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As someone who was born and raised in the motherland of Christmas markets I have been to a fair few throughout the course of my life. I am also mildly obsessed with mulled wine and anything Christmas-related so Christmas markets are kind of my thing.
Either way the very nature of being German turns me into an expert on anything regarding beer, sausages and -you may or may not have guessed- Christmas markets. Confirming the stereotypes once again. Might just be me though. However, in my beloved home country Christmas markets date back all the way to the 14th century, with the first ones being documented in Munich, Bautzen, Frankfurt and Dresden. My personal Christmas markets history only dates back to 1994, but I think it’s still safe to say I know what I’m talking about. Having said that, I am now going to share one of these glorious Christmas Markets experiences with you in the hope that you will get as excited as I am. So here’s my own personal review of the Christmas Markets in Manchester.
Facts & Figures
The Christmas markets consist of the main market hub in Albert Square and several smaller and themed markets in Brazennose Street, King Street, St Ann’s Square and Cathedral Gardens. They have been running every day from 10am to 9pm since November 10th and will keep going until December, 20 – so there is still plenty of time for you to explore and enjoy if you haven’t had the chance already. Launched in 1999 as a single market, the attraction has been expanding ever since. For example, this year an ice skating rink has been introduced to the family zone at Cathedral Gardens for the very first time. You should definitely go check that one out. Before the mulled wine, not after.
There’s several stalls selling different flavored mulled wine as well as a non-alcoholic option for children, teetotalers and designated drivers. Having tried different options throughout the evening I would say the taste of the traditional mulled wine compares to the ones they serve you in Germany. There’s nothing like the warm and fuzzy feeling of having a delicious hot mulled wine when it’s freezing cold outside. The non-alcoholic version didn’t exactly convince me as it had an artificial and overly sweet taste to it. I liked having the choice of adding rum or other spirits to your mulled wine.
However, the prices of mulled wine at Manchester Christmas markets are absolutely ridiculous.
They charge £4.50 for a relatively small cup (plus £2.00 deposit for the cute Christmas-y mug you would probably steal if they didn’t ). In Germany prices range from £1.70 to £2.50, depending on the region, but in any case you won’t have to spend more than £3.50 (and yes, I did the currency conversion). I am aware that wine tends to be more expensive in England, but come on people. £4.50 is a lot mate.
Manchester Christmas markets offers a variety of dishes from a variety of European countries. You can find lots of German food because German-style-everything seems to be the theme. Furthermore, there’s Dutch food, Spanish food, Italian food, French food, English food, etc. Obviously I didn’t get a chance to try that many things, but the dishes I did try didn’t exactly knock me off my feet. The “German sausages” were neither that yummy nor that German. However, my friend had some Käsespätzle (traditional German dish) and I was positively surprised by how well that was prepared. You can’t really go wrong with lots of melted cheese. The pancakes and waffles are something I would personally recommend as well. Also, the Spanish stall had some delicious-looking paella that I would love to try if I decided to come back. Food prices were decent.
If you love Christmas lights then you will be in the right place. Especially once it’s dark (kind of obvious). Every stall has cute little decorations and even the bins are Christmas-y, because why not. There’s this massive Santa sitting on the rooftop of the town hall and while the figure is undoubtedly festive, it also resembles a phallic object from certain angles. For real.
The atmosphere seems relaxed and I would say you can feel the Christmas spirit in the air. Sounds cheesy, I know. People are happy, because it will be Christmas soon, or because they had one too many mulled wines. However, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t any Christmas music playing when we visited, because that’s a must for a Christmas market. It would definitely add up to the festive feeling.
If you want to buy gifts at the markets you’ve got plenty of options. There are plenty of arts and craft stalls to choose from as well as international delicacies, such as cheese, chutneys, roasted, fruits and nuts, sweets, jams, liquors, chorizo, and basically anything else you can think of.
Get some cash out before you visit as most of the stalls won’t take cards. There’s a cash machine right around the corner from Albert Square. You might have to wait in a line, because you’re not the only one who wants another mulled wine. Just one more drink and then we’ll go home. We’ve all been there.
At the markets you will largely see mulled wine being advertised as “Glühwein”, which is the original German word for mulled wine. If you translate Glühwein literally, it means “glowing wine”. That’s because it makes you glow. With happiness. From the inside. And it makes your nose glow. Like Rudolph, the Reindeer. And it makes your mind glow. Because it’s magical. Happy glowing everyone!