadilly Gardens I noticed a S’mores stall. At first I was not interested in this as I don’t eat meat and for those of you that don’t know, marshmallows contain gelatine which is an animal derived product. However, my boyfriend pointed out to me that they offer vegan and vegetarian alternatives, which used gelatine-free marshmallows! This is not something I’ve came across before, so I was quite surprised. For vegans there is also the option of Hershey’s chocolate sauce (instead of Nutella) so you can still get the full S’mores experience.
After every Christmas Market trip, I always come home with at least three truckles of cheese, and a belly full of free cheese samples from the stalls. I would personally recommend Cheshire Cheese Company for buying your cheese, I honestly go here every year and it is my favourite – highly recommending the Caramelised Onion and Rioja cheese. They offer a selection of cheeses and chutneys and have two stalls in Manchester this year: New Cathedral Street and Piccadilly Gardens.
Top tip: whilst it is good to sample all of the cheeses (or other products on offer), bear in mind that the traders are there to sell their products so I would try not to take too many samples if you have no intentions of buying.
On visiting Albert Square this year I noticed something was different – the giant Zippy Santa is missing! This is due to the refurbishment works being done on the Town Hall, which is understandable but still a little disappointing. Whilst in Albert Square I visited Dorri Limited. This stall has been here the last few years I’ve been and every time I can’t resist going back to spend half my weekly food money on a huge tub of olives, which I promise myself will last a while but in reality I eat them all within a matter of days. You can choose from a selection of marinated olives and other antipasto items such as sundried tomatoes and stuffed peppers. My biggest tip here is if you do not want to spend a small fortune, only take one or two scoops as you pay on a price per gram basis and the total can rack up very quickly.
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Whilst I didn’t buy any Christmas gifts of my own this year, I did notice two stalls which stood out from the rest. The first is Lancaster Candles which is based on Market Street and sells a selection of scented candles and reed diffusers which would make lovely Christmas presents for family members or friends. I could imagine my own Mum to really like one of these, and you are getting a good handmade product from this stall. Not to mention that all of the smells are amazing, I’d have struggled to pick just one!
The second stall was called Mantra, which is located on New Cathedral Street. This stall is a hippy chick’s dream, selling various items including amazing leather notepads (see photo), incense, Indian jewellery, bags, statues and more. The reason I liked this stall so much is because I don’t think anything they sell could be found on your usual high street, and isn’t that exactly what the Christmas markets are all about?
I really enjoyed my visit to the Manchester Christmas Markets this year. I actually enjoyed it more than I have in previous years and I really liked the new Piccadilly Gardens section of the markets. I would highly recommend visiting here as a student as there is so much to do, and this is the perfect way to shop local and buy from small businesses rather than doing all your Christmas shopping online or on the high street.
Further Information on Manchester Christmas Markets
The markets have actually been open since 8th November (talk about starting Christmas early) and they are open every day until Saturday 21st December. Most stalls are open from 10am to 8pm every day, with some such as the Albert Square and bar stalls staying open a little longer until 9pm.
Getting around the markets can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re not familiar with the city yet or where the stalls are based. There are stalls in multiple areas including: Cathedral Gardens (family area), Corn Exchange, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, St Anne’s Square, Exchange Street, Market Street, King Street, Piccadilly Gardens (new for 2019!) and the most popular Albert Square. You can find a map of the Christmas markets here.
As you can imagine with the number of locations, there are hundreds of traders to see at the Christmas markets who can offer you anything from cheese truckles to personalised decorations to hot mulled wine and much more! A full list of traders can be found here.
If you are buying any drinks from the markets, you will need to ‘rent’ your cup. Mugs require a £3 deposit but you can get this back by handing your mug back to any of the bars, or you can keep it as a souvenir!
You can find out more about what to expect in Manchester this Christmas in content ambassador Kirstie’s video here!