Follow the beat to this northern city of reinvention, where old industrial districts are hip cultural hubs, uber-cool DJs turn restauranteurs, and the whole place thrums with music, art and nightlife.
Munch: Albert’s Schloss
A bit bohemian, a lot Bavarian, it would be a crime not to drop into this vast pleasure palace beneath Albert Hall. Brunch on cronuts, cruffins and a malty shake, get your glow on with smashed avo on toast, or press your table’s ‘Push for Prosecco’ button – it’s never too early here.
Muse: Castlefield Gallery
Both an art gallery and an artists agency, this contemporary art gallery in Manchester’s industrial, cultural Castlefield area is a launch pad for emerging artists, so it’s easier to get close to the people behind the exhibitions. You won’t see art quite like this anywhere else in the city – plus it’s free.
Marvel: John Rylands Library
One of the few libraries in the world that upstages the books, you’ll be in more awe of the gothic architecture here than you will be of the books – which include some of the rarest ever made. If you can drag yourself away, check out the collections in the Rylands Gallery too.
Lunch: Refuge by Volta
Run by The Unabombers, who made their mark on the Manc music scene before turning their attention to hip eateries, Refuge is one of the best restaurants in Manchester. The small plates and sharing dishes are inspired by The Unabombers travels. Hungry and on a budget? Get the no-nonsense £7.50 People’s Lunch.
Linger: The Whitworth
Topping many a bucket list of things to do in Manchester is the eclectic and extensive Whitworth Gallery. It has over 55,000 artworks, yet nothing on permanent display. The Art Garden is worth a trip alone. If the weather fails, the café has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the garden and Whitworth Park.
Learn: New Manchester Walks
Join a themed tour and delve deeper into a topic that snaps your synapses, or simply scratch the surface of Manchester’s motley history. You could take in the city’s most beautiful buildings, its legendary music landmarks, or see it through the eyes of suffragettes, Alan Turing, Jeremy Corbyn or The Smiths.
Snack: Teacup Kitchen
Another example of DJ-turned-restauranteur – Teacup Kitchen is owned by Mr Scruff. It’s an endearing mix of kitsch and contemporary, and always on point. The range of loose-leaf teas is a big draw, along with the eye-achingly bright rainbow cake – you can’t miss it, even though it’s surrounded by an ocean of bakes.
Squander: Northern Quarter
If you ever find yourself wondering what to do in Manchester, get thee to the Northern Quarter. The city’s creative neighbourhood teems with hipster hangouts. Lose a few hours flicking through Vinyl Exchange’s two floors of records and CDs, or lose yourself in Afflecks, a vast emporium of indie eclectica.
See: Street art
If shopping has left you light of pocket, take in the Northern Quarter's dazzling street art. In 2016, the world's most talented street artists gathered here for the Cities of Hope festival, transforming an area just minutes from Picadilly. There are colourful surprises around every turn. A giant blue tit on an office building. Enormous Manchester bees. A Greek god in a car park. And cats, many cats, in space hats.
Pig out: Infamous Diner
Of the many (excellent) burger restaurants in Manchester, Infamous Diner stands out. It’s an audaciously all-American affair with big plates, big flavours and big style. Think shiny chrome bar stools, booths, neon and a menu packed with burgers, dogs, wings and shakes. It’s wholesome and dirrrty at the same time.
Party: The Night and Day Café
This place has hosted some big names since it opened in 1991: Elbow, Paulo Nutini, the Manics and the Arctic Monkeys, to namedrop a few. It’s a huge player on Manchester’s epic music scene so see who’s playing. If you don’t already know the headliners, chances are you will soon. The food’s good too.
Pass out: Hotel Gotham
This place has won just about every award you would want for your hotel of choice, from ‘Coolest Boutique’ to ‘Most Stylish Independent’. Why? It’s deeply tactile (brass, leather, velvet, sky-high thread counts), pays attention to the details (homemade biscuits, big mugs, waffle robes), and its location is awesome.
Good to know
Ten minutes away, Salford has culture and legends in spades. Amble around Imperial War Museum North, The Lowry and MediaCityUK. Tour Old Trafford – the home of Manchester United FC – or immerse yourself in The Smiths Room at the iconic Salford Lads Club.
Train: 2hrs from London Euston Station
Coach: 4hrs40 from London Victoria Coach Station
Car: 4hrs10 from central London