Manchester’s Christmas markets: A first-timer’s experience

By Paulyn Lloyd

The smell of coconut macaroons and sizzling sausages filled the air at the Manchester Christmas Market when it opened on Thursday.

 I visited the European Market, where Shoppers flocked to the opening to taste culinary delights from different parts of the world, including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Holland and of course Britain.

The array of tiny wooden huts  were so Christmassy we could have been anywhere in the world but with Manchester Town Hall as a backdrop, coupled with a giant Santa resident on its roof, who had a strange resemblance to Zippy from the children’s TV series, Rainbow, it was clear we were in Manchester.

This years Santa is made of lights, so thankfully we didn’t have the annual problem of it deflating or falling down, and he looked as chirpy as the shoppers who despite the usual Manchester chilly weather still flocked to the market.

Mulled wine

This was the first time I’d visited the market despite living in Manchester all my life and I was not disappointed.

 I met Lucia Stocker who flew in yesterday from Austria and visited the market only a few hours after landing at Manchester Airport.

She said she had read about the market on the internet and decided to visit it with her friend Lucy Whiteley, from Manchester who has been every year for the last four years.

She exclaimed excitedly: “I came for the mulled wine. I have had mulled wine in Japan before but it’s really hot over there.

“You have to drink it somewhere cold to really appreciate it.”

 Lucy smirked and cheerfully declared: “I love the atmosphere here it’s a great start to Christmas and I like trying the different foods from around the world.”

Christmas spirit was clearly present in more than one way, with the sounds of merry banter, Christmas music and a pastiche of accents, diverse stalls and cuisine it was a lovely start to the run up to Christmas.

Councillor Pat Karney, city centre spokesperson for Manchester City Council, said: “The Christmas Markets are a fantastic shopping experience that attract thousands of people every year and with this year’s back and bigger than ever before, this promises to be Manchester’s best Christmas yet.”

Manchester Christmas Market traders employed 1,246 people in 2009 and nearly half of these jobs were given to Mancunians.

It generated £40m last year alone, so it seems the Market not only brings yuletide joy to  festive shoppers but also Christmas cash to the city. I’ll raise a cup of mulled wine to that.

A taste of Spain

Gary Hassal and Giovanna Surico from Manchester were there with their two young children. I joined them at Little Spain, a stall serving hot Spanish cuisine with two huge woks at the front of the store and the glorious smell of paella wafting around the Swedish style hut.

Gary said: “We come every year, we like the atmosphere, the food, all the different nationalities, the culture and all the stalls.”

Giovanna said they have come every year since it started and before they had children they used to make a night of it with friends.

Smiling warmly, she exclaimed: “It’s nice to see the lights and you get to see what other nationalities do at Christmas.

“It makes you feel like you are abroad because it’s the kind of thing you see abroad. There are some really nice things here to buy and it’s somewhere nice to go at Christmas.”

This year Manchester has its own dedicated French Market on King Street where shoppers can buy a range of French cheeses, scented soaps, crepes wines and other French delights.

Jessica Petit works on a stall which sells French cheeses in St Albert Square. She had flown in from France especially, to help run the stall.

She said their stall has been on the market from the beginning.

“I love Manchester and this is the biggest Christmas Market in the UK so we come every year.” She declared.

Enric Securua from Barcelona works at Little Spain, a stall which sells paella and other Spanish culinary delights. He was cooking paella in the largest wok I have ever seen. It was as colourful as the atmosphere and being at the edge of the market a great way to entice people into the market.

He said: “It is going well. I like Manchester a lot and it’s a great place to have a stall. We have been here for the past couple of years and it went really well so we are back again.”

The market has been going for 12 years it started as a just few German stalls on St Ann’s Square and now it now has eight locations around the city, last year it attracted 1.3million visitors.

 The market is as much a part of Christmas time in Manchester as the glorious Santa perched on top of the town hall. As a Mancunian I couldn’t imagine Christmas without it. The hustle and bustle and the delightful smells it’s a cultural melting pot nestled neatly into our City Centre celebrations.

With the colourful cultured surroundings, delicious smells and comforting mulled wine it’s easy to see why the market draws in shoppers from all parts of the world and indeed Manchester time and time again. I know where I will be going on Saturday.

Manchester’s European Christmas Market is open in Albert Square until December 22nd every day from 10a.m until 9p.m.

For more information on Manchester Christmas Markets visit

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