Manchester has a credible claim to be the capital of the north, a city with a long, industrious history, which has successfully reinvented itself.
A lively conurbation, with a vibrant shopping centre, a smattering of cultural attractions and a thumping nightlife. Rather than turn its back on its industrial heritage, the city has embraced it. Several of the museums focus on this history and many of the old mills and other industrial landscape has been sensitively and tastefully absorbed into modern Manchester.
Manchester, hasn’t forgotten its roots
Quirky street art in the Northern Quarter, fashionable coffee houses, lively street markets, independent eating houses offering wholesome northern fare, with original and contemporary twists can be discovered next to large chain department stores and restaurants.
Traditional and modern pubs sit comfortably side by side, offering a variety of cask ales or cocktails and live music is available somewhere every night of the week.
Living within a comfortable distance of the city, allowing me to visit when I wish, and escape at other times, allows me to provide a local and visitors perspective of the city. Here’s how I spend a day in Manchester.
Starting out early, first stop has to be the Koffee Pot, almost a Manchester institution, offering great value breakfasts and brunches, it’s ideal for meeting up with friends before attacking the city.
Fully fuelled, a must visit for any visitor to Manchester is the Museum of Science and History, a personal favourite. It demonstrates the links the city has to the past, and a future, with many fascinating, interactive displays. The only issue maybe dragging yourself away, as to do it justice really needs most of a day and most of it is free.
Heading back to the city centre, grab a coffee from the Fig and Sparrow, though the menu is likely to tempt those already hungry. Then, weather permitting head to Piccadilly Gardens. On the weekend the small food and craft market should be open, which is worth a browse, otherwise just soak up the comings and goings of the popular meeting point over your coffee.
A city with soul
Those that haven’t already succumbed will be glad they held out, as stopping off for a quick snack at Northern Soul street food restaurant is ample reward.
Manchester is a football city, home to two of the biggest clubs in Europe. Visiting on match day will find many of the pubs awash with colour, red or blue depending on which team is playing. Be warned though, the language is likely to be equally colourful, but a derby day visit can be as exciting and worth overhearing the occasional profanity.
Discover more around the city here: Mabon in Manchester – The Post Nobody will Read
In a city which celebrates the beautiful game so enthusiastically, it seems appropriate to visit one of the newest museums; the National Football Museum. Housed in the futuristic Urbis building, armed with historical artefacts and trivia, there is plenty to see and enjoy for both football supporter and long suffering partner alike, best of all it’s also free.
An alternative for the crazy people that don’t enjoy the beautiful game is the celebrated Manchester Museum, a quirky treasure trove of eclectic exhibits. Maybe browsing the Manchester Craft and Design Centre is more your style?
It must be time for another coffee by now, so a visit to one of those independent caffeine houses is on the cards, I’d suggest the funky The Foundation. There’s plenty of room and it serves a decent cup of java, with Wi-Fi to share that great pic on Instagram.
Getting around Manchester is fairly easy, it’s quite compact, so walking anywhere rarely takes too long. For the less energetic, there is a small fleet of free hybrid-electric buses which circle the city centre. They even offer free Wi-Fi and another chance to smoast.
Of course, there are buses that allow you to pay to, but why?
As the day is beginning to draw to a close and light is starting to slip away catching one of the trams which service the city out to the Salford Quays makes sense now. If there’s still time a visit to the impressive Imperial Museum North is recommended, but either way, if the weather is favourable, the view across the quays as the sun sets is worth the trip.
Some may decide to linger here, there’s plenty of reasons to do so, with a selection of places to eat and drink. Planning ahead could include a visit to The Lowry, to catch a show at the cultural hub of the area.
Otherwise returning to the city, it’s probably time for dinner. Although there are plenty of fashionable restaurants, seeking out the Pie and Ale in the Northern Quarter for a filling meal served with a good beer is my choice. Generous portions are the order of the day, with contemporary twists on the humble pie, ask for Toni, who will provide some great advice on the menu and further options to explore as the night draws in.
Manchester rocks to its own beat
Fully charged Duracell bunnies will want to sample the many options for some nightlife, as for me I’m off to the station to catch the train home.
There are plenty of traditional music venues like Band on the Wall and Night and Day to fashionable cocktail bars and large night clubs. The Deansgate Locks are a collection of chic wine bars developed from bridge arches, another example of industrial space redefined.
Regardless of the night of the week Manchester remains lively well into the wee hours, this city does everything with a hint of attitude.
Manchester, the reinvented city is easy to discover from anywhere in the country, or even world. The road and rail links are both exceptional with direct links to mainline stations. The city is also serviced by an excellent international airport providing direct flights to most of Europe and beyond.
This is my perfect day in the city. While it’s hoped you will find it useful, there are many other options, it’s worth visiting to discover a few of your own in the northern capital.
Read more tips here: I Heart My City; Iain’s Manchester – National Geographic
Incidentally, Manchester is the European City of Science 2016 a city with a future as well as a past.