I went to the Manchester Christmas markets so you don’t have to

Couldn’t find toilets. Had to utilise an alley behind Tesco.

I’ve just spent £18 on a hot chocolate and a bratwurst and I really wish I hadn’t just spent £18 on a hot chocolate and a bratwurst because now I have set the tone of overindulging myself this festive season.

I look into the murky cocoa. My reflection looks back at me with contempt and calls me a Christmas fool. I have perhaps never felt more depressed.

You’re probably wondering how I ended up here.

Like most students in Manchester, I had been urged by my housemates to participate in a group excursion to the festive city centre because a) it is Christmas and b) one can’t be a cynic about Christmas.

“Bah, humbug.” was my immediate response.

Nevertheless, I have been watching Christmas films lately and so recognise the importance of squashing one’s inner Christmas cynic. Tiny Tim triumphs over Scrooge. A classic. Small town man wins over bitter big city girl and shows her the joy of the holidays- I digress.

Armed with pessimism and an awareness of the heinous queue lengths, I headed to the markets in an attempt to challenge my blinkered view of the world.

Hopefully, like Hallmark’s leading ladies, I would discover the true meaning of Christmas.

General atmosphere

As I suspected: a vicious pit of Christmas misery. In the fight for a personalised tree decoration it’s every woman for herself.

Pros: festive lights, Christmas smells pumped out from somewhere, cold (therefore festive), everyone here is revelling in Christmas spirit (joys of the season).

Cons: lost your friends, can’t move, haven’t seen your legs in an hour, shoulder to shoulder with a woman who has brought her pushchair with her (?), everyone here is revelling in Christmas spirit (you have lost the will to live).

Weird stall example one

A stall that engraves my name into a slice of wood? Sell it to me. The kindly businessman looks up and grunts that he’ll do me a deal. Two for £35.

I slide my debit card over.

Weird stall example two

Not only are the Christmas markets characterised by fun little timber cabins that enhance the fairytale atmosphere, but everything they sell is wooden also.

I feel like a small German infant, red faced and tugging at my mother’s petticoat as I ask if we have the deutschmarks to purchase a 3pcs-acacia-wood-recliner-garden-set™  that all the family will enjoy this Christmas.

Weird stall example three

I have come in search of some merchandise to take home with me that is crafted from an alternative organic material.

Alas! A stall selling the Joker’s face on a plank of wood!

By now I have exhausted my finances on two personalised slices of Mother Nature and a rustic garden table but I scrape my pennies together and purchase the plank.

Why not? A screen print of a man with true moral integrity hanging over my mantlepiece will teach “Santa” a lesson or two this Christmas.

Weird stall example four

Fallowfield sofa too shallow and uncomfy this year? Mine too!

“Meg! What the fuck is this monstrosity doing in front of the TV?”

Please, housemates. I’d prefer you to refrain from using the term “monstrosity” to describe my disembowelled horse bench.

Food (and drinks)

There is no better example of the mayhem of the markets than at the food stalls. Queuing for 40 mins is a large ask for a Bratwurst that is likely an Aldi sausage.

Amaretto hot choc was delectable though I am unsure if it was worth £9.

Must concede: Yorkshire pudding wrap 10/10. Worth the money. Festive flavours throughout.

Ice skating

Not technically part of the markets but festive nonetheless, it is tucked in beside Printworks and costs £17 for 45 minutes.

As my 45 minutes on the rink wore on I realised something extraordinary. I was absolutely brilliant at ice-skating. The few classes of gymnastics I took as a young child of six had risen from my memory and taken control over my motor functions.

Some said I was spinning in rhythmic circles and skating even faster than the the staff working there – obviously experts in their field as their ice skates are fastened not with plastic buckles, but real laces! They could hardly conceal their rage.

Overall: ice skating worth the extortionate cost, if not for fun memories with friends then for this ginormous bruise on my shin that I can show off to my friends in the playground at uni.

Beer tent

Finally! I arrive excitedly, my long dormant masculine energy longing for a delectable pint of beer and p’haps some salty peanuts.

A sign tells me merriment will commence within but I have been inside for approximately three minutes and am yet to spot the commencement of merriment. No-one can find a seat so everyone is hovering, drinking lukewarm lager and pretending this was a really good idea.

Another weird stall example for good measure

Don’t fret, folks. Though wood is traditional, you can also purchase a plethora of leather gifts that will be great for your flat’s secret Santa.

How about this lovely journal with a small child’s face trapped inside?


Couldn’t find them. Had to utilise an alley behind Tesco.


The magic of Manchester’s Christmas markets is in the people. Going with your house is a team-building activity that will separate the weak from the pack while you participate in festive merriment. A win-win.

My advice would be to split off into groups in the food queues so you can reconvene with a bountiful selection of Christmas goods to share. Otherwise, stay together, lest you get lost and accidentally wander into the Arndale. No-one wants that.

You may feel cynical as you peruse the markets but, if one of your friends won’t stop banging on about how festive they feel, maybe keep your mouth shut. It is Christmas after all.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Seven things at Manchester Uni that would send a Victorian child into a coma

• Hot or not: Everything you need to know to stay hot in Fallowfield

• I worked a 12-hour Squirrel’s shift and this is how it went