Those whose daily commute to and from campus involves passing through Millennium Square would have taken note when The Lady Boys of Bangkok left the area – the first hint that the German Christmas market was returning to Leeds.
Though the Christkindelmarkt has been open to the public for two weeks now, with deadlines to meet, presents to buy, and pretty awful weather, is it worth the trek into town? Since Millennium Square happens to be on my uni route, I stopped by briefly on a Thursday night and browsed the few open stalls with ease, considering that it was rush hour on a weekday. If you have the patience, this is probably the best time to visit, since you can wait an hour or so for the rest of the stalls to open and for the markets to become livelier.
Weekends are another story completely. We thought it would be best to go on a Saturday, giving us more time to browse the markets and have a few drinks. More time is what you need plenty of, since the crowds are so thick it will take you ten minutes to travel from a food stall to the bin two metres away. On top of that, the lines can stretch so far that the group of people waiting for a pretzel and the group waiting for a stein become mingled, until you find yourself in the wrong queue completely or angering a middle-aged woman and her two children who have been waiting forever to buy their candyfloss. Don’t try to apologise, she will think you’re being sarky and try to hit you. If you want to keep your dignity, your friends, and your food intact, never visit on a weekend. It’s too dangerous.
While it’s tempting to look at the stall littered with flowered fairy lights and decide that you absolutely need them, it’s best to hold on to your money for the main attraction – the food. Before you even reach the gates to get in you’re hit with the seductive smell of cheese garlic bread mixed with spiced apple and something else you can’t pin down, but you want it. Heavily priced snacks hit you at every corner, and it’s all too easy to leave the markets having spent £20 and not remembering what you bought, but knowing that your stomach just might burst. If you’re on a tight budget before Christmas, enter the markets with great care on a full stomach, and if you decide that you want something to eat later, use some spare change rather than notes to buy a pretzel, a crepe, or what can only be described as ‘ginormous’ Wagon Wheels that come in dozens of different flavours. At 90p per treat, or 15 for £12.50, they are much more reasonably priced than the £5 potato fritters with cranberry sauce. The Frankfurter is the only exception – at half a metre long and carefully rotated on a ring heater filled with sausages, it’s an absolute must, no matter the price.
Anyone who visited the Christkindelmarkt last year will notice the glaring absence of the beer tent, which has been replaced with outdoor wooden canopies with tables and stools for people to relax with their mulled wine from any of the drinks stalls. The singing moose is still there, and as amusing as ever, guarding the Alp Chalet restaurant, an indoor eatery amongst the string of food stalls where you can sit down and enjoy yourself away from the wind and rain. Another must this year is the arrival of Thor’s Tipi, which sits in front of the Art Gallery on the Headrow, by the ferris wheel if you struggle to find it. A hipster twist on a rustic concept, the Tipi is a glowing getaway decorated minimally with Christmas lights, fir tree garlands and the poles keeping it together. Their hot chocolate with marshmallows is now a firm favourite, and the soaring popularity of the pop-up bar hopefully means that it will become a regular in the Christkindelmarkt rotation.
The German market’s expansion this year has certainly paid off, with more rides in the fairground area by Revs and now 40 stalls to browse in Millennium Square seeing a bigger boost in popularity. It’s certainly ahead of Manchester, and a contender to go against London if it continues to draw in bigger crowds. A great attraction for the city, but one that maybe draws too much attention on weekends.
(Image: Adriana Dlsc)