The Christmas Markets are probably the most Christmassy thing you can do in Manchester during December, but in recent years word has spread and spread and now every year even bigger crowds pile in for their annual visit. There is nothing that feels less like festive fun than being bustled about in hordes of people, getting sweaty inside (what should be) cosy wooden beer cabins because you are pressed up against the wall or queueing for 30 minutes for a mug of mulled wine. I do think it’s a shame to miss out on an annual visit though, so here are my tips for enjoying a stress free (and therefore festive and magical!) trip.
- Avoid peak times. This means avoid the opening weekend, busy shopping Saturdays, and Friday and Saturday evenings. This year we paid an impromptu visit to the markets early one Sunday evening at the end of November. It was dark, the fairy lights were all twinkling and there was a brass band playing so it was a lovely experience, and best of all – it was really quiet! I also like to walk through on my lunchbreaks during the week.
- Avoid the busiest areas. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Albert Square is the best part of the markets. It is by far the busiest area, and because it is fenced in it gets very cramped indeed! This is not what I call festive fun! I’d also probably avoid the Market Street stalls unless you’re already shopping on Market Street (and be prepared for lots of crowds there if you are).
- Find the best spots for what you want to see. My favourite areas of the markets are on Brazennose Street (off Albert Square), St Anne’s Square, King Street and also New Cathedral Street (the area outside Harvey Nichols). These areas are all very spacious so even at busier times they don’t feel too stressful, and you’ll find a bit of everything there. I can tick all of these things of my “must do” list – hot chocolate, mulled wine, chocolate fruit skewers, Italian pastries, pulled pork sandwich, hot dog (not all at the same time) – and there are plenty of the other stalls selling gifts, Christmas decorations, toys and accessories too.
- Escape when you’ve had enough! There is no shame in wandering around the markets for just an hour and then escaping to a quiet spot for a hot drink in peace!
- Enjoy the atmosphere. It’s best to expect the markets to be busy so that it is a pleasant surprise when they are quieter, and that way you’re prepared for the “bustling” Christmas atmosphere instead of getting stressed!
Have you visited the markets this year yet? Even with the crowds they can be very magical and are definitely a festive must-see!