Manchester Christmas market and a night at the pantomime

It wouldn’t be a proper Christmas for me without a visit to Manchester as it’s a city that knows exactly how to put on the Yuletide cheer.  Christmas markets are to be found all over the centre and when darkness falls the charming little wooden huts take on even more of a magical charm with their flickering fairy lights and the aroma of mulled wine and sizzling sausages filling the air.

The Printworks Giant Bauble Manchester
The Printworks Giant Bauble

It’s hard to believe that back in 1999 when the first Christmas Market came to Manchester it consisted of one single row of huts and has now grown to be one of the largest and most popular markets in the country.

Manchester Christmas Market
Manchester Christmas Market

Following its cancellation last winter due to COVID, the Christmas markets returned last month with a bang adding some much needed festive sparkle across the city centre.  Albert Square which surrounds the magnificent town hall normally takes centre stage of the celebrations but due to major building renovations the square is out of bounds so the market’s hub has moved to a new home in Piccadilly Gardens.

Manchester Christmas Markets Mulled Wine and Cider stall
Many stalls offer warming mulled wine and cider

The square has been transformed into a wonderland with yuletide bars, festive food stalls and little wooden cabins offering everything from scented candles to wooden toys.  The main focus of the square is the Winter Garden which will be remain open until 3rd January 2022 with a live music stage alongside festive pop-up bars, food and gift stalls.

Manchester Bee, Piccadilly Gardens
The Manchester Bee in Piccadilly Gardens

On a recent visit I enjoyed viewing the light sculpture trail and especially liked the installation featuring the Manchester worker bee which has been an emblem of the city for over 150 years.  The bee denotes Mancunians hard work ethic and the city being a hive of activity.

St. Ann's Square, Manchester at Christmas
St. Ann’s Square, Manchester at Christmas

The elegant St. Ann’s Square has a more relaxed vibe with its two rows of traditional wooden cabins lining the square offering tempting sausages, stollen and lebkuchen.  There’s also a cosy wooden beer hall at one end that’s very popular.  In front of St. Ann’s Church is the home of the city’s nativity scene which reminds us what Christmas is all about.

Nativity Scene, St. Ann's Square, Manchester
The nativity scene in St. Ann’s Square

I can’t go to a Christmas market without sipping at least one mug of mulled wine and as payment includes a £3 mug deposit visitors then have the option of taking it home as a souvenir.  As everyone was so pleased to be back at the Manchester markets this year all 40,000 mugs were snapped up during the first 10 days as mementos so other supplies had to be brought in, including surplus mugs from previous years.

Festive Manchester at The Ivy
Festive decorations at The Ivy

Exchange Square is another vibrant festive market location filling the area around the Arndale Centre and Selfridges.  There’s lots of food choices here including the extremely popular Porky Pig stall which had lengthy queues for their tasty battered pigs in blankets and unusual Yorkshire pudding wraps.

Skating in Manchester at Christmas
Festive skating

Cathedral Gardens is home to the ice rink and as it’s under cover skaters can comfortably enjoy the atmosphere come rain or shine which is obviously practical but perhaps not so atmospheric as skating under the stars.

Aladdin Pantomime, Manchester Opera House
Aladdin Pantomime at Manchester Opera House

After wandering around the Christmas market locations it was then time to make our way to Manchester Opera House on Quay Street.  It was a joy to attend a production there with its auditorium resplendent in green and gold and its fluted Corinthian columns and balconies.

Scheherazade, the Spirit of the Ring, Aladdin Pantomime, Manchester Opera House
Alexander Burke as Scheherazade, the Spirit of the Ring

We’d come to see the pantomime Aladdin and settled down in the cosy Stalls Bar for a glass of wine and a browse through the programme before finding our seats.  With numerous lockdowns it had been quite awhile since I’d been to the theatre and I looked forward with excited anticipation to a fun filled evening.  On every seat a Christmas card had been placed inscribed with the message ‘Panto has missed you’ and reading it, it brought home to me how much I had missed live theatre performances too.

Wishee Washee and Aladdin starring in the Manchester Opera House, Pantomime
Wishee Washee and Aladdin

From the moment the curtain was raised the fast moving performance took us on a spectacular journey to the land of Mancunia where we were introduced to a wish granting genie and an evil sorcerer.  The sets were stunning along with some sensational singing and dancing that had the audience clapping along.

Widow Twankey, in the Aladdin Pantomime, Manchester Opera House
Widow Twankey at the Wishee Washee Laundry

Appealing to all ages, it was a memorable magic carpet ride of escapism to a fantasy world with a barrel load of laughs about Manchester and tongue in cheek topical jokes on 10 Downing Street and Boris Johnson.

Alexandra Burke starring in the Aladdin Pantomime at Manchester Opera House
Alexandra Burke starring in the pantomime

No expense had been spared with dazzling over the top costumes from Widow Twankey’s extravagant hats to witnessing a jaw dropping flying carpet floating over the stalls.

The Evil Sorcerer at the Aladdin Pantomime, Manchester Opera House
The Evil Sorcerer

The entire cast were outstanding with the hugely talented Ben Nickless as Wishee Washee having boundless energy, cheeky antics and perfect comic timing.  X Factor favourite, Alexandra Burke as Scheherazade, the Spirit of the Ring fairy storyteller delighted the audience with some of her biggest hits including Bad Boys and Hallelujah which were carefully choreographed into the action.

Princess Jasmine at the Aladdin Pantomime, Manchester Opera House
Princess Jasmine fighting the evil sorcerer

Children were enthralled too with the usual panto boos and hisses, trying to catch bubbles floating overhead from the wishee washee laundry and the slapstick comedy scene where a giant water squirter scored a direct hit on me in the front stalls.  By the time the finale came around everyone in the packed audience was up on their feet applauding and singing along with a grin on their faces not wanting the performance to end.

Aladdin with Princess Jasmine, Manchester Opera House
Aladdin with Princess Jasmine

The production continues until 2nd January and  I defy anyone attending not to enjoy a sensational, uplifting performance sprinkled with laughter, singing and dancing.  If you might be interested in seeing this top notch production for yourselves then further details are available here.

The final curtain call at Aladdin Pantomime, Manchester Opera House
The final curtain call

As this will be my final post before Christmas I would like to take the opportunity of wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas wherever you may be.

If you have enjoyed reading this post you may also like:

Manchester travel guide

Exploring Manchester by tram

We were guests of Manchester Opera House and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.


If you use Pinterest please consider sharing and pinning the image below:

Christmas 2021 Manchester



47 thoughts on “Manchester Christmas market and a night at the pantomime

  1. It looks like Manchester Xmas market has to be on my list. In Berlin you have to pay a deposit for the mug as well and I think it’s a great idea. This way people don’t just steal them, but can purchase them at a reasonable cost and as a memorabilia. Crazy that they actually didn’t have any 10 days in! What was on the mugs?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a wee bit behind reading all the lovely Christmas posts! And yours are truly a festive one indeed! My eyes got stuck on the ‘Caramel Cider’ – that must be a treat! And how lovely that you could attend such a wonderful production at the Manchester Opera House – the costumes are beautiful – I can see why people would enjoy this!
    A happy (belated) Christmas to you and your family … joy and peace to you in this special time of the year!
    (Oh, and I love the photo’s of you in front of all the festive decorations – it just spells Christmas all the way 🎄).

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Manchester looks so festive around the holidays. I’m glad to hear that the Christmas markets have returned this year after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic. I think we can all use some extra cheer these days. Sounds like Aladdin was quite the show. The costumes look amazing. Enjoy the holidays!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.