I moved to Manchester as an undergraduate and have enjoyed the city so much that I’m still here ten years later in the final year of my PhD. Whilst a lot of students can spend most of their time in Manchester shuttling up and down the Oxford Road corridor, which itself is bustling and busy day and night, to get the best out of the city you need to get out and about and explore. I’ve listed ten of my favourite activities and destinations, with something to do at any time of the day or night, week or weekend, summer or winter. As much as I can heartily recommend every one of these places, I’ve hardly scratched the surface of our metropolis. Whether your thing is art and museums, whether you’re into music and sport, clubbing and partying, shopping and restaurants, or parks and walks, there’s always going to be something for you to do in Manchester. You’ll find each part of the city has its own individual feel and hidden gems, yet all retain that distinctive Mancunian attitude.
Just a month ago the University’s Whitworth Art Gallery reopened after a £15m face-lift in one of the year’s most eagerly-anticipated arts events, both regionally and nationally. They have expanded their exhibition spaces extensively, allowing them to showcase more of their internationally-renowned collection and bring in more travelling exhibits. Everyone is talking about the Whitworth at the moment.
Adjoined to the huge Arndale Shopping Centre is the Arndale Market, complete with greengrocers, fishmonger, butchers, a range of craft and speciality food and takeaway stalls and the well-stocked, reasonably-priced Microbar – the perfect place to while away an hour or two whilst friends or partners are practising a little retail therapy.
Walking in South Manchester
Believe it or not there is plenty of green space and wildlife within 3 or 4 miles of Central Manchester. From the ornate gardens and serene woodland of Fletcher Moss Park in Didsbury, the River Mersey winds for miles between fields and golf courses past both Chorlton and Sale Water Parks, a few minutes from the pubs and cafes of Didsbury and Chorlton. Perfect for a Sunday stroll followed by a pub lunch.
The World Capital of Football
Red or Blue? Or just interested in seeing two of the world’s biggest clubs take on the cream of English and European football? Manchester City have built one the most expensive and formidable squads of recent years, with two league titles as a result. They still have some of the most reasonable ticket prices in the Premier League to take in a game at the Etihad. Whilst across the city lies the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford, with one of the world’s most supported clubs, 3-times European champions Manchester United.
The Sound of Manchester
Whilst you have the Manchester Music Tour for aficionados of the seminal Manchester pop groups of old, the city remains one of the country’s best places for live music, with gigs every night of the week at the University’s three Academy venues and at hundreds of spots of every size all over town. Definitely worth a visit would be Band on the Wall, The Castle, and the legendary Night and Day.
The Northern Quarter
The hippest-happeningist place-to-be in the city, the Northern Quarter bustles with pubs, cafes, restaurants, bars, independent retailers, and galleries. Whether you prefer the hipsterfied haunts with their craft ales and avant-garde sounds, the newest and trendiest foodie haunts in town, banging beats and slow jives, or just a good quiet pint in a proper Manc pub, there’s something for everyone.
Royal Exchange Theatre
The Royal Exchange is slap-bang in the centre of the city, formerly the largest trading hall in the country, it is well worth the visit simply to marvel at the Victorian architecture. The intimate, cauldron-like theatre plays host to both prominent travelling productions as well as original works, often with a distinctively Northern or Mancunian flavour. Also, every Friday 100 tickets are released for students at just £6 each.
Far more than just the ubiquitous buffet restaurants, in the few streets around the Chinese Arch you can find a plethora of Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, and other cuisines: the ideal place for a reasonably priced afternoon bite. You also have Ho’s Bakery for freshly-made, tasty, cheap lunchtime treats. Later on in the evening, Chinatown also becomes Manchester’s number one karaoke nightspot, open to a chorus of revellers until the wee hours.
A short tram ride from the city centre is Salford Quays. Formerly the terminal port of the Manchester Ship Canal, it has been fully redeveloped to include a number of top attractions. The Lowry Centre includes a theatre and an art gallery with changing exhibitions as well as a permanent exhibition of works by Salford’s own L S Lowry. Across the docks is the fantastic Imperial War Museum with its hanger-size halls and evocative and atmospheric exhibits.
Ale and Pace
One of the great delights of Manchester is the huge range of great pubs to sample: you’ll probably never run out of new places to sample in your whole time in the city. A good city centre pub crawl might start at the Briton’s Protection, with its historical murals, famous whiskey cellar, and roaring winter fires. Next onto Sinclair’s Oyster House, the liveliest beer garden in the city, especially on a summer evening with cheap, quality drinks. Then up the hill to the Angel, with an unrivalled number of ales on tap. Finish at the Marble Arch, the best-preserved establishment in town, with its own microbrewery and award-winning grub.