As winter sets in, the temptation to stay in all December-long and bask in the glow of scented candles is real. Particularly with all this chilly weather. Need a push in making the most of the last month of 2023? Check out these wonderful activities and events (both Christmas-related and not) taking place across Manchester this December and finish the year with a bang.
1. Visit this trail of spectacular light art installations
Staged around outdoor locations across MediaCity and Salford Quays, Lightwaves Festival returns this winter and invites visitors to explore a trail of dramatic light art installations that animate and transform the urban waterside area. Now in its tenth year, the free event will take place from Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th December, lighting up different locations around Salford Quays and MediaCity. From 4pm to 10pm each evening, visitors can enjoy illuminated works from leading artists, both local and national, bringing a variety of different pieces; thought-provoking, surprising and playful.
2. Enjoy a fun sip and paint in the dark experience
After great success in bringing its fluorescent neon-lit ambience to cities like Paris, São Paulo, and Berlin, Paint in the Dark has finally arrived in Manchester. This one-of-a-kind event invites you to tap into your creative side under the brilliant and luminous glow of neon lights. Explore vivid colours and paint whimsical waves or whatever your inner artist tells you while sipping a drink.
3. Hit up Manchester’s famous Christmas markets
It’s not a December well spent without a trip to the Manchester Christmas Markets. Attracting thousands annually, the huge market spans the entire city centre, with plenty of quirky gift stalls, food stalls and bars to enjoy. Taking the form of a traditional Bavarian market, guests can expect classic grub such as Bratwurst, Dutch pancakes and more, alongside plenty of desserts, cheese and even Italian food.
4. Grab a brew from this NYC-hailing coffee brand opening in Manchester
A popular New York coffee chain, which has taken London by storm, has announced that is officially opening its doors in Manchester. Following a year of TikTok-viral drinks (such as the Iced Blueberry Matcha), and celeb visitors like Molly-Mae Hague, Blank Street Coffee has now set its sights on Manchester as the next place to bring its specialty-grade coffee to.
5. Glide into December with a spot of ice skating in Manchester
Grab your skates, Mancs, you’ve pulled! (A date with the ice rink, that is). Popping up all over the city for the festive season, guests can glide their way towards December 25th to the tune of Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday while enjoying a hot mug of mulled wine, with plenty of new and wintery scenes to skate around. Skate Manchester and Planet Ice are just some of the venues in and around Manchester that are great for ice skating.
6. Enjoy classic Christmas soundtracks at this stunning Candlelight concert
From ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree’ to ‘Jingle Bells’, fans of the classic Christmas songs are in for quite the treat this month. Taking place at the Concorde Conference Centre, the fantastic and very unique venue (think festiveness but under the wings of a plane) will be immersed in the sounds of well-known festive tunes – all brought to life by talented musicians. There’ll be plenty of festive favourites to enjoy, with candlelight bringing the festive ambience to the already stunning venue.
7. Hideaway from the bitter cold in a twinkling tipi
Need to hide from the chill? Escape to one of Manchester’s many cosy tipis or huts, each of which is decked out with the most festive of aesthetics. Kick back with a mulled wine, enjoy a festive meal, or just hang out with friends in these warm and toasty hideaways.
8. Head to the UK’s largest indoor fairground, Winter Funland
The UK’s largest indoor fairground is coming to Manchester, with tons of festive fun in store for all the family. From family-friendly fairground rides, to festive food stalls, circus performances, and more, guests (and kids in particular!) won’t be disappointed by Winter Funland.
9. Drink a whole lotta mulled wine
It’s time to get merry and by ‘get merry’, we mean tipsy on this season’s hottest drink: mulled wine. An absolute staple at Christmastime, the season isn’t done right without at least one taste of the warming brew, and luckily for us, there are plenty of places to get your hands on a mulled wine this winter in Manchester. And of course munch on a mince pie to make for the perfect festive match.
10. Hear music from the likes of The View at this one-day-only festival
Year’s End Festival, presented by Manchester record label and promoters Scruff of the Neck, is coming to the city on December 9. The day-to-night festival takes over Oxford Rd Corridor for one day only, with over 46 artists and bands performing, including big names like October Drift and The View alongside local bands and up-and-coming artists.
11. Browse this cosy winter market with food, drink and a Christmas tree shop
Fairfield Social Club is set to make a sensational return to the Manchester scene this December with a Winter market pop-up before launching fully in the Spring of 2024. Located adjacent to Angel Meadows Park and next to Blackjack Brewery under the iconic arches of Manchester’s emerging Red Bank area, Fairfield Social Club will be a multi-purpose site that includes two bars, a huge 250 seater event space and a secret garden with in-situ street food trader and, for this winter pop-up, a Christmas Tree shop.
12. Experience a Christmas wonderland at Tinsel Town
Sending the year out with a bang with the return of the Trafford Centre’s festive event, Tinsel Town, guests are invited to enjoy a whole host of festive activities – including the return of their huge fairground rides for all ages to enjoy, a spectacular ice show, winter ice rink, and a very exciting new grotto. Visitors can also enjoy incredible views and festive magic this Christmas, as the big wheel returns to the Trafford Centre’s Tinsel Town – see all the glittering lights and sights from a staggering 55 metres high.
13. Discover the most brie-lliant fromage on this cheese crawl
Nothing says the festive season quite like cheese – we Camembert a Christmas without it! Why not munch on moreish cheese whilst exploring the city on this Manchester cheese crawl. On what might be the gratest crawl in Manchester, you will be able to discover the finest and most brie-lliant cheeses, with very mature fun facts along the way. There’s no feta way to get in the festive mood than the Manchester Cheese Crawl – plus this experience can be a great gift for friends or family members.
14. Check out Manchester’s Christmas bar, Miracle on Cross Street
Opening for the second year running, Miracle on Cross Street is bringing plenty of festive vibes to Manchester, with beautiful festive decor, tons of festive drinks and, of course, festive tunes to enjoy all season long. Think mince pies, mulled wine and Christmas cocktails, with plenty of cosy corners to retreat to.
15. Experience the best of Barbra Streisand in an entirely new way at this candlelight concert
With the recent release of Streisand’s memoir, My Name’s Barbra, what better way to honour the star by listening to classical takes on some of her most famous songs. A talented string quartet is coming to Hallé St Peter’s to perform a 75-minute concert guided by melodies such as “Woman in Love”, “Memory”, “The Way We Were”, “Rain On My Parade”, and many more. Rediscover what makes Barbra Streisand so unique at this mesmerising performance.
16. Head to the theatre to see a festive show or pantomime
Nothing says Christmas quite like a show or pantomime, and thankfully, there are a wide selection of performances to enjoy in Manchester this festive season. From family favourites to beautiful ballet performances, playful pantos to amazing adaptations, Christmas in Manchester is sure to be show-stopping.
17. See the ‘Northern Lights’ and the Moon up close at this festival of light in Bolton
Headlining this year’s Christmas festivities is a mesmerising festival of light, aptly named ‘Put Big Light On’, taking place across Bolton town centre until December 21. Bolton will be transformed for six ‘magical’ winter evenings, where visitors can experience the mysterious Northern Lights over Victoria Square, see the moon up close at Bolton Library and Museum and immerse themselves into a world of colourful and interactive artwork across other key locations.
18. Get into the festive spirit with workshops and delicious bites at Ducie Street Warehouse
Launching a wonderful entertainment schedule to accompany their new look, guests (including furry ones too) at Ducie Street Warehouse will be able to escape to the warming space for food, drink and entertainment, with plenty of events to enjoy as December 25th draws near. Guests will be able to learn how to make their own wreaths or even enjoy a festive flick or two at the Warehouse’s very own dog-friendly cinema.
19. Tuck into a fine feast at this new Greek-Mediterranean restaurant
FENIX is the hotly anticipated addition to the burgeoning Manchester dining scene, bringing high-end contemporary Greek-Mediterranean food and culture from Mykonos to Spinningfields. The stylish and opulent new venture, from the same team behind dining destination, Tattu, will launch in November. The new opening is led by two celebrated chefs recruited from Greece bringing modern techniques together with traditional ingredients and flavours.
20. Witness sparkling performers pass through the city’s streets at the Manchester Christmas parade
Following a fabulous festive first last year, the Christmas Parade is set to return to Manchester city centre once again for 2023. Filled with all the sights, sounds and sparkle that spell Christmas will weave its way through the streets of the city centre as part of the magical parade, to help bring some extra special Christmas cheer to the city. Bigger and even better than last year with over 400 participants, the parade will weave its way through the city streets, beginning at 1pm on December 3.
21. Snuggle up watching a festive film at King Street Townhouse
In the cellar of the historic Grade II listed building is King Street Townhouse’s private screening room, where from Saturday 9th December it’ll show Christmas family-favourites such as Elf, Home Alone, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as well as something for adults with the likes of Love Actually and the ever-debated Die Hard. Tickets start at £16.54 per person for screening-only and can be upgraded to include sweet treats, popcorn and a drink for £30. And why not add to the Christmas magic with a festive afternoon tea, or even a luxurious stay or spa experience at the hotel?
22. Scran a Christmas-themed toastie from Northern Soul
Northern Soul’s epic Crimbo Dinner grilled cheese is back – packed full of festive fillings especially for December. Think turkey, cranberry and stuffing, with plenty of cheese to finish. Find it at Northern Soul’s Tib Street restaurant.
23. Treat yourself to some gorgeous nails at brand new salon Townhouse
Townhouse is the ultimate destination for luxurious nail care and it has announced it’s opening in Manchester. The nail salon is set to bring the brand’s industry-leading technology, chic interiors, and impeccable manicures and pedicures to the North West. With a loyal following that includes Margot Robbie, Drake and Pixie Lott, you too can have celebrity-worthy nail treatments, which will be perfect to show off at your Christmas or New Year’s Eve party.
24. Head to Heaton Park for their very own magical Christmas light trail
Dunham Massey‘s annual light trail is always a hit with families from in and around Manchester, making the festive season that bit more magical. Now, the same brains behind the Dunham Massey trail, and the spectacular Kew in London, are bringing a Christmas music and light trail to the popular Heaton Park. There will be breath-taking seasonal lights as never seen before, including colour-changing orbs of light stretching out into the distance, larger-than-life flowers and neon strings that reach high into the sky.
25. Ring in 2024 with a New Year’s Eve party at The Refuge
Slip on those dancing shoes and shimmy into those sequins as The Refuge is set to turn up the heat with an awe-inspiring New Year’s Eve party – think Studio 54, but make it Mancunia! This year The Refuge will be dialling up the disco with a takeover from Manchester music institutions, Sticky Heat and Supernature Disco, plus all the fabulousness and vibes provided by The Family Gorgeous.
26. Experience some Christmas cheer with chocolate and carols at INNSiDE Manchester
On December 19, INNSiDE Manchester will host a magical Christmas carols evening with members of the internationally renowned Hallé Choir. A gift to spread cheer for hotel guests and passers-by to enjoy, the Hallé Choir only performs a limited number of occasions per year and has done so at the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival and York Minster, making it such a special evening to stay at INNSiDE Manchester. Alongside this, the hotel’s famous in-house Chocolatier, Oli The Choc, will be hosting a chocolate-making extravaganza, creating personalised chocolate baubles for hotel guests.
Also published on Medium.