The Manchester Christmas Markets are making a return this winter, but their arrival always comes with a chorus of negativity.
'It's overpriced', 'It's too busy', 'It just sells tat'.
Whatever your thoughts on the Christmas Markets, it definitely has its appeal.
Thousands of people pour into the city centre every winter for a big dose of festive cheer, walking around the wooden huts and pop-up bars that fill the streets and squares around Christmas.
Read more: Manchester Christmas Markets 2021 - dates, locations, and everything else we know so far
Last year's event was eventually called off over Covid concerns, but the council has confirmed a full return in 2021 with a new hub at Piccadilly Gardens.
The markets will be back between November 12 and December 22, though the 'Winter Gardens' main hub will stay open until January 3.
The council has also confirmed that visitor numbers will be strictly controlled this year to limit the spread of Covid-19, with one-way systems, and separate entrances and exits.
With only a few weeks to go until the huge festivities begin, we asked M.E.N. readers what they really think would improve the Christmas Markets.
Around 700 people replied - here were the key suggestions.
The Christmas Markets are notoriously busy, with thousands cramming their way into the wooden bars and narrow rows of market stalls.
That seems to be people's main gripe again - and it's one the council is already planning to address with one-way systems and dedicated entry and exit points.
People said: "Have a limit of how many people are aloud in each area at a time. It’s gets too overcrowded at times and can take forever to enjoy."
Another wrote: "Not as many people at once. Gets really packed and not enjoyable. Manage the amount of people going in."
One person suggested using a booking system so that people can reserve time slots, while another said: "When I went didn’t enjoy it they was so many people push and shoving each other just spoil it for me."
More local traders
There's always a good handful of local traders taking up stalls at the Christmas Markets, and when last year's were cancelled the council pulled together a mini market for those businesses so they could still trade for a short while.
But the people want even more of this, and lower prices for pitches so that more can afford to join in.
One person told us: "Would love to see discounted stall prices for Manchester based traders so we could join in and keep our prices affordable for local people!
"Make it more accessible for local SMALL businesses because we have so much to offer!"
Someone else said: "It’s only the big businesses that can afford their extortionate prices so the stalls end up repetitive, overpriced and not varied. There would be plenty more variety if small businesses could afford to pay the stall prices."
Another said: "Have local produce for sale Cheese etc; that's the way forward not all this imported stuff, support our wonderful country"
Christmas is an expensive time of year and a visit to the Christmas Markets can soon add up to be costly.
Dozens of people told us they wanted the markets to be a little more affordable and accessible to people of all incomes.
One person wrote to us: "They seem to have got so expensive which takes the shine off it."
The food and drink stalls at the Manchester Christmas Markets are usually only open until 9pm, with the shopping stalls closing earlier.
One person even suggested: "Times allocation just for families with small children, and other times later in the day for adults only."
Bring back Zippy
He was a key part of the celebrations in Manchester, but our giant Santa, nicknamed Zippy, retired a couple of years ago.
The huge figure was apparently too heavy and too cumbersome to build each year, and he was replaced by a lighter model in 2019.
Mancs still miss him though - several people called for him to be brought back out of retirement.
One commenter said: "Bring Zippy back. But other than that, I don’t think there’s anything that needs improving. They’re a great addition to the city"
Give back to those in need
This is a lovely suggestion from an M.E.N. reader - a chance to give back to those less fortunate at Christmas.
The user in question wrote: "A feed the the Homeless food bar would be good where the council have a stall selling food with all profits going to help feed the homeless, and where on the day anyone who is genuinely homeless can get some warm food."
A bit of an impractical one, maybe, but one person wants to see the markets operate like roads while the markets are on.
They suggested overtaking lanes so that people who are in the city centre for reasons other than visiting the markets can still get about without getting stuck in crowds.
The comment reads: "Have a specific lane for those that's not shopping on the market so we can get from point a to b instead of spending all day dodging them!"
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