It wouldn’t be Christmas for our family without a visit to our beloved Manchester, a northern city that certainly knows how to put on the sparkle over the festive period. Christmas markets are to be found all over the city centre and when darkness falls the little wooden huts take on even more of a magical charm with their flickering fairy lights and the aroma of mulled wine and sizzling sausages filling the air.
We commenced our evening at the Winter Gathering, a new venue for this year’s ice rink now located in the courtyard of the historic old London Road Fire Station. In this cosy setting, the skating rink is surrounded by a small Christmas market and several stalls selling delicious street food. In one corner, a band played festive tunes, adding some Yuletide cheer. The ice rink is located behind Piccadilly Railway Station, it’s entrance being through an arch adorned with Christmas trees. The rink was scheduled to remain open until 8th January but is closing early most likely because it’s tucked out of the way. Hopefully when renovations to Piccadilly Gardens are complete, the ice rink will be able to return there next year.
From here, we headed across town to Albert Square where a large European Christmas market takes places in front of the magnificent Manchester Town Hall. It was bustling with activity with inviting little wooden stalls offering everything from baubles to Dutch cheese. A huge illuminated Santa Claus presides over the market and who could resist Bratwurst cooking on the grill accompanied by warming mugs of mulled wine, for us it’s the perfect pre Christmas treat.
Moving on, we strolled the short distance to the elegant St. Ann’s Square where we found a picturesque German market with its own beer hall and wooden stalls filled with tempting sausages, stollen and lebkuchen. It’s hard to believe that back in 1999 when the first Christmas Market came to Manchester, it consisted of one single row of huts along here and now it has grown to one of the largest and most popular markets in the country.
Around the corner from St. Ann’s Square we were tempted with pain au chocolat in the French Market as well as buying some cheese to take home with us. Just by strolling from street to street we could taste the flavours of France, Germany and Holland making for a splendid evening out!