I previously wrote about our excitement to get back to our beloved city of Manchester and visit the German Christmas Markets. This is a more in-depth follow-up to our time spent strolling the stalls and eating our way through the corridors of tiny wooden houses.
A Manchester Tradition
The Manchester Christmas Markets are massive. Sprawling over different areas of the city you will find small wooden houses fashioned with lights and full of Christmas delight. These markets are inspired by popular Christmas markets that can be found in Germany.
After living in Manchester for three years, we quickly came to love the German Christmas Markets. When they arrive around the holidays, the whole city seems to be full of cheer and “holiday spirit.” German Bratwurst, mini Dutch pancakes and steaming hot beverages are on offer to keep you warm as you stroll under the giant illuminated Santa Claus that is mounted on Albert Square year after year.
We eagerly jumped on a great fare to Manchester this year knowing that when we arrived the markets would be in full force and our three-year old could fall in wonderment over the same magical markets we had many years before. It was a great fare, but we still aren’t sure that we enjoyed the ride over the pond. Regardless of the journey specifics, this Manchester holiday tradition could easily become our next yearly tradition as a family.
Food Stalls Galore
For us, it’s really all about the food. We love the German sausages that are cooked over a giant coal-fired grill and served with a miniature bun, really only there for the purpose of holding the sausage (it took us years to learn that the roll wasn’t there to eat). The Dutch mini pancakes stall serves miniature pancakes and waffles which, for me, is just a matter of choosing which delivery method to further enjoy Nutella.
There are also local favorites like Lakeland sausages which serves up local British sausages and burgers, both lamb and pork alike. Go for a pork sausage with Lancashire cheese and onions then top with one of the homemade chutneys. There are warm potatoes covered in garlic and cheese, Provencal Chicken and warm pork sandwiches to be found at other stalls that also deserve your attention.
Also popular this year was a stall serving up grilled cheese (though not quite an American-style grilled cheese), a spot for warm cookie dough. If you were willing to queue for a long period of time, the Yorkshire pudding wrap filled with either pulled pork, pulled beef, or pulled BBQ chicken thigh, then stuffing (made from dripping), green beans, carrots and a choice of mint sauce and gravy or onion gravy, all wrapped in a giant Yorkshire pudding. It’s like a giant British burrito.
If the food alone doesn’t entice you there is plenty of shopping to be done here as well and you can browse with a cup of mulled cider or hot cocoa to warm you as you linger from stall-to-stall. Handmade wears like scarves, jewelry, soaps, and toys light up the rows of tiny wooden houses. Items that are unique and personalized are all available here. You can also find shops selling souvenirs local to Manchester and proudly sporting the Manchester worker bee. These markets truly have something for everyone.
It was no surprise to us that our daughter enjoyed spending time at the markets. Since we are all “on holiday,” the treat allotment is more than usual (my husband would phrase it as virtually unlimited). Hot cocoa on request, sweet treats and beautiful lights made each visit fun and exciting. We spent plenty of time outside of the markets as well, visiting with our friends and checking out other great spots around the city. Lucy truly got to experience a taste of our old “home” city and told us that she didn’t want to leave England (a feeling her parents know all too well.) This trip felt very special, and I am hopeful that there will be many more to come.
A question we are asked often is “Aren’t you scared of something happening while you are abroad?” And while yes there are concerns with heightened terror activity across Europe (and other parts of the world) there are also scary things that happen much closer to home on a daily basis. It is not something that will ever stop us from traveling, but only makes us more aware of our surroundings. We have discussed “what ifs” and “What to do” if certain things were to happen, and though we may never be fully prepared, it gives us a bit of comfort having a plan in place. This year in Manchester the largest market location at Albert Square was barricaded by large cement blocks. There was also a more regulated entrance and exit system and heavily armed policemen were always in sight.
Christmas Markets Closer to Home
If you can’t make it across the pond to Manchester, there are plenty of Christmas Markets that can be found in North America. The Christkindlmarket in Chicago was on our list but as we prepared to go a few years ago, our flight out of Pittsburgh was cancelled and we haven’t had a chance to get there again. There are also markets in New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Denver and Toronto to name a few. More and more German Christmas Markets are popping up all over the world and I can see why, they are an absolute token of that magical feeling that comes each year around the holiday time.
Have you been to huge Christmas Markets like these? What was your experience?