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Cold walk and hot wine in Manchester Christmas Market

It is the stuff Christmas cards are made of, perfectly maintained ancient architecture bookends and the vast array of craft stalls, bars and Christmas attractions on all sides.

After arriving in Manchester City early in the morning in late November, we had nothing much to do as we could not check into our hotel rooms till in the afternoon, hence we had to find something to do.

The weather was not welcoming and, yes, we knew it was going to be cold but the warm clothes we had did not help. We decided to go shopping for some warmer clothes as the temperature below 0 degrees.

After finding what we wanted and making sure we were warm enough, we decided to find out what was near us. Luckily for us, our hotel was near the famous Manchester Christmas Markets.

According to the Manchester City Council, the annual festive market was ranked the ninth best in the whole of Europe, pushing rivals Birmingham out of the top 10, in The European Best Destinations online poll.

The market’s runs from November 18 to December 21, every year and features among others bars, shops and stalls in an essential fixture of Christmas culture.

And though Holland, Hungary, Spain and France are all proudly represented in Manchester, it is the warming aroma of German food and drink that dominates the icy air.

VISITORS

One thing that we came across as we walked along the streets was the Germanic influence which included their famous foods.

The locals we talked to said that the bratwurst (a type of German sausage made from veal, beef, or most commonly pork) and gluhwein (a German/Austrian winter-holiday drink that most tourists know as an after-ski drink) are now as much a part of Christmas in Manchester as mistletoe and roasted chestnuts.

The Manchester Markets website says the city was first granted a license to hold markets by William the Conqueror in 1066.

The international markets are a more modern addition to the festive landscape, however, they began in 1999 with the German Christmas Market from Frankfurt in St Ann’s Square.

The colossal Zippy Rainbow-inspired Santa Claus who looks over the wooden stalls at the Albert Square. PHOTO | HILARY KIMUYU
The colossal Zippy Rainbow-inspired Santa Claus who looks over the wooden stalls at the Albert Square. PHOTO | HILARY KIMUYU

By 2009, Manchester’s Christmas Markets consisted of around 200 stalls and attracted nearly 1.3 million visitors the most successful Markets to date.

Manchester Council says that one in five people that visited Manchester City centre during the Christmas period visit the Christmas Markets.

The markets attract visitors from throughout the country, as they provide an alternative atmosphere for Christmas shopping.

FALLING IN LOVE

As we navigated along the Cathedral Street with its beautiful wooden huts we decided to try the local delicacies which are not as cheap.

From liquor coffee, Mulled wine, Xmas cocktail and Mulled cider which are all served hot and are a treat which helps you feel the Christmas spirit in the air and range between Sh400 to Sh800 a cup.

After we had a hot mug of gluhwein which was gripped between woolen gloves, we wandered through the medieval avenues of market stalls and merry-go-rounds in the square, where it’s easy to see what inspired Manchester’s German Markets.

For all the charm of the Manchester Markets, it’s difficult not to fall in love with the city, with the local residents drinking in broad daylight without a worry in the world.

Wiry trees stretch upwards towards the cloudy sky, illuminated by the breakthrough rays of a low-lying sun about to set at four in the afternoon.

At the Albert Square there is a colossal Zippy-Rainbow-inspired Father Christmas who looks over the wooden stalls as families, friends walk around enjoying the cold night away and capturing the moments with their cell phones.

The day shopping was enjoyable but the fun comes after darkness falls which is at 5pm when the Christmas lights come to life.