Strictly Come Dancing judge to the stars, Craig Revel Horwood, is lined up to be the VIP guest to formally open Manchester's Christmas Markets - this year celebrating a landmark 20 years.

Grand Opening of the Manchester Christmas with Craig Revel Horwood

The Ice Village in Cathedral Gardens – meet for refreshments at the Well and Spruce bar, close to the Cathedral (note it is a round, dark brown stall).

Friday, 8 November from 10.30am for and 11am start (opening day of the Christmas Markets)

Manchester’s transformation into one of the most popular Christmas cities in the UK will soon be upon us as traders across the region and Europe prepare for the annual festive trading across the city centre. 

Every year millions of people visit the city to soak up the atmosphere at the UK’s original Christmas Markets, and this year will be another reason to toast that Gluhwein as the event celebrates a remarkable two decade unbroken run.

The Christmas Market hub in Albert Square will return for a final year before the Our Town Hall transformation - including the refurbishment of the square - means the location will be out of action in the short-term. 

The Albert Square old favourites, including the Moose House and Windmill House bar, will be back in all their yuletide glory but the layout will be a little different from previous years, with more than 100 stalls in front of the iconic town hall. 

And market sites will once again spread across the city centre squares, including the festival family areas in Cathedral Gardens, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, Market Street, St Ann’s Square and King Street - welcoming more than 300 traders to the city. 

New to this year, Piccadilly Gardens will be home to a host of new foodie and crafts stalls, along with a new bar area for the first time. 

Exciting new traders will be cutting their teeth this year, complementing your favourite stalls from previous seasons:

Fried chicken fans will already be well acquainted with landmark NQ eatery, Yard and Coop who are excited to bring their mouth-watering fry out to the festive masses on Albert Square, including their signature dish of buttermilk fried chicken in a waffle with lashings of maple syrup. 

New Cathedral Street could be mistaken for the Big Apple when EatNewYork land with gourmet bagels and their famous salt beef fillings.

The “Charlotte and the Chocolate Factory” cookie dough chalet is returning on Albert Square, bigger and better than before. 

The new Piccadilly Gardens stalls will be furnished with another market offering from authentic Greek grills from the flamers over at Eat Greek and something visitors may not have tried before: bunzels from the Hot Stuff Bread Company - think stuffed pretzel dough with amazing gourmet fillings and our new stall. 

No need to leave Piccadilly Gardens if you have a sweet tooth, with an American favourite from “Campfire S’mores and More” who have the burners at the ready to toast massive marshmallows covered in fresh hot cookies, biscuit sauce and hot chocolate. 

Not to be outdone, King Street will have a brand new stall dedicated to authentic arancini and deep fried calzones. And Bar No3 on New Cathedral Street will be your digestif serving up smoking gins, signature hot chocolates and espresso martinis. 

And for those with a little’un - babyware boutique, Pretty Little Princess, will be packing a chalet stall with tiny tutu’s - a must for any Christmas list...

A no fur policy will be in operation meaning absolutely no fur will be traded on this year’s market. There have always been restrictions about selling fur that meant only by-products of the industry could be sold, but this is the first time a full ban will be in place. 

The family festive area returns bigger and better than ever in Cathedral Gardens, remaining opening through until New Year’s Eve and beyond, and will be home to the ever important Santa’s Grotto. 

Returning for a second year, the Ice Cavern will be bringing a touch of royalty to Cathedral Gardens with a Mythical Palace theme, all carved by hand from more than 200 tonnes of ice. Look out for Unicorns, giant snails and other fantastical beasts, alongside a frozen fairytale carriage and royal balcony for that unique photo op. And if cool cocktails are more your thing, the Ice Village is the place to be as Manchester plays home to a world first - an exotic stand alone Ice Tiki Bar!

And continuing the ice theme, the Skate Manchester ice rink will make its debut in Cathedral Gardens as part of an enchanting winter day out for the whole family. Visitors will be able to skate under the sun, moon and stars at the new roof-covered rink - perfect for some outdoor festive fun, whatever the weather.

And for the selfie obsessed out there, there will be double the chance to get your fix with two Birdie photo vans installed in both St Ann’s Square and Cathedral Gardens. visitors can get free print outs of their snaps, which will also be automatically shared to Twitter using #MCRChristmas. 

Manchester’s much-loved giant Zippy Santa hung up his stocking for the final time last year. But don’t worry, a new Giant Santa will be coming to the city to fill his ginormous buckled boots - watch this space...