Manchester Christmas Markets – A Photo Essay

Eat, drink and be merry at the Manchester Christmas Markets.

Christmas market sign

I’ve been to quite a few Christmas markets, both in the UK and in other parts of Europe and I have to say that Manchester Christmas Markets are the best. And no, that’s not just because I live here.

Town Hall
Albert Square and Manchester Town Hall

First, note the name – it’s MARKETS, plural, not MARKET, singular. This is because the original market is now so huge it has spread all across the city centre and occupies several streets and squares.

The largest part of the market is in Albert Square outside the Town Hall (which is magnificent and worth a visit in its own right).

view from Town Hall
View of the market in Albert Square from the Town Hall steps

There are ten parts to the markets altogether and the other parts can be found in St Ann’s Square, Exchange Street, New Cathedral Street, The Corn Exchange, King Street, Exchange Square, Cathedral Gardens, Brazennose Street and Market Street.

Chalets
Chalet style stalls in St Ann’s Square

Each market has its own atmosphere and types of stalls. The big market in Albert Square has stalls from all over Europe whilst the market in St Ann’s Square is predominantly German, for example.

German food
Schnitzel to go

There are plenty of German influences throughout the markets, such as stalls selling German sausages and schnitzels and of course, lots of glühwein stalls. This spiced mulled wine is served warm in mugs that you can keep as a souvenir if you so choose. (When you buy your mug of glühwein you pay a deposit for the mug – you can either return the mug and get your money back or forfeit your deposit and keep the mug).

drinks
Glühwein and other hot drinks
Glühwein
Glühwein mugs

Many people come to the markets, not just to do some Christmas shopping, but as a social occasion to meet up with friends and have something to eat and drink. Most of the stalls are takeaway and you have to stand with your food and glühwein. But if you fancy a sit down there are a few bars with seating.

bar
The Old Windmill bar in Albert Square

The Old Windmill bar in Albert Square has an upstairs and good views over the market. Some of the smaller street markets also have bars such as this one, where you can perch on a bar stool and watch the world go by.

market stall bar
Street bar
market stall bar
Every street should have a bar running down its centre

The food choices are wonderful. You won’t be able to wander round and not find anything you fancy eating. The hard part is trying to choose just one or two things.

pies
Cumbrian pies

As well as sausages and schnitzels there are pies. And more pies. (Well, this is the North after all)

pies
Great North Pies

Of course, as this is Manchester, home to the famous Curry Mile, there’s a stall with Indian food.

Indian snacks
Indian snacks

And once you’ve had your fill of savoury, there’s no shortish of sweet delights.

How about one of these decadent cream cakes?

cream cakes
Mouth-watering cream cakes

Or one of these?

cakes
Cakes and brownies

Some of them have yoghurt topping. That’s healthy, right?

And if you want dessert, but still want to feel virtuously healthy, then how about one of these gorgeously decorated little cakes? They’re vegan, gluten-free and don’t contain any refined sugar.

cakes
How long must it take to decorate these?
cakes
So Christmassy looking

Or you could stick with the whole international theme of the market and have a helping of poffertjes. These tiny Dutch pancakes are usually served with butter and icing sugar, but for some reason they were being dished up with jam here.

poffertjes
Poffertjes

This food stall is donating part of its profits to the Wood Street Mission, a charity trying to ensure all children receive a present this Christmas. I’m glad stalls like this exist to help people, but it makes me mad that they’re needed in such a rich country.

Charity food stall
Buy a sausage and help every child get a Christmas present

The food and drink on sale in the markets isn’t just for eating there and then, there’s plenty to take away and eat later or give as Christmas gift.

sausages
Sausages

Sausages, of different types and nationalities, seem to be popular with many stalls selling them. This stall even has sausages with added blueberries.

Dutch cheese
Dutch cheese

Cheese is also popular with a whole variety of nationalities available.

There are also plenty of preserves on offer: jams, chutneys, chocolate spreads and so on. These are French, but you probably guessed that from the Eiffel Tower.

French preserves
French preserves
stroopwafel
Stroopwafel

These stroopwafels with the traditional tins would make a nice present. Stroopwafels (syrup waffles) are two very thin waffles stuck together with syrup. They’re good to eat straight from the packet, but even more delicious when warmed and served with ice cream.

Italian chocolate
Italian chocolate

I didn’t try any of this Italian chocolate, but doesn’t it look yummy?

chestnuts
Chestnuts

It wouldn’t be a winter market without chestnuts.

garlic
Garlic

You can never have too much garlic, so this could be the perfect gift for the person who has everything.

old fashioned bottles
Old-fashioned bottles of cordial

Or how about these old-fashioned cordials in old-fashioned bottles? The bottles would be nice to keep long after the contents had been drunk.

Here are some more cordials that sound just as nice, though the bottles don’t look as good.

cordials
Cordials

The markets aren’t just about food and drink, there are plenty of other things to buy as well.

colourful ceramics
Colourful ceramics

These colourful pots caught my eye. They even had a special one for Manchester.

ceramics
For those who love Manchester

And in case a plate isn’t a good enough souvenir of Manchester there is a whole stall of Manchester souvenirs.

Manchester souvenirs
Manchester souvenirs

Manchester has recently been using a ‘worker bee’ image in its publicity. It relates to Manchester being home of the Industrial Revolution and the ‘Hive’ of industry.

salt lamps
Salt lamps

I have a salt lamp and I love the glow it gives out on my hearth. Having so many together here looks really effective.

This stall is full of Russian dolls; the sort where you have lots of different sizes and they all fit one inside the other.

Russian dolls
Matryoshka dolls
leather notebooks
Leather notebooks

I love the look of these leather notebooks. Though if I had one I’d want to keep it for something special and probably end up never using it.

Antlers
Antlers

As I wandered round I spotted a stall with reindeer skins and antlers displayed at the front. Of course I had to investigate. At the back of the stall was a thick branch hung with kåsa. These are traditional cups carved from a birch burl by the Sami peoples. I was a bit confused as these seemed to be called Kuksa, a word I’m not familiar with, though the stall claimed to be Scandinavian.

A quick chat with the man working on the stall revealed them to be Finnish. He said they referred to the items on the stall as Scandinavian as many people associate Finland with Scandinavia and Finnish Sami items are basically the same as their Swedish counterparts.

Kåsa
Kåsa

I expressed surprise at the price as at £30 I thought this was quite cheap. He expressed surprise that I knew this and said most people thought they were really expensive (they’re about £50 in Sweden). He assured me they were the real deal and not factory made copies. Of course, as I’m no expert in this I had to take his word for it.

white furry animals
I want that polar bear

Next, I came across these white furry animals. They look so soft and cute. I thought they looked quite Christmassy as well.

Being a Christmas market there are plenty of real Christmas decorations.

Christmas decorations
Strange Christmas creatures with their hats pulled over their eyes

 

Christmas decorations
Lots of decorations
Santas sitting on a shelf
Three jolly Santas
Christmas tree crafts
Wooden Christmas trees
Baubles
Unusual baubles

And just in case that’s all not Christmassy enough, here’s something for the person with a really big house: a whole Christmassy village. I think the idea is to buy just one or two pieces, but I’m not sure that would give the same effect.

Christmas village
Christmas village

If you visit the markets I suggest making a day of it. Get there in time for lunch and before it gets too crowded, then spend the rest of the afternoon exploring and trying lots of nice food and drinking a few glühweins and hot chocolates. Then as it gets dark retire to one of the bars for a few early evening beers before going home.

What’s your favourite Christmas market. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Author: Anne

Join me in my journey to live a life less boring, one challenge at a time. Author of the forthcoming book 'Walking the Kungsleden: One Woman's Solo Wander Through the Swedish Arctic'.

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