The industrial city come cool – Manchester is a playground for quirky hang outs, inventive eats, unusual shops and colourful street art.
Lots of my friends and family have lived in Manchester so it’s somewhere I know well and always look forward to visiting. Here are some my favourite things to do:
Explore the street art
The Northern Quarter is the hipster area of Manchester and unsurprisingly, the location of most of the street art. Here are some of the best bits:
One of the best pieces of art outside of the Northern Quarter is next to the the Thirsty Scholar pub under the Manchester Oxford Road train tunnel. To put the huge works of art into perspective, check out the little dot that is me on the bottom right corner of this shot:
As well as Chinese food, you’ll find Korean, Vietnamese and more in Manchester’s Chinatown. Many of the restaurants are good value and you’ll find all-you-can-eat buffets starting at £10. The £25 set menu at Red Chilli Restaurant is an absolute feast – you’ll be stuffed for days as it includes soup, duck pancakes, a sharing platter, main dishes, rice and veg when dining as two or more. Just wow.
There are also lots of awesome kareoke bars in Chinatown. A top pick for both eating and singing is Siam Orchid on Portland Street.
Hang out on Canal Street
The gay quarter of Manchester is a fun and vibrant area set along the canal. It’s good for daytime wanders with views of the boats or the warm up to your night out – on weekends the bars are booming with music and drink deals.
Go for brunch
If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know eating is one of my favourite ways to get immersed in a city (plus I’m greedy). The Manchester brunch scene is seriously good – here are a few of my faves…
Federal Cafe & Bar
Aussie food always hits the spot and Federal is no exception! I like the veggie breakfast bagel loaded with halloumi, poached eggs, mushrooms and tomato sauce. I also love that Federal serve matcha lattes, one of my favourite treats from Japan.
Home Sweet Home
Head to Home Sweet Home to eat away that hangover. I’d recommend the Muscle Beach – steak served with scrambled eggs, a poached egg, avocado, chilli and spinach. I was dying for a brew (and apparently became Northern and started using words like ‘brew’) but got sugar envy at my friend’s hot chocolate.
My smoked salmon, poached eggs and hollandaise on toast at Teacup was delicious and the coffee was great, too. The insane-looking cakes are also a big focus here – think rainbow cake and huge chocolate brownies with cubes of peanut butter cookie dough on top.
Hit the shops
The Arndale shopping centre has all your mainstream shops but there are also lots of cool and quirky independents. Check out:
This fun interior shop is home to wall art, wacky stationary, travel gear (think arty passport covers and world maps) and all sorts of other bits and pieces.
This place might just be too cool. It’s a multiple-story emporium packed with indie clothes, jewellery, trinket and record shops, plus cereal cafe, Black Milk. The bead shop had me and my friend overcome with creativity. Why am I not an artist, again?
Sample the coffee
You can’t knock Manchester’s coffee scene. I’d recommend the following spots:
Fig + Sparrow
This hang out on Oldham Street has awesome coffee and cake and a chilled out vibe perfect for people watching.
Head to the Northern Quarter to experience this Icelandic-themed coffee shop. While there are a distinct lack of thermal lagoons, the vibe is minimalistic and Scandinavian. I opted for the cold brew coffee.
Experience the nightlife
If there’s one thing Manchester’s not short of, it’s free-flowing alcohol on the weekends. Whether you’re looking for fancy cocktails or an all night rave, you’ll definitely find it.
- For beer: I like Alberts Schloss, a German-style ‘beer palace’ with homemade Schnapps and a ‘push for Prosecco’ button on each table (yes please!)
- Quirky: Cane & Grain is a good pick with three floors – one with an American speakeasy feel (and amazing ribs!), one with a tiki bar and one with a skatepark.
- Glamourous: Cloud 23 is worth a visit for fancy cocktails and panoramic views of the city from the penthouse bar.
- For late night dancing: Revolution de Cuba is a fun Cuban-themed club and Liars Club is a tiki bar open ’til 4am – both have fun music and a solid cocktail list.
Where to stay in Manchester?
Staying over in Manchester? It’s a city where you can get good value for money (especially compared to down south) so there are plenty of options.
Save: There are two bases of Hatters Hostels in Manchester. Their dorms start from £12 and include Wi-Fi, lockers, a social set up and all the rest.
Splurge: It’s all about luxury at Hotel Gotham. Set inside one of Manchester’s grandest buildings and featuring a 1920’s New York theme, there’s even butler service available if you want it. Rooms from £150 a night.
Or why not find a room or apartment with Airbnb? Use this link to get £25 off your first booking.
Other great eats in MCR?
Never fear – I have a whole guide about my favourite eats in Manchester which you can read here.
Where to next?
If you’re exploring the north of England you might think about the following stops:
- Liverpool – this city is famous for the Beatles, football and its awesome nightlife. You can catch a train from Manchester in 30 minutes – check my day guide here.
- Leeds – another urban base for shopping, eating and drinking, it’ll take you an hour on the train from Manchester.
- The Lake District – this gorgeous region an hour and a half’s drive from Manchester was one of my favourite trips of 2017. Check out my guide.
I hope you’re feeling a bit better educated about what to do and see during your trip! Here are a few last snaps of the amazing Manchester…
Thanks for reading!
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If you’re looking for England inspo, check out some of my other posts:
- How to travel the UK and not go bankrupt
- My 10 favourite eats in Manchester
- How to spend a weekend in Birmingham
- 12 places to inspire you with English wanderlust
- How to spend a weekend in Oxford
- How to spend a winter’s day in Liverpool
- Rose’s guide to Brighton
- 10 things not to miss in Bath
- How to spend a day in Margate, Kent
See you next time for more adventures,