Ready to venture up north and explore Manchester?
Despite being only a couple of hours away on the train from London, Manchester boasts a huge amount of differences from London aside from the obvious cheaper drinks and friendly locals. And if that doesn’t tempt you to visit, we’ve used the inside knowledge of the Secret Manchester team combined with some tourist hotspots of the city to put together a top-notch guide for you.
Where To Stay
Before you find yourself accosted by locals around the city (and we mean that in the best way possible) you’ll need to find somewhere to set up camp for the duration of your visit. This 48 hours might be jam-packed so you’ll definitely need a good night’s sleep in the middle. There’s any number of gorgeous hotels in the city but one of our favourites Hotel Indigo. Located at the gateway to the Northern Quarter, the hotel is a hop and a skip from the city centre and a one-minute walk from Manchester Victoria train station.
How To Get Around
When it comes to getting around the city, the tram and bus will be your best friends. A tram day pass will set you back £4.80 and covers a chunk of Greater Manchester. Or if you’re sticking around the city centre, make use of the free buses. For more information click here.
Start your day by heading to Piccadilly Gardens for a burst of culture at Manchester Art Gallery, where a rare collection of drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci are currently on display. The selection of works, which can only be displayed for a limited time as the paper is easily damaged by light, focus on the body and clearly demonstrate Da Vinci’s use of drawing to gain an unrivalled understanding of human anatomy.
Then head around the corner and gasp at the beauty of The John Rylands Library. The building boasts a world-class collection that includes the oldest known piece of the New Testament, the St John Fragment. Other treasures of the vast, varied collection include magnificent illuminated medieval manuscripts and a 1476 William Caxton edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, all housed in the library’s glorious Victorian gothic architecture.
You’ll definitely be ready for some food at this point so we’re off five minutes down the road to the Great Northern for a spot of lunch at Home Sweet Home. The vintage-inspired restaurant offers generous helpings of comfort food from toasties, tacos, eggs and bacon to waffles, fried chicken and steak. And if you’ve still got room, they’ve got an excellent selection of over-the-top indulgent treats to satisfy all your cravings.
Then it’s on to the Museum of Science and Industry for a quick lesson in why Manchester is wonderful. The museum is home to the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway station, and the world’s first railway warehouse as well as other amazing objects that tell the story of ideas that were born in Manchester and changed the world forever. Entry to the museum is free but donations are always appreciated.
You’ll probably be ready for some tea at this point so we’re going to hop on a tram from Deansgate to St Peter’s square for a meal at The Anthologist. The restaurant is located right on St Peter’s Square and offers relaxed rustic vibes and flexible menu, whether you fancy a quick snack or a three-course sit-down affair. There’s even a pre-theatre sample menu, which is perfect for what we’ve got planned this evening. And if the weather agrees, you can sit outside and watch people running for their trams while you eat!
Finally, it’s time to head to the theatre! Between Trainspotting and The Book of Mormon, The King and I and Les Mis, there’s plenty to choose from. Have a look at some of the top shows on Fever to see what’s available on your selected night and get yourself ready for an evening of culture.
As they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and you’ll definitely want to start day two of your visit with a full stomach. Thankfully Manchester knows how to do a good breakfast, no matter what you’re craving. So it’s time to head back to Piccadilly Gardens for a feast at Moose Coffee.
The modern diner serves American-style breakfasts and 25 different brunch dishes, from pancakes to potato hashes, including seven choices for eggs benedict alone! Known as Manchester’s worst kept secret, diners should expect to wait for a table any day of the week but can enjoy one of their life-changing coffees while they wait
Now it’s time for a mooch around Manchester’s glorious Northern Quarter, so we’re going to head back round to Piccadilly Gardens and over to Oldham Street (look for the Morrisons). If Vintage is your thing this is the street for you. Be sure to stop in Oxfam Originals to bag yourself a bargain and Retro Rehab to marvel at their colour coordinated treasures.
Next, we’re heading one street over to Afflecks Palace, an eclectic emporium of independent shops, offering everything from vintage clothing and vinyl to piercings and tattoos, spread over three floors. And be sure to grab a selfie with the ‘God Created Manchester’ mosaic when you’re done exploring.
You’re bound to have worked up an appetite by now so we’re heading to Mackie Mayor, a Grade II listed market building over in Eagle Street, for a spot of lunch. The purpose-built meat market was opened by Mayor Mackie in 1858 and is one of only two buildings left fully standing from the former Smithfield market.
Following its closure in 1972, the building was used as a training centre for unemployed youngsters, a shopmobility centre and even a skateboard park before falling into disrepair. Thankfully, the people behind Altrincham Market took the building over in 2016 and restored it to its former glory. Now Considered by many to be a symbol of the city’s illustrious past, the market is a hive of top-end food and drink operators. Including Honestcrust Pizza, Fin Fish Bar and Baohouse.
After lunch we’re off to The Whitworth, Manchester’s very own gallery in the park and one of the city’s must-see cultural destinations. It’s a 15-minute mission that involves getting the bus (be brave) from neighbouring Turner Street (stop NZ) to Manchester Royal Infirmary (Stop F). But it’s worth it to see the magical gallery which boasts a gorgeous art garden, sculpture terrace and orchard garden, as well as a landscape gallery and even a café in the trees!
The gallery also hosts exhibitions of new work by some of the world’s leading artists alongside eclectic exhibitions drawn from its internationally rated collection of British watercolours, textiles, wallpapers and fine art.
After all that culture it’s definitely time to get some tea and tonight we’re heading back to the Northern Quarter to eat at ‘the happiest place in Manchester.’ Housed in the incredible Old Smithfield Market, Foundry Project’s decor has been inspired by Manchester’s industrious past. And features a stripped back interior, making use of exposed beams and polished concrete, with varied textures and colours throughout – from plush leather booths and neon light signage to copper ceiling features.
The menu offers an all-day extravaganza of food for the working or playing people of Manchester. Including burgers, pizzas and signature Foundry Project inventions such as Spiced Lamb and Aubergine and Peri Peri King Prawn. And if you’re still full from lunch there’s a lovely snacking menu including a range of tacos as well as nachos, wings and Haloumi fries.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Manchester without a visit at least one of the Northern Quarter’s quirky bars. And this evening we’re heading to NQ64 for an evening of retro arcade games and cocktails. The underground drinking den, based in Short Street, gives guests the opportunity to play the retro arcade games and classic consoles from their youth while enjoying the beverages of their adulthood.
Or those who fancy something a bit more grown-up can head Berlin-inspired basement bar, Honey Trap Club. With no airs and graces, the bar boasts an excellent selection of European beers, reinvented classic cocktails and dancing until the early hours. While the decor pays homage to the famous Berlin club scene with reclaimed furniture, graffiti in the bathrooms, exposed brick and LED lights. And the best part? There’s a gourmet kebab restaurant upstairs!
And that concludes your 48 hours in Manchester! Got extra time in the city, or want some more recommendations? Keep checking back at Secret Manchester for our top tips. Or visit Fever for the latest events.
Feature image: manchester_photosuk
Also published on Medium.