48 hours in Manchester
Spend just a single weekend living it up in Manchester and you’ll fall in love with this culturally diverse northern city.
If you haven’t explored Manchester yet, then now’s the time to give it a go, as this fantastic northern city has so much to offer. Complete with fascinating industrial heritage, an 18th-century canal system, a wide selection of galleries and museums, fab shopping opportunities, an extensive selection of restaurants and bars, and plenty of choice in serviced apartments, there really is no excuse not to visit.
While 48 hours isn’t long enough to see everything, Manchester has to offer, a weekend is certainly the chance for a wonderful introduction that will have you coming back for more.
Day one – it’s not grim up north
Brunch has been thoroughly embraced in Manchester, making it a great way to start your weekend and fuel up for the day. There are many options, but you can’t beat Pen and Pencil on the corner of Hilton and Tariff streets. You can pair your breakfast eggs with a four-ounce rump steak for an outrageously decadent meal or go more traditional with eggs benedict. Whatever you choose, team it with a fresh and fruity smoothie for the perfect pick-me-up.
As if to convince you right away that Manchester has historic credentials, make your way to the John Rylands Library. This incredible part of the university is a fine example of late-Victorian neo-gothic architecture and is guaranteed to impress. Dating back to 1900, it is full of rare books and manuscripts, meaning you can browse in awe and breath in that old book smell. With a constantly changing timetable of exhibitions and events, you may find your interest piqued for more than a little while.
After all that culture, it’s time for a spot of shopping and the Northern Quarter is a fantastically quirky area of the city to explore. Pop into We are Cow or Retro Rehab to get some seriously great new threads and stop by Piccadilly Records for a flavour of Manchester’s famous music scene. Rest your weary feet with a coffee at Takk, a Scandi and Icelandic-inspired space that serves up seriously good artisan roasted beans.
You may have already spotted various examples of street art on Tariff Street and the surrounding area, but venture further through the Northern Quarter for more giant murals. While things are always changing with this type of art, try Little Lever Street, Nightingale Street and Port Street for a taste of artistic expression in Manchester.
Grab dinner at Cottonopolis Food and Liqour on Newton Street, which has Japanese fare to suit all moods. The menu is divided into four sections – Ice, Fire, Steam and Oil – so you can enjoy anything from sushi to dim sum or grills to tempura. The cocktails are also well worth trying and a definite step away from the norm.
Not far away on Bridge Street is an unassuming entrance that takes you to a subterranean bar. The Gaslamp was once a soup kitchen and mission, but now serves a fantastic selection of craft ales and cocktails, but retains its rustic charm and tiled walls. Step into the back room to see photos from the establishment’s previous incarnation. If you’re lucky, there may even be some live music scheduled.
Day two – a haven for culture vultures
A little slice of chic American diner life in Manchester, Moose Coffee on York Street is the perfect breakfast stop on your second day. The dishes all have a bit of a twist, so do yourself a favour and order The Mighty Moose and receive a heaving plate of potato hash, bacon and eggs that goes perfectly with the premium coffee on offer.
Jump on a bus from Oxford Road to the Whitworth Art Gallery, which has more than 55,000 pieces of work on show. As well as fine art by the likes of Turner, Blake and Rossetti, there are fascinating exhibits exploring everything from textiles and prints to wallpaper and sculpture, meaning you will find something of interest whatever your artistic taste. Since the gallery is located in Whitworth Park, it offers a great opportunity to stretch your legs and enjoy some greenery for a little while. Return to the gallery’s café for a simple lunch of seasonal warm salads.
In the afternoon, make your way back to the city centre and see what’s going on at the Cornerhouse. This centre for contemporary arts on Oxford Street is spread across three floors and is always a hive of activity. Have a relaxing time watching an arthouse release, browsing in the bookshop or people watching in the gallery or bar.
Step back in time for dinner at Mr Thomas’s Chop House on Cross Street, which stumbled across a winning formula in 1870 and never looked back. Its comfort food dishes are wonderful, but you’ll also be treated to the stunning Grade II-listed interior, which still retains its original Victorian features and ambience.
For a fitting final farewell to Manchester, take the short walk to Blackfriars Street to find The Liquor Store. Once the city’s best-kept secret, its string of awards means people seek it out, but that doesn’t make the bare brickwork and world-class cocktails any less alluring. Grab yourself a Ruby Tuesday from the 40 Licks Menu and spend the time until the 3am closing pondering what you’d like to drink next.