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Have Yourself a Merry Manchester Christmas!

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Manchester is a magical place to spend Christmas. There are so many festive things to see and do. And because our English school remains open over the festive period (apart from national holidays) it is the perfect time to experience a Manchester Christmas and learn English!

Here is our complete guide to having a Merry Manchester Christmas!

Things to do

Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets started in 1998, 24 years ago! Every year the Christmas markets get bigger and better in Manchester. This year there are over 220 stalls, over 9 sites. The markets usually run from mid-November to a few days before Christmas. The markets offer everything from tasty food and drinks to Christmas gifts and decorations.

Piccadilly Gardens will once again be transformed into the Winter Gardens. Home to the famous Manchester Windmill (this year over 4m in height!) the Winter Gardens are the heart of the festivities in the city.  A new addition this year is the Nordic style double tipi bar (18+ only). The perfect place to meet with friends for a warming drink. The Winter Gardens also feature live music and entertainment.

St Ann’s Square and Exchange Street are the places to go for all your favourite Manchester and British food and drinks. Taste all things wonderfully local!

Christmas markets

Market Street concentrates on gift stalls. Buy unique gifts for your friends and loved ones. From candles to jewellery, specialty rums to hats, Christmas decorations to home décor, you’ll find it all here.

Manchester Christmas Light Trail

Follow a trail of Christmas lights through the city centre. Walk through giant Christmas baubles and see a whole array of light installations for a magical after dark experience.

Ice Skating

Cathedral Gardens is home to Manchester’s fully covered ice skating rink. Continual Christmas songs and twinkling fairy lights – the perfect place for festive ice skating.

Manchester ice skating

UK Christmas Traditions

There are many Christmas traditions we love here in the UK. Some may seem slightly stranger than others!


Pantomimes are live stage shows that take place in theatres around the UK during December and January. Usually a pantomime is a fairy tale story with songs, jokes and lots of audience participation. They range from local productions, in towns and villages around the UK, to big productions in city theatres. The big productions often attract celebrities to take the lead roles.  A pantomime features a Dame, an exaggerated comedic female character usually played by a male. And the principal male character is usually played by a female. Pantomimes are a fantastically fun family outing at Christmas time.

Christmas Crackers

Christmas Crackers

Who doesn’t love a Christmas cracker?! A regular accompaniment to Christmas dinner, a cracker is pulled at either end by two people. A loud ‘snap’ is heard as the cracker is pulled apart and whoever is left holding the biggest part of the cracker wins the contents! This consists of a brightly coloured paper hat, a joke (usually a bad one!) and small toy or trinket.  You are required to wear your Christmas hat throughout dinner!

Carol Singing

We love a good sing-song here in the UK! Carol singing traditionally involved groups of carol singers going door to door and singing for residents on their doorstep.  We don’t see this very often now but it is still very popular for groups of people to wrap up warm and sing carols in city centres or at organised carol services.

Hanging Stockings

I love watching my children hanging out their stockings on Christmas Eve! Christmas stockings are over-sized socks which are left out for Santa to fill with small presents and toys.  Stockings are usually hung either at the end of your bed or by your fireplace. It is the best thing in the world seeing childrens’s faces on Christmas morning, when they wake to find their stockings filled with treats.

Christmas Parties

We love any excuse to have a party in the UK! Christmas is traditionally a time when we have gatherings with family, friends and colleagues to celebrate the festive season. Food, music, dancing and merriment – wonderful!

Christmas Food

Food is a big part of any Christmas in the UK! There are certain foods and treats we save for this special time of year.

Christmas Dinner

The traditional Christmas meal can be enjoyed at lunchtime or dinnertime on Christmas day. Turkey is traditionally served with cranberry sauce, pigs in blankets (small sausages wrapped in bacon), roast potatoes, parsnips and a whole host of vegetables. Absolutely delicious!

Christmas pudding

Christmas Pudding

Christmas pudding is served after the main meal on Christmas day. A rich, dense pudding made with dried fruits, often served with brandy butter or possibly custard if you prefer. As an extra ‘wow’ a Christmas pudding can be covered in brandy which is then set alight to create a flaming Christmas pudding.

Mince Pies

Is it really Christmas without mince pies? These delicious little pies are made of mincemeat (fruit, spices and suet) encased in a sweet buttery pastry. Perfect with a glass of mulled wine or hot chocolate on a festive evening by the Christmas tree.

mince pies

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate!

We love Christmas Chocolate in my house! Chocolate coins, tiny little bite size versions of popular chocolate bars, chocolate tree decorations….they are all welcome here!!

English Courses at Christmas

Our English school remains open over the Christmas period, only closing for the national holidays. It is a fantastic time to combine a Christmas break in Manchester while improving your English. We do lots of festive activities in school in the run up to Christmas too to make you feel especially festive.

Why not join us in Manchester for Christmas 2023!

IH manchester Christmas opening hours
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