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News / City Life

33 great things to do in December, including our guide to Christmas

The Snowman

December. We know what it's all about. But there's so much more going on in Manchester, like there is every month. So sit back and enjoy over 30 great things to keep you occupied. And to make things extra easy, we've packaged up Christmas too.

Things to do

Shopping? Sorted. Panto? Take a bow. A skate on the ice? No problemo! Fancy a movie? We've got that too. In fact, we've gathered together the best things that Manchester has to offer this Christmas in one handy place so that you can relax and plan for the holidays.

See our guide to Christmas here


Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War, Manchester Art Gallery, now until Sun Mar 1, free
The great British artist spent some of his time during WW1 working in a military hospital and these beautiful paintings capture his memories of that period.

From One Side to the Other, The Lowry, now until Sun Feb 1, free
A rather unique experience awaits you at The Lowry galleries as dancer and choreographer Akram Khan reflects on influence, memory and childhood in a glorious mix of forms, including live dance and artwork by Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor.

Aeolian Light, The Quays, Thu Dec 18 - Wed Jan 7, free
A beautiful interactive light installation on the public plaza space outside The Lowry.


XSMalarkey, Pub/Zoo, Tue Dec 2, 9 & 16, £5
Easily one of the best options in the city for mirth lovers, this regular night is one to make merry on.

Dawn French, The Lowry, Thu Dec 4 & Fri Dec 5, £25-£39.50
Her first ever solo tour is called '30 Million Minutes', the rough amount of time Dawn has been with us, so you can expect a look back at some of the highlights from them.

Lee Mack, O2 Apollo, Tue Dec 9 - Sat Dec 20, £27.50
It's astonishing to think that the 'Hit the Road, Mack' tour is playing for six nights at the Apollo. That's a lot of laughs!

Want more? There's so much comedy happening in Manchester in December, we've given it its own post, so you can check out our 30 fabulous comedy nights here.


A Merry 80s Christmas, Cornerhouse, Sat Dec 6 - Sat Dec 20, £6-£8
Long for the days of mullet haircuts and stonewashed denim? These big films from the decade that taste forgot should bring memories flooding back, with the likes of 'Ghostbusters', 'Willow' and 'Die Hard' providing an alternative to the usual Christmas films. 

Christmas Drive In, Manchester United Football Ground, Fri Dec 19 - Wed Dec 24, £26 per car
Gather your mates and drive on down to Man U for films including 'Elf', 'Home Alone' and 'Frozen'.

New releases this month include:

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Ridley Scott tells the story of Moses in his usual low key style, minimal effects and tight budget. Just kidding. It's HUGE!

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
The absolute final part of the trilogy which is a prequel to the other trilogy, making it six films in all. That's going to be one heck of a big box set next Christmas!

Big Eyes
Tim Burton can go from the sublime, ('Pee Wee's Big Adventure', 'Edward Scissorhands', 'Ed Wood') to the just plain awful ('Planet of the Apes', anyone? No?), but he's got Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz here in what sounds like his best film for a while.

Music & Nightlife

Rodrigo Y Gabriela, O2 Apollo, Tue Dec 2, £20-£35
Influences from flamenco to folk and jazz can be heard in the Mexican duo's guitar sounds.

Warpaint, O2 Apollo, Thu Dec 4, £16
The LA girls post grunge sound should be lifting the roof of the old Apollo on Thursday and at just £16 a ticket, why wouldn't you be there?

BBC Philharmonic, Bridgewater Hall, Fri Dec 5, £10-£35
Bach and Bruckner form the evening's programme, with Juanjo Mena on conducting duties.

Basement Jaxx, O2 Apollo, Sat Dec 6, £25
Catch tracks from their latest album, 2014's 'Junto', mixed with some of the London-based duo's greatest hits. 
Funkademia, Mint Lounge, every Saturday, £5 before 11:30pm / £6 after
A club night doesn't sell out week after week without doing something right and Funkademia has been doing something right since 1995, so get on down there and find out why.

The Hallé, Bridgewater Hall, Sat Dec 6, £11-£37
Handel's 'Messiah' couldn't be more of a Christmas treat if it had baubles on it and, with the Hallé choir too, it's sure to bring a lump to the throat. 

Gregory Porter, The Lowry, Sat Dec 6, £34-£38
The new king of jazz will be filling up The Lowry with his glorious voice. Just don't ask him to remove his hat!

Foundation, IXIV Nine Four, Sat Dec 6, £5 adv / £8 door
Fortnightly house night with resident DJs Andy Daniels and David Dunne playing deep, tech and tribal house.
Laetitia Sadier, Deaf Institute, Mon Dec 8, £8.50
Oh joy of joys. The enchanting London-based French singer brings her singular talent back to Manchester. It's been a while since the 'Stereolab' chanteuse visited but, with a tremendous new solo album out, we're happy to welcome her back. What's French for 'Hoorah'?

Bombay Bicycle Club, O2 Apollo, Sun Dec 7 & Mon Dec 8, £24 
Mercury nominated indie pop doesn't get any better, as their number one album this year showed. An extra date has been added due to demand so see if you can still manage to squeeze in.

The Hallé - An evening with 007, Bridgewater Hall, Mon Dec 29, £17-£40
A great big orchestra playing your favourite Bond themes. There really isn't anything to dislike about that, is there?

Fac 51 The Hacienda, The Warehouse Project, Boxing Day, £25
Go old school and remember the glory days featuring a headline set from David Morales, plus Marshall Jefferson, 808 State and Graeme Park going B2B with Mike Pickering.


Shrek - The Musical, Palace Theatre, Tue Dec 2 - Sun Jan 11, £19.50-£60
It's a green and smelly Christmas at the Palace this year as the miserable ogre, Donkey and Princess Fiona take to the stage in a lovely adaptation of the animated family favourite.

Little Shop of Horrors, Royal Exchange, Fri Dec 5 - Sat Jan 31, £15-£37
The wondrous musical, in which a tiny plant from outer space becomes a flower shop sensation while feeding off humans to grow ever bigger, is a perfect antidote to Christmas schmaltz. If they get Audrey II right, this will be sensational.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Opera House, Fri Dec 5 - Wed Dec 31, £11.90-£52.90
The biggest panto in town has the biggest stars too, with Priscilla Presley as the Wicked Witch and the wonderful Warwick Davis heading up Snow White's seven mates.

Burlesque, The Lowry, Sat Dec 6, £13-£17
The ever popular variety show returns, with vampire queen Rosie Lugosi introducing an evening of decadent performers. Make sure you dress up.

Slava's Showshow, The Lowry, Tue Dec 9 - Sat Dec 13, £16-£37
Only the hardest stone cold hearts of ice wouldn't melt for the sometimes gentle and sometimes dramatic beauty of this extraordinary show / experience, quite magically unlike anything you've seen in a theatre before. If the finalé doesn't bring a tear of melancholic joy to your eye, you're beyond hope.   

She Stoops to Conquer, The Lowry, Tue Dec 9 - Sat Dec 13, £19-£23
Northern Broadsides bring this bawdy tale to life, an 18th century romance that goes wrong. Fabulous wigs.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong, The Lowry, Tue Dec 16 - Sat Jan 10, £18-£28
A play about putting on an am-dram panto which goes horribly wrong at every turn. Christmas laughs in the style of 'Noises Off' playing out in The Lowry's smaller theatre, the Quays.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt, The Lowry, Wed Dec 17 - Sun Jan 11, £15.50
Something for those with little ones to keep entertained, this adaptation of the popular kids books is suitable for ages 3+.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Lowry, Thu Dec 18 - Sat Jan 10, £30-£44
Last year The Lowry had 'War Horse' from the National Theatre as their big holiday show, this year the NT bring their smash hit, multi award-winning show to Salford on the first leg of a full UK tour. Good to see the venue programming outside the normal Christmas offer. This one is certainly not to be missed.