This city located in the north of England had an industrial past but has since blossomed into a vibrant and exciting place to be. While perfect to use as a base for visiting other attractions in the north, Manchester is also a great place to visit in its own right. The impressive buildings and architecture show how successful the city was in the past; however, the city centre had to be completely rebuilt following an IRA bombing in 1996. Now called the Millennium Quarter, this part of the city is now flourishing with locals, tourists, and students alike. Manchester has a wide range of festivals for all tastes and whatever the season, for instance the Literature Festival in autumn, the Beer & Cider Festival in winter, the Irish festival in spring, and the Jazz Festival in summer.
Things to do and see
Manchester Museum – Take a macabre trip into the vaults of this museum to gawp at 20 mummies originating from Luxor and Thebes. Entry: Free
Canals and Waterways – Manchester’s waterways were built way back in the 1800s to bring supplies in from the coast. Nowadays they offer a beautiful setting for walks or taking a trip on a barge.
Chetham’s Library – The oldest surviving English library in the world is well worth a visit and a wander down all the many aisles housing every kind of book imaginable.
Manchester Art Gallery – Visit the biggest art gallery in the city with thousands of paintings, drawings and sculptures as well as temporary exhibitions. Entry: Free
Old Trafford – Football fans should take a tour of the famous stadium, home to one of the greatest football teams in the world, Manchester United.
The Quays – Head to the waterfront where you’ll be spoilt for choice of what to do in this entertainment complex whether it’s dining, catching a show, shopping, or taking a lunchtime cruise.
The Gay Village – Maybe the friendliest part of the city, celebrate every sexual preference as you wander along Canal Street enjoying a cocktail in one of the many bars or just soaking up the atmosphere.
Victoria Baths – Beautifully restored in 2003, the Turkish baths are a wonderful piece of history to admire. Tours are on Wednesdays. Entry: Free
Manchester is full to the brim of generic business hotels with not much charm or character but for something a bit different try one of the options below instead:
Backpackers – Hilton Chambers is a stunning hostel/hotel, with quirky murals covering the walls, and plants draped around corridors and up staircases, this place is for the more discerning backpacker. Dorms start from around US$22.
Boat – For something a little different why not stay on one of the gorgeous narrow boats that Star Narrowboat Holidays have to offer, starting from US$120 a night.
Boutique – Abode Manchester is a lovely boutique choice housed in an elegant grade II listed building with rooms starting from around US$120.
Luxury – Those who really want to splash out should book a room at The Lowry which overlooks the river and whose list of facilities and services are seemingly endless. Rooms start at around US$1000.
Manchester Airport is the biggest in the country outside London and has plenty of connections to get into the city; trains run every 10 minutes and cost about US$6 for a single and there is a coach service and the number 43 bus which even runs every 30 minutes throughout the night. Once in the city, there are a few different transport options, one of course being simply to walk, as a lot of Manchester’s attractions are fairly close together.
Buses: There is a free bus service called Metroshuttle which operates in the centre of the city; First which operates mainly in the north; and Stagecoach operating in the south.
Trams: Manchester’s tram system, called Metrolink is the easiest way to whizz around the city although it’s more expensive than the bus systems. A day pass costs around US$8.
Taxis: Hail a black cab on the street or call for a private service. A pricey but convenient way of getting around the city of Manchester.
Manchester boasts a vibrant mix of all different kinds of restaurants from just about every different part of the world. A few good picks follow:
Chinese – A trip to Manchester wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Chinatown and it would be rude not to have a bite to eat while you’re there. Try Red Chilli which offers the finest in Beijing and Sichuan cuisine. Price guide: Mid-range
Gastropub – The Albert Square Chop House serves a hearty full English breakfast as well as a variety of delicious options for lunch and dinner in a traditional yet casual setting. Price guide: Mid-range
Tex-Mex – The brilliantly-named Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn is not a place where you need to watch your manners. Chow down on mammoth burritos while necking tequila chasers. Price guide: Budget
Luxury – Manchester House shows off a sleek and modern interior as well as serving top-notch innovative dishes. The lunchtime tasting menu is surprisingly reasonably-priced for such a swanky place. Price guide: Expensive
Manchester is not only a student town but also a footballers’ town which means there need to be plenty of cheap, as well as swanky places to keep everyone happy. Visitors will find a multitude of pubs and bars in many areas and below are a few which are specifically recommended:
Pub – The Old Wellington is allegedly the oldest pub in Manchester and doesn’t disappoint with a wide selection of ales and heart-warming British food. Price guide: Budget
Wine Bar – Hidden away in the basement under an old bookstore is a delightful little place called Corbieres. Look out for the mosaics decorating the entrance and head down a tiny spiral staircase where you will find ales as well as wines and a kitchen serving tempting deli snacks.
Live Music – Check out what’s on at The Ritz, a Manchester institute boasting previous performances from The Beatles, The Stone Roses, PJ Harvey and R.E.M. to name just a few.
Club – The Blackdog Ballroom is a swanky affair based on the idea of a New York speakeasy and open until 4am every single night.
Shopping and Markets
Food – Arndale Market has a huge selection of fresh produce including a butchers and a fresh fish stall.
Designer – Head to The Triangle for all the big brands as well as a huge Selfridges which spreads over five floors.
Boutique – Arty folk will love the Craft and Design Centre in the Old Smithfield Market building. Wandering around the artist’s studios and bohemian boutiques is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Alternative – Afflecks Place is a treasure trove of eclectic stores where one can pick up outrageous purchases and mix with Manchester’s young rock, punk, goth, and indie crowd.