I have visited Manchester a few times over the years, usually to see live music (and this was no exception). It had been a while since my last visit, I think some time in 2009, so this was a great opportunity to explore the city properly. Me and my friend decided to spend two days in Manchester whilst we were visiting, although this only turned out to be a quick 24 hour stay with all the train travel. So here it is, a guide of where to stay, what to do, and where to eat in Manchester, all in 24 hours!
Where to stay
I am a HUGE fan of Premier Inn, they are in every city in the UK and you know what you are going to get, a comfortable room in a good central location. The Premier Inn we chose was one of the cheaper options in the city for the dates we were staying but still fairly central, located on Lower Mosley Street, a 15 minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station and just ten minutes from the City Centre. Perfect. The room was a good size, clean and quiet with tea making facilities and a good shower. There is the option to have breakfast at the restaurant next door but we never opt for this (just because we want to explore somewhere else, not because it’s rubbish).
What to do
This is not going to be something everyone wants to do, but as a city, Manchester has a pretty good selection of shops to choose from. From the smaller independent shops found in the Northern Quarter, to the Arndale shopping centre there is something for everyone. We visited a quirky little shop called Oklahoma which sold a great collection of homeware, stationary, toys and other things you never knew you needed until going in this shop. The Arndale Shopping Centre is where you can find the more well known shops, we made sure we had an obligatory look around the Disney store.
Explore the Street Art
I love Street Art. Its a new found love, but now when I explore somewhere for the first time I try to find these little hidden gems. Manchesters Northern Quarter is clearly the best place to go. There is a wide range of bigger and smaller pieces and some newer pieces which arrived after the Arena bombing in 2017. The best thing to do is walk up and down the streets of the Northern Quarter and just see what pieces you come across. Knowing that some of the art has appeared as a result of such a tragedy definitely adds meaning to some of the art work. Hopefully next time I visit there will be more to explore.
Take a walk through China Town
You have a train to catch and time to kill. Perfect. Go in search of China Town. Manchesters China Town is incredibly small but still worth seeing. You can see the traditional archway and if you really fancy a Chinese then I think this is the place to go. When we walked by it was lunch time and not only did it smell amazing but there was a queue coming out the door of one of the restaurants (Happy Seasons).
See Live Music
As I previously mentioned most my visits to Manchester have been because I was seeing live music – usually at the Manchester Arena, which is not far from the city centre. This time was no different seeing Ed Sheeran at Ethiad Stadium. I had not been here before but its a great venue and fairly easy to walk to if you can’t handle the packed tram. We got the tram there which we queued for but decided to walk back to our hotel as it was only a 45 minute walk and easy to navigate. Oh and Ed Sheeran was pretty good too!
Afflecks is one of the quirkiest shops I have ever been to. It lies in the heart of the Northern Quarter. There are a number of entranceways to this building, just look for the Afflecks sign above the little doorways. There is something like four floors worth of independent boutiques that give the impression of being like market stalls. You can buy clothing, artwork or other gifts, there are also two cafes and even a barbers. There is so much to discover in this building and we easily spent over an hour exploring every inch of it. I particularly enjoyed the art on sale here and I have heard good reviews about the café on the top floor.
Where to eat
Much to my dismay there is only so much eating you can do in 24 hours and annoyingly the train journeys were over lunch time which meant boring train snacks. This means only eating Dinner and Brunch.
Luck Lust Liquor and Burn
What a name! Found in the Northern Quarter on the corner of a street and surrounded by other restaurants this place looks understated from the outside. The layout is slightly confusing with what seemed like only a small bar and seating area. We then saw a sign and headed upstairs where we were met by a woman who gave us a beeper for when our table was ready and told us to head back down stairs for drinks. PERFECT. It was Happy Hour (YES), so we ordered two cocktails, something fruity – which I am adamant was one of my five a day.
The table was ready. I probably should have said this is a Mexican restaurant, definitely mine and my friends top choice when we meet up! When it comes to Mexican our eyes are always bigger than our belly and this menu sounded fantastic. A choice of amazing starters followed by jam packed burritos, all at a reasonable price.
We opted for the tortilla chips and guacamole (obviously), Halloumi fries (yes) and cheesey garlicy bagel bites (trust me). Three starters between two is too much, don’t be foolish like we were, order just two. The burritos then came out, these were the fattest most delicious burritos I had ever eaten. I think mine had something like 10 ingredients in it but annoyingly I pigged out so hard on the starters I only managed to eat half.
Time for Brunch! There was one place that I kept reading about again and again and that was Federal Café. Located on the edge of the Northern Quarter this Café is really small and located on a busy road but don’t let this put you off. Make sure you get there early, or if you have to then wait for a seat, as it is worth it. The menu is traditional for 2018 with poached eggs, avocado, smoked salmon and pancakes partnered with freshly squeezed juices and (apparently) amazing coffee. I had a refreshing orange juice with poached eggs, salmon and avocado on toast, so so good and healthy (genuinely had two of my five a day).
This was only a brief stop in Manchester but it is amazing how much you can pack into 24 hours when you are in a city. The Northern Quarter is the place to be, its trendy, quirky and the right amount of popular. The buildings, shops, art, restaurants and bars are a brilliant mix and very different from the rest of the city which is fairly mainstream and standard. I really wish I had had chance to visit Mackie Mayor as I have read so much about this indoor food hall, maybe next time.
Let me know of anything I should do on my next visit.