Manchester’s transformation in to the UK’s Christmas capital is almost upon us as traders from across the North West and Europe ready themselves for the Christmas Market's return.
Each year millions of visitors flock to the city for the festive attraction that spreads across the city centre squares with hundreds of market stalls selling mouth-watering food and drink, and a huge selection of gift ideas to help tick off that Christmas shopping list.
Celebrating 19 consecutive years in the city, a host of much-loved favourites will return to the Christmas Markets this year – including the ground-breaking Yorkshire pudding burrito – who will be joined by an exciting roster of new foodie delights and craft traders.
Albert Square alone – the traditional hub of the Manchester Christmas Markets – will see an impressive injection of gastronomic re-invention, from the brand new Amsterdam Frites stall, boasting 30 different toppings and sauces over their triple cooked fries, to Zouk - a traditional curry house with two new curries every day, along with a range of veggie and vegan options.
The sweet toothed visitor will be spoilt for choice with first time trader Zara Cakes putting cupcakes to the top of the menu, and a desert stall of pure imagination as Charlotte and the Chocolate Factory load topping after topping onto fresh, warm brownies.
For the social media obsessives, St Ann’s Square welcomes the Birdie photo booth – a vintage VW Campervan where visitors can get free print outs of their snaps, which will also be automatically shared to Twitter using #MCRChristmas. Last year, Manchester was the most Instagrammed Christmas Market in Europe and this is your chance to be part of the celebration.
Elsewhere a new Bubble Waffle bar will continue the sweet treats on St Ann’s Square and traditional British favourites will be on the menu with Ginger Vikings Deserts on Market Street – think Christmas puds and trifles.
New Cathedral Street welcomes a visitor favourite café in the making, as Bar No3 arrives outside Harvey Nichols. Taking inspiration from modern ski-lodge architecture, Bar No3 will be purveyors of the finer things in life, including espresso martinis and honey cream infused gin cocktails amongst a variety of other offerings.
King Street is known for its more relaxed atmosphere and fine food, and new trader Eat Grk will bring a taste of the Mediterranean to Manchester with warming gyros and halloumi fries.
Another key hub, Exchange Square hosts an eclectic range of food stalls from authentic Italian pizza and arancini to Elsie May’s Brownies and her shimmering Rose Gold Prosecco.
Of course the traditional favourites – bratwurst and mulled wine – will be available in abundance nestled alongside some of the best pop-up and street food vendors the city has to offer.
Cathedral Gardens will reprise its role as the family-friendly area of the Christmas Markets where younger visitors can escape the crowds and enjoy some free festive activities.
The festive family area at Cathedral Gardens will be completely reimagined this year as the UK’s first dedicated ice attraction comes to Manchester.
The Ice Village Manchester is a breath-taking snowy experience, complete with Ice Cavern, ice sculptures and frozen ice bar – all carved using 250 tonnes of solid ice.
Of course, no Christmas is complete without showing off your prowess on the Ice Rink, or visiting the big man himself at Santa’s Grotto – the Ice Village has something for all the family.
Get your tickets now for the Ice Village, Santa’s Grotto and the Ice Rink: www.icevillage.co.uk
Heaton Park’s “A Place to Potter” will also be in Cathedral Gardens for the first time, inviting youngsters to paint a pot (or Santa) in a specially built marquee attraction. A Place to Potter is completely free, but visitors can book ahead. Details to book your slot will be available soon.
Long-time Christmas Market favourites will also make their expected appearance. The limited edition Christmas Market mugs are back with a brand new design (get yours quick, before the run out) and the undisputed king of Christmas in Manchester – the giant Santa – will take up his usual perch in front of town hall.
As always the Giant Santa will be taking to twitter to provide his sometimes peculiar take on the city’s festivities. Follow him @MCRSanta.
Cllr Pat Karney, Manchester City Council’s Christmas spokesperson, said: “After nearly twenty years our famous Christmas Market, they remain the biggest and most popular in the UK. Little wonder we remain Santa’s favourite city.
“We love exploring the new stalls each year while reminding ourselves of some of the long-running favourites – there’s no better way of getting into the Christmas spirit than a wander through Manchester city centre during the festive season.
“Only a few weeks to wait before the markets arrive following the huge Christmas Lights Switch-on event. I can hear the sleigh bells already. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.”
Cllr Luthfur Rahman, Manchester City Council’s executive member for culture and leisure, said: “Manchester is a key time of year for retail in the city centre and we love how our markets create a wonderful Christmas atmosphere for visitors to Manchester. The markets are one of the biggest attractions in the country and help to complement the high street retailers, giving shoppers a real choice.”
Follow all the Christmas conversation using #MCRChristmas
And find out more: www.manchester.gov.uk/christmasmarkets