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UK City Guide: Mad for Manchester

February 17, 2017

Home to two English football heavyweights, home to some of music’s most influential bands and home to everyone’s favourite street: Manchester, on the surface, is one of the hotspots to visit in the UK.

Dig a little deeper still and you’ll unearth a cultural hive; from art to food, museums to music there is something for everyone. If you find yourself in the self-styled capital of the North be sure to check out some of these proper buzzin’ places…

Top spots to be a tourist

1. Manchester Cathedral

If its stunning architecture steeped in history you’re after then Manchester Cathedral needs to be your destination on any visit to the city. The Grade I listed building was commissioned by Henry V way back in 1421 – although it didn’t gain Cathedral status until 1847. The Cathedral includes intricate carvings of incredible detail that depict misericords – they’re medieval legends to you and us.

2. Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

For the culture vultures out there don’t worry – we haven’t forgotten about you! Neither has Manchester. If it’s a bit of brain exercise you want then why not head to Castlefield and the reconstructed remains of Roman fort Mamucium. Steeped in history the place offers an insight into how the Manchester of today came to be. You can also learn about the significance of the canals and waterways that made Manchester magnificent.

3. National Football Museum

As if housing two footballing giants wasn’t enough, Manchester is also home to the National Football Museum. Showcasing over 150 years of history of the beautiful game; expect to find everything from old footballs, used in famous matches down the years, to hallowed trophies for you to rejoice in. There are also interactive features for you to test your skills while you’re there. Tours are free at 11am and 3pm daily and a small donation will give you the opportunity to have a pic snapped with some of your favourite footballing memorabilia.

4. John Rylands Library

When you first visit this building of architectural brilliance you would be forgiven for thinking it’s anything but a library. Adorned with striking Victorian Gothic features its breath-taking beauty is coupled with an impressive book collection. The building was commissioned by Rylands’ wife, Enriqueta Rylands, and took a staggering 10 years to build. It is now part of the University of Manchester and is home to some incredibly rare books and manuscripts. One notable inclusion you can see is a William Caxton first edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales dating back to 1476.

5. Victoria Baths

Established in 1906, these beautiful baths were thankfully restored in 2003, having closed their doors ten years previous. Now you can experience these historic baths for yourself with guided tours taking place every Wednesday from now through to 28 October. You can also visit an Open Day on the first Sunday of every month. Once described as ‘a water palace of which every citizen of Manchester can be proud of’, thanks to its fantastic restoration that feeling lives on today. Although don’t bring your cossie, you can’t swim there anymore!

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Ales or beers, vino or cocktails


Manchester is famed for its nightlife and social scene and its bars and pubs are at the heart of it. From Deansgate to the Northern Quarter; Salford Quays to the city centre you’re never short of a watering hole to take a well-earned pit stop. Whether you’re feeling flush and fancy splashing that cash or if you want a typical student dive the city is littered with places for libations…

If you’re anywhere near the Deansgate area then you’ll soon find yourself spoilt for choice. For a more artisan experience filled with delicious cocktails and music memorabilia check out The Liquor Store or you could dive into basement Tika bar, The Liar’s Club where you’ll find an array of rum-based concoctions.

For a more traditional atmosphere you can’t go wrong with Mulligans a good old-fashioned Irish boozer that gives you exactly you’d expect… a bit of craic!

Bar 21 is a favourite destination for those descending on the Northern Quarter. Established in 2006, this quirky den plays host a high quality selection of spirits. You can also soak up the eye-catching interior set out over two floors.

Ask for the best places in Manchester and Apotheca will be hot on the lips of many Mancunians. The antique pharmacy cabinets lend a gothic feel to this award-winning cocktail bar.

So you’ve enjoyed your day of culture at The Lowry down in Salford Quays but where to go after that to put your feet up? Well the Terrace Bar at The Lowry, of course. Perfect for a pre-show glass of vino, you can enjoy the views of one of the city’s most vibrant sections.

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Ain’t no therapy like retail therapy

From quirky to quintessential, elegant to everyday; Manchester’s shoptions (see what we did there) are boundless and suit all budgets. If you’re more market than upmarket then head to the eclectic Afflecks. Located in the Northern Quarter, the self-styled ‘emporium of eclectic’ has a bit of everything from ‘top hats to tattoos’.

You’ll be sure to find that something unique to take away from Manchester.

For a more middle of the road option Manchester is also home to two plentiful shopping centres; Arndale and Trafford. Here you’ll find all your high street favourites and some Indie outlets for your perusal.

If fashion isn’t your thing then you can always have a browse through the electronic, jewellery and food departments.

Cheap eat treats


There are two words that perfectly encapsulate the best cheap eats on offer in the city: Curry Mile. The street is a smorgasbord of delectable curries, serving a fusion of authentic Indian and British classics.

If curry isn’t for you, however, then fear not. Given Manchester’s large student populous it has several options for eating on a budget. Forget about just a cheeky Nando’s, this city knows how to do food for all palates.

Pizza lovers try a slice of this for size: Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza in Ancoats (just a short jaunt across the city centre) offers up some of the city’s best toppings and delicious authentic pizzas. Plus you can get a 14” pizza for a fiver… now that’s amore!

Not far down the road you’ll find Saigon Lotus which is wowing customers with its pan-Asian fusion, fresh ingredients and abundant flavours.

Manchester is also home to Europe’s third largest Chinatown *drool* here you’ll find delicacies from the Far East including; Thai, Malaysian, Japanese and, of course, Chinese.

We’ve only scratched the surface here, folks. This city is a true melting pot for worldwide cuisines so you’ll be sure to find something that works for all appetites.

Fine dining and posh nibbles

If, like us, your day is planned around meal times then you might want to treat yourself to one of Manchester’s top tables on your visit to the city. And there are plenty to choose from. So, whether you fancy some French cuisine or prefer classic British fare done right – Manchester has it all.

Head to James Martin Manchester (you’ve probably seen him on the telebox on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen). His restaurant, in the exclusive Manchester 235 Casino, serves up British classics with his own inimitable Yorkshire flare. All the ingredients are carefully selected and locally sourced to give the dishes maximum impact and flavour.

Alternatively you can try some dishes from all over the globe – all under one roof – at Mr. Cooper’s House and Garden, located in the Midland Hotel. With an inside garden and arguably Manchester’s best cocktails this restaurant offers exceptional value for money.

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Free things to do in Manchester


As you might have guessed museums feature quite heavily in this section but their diversity means you’ll have plenty of options. From the National Football to the Imperial War, the city is sprinkled with knowledge repositories that are as aesthetically impressive as their contents.

If that’s not your cup of tea then take in some of the jaw-dropping sites around town. The previously mentioned John Rylands Library offers some of the city’s most impressive features. Even if you don’t visit to look at the extensive, rare book collections the Gothic features that accentuate the building are worth the trip alone.

Additionally you can take a wander through the Lowry, in all its metallic majesty. A microcosm for new Manchester – the Lowry is a cultural hive in Salford Quays, adding some splendour to a once empty space. To look at the building is magnificent, head inside and you’ll meet a world of creative and contemporary spaces.

For lovers of the Arts you can also visit Manchester’s Art Gallery – an oasis of calm in the heart of a thronging city centre.

With close to 13,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs it’s the perfect place to go and soak up some culture.

Excursions for culture vultures

2017 has already delivered, and continues to promise, an exceptional cultural feast in Manchester. Aside from the outstanding architecture, plethora of museums and diverse food options Manchester, this year, is playing host to some unbelievable events that will ensure all you culture vultures will be circling the city in no time.

With music performances from emerging artists and ballet performances to film screenings (there’s even a documentary on Corrie) there is something in Manchester’s cultural calendar to whet the appetite.

Let’s not forget the thriving theatre scene, too, which is as vibrant and chock-full of talent as anywhere in country. The buzzing MediaCityUK is also a must-see for any budding creatives. Home to ITV, BBC North and a host of other creative agencies the once derelict dockyard is now one of the world’s foremost media metropolises.

There’s also a jam packed events list for the little ones, too.

The venue menu


Welcome to our handy list of venues around the city. With everything from plays to musicals, world-renowned artists to local bands – there’s entertainment for everyone in Manchester.

  • MEN Arena – concerts, live music, boxing and sports entertainment
  • O2 Apollo – live music and entertainment
  • Etihad Stadium – stadium tours, summer concerts
  • Old Trafford – stadium tours, summer events
  • Albert Hall – live music, big name artists and Bingo… with a twist!
  • Palace Theatre – live tribute acts, musicals, play productions and comedy shows
  • Royal Exchange Theatre – play productions, Shakespeare and amateur dramatics

Best places for sleepovers


Value for money

  • Premier Inn Trafford Centre West – free Wi-Fi, on-site restaurant, affordable rooms, power showers, tea and coffee making facilities.
  • Travelodge – Wi-Fi, free on-site parking, late check-out, TV with 17 channels, tea and coffee making facilities
  • Jurys Inn – spacious rooms for up to 3 adults or 2 adults/2 kids, free Wi-Fi, air-con, flat screen TV with Freeview, on-site bar and restaurant
  • Britannia Hotel – Wi-Fi (free in public areas), on-site bar and restaurant, pet friendly, air-con, tea and coffee making facilities
  • Hotel Ibis, Portland Street – central city location, free Wi-Fi, spacious rooms, air-con, satellite TV, 24/7 food and drinks menu

Luxury stay

  • The Midland – located in heart of city, two on-site AA Rosette-winning restaurants, standard accommodation, luxury suite rooms, free Wi-Fi, swimming pool, luxury Spa.
  • The Lowry Hotel – Wi-Fi, king size bed, floor-to-ceiling windows, luxury furnishings, 40-inch Smart TV, mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities, luxurious toiletries, on-site fine dining restaurant, terrace bar.
  • King Street Townhouse – panoramic city views, luxury rooms and suites, goose down feather pillows, walk-in rain shower, air-con, flat screen TV with Sky Box, Wi-Fi, mini bar, gym, spa, rooftop infinity pool.
  • Great John Street Hotel – queen size beds, Wi-Fi, goose down feather pillows, walk-in rain shower, cast iron roll-top tub (for two people), flat screen TV with Freeview, rooftop lounge.
  • Hotel Gotham – 60 independently designed rooms, monochromatic finishing, luxury furnishings, Egyptian cotton sheets, waffle robes, Nespresso machine, free Wi-Fi, flat screen TV, on-site fine dining restaurant, speakeasy rooftop bar, complimentary Batman Cape (you wish…)

Kevin HicksView all posts