If you’re looking to find some festive cheer, Manchester plays the host to one of the largest and best Christmas markets outside of Germany, with over 300 wooden chalets spread across 10 different places throughout the city. I have a fond love of Manchester as my university city and the place where I met my husband – I hope that you enjoy my guide to the Manchester Christmas Market.
Originally introduced to the city in 1999, the Christmas markets have grown bigger and better each year, attracting Europe’s finest street food vendors and crafters. It’s a great place to buy Yuletide gifts, such as fine jewellery, handcrafted leather bags and artisan soaps. Your taste buds will also be tantalised with so many wide-ranging food options on offer, including things like German bratwurst, hog roast, Spanish paella and Dutch pancakes.
This year the Christmas Markets opened in November in Manchester city centre and there’s plenty of time to put on your best Christmas jumper, drink mulled wine and chomp on pretzels.
When I visited Manchester Christmas market this week, I was concerned that the extremely wet weather would obscure my photos, but I actually think that it has added a certain ‘sheen!’ and ambience! Nevertheless, don’t forget your umbrella and raincoat when you visit Manchester Christmas Market!
Manchester Christmas Market Locations
Watched over by a giant illuminated Santa Claus, the market in Albert Square is the main place to eat, drink and be merry, with the largest bars and two rows of stalls. To get the best view, grab a beer on the second floor of the two-storey Windmill Bar, which has a nice little terrace where you can watch all the action below. If you’re popping out for a quick lunchtime break from work or an after work catch-up with friends, this is the place to go.
Up by Manchester Cathedral, Cathedral Gardens usually plays host to an ice rink and funfair and is the most family-friendly area at the Christmas Markets. The atmosphere here is more relaxed than Albert Square but still has some great food and drink options, including mulled gin and prosecco for the adults.
Being the city’s major shopping thoroughfare, Market Street is definitely worth a visit if you need to shop from high-street stores. The pedestrian street is also lined with several chalets selling gifts, should you wish to stop and buy something a bit more unique.
Corn Exchange & Exchange square
The Corn Exchange is the oldest listed building in Manchester, and it was used originally as a corn exchange, therefore the name. The area outside the front of the building by Selfridges and the Arndale Centre is a popular Christmas Market spot, with a range of arts and craft stalls selling gifts such as scarves, hats and Christmas baubles. This area is also easily accessible as it’s right by Exchange Square tram stop.
St. Ann’s square
In St Ann’s Square you’ll find the market’s oldest gluhwein stall, Manke Markets, as well as a bunch of other street food vendors selling cheeses, gingerbread, chocolate fruits, salamis and other artisanal products. There’s a good mixture of food and gift options, plus permanent seating where you can sit down with the family and enjoy a snack from one of the stalls.
Soak up the atmosphere at Manchester’s most upmarket shopping street, King Street, is lined with stalls selling a mixture of Italian and French produce. Food lovers can purchase things like Italian cheeses, panettone, cured meats, macaroons, crêpes and French saucisson.
If you’re feeling peckish and Albert Square is a little too busy for you, head down nearby Brazennose street, which has an array of interesting food stalls selling everything from fish and chips to pick ‘n’ mix and Christmas pudding gin. Expect plenty of traditional foods too, including goulash, schnitzel and bratwurst.
Exchange Street and New Cathedral Street
Situated between Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, Exchange Street has a stretch of chalets selling Christmas gifts such as soaps, jewellery and toffee vodka. New Cathedral Street nearby has more of the same, so it’s an ideal spot for anyone looking to buy presents. Here you’ll also find the Witch House, which serves bratwurst and hot toddies to hungry shoppers.
Traders at Manchester Christmas Market
There are hundreds of traders and stalls taking part in this year’s Christmas markets who will be selling food, drink, gifts and other festive goods. They include Little Spain, who serve Freshly cooked paella, chorizo rolls, cava, Spanish beer and wine, patatas bravas, hot sangria and soft drinks; Lakeland Picnic Company selling homemade beef burgers and sausages; Mango Rays which will sell various burritos; Alexander Interiors which will have candles in presentation boxes; Northern Soul Manchester who will be cooking up grilled cheese sandwiches; and Yard & Coop which will be cooking fried chicken – including chicken in cones.
How to get to the Manchester Christmas Markets
Leave the car at home and hop on public transport if you can. Driving in the city centre can be stressful, parking is pricey, and it’ll leave you free to enjoy a drink or two. Once you’re in the city centre, all the market locations are in walking distance of each other for most people, though there are plenty of transport options to make the journey between each area a little bit easier.
The nearest stations to Albert Square are Oxford Road and Salford Central, which are both half a mile and a 10-minute walk away.Victoria and Deansgate stations are also close by and shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to walk from. Victoria is also the closest station to the Ice Village and skating rink in Cathedral Gardens. Piccadilly is a little further, about a mile away, but still only an 18-minute walk and ideally placed if you’d rather start off at Market Street, which is only a 10-minute stroll. A journey planner, route maps and timetables are available from the National Rail website. If you’re travelling by train from within Greater Manchester, your rail ticket also includes travel on the Metrolink services within the Manchester City Zone. You can check if your journey is eligible here.
The closest Metrolink stop to Albert Square is St Peter’s Square, which is just the other side of the town hall. The Deansgate-Castlefield Metrolink tram stop is also convenient for Albert Square, particularly for people travelling from south of the city. The Market Street stop drops you off close to the Market Street stalls and is within easy reach of St Ann’s Square and King Street. For the Corn Exchange, Cathedral Gardens and Exchange Square sites, the nearest stops are Manchester Victoria and Exchange Square. A journey planner, route maps and timetables are available from the Metrolink website.
Shudehill Interchange, Manchester’s main bus station, is about a third of a mile and a 5-minute walk away from Albert Square, and the station at Piccadilly Gardens is about half a mile and a 10-minute walk. A journey planner, route maps and timetables are available online
While the market locations are within walking distance of each other for most people, others may want a little help getting around. The city centre is served by a free bus service which passes many of the market locations on two circular routes. Depending on traffic, it’s not always the quickest way of getting around but it’s worth doing your research about.
Tips for Visiting Manchester Christmas Market
Bring an Umbrella and Waterproof! – As you can see from my pictures, it rains a lot in Manchester and it’s not fun to be drenched and cold. So take an umbrella and a waterproof jacket.
Remember your deposit – you’ll have to pay a deposit for your mulled wine glass, so don’t forget to give it back before you leave, unless you want to keep it as a souvenir of course.
Bring cash – While some of the vendors take credit/debit cards, many still only take cash, so make sure you get some cash before you arrive. Sometimes the nearest ATM can be a bit of a trek from the festival sites, so best to do it on the way.
Visit on a weekday – Albert Square can be really packed on weekends, which makes for a very fun vibe. However, if you don’t want to stand in line for a mulled wine, the best time is on a weekday before people get off work.
Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is so important as it will help you with emergencies and unexpected costs on your trip. Make sure that you declare any pre-existing health conditions so that you are covered for those. Check your cover for accidents and medical care and also lost baggage or getting things stolen. Remember to report as soon as something goes wrong on your trip because some travel insurance companies require you to report something that you want to claim for within 24 hours. Read the fine print carefully when you sign up. I always recommend World Nomads. You can get a free quote here:
What to Wear for Manchester Christmas Market
Wrap up warm for Manchester Christmas Market as it can get cold and rainy in the North of England at winter time. I’m talking jeans, jumpers, boots!
Hat scarf and gloves are essential items for Manchester in the winter. It will get colder the later you visit!
Also, don’t forget your waterproof jacket and umbrella – Manchester is one of the wettest places in the UK!