I couldn’t write this blog without dedicating a page to my home town, Manchester. Regarded by many as England’s 2nd City (although the Brummies may beg to differ) Manchester is an eclectic hot pot of sport, music, art, history, technology and innovation.
A Brief History – Settled by the Celts and Romans (Mamucium), Manchester has been permanently settled on for almost 2000 years. The creation of a market in the 12th Century attracted many merchants to the area, especially in wool and textiles and this trend continued to grow until the 19th Century. Manchester is one the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution and was, at a time the largest marketplace for cotton goods in the world.
More recently, Manchester is a city that has undergone extensive renovation and the catalyst for this development was a large IRA bomb that hit the town in June 1996. This has seen development of Salford Quays and Media City aswell as areas within the town including the Arndale Centre, Spinningfields and Deansgate Locks.
Things to Do in Manchester
Whilst Manchester may not boast the iconic, Instagrammable sites of London, it does have its sights and sounds and hidden gems that make the City a great place to visit (and re-visit) again and again and again.
Sightseeing – Unlike London, the centre of Manchester is small and it can be seen easily within one day. Whilst the city does not have the world famous historical site of its big sister, it does have some of the most fascinating buildings in the UK.
My favourite is Manchester Town Hall. This neo-gothic building in the middle of town is the home to the city council. Completed in 1877 and designed by Alfred Waterhousr, the town hall is my favourite in the city. Outside the town hall is Alberts Square which doubles as the location for many a city festival and the Christmas German markets. A great meeting point for a Gluhwein to warm yourself up in the build up to Christmas.
Another excellent place to visit is the Central Library next door to the Town Hall. You may question why you would want to spend your holiday inside a library but the recently renovated building is beautiful inside and out (and surprisingly not the only library to make this list). The building is loosely based on the Pantheon in Rome and is one of the oldest libraries in the world.
If you ever wanted to feel like you were in Hogwarts and searching for a book to uncover the truth of Horcruxes then you need look no further than John Rylands library on Deansgate. Although newer than the central library (opened in 1900) the inside of the building is straight out of Hollywood. I was lucky enough to access their special collections during my time at University and spent more time daydreaming than working.
Speaking of Hollywood, a large proportion of Captain America was filmed in Manchester turning the Northern Quarter into the 1940s. The excellently named Dale Street is famous for being the street Chris Evans runs down after ungoing his transfiguration. Northern Quarter is amongst the best parts of Manchester, especially if you are looking for some place to quench your thirst and I will go through this more below.
Football – If I said Manchester to 100 people picked across the world, 99 would return back saying Manchester United (or City – I will try and remain impartial) and football dominates the cities sporting presence. Football is a social identifier in Manchester and come Derby Day, friendship groups, families and love ones are split across the red/blue divide. This rivalry is, on the whole good fun and deep down most would rather see the other side do well over the likes of Liverpool, Leeds and the London Clubs.
A visit to Old Trafford is therefore a must for any football fan. The ground, nicknamed the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ is one the the best stadiums in the world. The stadium tour is also a great option if your visit doesn’t co-incide with a game (We have all made the mistake of visiting a great footballing city during the International Break as I did in Barcelona in 2011).
Tip; Tickets are difficult to come by, especially for the big games and touts will often want £300-400 for a ticket. I would recommend the mid-week games or those in lower cups (like the League Cup) where tickets are easier / cheaper to acquire
Other Sport – It would be terrible of me to ignore the other sports that make Manchester a sporting hot-pot. You only need to look at the results of the 2016 Olympics to see a large majority of the medals won by GB athletes are based in Greater Manchester. Whether your interest is Rugby Union (Sale Sharks), Rugby League (Salford City Reds) or Cricket (Lancashire Cricket Club) Manchester has sporting teams to suit all interests.
Another great day out is the Velodrome in eastern Manchester which has been home to the dominating GB track cyclist team since the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. This is a fun activity and a chance to see how difficult it is to ride on the track that our elite athletes make look so easy. Taster sessions start at £20.
Music – Manchester has produced some of the greatest British musicians including; Oasis, Stone Roses, The Smiths, Take That, the 1975, The Chemical Brothers, Simply Red, New Order, Badly Drawn Boy, Joy Division, The Verve, The Happy Mondays, The Bee Gee’s and Russell Watson
The City boasts some of the best live music venues in the UK including the Manchester Arena (Large bands, popular), Apollo and the Academy. The Opera House and Bridgewater Hall are also live music venues for alternative and Classical Music. Finally, most bars and clubs in Manchester have facilities to host music and you will often see the newest bands in the most unlikely of occasions. The likes of Deaf Institute, Night & Day Cafe and the Albert Hall are all places to enjoy live music.
Warehouse Project – Whilst Manchester’s musical past may be dominated by modrock, indie and pop the future is very much focused on electro, house, grime etc. The Warehouse Project hosts some of the best UK & International DJ’s between September and December each year.
Where to Party
Manchester loves to Party and we have nightclubs, bars, outdoor terraces, raves to suit all requirements. Drinks tend to be cheaper than London and you can expect to pay £3.50-£4 for a pint in most locations although this may be more in certain clubs. Below is a list of a few of my favourite locations
Northern Quarter – My favourite spot in Manchester is actually an area of the town populated by countless small, quirky bars. Bar crawl from one end to the other and experience a true Mancunian night out. Favourites include Walrus, Odd Bar, Noho, Hula Tiki, Shack and Hold Fast (with its N64’s), all can be visited within 100m of each other.
Spinningfields – The ‘posh’ side of Manchester. Spinningfields it the place to be if you want to take selfies with premiership footballers, Coronation Street cast and D-list celebs. The area is filled with fantastic restaurants and bars but can be spoilt by some of the clientele who thing they are the dogs bollocks (Manchester term). I would personally avoid Neighbourhood like the Plague but there are good bars at Artisan, Alchemist and the Oast House (especially during the summer months).
Dukes 92 – I tried not to include specific bars as headers but there is one bar that everyone flocks to when the sun comes out (typically one or 2 days a year… ha). Dukes 92 in Castlefield has arguably the best terrace in Manchester (2nd would be Atlas Bar on Deansgate). A perfect place for mid-day drinking and sun soaking.
Cloud 23 – Ok, Another specific bar but Cloud 23 which is located within the Beetham Tower, the largest tower in Manchester (you will know it when you see it) is fantastic for views of Manchester. It is well worth visiting but it may require booking during the weekends.
Deansgate Locks – Every town in the UK has a Vodka Revolution and BaaBar and Manchester is no different, These and a number of larger ‘clubs’ can be found on the Deansgate Locks which sit beside one of the Canals. These are your larger clubs frequented by the out of towners and can get incredibly busy during the weekends. My tip would be to experience the student nights during the week when the student population descends and drinks prices are cheaper
Printworks – Manchester residents will remember Pure and cringe. Whilst the area has some decent clubs Birdcage/Tiger Tiger this is the arse end of Manchester’s night life and there are 1000’s of better places to go. Having said that I do enjoy Bierkeller which is a fun night during one of their comedy nights (Thursdays) and Oompah Live Band experiences.
Canal Street – My other favourite and undeniable guilty pleasure. Canal Street and the surrounding area is the centre of the LGBT community which can immediately put some people off! Don’t let it! A fantastic night which stays buzzing long after the main spots have shut. With cheap drinks and almost zero fights (ever) it is a great place to go. The best time to visit would be Pride Weekend which takes place during the August Bank Holiday weekend.