Manchester City Guide
You might have heard of Manchester before because of its famous football teams or it’s industrial prowess.
On our most recent visit though, we discovered a city abuzz with a burgeoning art scene, world class museums, a foodie scene, and designer cafes.
Let us be your guide to Manchester and all that it has to offer!
Table Of Contents
What To Do
John Rylands Library
If there was ever a library in the real world that looked like it was taken straight out of Harry Potter, the John Rylands Library would definitely be at the top of the list.
With soaring ceilings built in the shape of a cathedral, this fine example of Neo Gothic architecture was built in memory of John Rylands, who was Manchester’s first multi-millionaire and owner of Britain’s largest textile manufacturer.
When you visit you’ll see many students using the cozy nooks, with all their books spread out in the midst of study sessions. You might also see tourists dressed up in Harry Potter garb trying to capture the perfect photo angle.
Manchester Black Taxi Tour
John, one of the only Green Badge Guides and Black Taxi Drivers in Manchester, knows the city so well and can tell you pretty much anything you want to know about Manchester. You also get to ride in one of the iconic Black Taxis while cruising around the city.
Three Rivers Gin Experience
Interest in gin has skyrocketed worldwide in the past five years, making the Three Rivers Gin Experience even more relevant than ever. Located in the City of Manchester Distillery - Three Rivers Gin distillery was the first in the city.
During the experience, participants are first shown a film about the working class history of Manchester and it’s can-do attitude. Then you’re taken to the massive copper pot (named Angel) to see where all the magic is done. You’ll get to place some labels on gin bottles with the handy dandy machine there.
After leading you to another room with a whole line of miniature copper still pots - you’ll then make a bespoke version of gin based off of ingredients of your own choosing! You can pick from a wide variety of things like elderflower, orange peel, and jasmine tea leaves!
I went with elderflower, grapefruit peel, oats, jasmine tea, and ginger!
The gin is placed together with all the ingredients, water, juniper, and cloves into the copper still pot. Then it’s heated up and the resulting steam travels up through a copper pipe and into a cooled compartment, which then condenses to the flavored gin.
Your recipe gets saved into their database in case you want to order a custom gin order in the future! Pretty cool right?
You also get to take home your own bottle of gin!
A bit of a hidden gem, this beautifully restored Victorian arcade is covered in black and gold balconies, a stunning glass ceiling, pastel tile work on the floors, and cute shops galore.
Make sure to stop by Pot Kettle Black for some fantastic specialty coffee and a bite to eat.
Street Art - Northern Quarter
Manchester has quickly begun to be known for it’s large scale street art, with almost all of it located in the hipster haven Northern Quarter.
Many of the murals were done during a street art festival back in 2016 called Cities of Hope, where the focus was raise awareness of social issues, challenge injustice, and champion the voice of the powerless.
If you want to know more about the street art and some of the artists behind them, sign up for the fantastic tour run by Skyliner.
One of Manchester’s quirkiest shopping experiences, Affleck’s is a collection of 60 independent stalls and shops selling everything from vintage clothing and Pokemon bath balls to vinyl records and game cards.
If you want to see all of the shops, you’ll really need to meander and wander about, as the building is a bit of a maze inside.
Make sure you find Ginger’s Comfort Emporium inside, which serves up some of Manchester’s best ice cream!
Royal Exchange Theater
This former trading hall, reopened in 1976, as the home of the largest in-the-round theater in the UK. It has since welcomed some of the finest actors from the UK with a wide selection of indie and classic performances. There’s also a cafe on site with lots of public spaces peppered throughout.
Where To Eat
One of the most spectacular eating areas I’ve seen, Mackie Mayor was opened to the public in 2017 after a major restoration and refurbishment after the building had laid empty for many years.
There is natural light streaming in from the glass ceiling with beautiful details adorning each and every corner.
There are plenty of long wooden community dining tables in the center of the floor ringed by plenty of top notch eateries serving yummies such as classic fish n chips, crispy pork roll sandwiches, Korean inspired bao sandwiches, and wood fired pizzas.
When you’re done with your meal, make sure to check out Atkinson’s for some excellent specialty coffee and tea.
Part restaurant, part bar, part cafe, and part dance space - Refuge is located in a cavernous 10,000 sqft space with beautiful design cues and natural light streaming in at the center atrium.
The DJ’s turned restauranteurs have a global menu inspired by their travels ranging from Japan to the Mediterranean.
Northern Soul Grilled Cheese
‘Grilled cheese sandwiches suck’, no one has ever said.
Make sure to stop by this grilled cheese sandwich haven for some comfort food goodness to warm your soul.
Try the Classic, BLT, or the Cuban Pete!
Located under the Mancunian Way, this award winning development is made up of repurposed shipping containers housing a wide variety of eateries, retail shops, and workspaces.
It’s a great place to grab lunch with Manchester locals, affectionately called Mancunians.
We really liked the Poke bowl shop!
If you’re looking for an over-the-top dessert experience, look no further than Black Milk in the Northern Quarter. Words can’t quite describe the colorific calorie bomb awaiting your taste buds so I’ll just let photos do the talking!
Located in Manchester’s Curry Mile, Mughli serves up fantastic food from India ranging from Kati rolls from Kolkata to Chaat from Uttar Pradesh.
The grilled chicken was fantastic with the meat having a nice kick to it along with a fantastic charcoal singe.
The Dhum Biryani was also flavorfully delicious!
Where To Stay
King Street Townhouse
An indulgent, stylish hotel where no two rooms are the same - the owner has outfitted each floor and public areas with unique design touches. Expect to be pampered in your room with comfortable bedding, luxury bathrobes, relaxing rain showers, and lovely herbal scented bath products.
The real gem here though, is the rooftop infinity pool facing the iconic Town Hall Clock Tower. You won’t find a better view of this photographer’s favorite, not to mention that you’ll be in a pool while enjoying the view.
Radisson Blu Edwardian
Situated squarely in the city center, the whole city is just a few minutes’ walk away. The hotel is housed inside the historic Grade II listed Free Trade Hall, which is a historical masterpiece that has housed many important political and musical events since the 1850’s.
Being a 5 star hotel, amenities are abound such as a 12 meter long swimming pool, sauna, steam room, and a sizable gym. The attached Library Bar is full of ambiance and a great place to wind down after a long day of city exploration. Book your room here.
Fig & Sparrow
An adorable and cozy space serving up some great specialty coffee - they also have some delicious bakery items from an artisanal bakery nearby.
An award winning roastery, definitely check out this coffee shop for some excellent light and medium roasted beans.
A bit hidden on a back alley, the beans here are roasted on site with many types to choose from.
The Deaf Institute
For the best indie music scene in town, the Deaf Institute is the place to go with it’s super happening bar scene and reputation for booking some of the best up and coming artists.
One of Manchester’s newest live music venues - this four story former auction house offers a different experience on each floor. Live music and concerts are on the first two floors while restaurants and bars finish up the top two floors, including a lovely rooftop terrace.
With a wide variety of acts rolling through, this bar/club/restaurant is a constant flow of activity. Make sure to check out the event calendar to see who’s playing.
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We were graciously invited to Manchester as guests of Visit Manchester, Virgin Atlantic, and Visit Britain. All opinions are our own.