Manchester – The UK’s Christmas Wonderland!
So the festive season is just around the corner and all around people are readying themselves for the merriment that surrounds the holiday, from the yearly Christmas tree ritual to cracking out the carols and listening to the same songs over and over for a month or two. It’s a time when it becomes almost law to eat your own body weight in chocolate and where it becomes obligatory to spend as much time as humanly possible with the nearest and dearest – and you won’t find many better places to eat, drink and be merry than Manchester, home to the UK’s number one Christmas Market event, and a fantastic nightlife to boot!
The award-winning Markets will be running from Saturday 14th November to Monday 21st December and will boast around 350 stalls across ten different sites, offering everything from delicately crafted yuletide gifts to an extensive selection of diverse food and drink options – hot, cold, alcoholic, more alcoholic, there is something for everyone at the Manchester Christmas Markets. And with it running from 10am until 9pm Monday to S unday, there really is no excuse to miss out!
You know what they say, the early bird catches the worm, and that’s no different here, the earlier the start the better as far as we’re concerned. Ok, we’re not saying start drinking at 10am (in fact 10am’s pushing it altogether – beauty sleep and all that!), but an early start will allow you to ease yourself in before the hustle and bustle of what’s to come - and there are typically two methods used to tackle the beast: you can choose an all-out attack mode, following the trail around all ten sites (they’re not a million miles away from each other), sacrificing all seating possibilities as day moves into night and the crowd levels increase but getting the full market experience; or you can set up camp, sit back, relax, and save those legs for dancing!
Now you’ve found your feet, it’s time for a drink! One big recommendation, in fact it’s almost mandatory, is to sample a Gluhwein at some point in the day – a drink that will not only help you get into the jovial spirit (if that’s even needed!) but will also act as a jumper for your insides, and to top it off, pick a shot and they’ll throw it in! After-which it is only polite to have a wander around the stalls (not too long though, that drink won’t last forever!). At some point in the journey you’ll inevitably feel your stomach start to rumble, worry not, there’s much to choose from – from the German Bratwurst to the Hungarian Goulash, as well as a variety of vegetarian options. And for dessert? Crepes! With a massive selection of toppings to choose from – so many in fact, you may have to buy two! What better to fuel you for the night to come?
You look at your watch and 9 o’clock is closing in, but you’re nowhere near ready to go home! Never fear, the night is still young. There are numerous black cabs flying around that make the city, and indeed its surrounding areas, your oyster. But for those looking to save those pennies for more important things (like club entry or your first drink), there are numerous bars, pubs and clubs within walking distance (even for those that insist upon that extra inch of high heel).
The heartbeat of the operation, Albert Square can boast a diverse selection of drinkeries – from Gastro-pub chain Slug and Lettuce (2-4-1 cocktails anyone?) to wine bar ‘Veeno’, where you’ll be indulge in the finest quality vintage hand-picked by real, authentic Italians! And for those looking for a bit of a rave, the square is not too far from nightclub The Venue, where you can embrace everything from 1960’s classics to funk, pop, soul and Indie Dance, and Silks Gentleman’s lounge – lads only please!
Arguably however, the Exchange square site can be seen as the best option when it comes to nightlife afterwards – with the notorious Deansgate on one side, and the ever-growing Printworks on the other. Look left (presuming you’ve come from the Albert Square site) and you’ll find the likes of The Moon Under Water (another from the Wetherspoons chain), The Slug and Lettuce (yes, again!), The Living Room and, a little further on, Revolution (it is worth that extra leg-work though!). Take a right and you’ll hit so many bars within one complex you won’t know what to do with yourself! From urban nightspot Norwegian Blue to another J.D Wetherspoons complex – Lloyds Bar. Grab a taste of Bavaria at the Bierkeller – home of Shooters Sports Bar and the Amazing Bavarian Stompers, or head over to Waxy O’Connors and sample a bit of that Irish charm. For those looking for a bit of a dance (and a sing if you feel like it), the jungle that is Tiger Tiger offers three floors of complete mayhem, whilst rock fans should head over to Hard Rock Café, and just over the road you’ll find The Birdcage – where you’ll be treated to fantastic comedy drag and showgirl acts in a Vegas-style show.
With millions of people set to visit from across the globe, it seems almost criminal to delay – So get that diary out, pencil a trip in, and prepare to savour the unique atmosphere of what is fast becoming the UK’s capital of Christmas!
By Calum Dewsbury.