Festive celebrations returned to Manchester with a bang on Friday, following a toned-down Christmas season last year in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Eager to make up for missed celebrations, Manchester this year showcases a new family-friendly Winter Gardens attraction in the heart of the city as Piccadilly Gardens is transformed with yuletide bars offering locally brewed ales, food stalls, craft sellers and – for the first time – a stage with live music and DJs throughout the festive season.
The Winter Gardens will be open through until the New Year – Monday 3rd January 2022 (the wider Christmas Markets close on 22nd December).
Visitors will be able to warm those long winter evenings with lashings of food and drink, soaking up the Christmas atmosphere from under marquee covered seating (in case Manchester’s weather is true to form), and festoon lighting creating that festival feel.
Piccadilly Gardens becomes Winter Gardens
The Winter Gardens sees some foodie favourites from previous years pop-up in the new festive hub. Dutch Frites, and Greek Gyros will make the Gardens a must for hungry visitors.
Finished off with warm cookie dough puddings and washed down with signature cocktails and local ales – a return visit will be a must.
Public Health remains a top priority for the city as limiting the spread of COVID-19 is central to the planning of this year’s event, and the numbers of visitors will be strictly controlled in this area with one-way routes and separate entrances and exits helping people remain socially distanced.
Manchester also welcomes a fully accessible toilet to ensure this year’s Winter Garden event is as inclusive as possible, allowing full lavatory and changing facilities for all visitors.
This will mean those people with disabilities – along with their families and carers – will be able to enjoy the festive attractions for longer, knowing they have a comfortable, clean and well-appointed facility, should they need it.
These markets opened on Friday and will trade through until just before the big day – Wednesday 22nd December.
Which traders are at the Christmas Markets – and where to find them
St Ann’s Square
Hand pulled pizzas arrive in St Ann’s for the first time, along with a Christmas Markets stalwart, the Lakeland Burger company.
The Northern Quarter’s Yard and Coop are back with their fried chicken and salt and pepper fries – along with a host of new craft sellers.
And Birdie the campervan returns for your free selfie prints in the campervan (cleaned between visits).
A runaway hit of the Christmas Markets, Pork Pig’s Yorkshire Pudding wraps are back for 2021, alongside the instantly recognisable Mill Exchange bar – complete with huge chimney.
Tikka Kebab kitchen brings the heat with their curries and spiced shwarma kebabs, along with gourmet pizza and local produce sellers, happy to be back in the buzz of the city.
New Cathedral Street
The street welcomes high end shoemakers, local vegan skincare products, jewellery and crafted produce, plus the ever-stylish Bar No3 serving smoking cocktails and gins.
The Witchouse also returns with their traditional steins and currywurst.
Returning with a host of French themed stalls with gallic food, beers and wines, plus a warming gin bar with over 100 varieties to choose from.
There’s also a mouthwatering Italian deli with a selection to beat any deli on any the high street.
Offering some of the top makers and traders in the region, Market Street offers some fantastic options for that Christmas list, on a slightly smaller scale than previous years to make sure people can keep their distance should they want to.
The Gardens once again returns as the family friendly area with the return of Skate Manchester’s ice rink and a range of food and drinks stalls to help skaters recover from their time on the ice.
Plus, there’s entertainment every week from Thursday through to Sunday, including kids shows.
Tickets are already on sale.
And of course, Manchester’s Giant Santa will take pride of place in the city centre, along with a trail of light sculptures taking visitors on an illuminated trip around the city.
Capital of Christmas
“It’s wonderful to welcome back our world-famous Christmas Markets and the addition of the Winter Gardens for the very first time,” said Cllr Pat Karney, Manchester’s Christmas spokesperson.
“Manchester has been the capital of Christmas for 22 years since the very first Christmas Market arrived in the UK in 1999 and we know it was a huge disappointment that we had to scale back our celebrations last year.
“We’re making up for lost time this year and are transforming the city centre into the festive wonderland we know and love.
“Of course, all of our attractions have public health at their heart and the safety of our visitors will be paramount.
“COVID remains a real concern and we will have strict maximum numbers in some areas like the Winter Gardens to make sure people can maintain their distance – and security will be helping us manage crowds.
“This really is the most magical time of the year and it all begins in Manchester – Santa’s favourite city.”