Hi, hello! I recently visited the UK on a ten day road trip….though the majority of the trip was spent in Scotland (see posts here, here and here), I flew in and out of Manchester, England and spent a whole weekend there exploring the surprisingly fun little city. My great grandmother was actually born and raised in Manchester, so it held a special place in my heart!
Manchester is a very industrial city filled with thick accents, history and its fair share of old British pubs. Mostly known for its soccer (I mean football) team, Manchester United, the city has so much more to it than just sports! It is definitely considered by many to be “up and coming,” but boy is it coming! The restaurants, bars, pubs and shops are filled with trendy foods and hip, young people. If I lived in England, Manchester is a city I could see myself hanging out in for weekend trips with friends…bar hopping and just enjoying life. That being said, I don’t think Manchester itself is worth an international trip alone…..but it is definitely worth a stop if you’re traveling around England / Great Britain.
The reason I flew into Manchester (as opposed to Edinburgh or Glasgow) was thanks to Scott’s Cheap Flights! I was able to score an incredibly cheap flight from Houston straight into Manchester via Singapore Airlines and drive to Scotland from there with a rental from Sixt. It was a bit of a round about way to do it, but it saved a lot of money and adding the road trip aspect made this trip really unique! I have used Scott’s Cheap Flights for several international trips and highly recommend their services. I just have the free subscription but C has the paid one – it has saved us SO MUCH money on international travel!
Bring an Umbrella – The UK is known for its drizzly weather and Manchester was no exception!
Wear Good Walking Shoes – Manchester is a VERY walkable city; we only Ubered a few times at night after dinner. That being said, comfy shoes are a MUST, especially on older streets with shifty tiles or cobblestones.
Reservations for Dinner – I was SHOCKED at how busy the restaurants were in Manchester. Both nights we were there we ended up eating somewhere other than we had planned because of the long waits. If you have your heart set on a restaurant, I would definitely recommend getting there before the dinner rush or making a reservation, if possible.
Rental Car v Uber – as I said above, almost everything in Manchester seemed to be within walking distance. I think Uber is all you need if you are staying in the city center. However, if you plan to get out of town for hiking or anything of the sort, a rental car would be a good option. We used the brand Sixt when we left for Scotland (we picked the cute little Mini Coop up in Manchester on our way out of tow) and highly recommend the company. It was very affordable!
Where to Eat & Drink
Fig & Sparrow – the yummiest scones, jam and clotted cream we had on the whole UK trip! Currently craving!
The Pen & Pencil – we had brunch here on our first day in Manchester. It wasn’t anything amazing, but it was a cool location! I liked their menu because it was classic British food but with a crafty, farm to table twist to it.
Federal Cafe Bar – we grabbed breakfast here the day we left Manchester. We got the banana bread (all the noms), porridge and a smoked salmon bagel. All of it was extra yummy!
Tea Cup Kitchen – a cute little restaurant with tea, cakes, coffee and gluten free and vegan baked goods. We popped in for an afternoon snack and were not disappointed.
Mackie Mayor – this is a very popular food hall in the Northern Quarter in a 1850’s market building. The counters inside serve all kinds of foods from pizza to fried chicken. We planned on eating dinner here but it was SOOOOO busy! We tried to order pizza and they said it would take over an hour for them to even start on our order….soooo….we went and got cheap pizza at another place down the street haha. That being said, with how busy the food hall was, I’m sure it’s a great place! I would just recommend coming earlier than 6 or 7 p.m.
Old Wellington – the oldest pub in Manchester built in the 1500s! It’s the cutest building, too. This is the pub pictured in the photo at the top of the post! We just popped in for a beer but I believe they had a food menu, as well.
Terrace – a fabulous rooftop bar in the Northern Quarter! It was obviously a popular place among the younger locals and was the perfect spot to rest our feet and enjoy a beer.
The Alchemist – this was a really cool, upscale cocktail bar with very unique and fancy drinks! It felt like we were in New York, which was cool, but I was in British pub mood and just wanted a beer haha.
Sunday Roast – Sunday Roast is a big deal in England and something people do weekly! My dad’s side of the family is British (from Manchester, actually, with a few generations in America) and we always have roast beef complete with yorkshire pudding at Christmas. It was fun to actually eat it in England! We heard that The Refuge is THE place for Sunday Roast but we weren’t able to get a table so we went to The Wharf instead. It was just a cute restaurant with that British Pub feel….the food was good but the Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert was GREAT!
Others: We were pretty jet lagged upon arriving in Manchester so our plans got moved around a bit as we adjusted. These restaurants were on our list but we didn’t make it to them due to wait times, sleep times, meal times, etc.
|Fig + Sparrow|
|The Pen and Pencil|
Where to Shop
Affleck’s – according to their website, “Affleck’s is an emporium of eclecticism,” and I think that describes it better than I ever could! It kind of reminded me of Pike Place Market in Seattle – filled with random little stores selling everything from wigs and costumes to ice cream. I didn’t find anything I wanted to buy in this indie market, but it was definitely interesting to see.
Barton Arcade – this is a small but beautiful building filled with shops, restaurants and work spaces.
Manchester Store / shops nearby?
Northern Quarter Shops – I loved walking around the Northern Quarter and popping into boutiques and gift shops. There was even a store named Oklahoma! I always get a coffee mug as a souvenir when I travel and I found one at The Manchester Shop – it was a great gift shop that had a ton of stuff with the Manchester Bee logo. I also enjoyed Thunder Egg (a cute but quirky clothing and gift boutique, sort of similar to a Francesca’s).
Sights & Activities
John Rylands Library – this stunning library opened in 1900 and is filled with history and gothic architecture! I felt like I was walking into a Harry Potter movie or something. It is a smaller building (it didn’t take long to tour) and free to visit so it was definitely worth the stop.
Manchester U – any soccer/football fan would love to tour Old Trafford stadium or go to a game!
National Football Museum – we didn’t have the time to visit the National Football museum, but I hear it is a must for football/soccer fans.
Afternoon Tea – when in England…….do as the English do! Getting afternoon tea has always been a highlight of my trips to London so I wanted to experience it again in Manchester! We had tea at the Midland Hotel’s tea room and loved it. The tea is so much better than the tea we have in the States….I ordered a peppermint tea and I swear it tastes fresher, like it has been infused with fresh mint leaves as opposed to bagged dried mint. I was shocked at just how much food they served us – three large tea sandwiches, lots of desserts (aka puddings) and the best part, scones, jam and clotted cream! We walked away absolutely stuffed! The tea room itself was also very traditional, posh and opulent with white table clothes, a big fireplace and giant windows overlooking St Peter’s Square. Pinkies up!
Roman Fort Mamucium – the ruins of a former Roman fort that is partially still standing in the middle of Manchester! It’s probably not worth a trip alone, but if you’re in the area it is worth a walk by.
Chinatown – Manchester is home to the UK’s largest Chinatown! It isn’t much in comparison to New York City or San Francisco, but was still fun to walk through.
Manchester Cathedral – I am one of those people who feel like once you’ve seen one old cathedral, you’ve seen them all…..and once you’ve seen St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome or Sacre-Coeur and Notre Dame in Paris….nothing else really compares. That being said, this Cathedral was really pretty from the outside and cool to walk by. There is a bridge (pictured below) that is more or less buried underground now; it used to cross over the river around the cathedral and acted as a form of defense. I thought that part of history was just as cool as the church itself!
|John Ryland’s Library|
|The Midland Hotel|
|Afternoon Tea at the Midland Hotel’s Tea Room|
|Chinatown in Manchester|
Where to Stay
Northern Quarter – we stayed in an AirBNB in the Northern Quarter neighborhood. Though I wouldn’t recommend the exact AirBNB we used, I would recommend the general area. It is certainly the heart of the city and in the middle of all the action! The hippest shops, pubs, rooftop bars and restaurants were all just steps outside our door; it was obvious this was the “hang out neighborhood” for friend groups. The only downside was that it was a bit loud at night due to all of the party people……but we were also jet lagged and having trouble sleeping to begin with, so that may have had something to do with it.
The Midland Hotel – if money wasn’t an issue, The Midland Hotel would be a great option! We had afternoon tea in their tea room and I was drooling over the hotel lobby….I can only imagine how beautiful the rooms themselves are. Many a King or Queen has stayed at this luxurious property since it opened in 1903!
There you have it! Manchester in a nutshell. Have you ever been to the other cities in England outside of London? Liverpool, Manchester, or Bath to name a few? London is probably my favorite city on planet earth so I honestly never saw myself visiting another city in England but I’m so glad I did! Next time I want to see more of the small towns and countryside (aka I want to live out The Holiday)….I’m dying to visit Cotswolds! Still working on a way to move to the UK……..if anyone is hiring a Marketing Professional, holla atcha girl! Kidding…..kinda 😉
Thanks for reading and happy travels!