There are credible claims that Manchester is home to the first modern type of European Christmas Market, which was set up in 1999, although Lincoln might have a stronger claim, with its more modest festive attraction first going up in 1982. Every Christmas, there's excitement on the day the chalets are set up, and the market remains busy day and night for its whole duration. Manchester simply comes to life, with lights, skating, grottos, and the unmistakable aromas of cooking foods and warming drinks wafting through the air. You'll feel the buzz as soon as you step off the train at Manchester Piccadilly Station and make your way down to Piccadilly Gardens, Market Street and Albert Square. Christmas can't come early enough to this festive city.
How to get to the Manchester Christmas Market by train
It's pretty straightforward to travel to the Christmas market by train. The Market stalls are all in central Manchester, so any of the three main stations (Piccadilly, Victoria or Oxford Road) will drop you off relatively close, wherever you have travelled from. All three have good Metrolink services that will take you around the city.
Where is Manchester Christmas market?
The largest Manchester Christmas market location, on Albert Square outside the Town Hall, remains the main event, but the stalls now stretch to almost every corner of the city centre. Upmarket King Street gets stalls all the way down it, and it's a quick nip through the alleyway to reach St Ann's Square where the second largest market is located. Cathedral Gardens remains the go-to Christmas market for families with its ice-skating rink (booking ahead is recommended), and the market stands even reach all the way to Exchange Square, which is between the Corn Exchange and the west entrance to the Arndale shopping centre.
What to do at the Manchester Christmas Market
Manchester Christmas markets are focused on three festive pastimes: shopping, eating and drinking. As you wander around the chalets you'll see a thousand gift ideas for your friends and family (and maybe even for yourself). There are toys, clothing, Christmas decorations, novelty items, crafts and arts galore, so make sure you take plenty of bags because you're sure to fill them with unique goods that you won't find anywhere else.
Food comes in the shape of all the European delicacies you can imagine, from Spain's most beloved export, paella, to Germany's open-fire sausages that always draw in the crowds to watch, smell and taste. You'll also find crêpes and pancakes, churros, sandwiches, strudel, pizza, roasted chestnuts, and pulled pork ... and that's just the ready-to-eat food at the Christmas market. There are also deli stands selling roasted garlic, cheeses, olives, meats, salami and all the things you need to make your festive home cooking all the more bedazzling.
And then there are the drinks. Again, you've got the obligatory mug or two of gluhwein (mulled wine) to drink on site, as well as beers and wines in the temporary bars that set up, or hot chocolate loaded with marshmallows if that's your thing. And if you're looking for drinks to gift, you'll be delighted to discover wines, artisan spirits and beers, along with cordials, syrups and other soft drinks and mixers to make your parties family-friendly.
About the Manchester Christmas Market
Manchester first brought the Christmas market to St Ann's Square in 1999, as a way to boost shopping in the city and introduce a typically European feel to Greater Manchester. The market's arrival is the unofficial start of Christmas, and over the years has spread road by road to cover most of the pedestrianised squares and streets in the city centre. In 2007, the main Albert Square site became home to "Zippy", a beloved giant Santa that sat on a huge plinth and lights up every evening. He replaced various inflatable Santas that had graced the Town Hall clock tower since the late 1980s, but even Zippy's time would come when he was replaced by yet another giant in 2020, which has been in a different location each year.
Now, it is thought that the Christmas market attracts a staggering nine million visitors to Manchester city centre each year, making it one of the biggest in the United Kingdom and even in Europe.
Ways to save on your train ticket to the Manchester Christmas Market
If you're planning to travel by rail to Manchester for your Christmas shopping, there are plenty of ways to save money. The easiest is to simply avoid peak hours, so come into the city after 10:30 a.m. and try to avoid the evening rush hour. Straight away that'll save you money, but there are even more savings to be made.
Travelling as a group? You can get discounts for families travelling together or even for groups of 3 to 9 people, as long as you all buy your group tickets in one transaction and all travel together. Another way to save is by using this website or our app (see below) for getting your ticket. Most third-party vendors charge a fee, but that doesn't apply when you buy direct from us.
Get the app
Did you know that Avanti has a mobile app that can perform a host of wonders for you? Available for Android or Apple, the app lets you check journey times and service updates, so you're always sure when you will leave and arrive. You can also use it to buy tickets, with the ticket stored digitally in the app so you can't lose it, even if you lose your phone. Need to change your booking? No problem – just log in and amend it if it's not too late. And if you've got a Railcard, you can link it to the app and store it digitally too, so again, it can't be lost, and you can use it to apply your amazing Railcard savings on off-peak travel.
Ready to hit the market during the festive season? Taking the train to Manchester Christmas market is the best way to travel, with stations super close to the city centre.