UK Christmas Markets: Leeds vs. Manchester

As Christmas draws ever nearer, the multicultural metropolises of the north turn into magical festive wonderlands. Leeds’ Christkindelmarkt is a smaller, condensed German Christmas market, whilst Manchester has a sprawling network of markets, with the largest market being that located in Albert Square. A trip to either Christmas market is sure to evoke the festive spirit, but in a head-to-head which of these comes out on top?

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Atmosphere

Leeds: The smaller-scale cluster of approximately forty wooden chalets makes the Christkindelmarkt a more intimate experience, with the lively Frankfurter Scheune, complete with a live Oompah band, taking centre stage. For the young (and young at heart) there’s also a large carousel, which provides the soundtrack to the outdoor festivities.

Manchester: Manchester has an almost incomprehensible number of alpine chalets dotted around the city. However, the buzzing mass in Albert Square eclipses the atmosphere in Leeds, making a trip to Manchester a more fulfilling experience for the discerning Christmas market devotee. The Christmas lights and giant Santa clinch the deal.

Verdict: Leeds 0.5; Manchester 1

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Food

Leeds: By and large, Leeds has the foodie scene covered: there are enormous bratwursts (the picture says it all), continental crêpes, chocolate-covered fruit and marshmallow skewers and more. My personal favourite food chalet is the one which sells shokokuss – a substance comparable to marshmallow, coated in chocolate, which looks like a teacake. They’re available in a plethora of flavours, but so far I’d recommend opting for either gingerbread, After Eight or lime.

Manchester: Although Leeds has almost everything that you could feasibly wish to consume, Manchester has all of that and more – and that’s just counting the European Christmas market in Albert Square. Beyond bratwursts, you can feast on all sorts of cheeses (including the slightly off-putting rainbow assortment of ‘Extra Terrestrial Tommes’), try some tarte flambée (otherwise known as flammkuchen), sample some schnitzel, enjoy a hog roast sandwich (viewing of the hog itself is optional) and indulge in countless sweet treats.

Verdict: Leeds 0.5; Manchester 1

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Photo credit: Laurence

Drink

Leeds: Glasses of the ubiquitous Glühwein and steins of beer are firmly on the agenda, and whilst hot apple cider can be bought, non-alcoholic hot fruit juices are sorely missing. The quintessential winter treat of a hot chocolate topped with cream (and impregnated with Baileys if you’re so inclined) is also on the menu, though this is where it ends.

Manchester: Manchester is on the ball here, offering a wider range of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The inclusion of a range of hot fruit juices (hot Vimto, anyone?) is enough to tip the balance in Manchester’s favour.

Verdict: Leeds 0.5; Manchester 1

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Gifts

Leeds: From ornately shaped chocolates to magical hand-crafted Christmas decorations, Leeds’ Christkindelmarkt has a range of both stocking fillers and more expensive gifts. The intricate beeswax candles or fairytale-esque wind-up carousels are certainly present material, though gifts are arguably more tailored towards female recipients.

Manchester: Given that the Christmas market here is exponentially bigger, it’s hardly a surprise that Manchester has far more to offer to its Christmas shoppers. From festive wreathes and other household décor, to festive sweaters, fruit-flavoured gins and glass-work, Manchester has more to offer, though outside of Albert Square there’s a lot of repetition.

Verdict: Leeds 0.5; Manchester 1

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Value for money

Leeds: Christmas markets always err on the expensive side, especially regarding gifts – and Leeds is no exception. Whilst most drinks (such as alcoholic hot chocolates and Glühwein) hover around the £4 mark, the refundable mug deposit is £3. A 30cm bratwurst will set you back £6 (or 2 for £10) – bad luck if your appetite isn’t big enough for this as it’s the only size available.

Manchester: There’s little difference in price here, regarding most items. Bratwursts are slightly thicker, though shorter, and come in at £4.50. Hot fruit juices, which aren’t on offer in Leeds, are the cheapest drink, available for just £1.50. Here, the refundable mug deposit is only £2, making it a better value souvenir if (like me) you can’t resist the temptation to keep hold of it.

Verdict: Leeds 0.5; Manchester 0.5

Overall: Leeds 2.5; Manchester 4.5

Whilst some of what is on offer is invariably overpriced, it’s possible to enjoy the Christmas markets on a student-sized budget – and at the end of the day, the experience alone makes it worth the visit, since there’s no entry price and it’s infinitely cheaper than a trip to the continent.

Useful information:

Leeds’ Christkindelmarkt is open daily, until Sunday 20th December 2015. It’s open 10.30am-9.30pm Monday to Saturday, and 10.30am-6.30pm on Sunday.

Manchester’s Christmas markets are open until Tuesday 22nd  December 2015. The Christmas market in Albert Square is open 10am-9pm daily; all other locations are open 10am-8pm. A handy map is available online, indicating the locations of each market.

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