Manchester is one of the UK’s hidden gems: brimming with chic hotels, trendy vintage shops and markets and a blossoming food and drink scene. Yet Manchester is still pretty much undiscovered by the average tourist. Need more convincing? Check out our list of reasons why you need to visit Manchester.
Shop ‘til you drop in Manchester’s vintage markets. Manchester has local markets open nearly every day of the week. Spend a Sunday morning in the Northern Quarter, featuring some of Manchester’s most diverse foods, artists, designers, bakers and live music. Visit the Levenshulme market on Saturday mornings for everything from homemade bagels to vintage clothes, used books to fresh pizza, and all kinds of fresh produce and food! (Pro tip: the Levenshulme market hosts a Friday night market once a month, all centered around a theme. Past themes have included live music and vegan food.)
Manchester has an up-and-coming food scene that combines the best of traditional England (hello, tea with the Queen!) and a blossoming international food culture. Heading out with friends and can’t decide on what to eat? Check out Mackie Mayor, an indoor dining complex with dozens of food vendors serving up everything from pizza to pitas. Fill up on Indian and Middle Eastern food on Manchester’s “Curry Mile”—an almost mile-long stretch of Wilmslow Road packed with dozens of Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern restaurants. (Need help choosing? Mughli is one of the best.)
Other options? Try a bottomless breakfast (basically a set price for all-you-can-eat breakfast and cocktails), a true Neapolitan pizza at Rudy’s in Manchester’s Ancoats area or sample a bit of just about everything at the world-famous Corn Exchange or the Altrincham Market, from steak sandwiches to chocolates to vegan food.
Manchester lacks nothing when it comes to drinks and nightlife. Enjoy a sophisticated evening with classic cocktails and a full menu in the popular Cottonopolis. (They also have a mean brunch menu.) Manchester is also home to a number of trendy and secret local spots. Ask some locals for recommendations (Dusk Til Pawn is often recommended) or wander around town and see if you can uncover your own hidden gem!
Try The Sip Club or Twenty Twenty Two, a hip local spot complete with ping pong competitions and £5 cocktails on Wednesdays. In the mood for something mid-day? Enjoy a classic British afternoon tea at the Richmond Tea rooms and stuff yourself with tea, cakes, scones, sandwiches and bubbly.
Music lovers, rejoice! Manchester ranks the top city in the UK for live music. Catch some of the biggest names, from Britney Spears to Josh Groban to U2 at the Manchester Arena. Definitely don’t miss your chance to visit the O2 Ritz, one of Manchester’s oldest and most famous live music venues (that once hosted the Beatles!).
Stroll down Manchester’s Musical Walk of Fame, or sing and dance all night in Factory251, a three-story nightclub inside of the old Factory Records HQ building. If you still haven’t gotten enough of Manchester’s music vibes, you can take home a souvenir from Piccadilly Records—an indie record store ranked as one of the world’s best.
After all that shopping and eating, you’re definitely going to need somewhere to crash. Thankfully, Manchester even puts you to sleep in style. For a chic and central hotel, try the Hotel Gotham, an iconic spot near Manchester’s main train station. It’s also within walking distance to the Manchester Art Gallery and a number of shops and markets.
The Princess St. Hotel is a historic hotel downtown, putting you close to all the energy of the city while letting you sleep in classic British style. If you’re ballin’ on a budget, check out Jurys Inn Manchester City Centre or Innside Manchester. They’re both centrally located with a modern vibe, but also with great prices.
Studying abroad in the UK? Manchester is a perfect destination for students to get cultured in the best of what the UK has to offer. Study or explore in the Hogwarts-esque libraries, especially the John Rylands or Chethams—the oldest public library in the UK. Spend an afternoon wandering through the Manchester Art Gallery (or one of Manchester’s other free museums!).
Buy tickets to the Manchester Opera House, now home to a number of modern and classical shows. And if you’re in town during summer, Manchester has plenty of festivals for you! Definitely don’t miss the Manchester Day Parade, a weekend of fun and pride in all that makes Manchester unique, complete with parades, live music and, of course, tons of local pop-up food stands. And be sure to stay for the Manchester International Festival, a three-week experience in July that hosts musical and visual art performances, theater and exhibitions.
The UK might boast a lot of rainy days, but that doesn’t mean they’re lacking adventures in the great outdoors. Learn to sail at the Dove Stone Reservoir or spend the day hiking or cycling on the TransPennine Trail or the Saddleworth Rail Trail. Spend an afternoon at the Manchester Climbing Center, a massive indoor rock wall facility inside of a converted Victorian church.
So what are you waiting for? Some of the best live music worldwide, incredible food and drink from breakfast to 5am and enough shopping to fill all your suitcases: Manchester might just be the UK’s best hidden gem.