A travel guide to the attractions in Manchester: The industrial town with a twist

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If you're visiting Manchester over the weekend or for a couple of days, there's a lot to do than just visiting the football museum! This travel guide to the attractions in Manchester covers alternate things to do, see and amazing places to eat! 

 It's a rainy day in Manchester, just like any other day in Britain. Anxious not to miss my flight, I've reached about 3 hours prior to departure. It can get quite busy on the M62 and since it was an early morning flight, trains were sparse. Now with too much time on my hands, I can't help but wonder why it is I've never stepped outside the airport to see what the city has to offer. The National Football museum is what I hear whenever I ask friends what attractions in Manchester they'd like to visit. An obvious choice, it is quite unbelievable to state that a city with so much history and grit would have that as the only attraction on offer. Finally a couple of months ago, when offered a chance to explore more of the city, I spent a couple of days figuring out what were the things one could see and do in Manchester in a weekend. With millions of passengers flying in and out of Manchester, the city has a range of activities to offer for everybody that one can indulge in before heading out. It's even a great spot to head out just for the food in Manchester, as it's easy to get to and has great connectivity! Here's a Manchester itinerary which will tell you exactly how you can have a fun filled weekend in Manchester (or spend a couple of days here) and make the most of it!  

A two day travel guide and itinerary for Manchester

Attractions and things to do in Manchester

HOW TO GET TO MANCHESTER

FLIGHTS

 There are direct flights to Manchester from many cities around the world! New routes are being introduced often so ensure you check if your city has a direct connection! 

FROM LONDON (or any major city in the U.K.)

 If there is no direct connectivity, it is quite easy to get to Manchester from London. There are direct flights to Manchester from London and it takes about an hour. Direct trains to Manchester (via a few stops) take about 2 to 3 hours. Driving to Manchester from London takes about the same time depending on the route you take. 

DAY 1

8 AM

Start the day with coffee at Grindsmith Coffee Roasters

  If your hotel has a fabulous breakfast like mine did, I'd suggest making the most of it! Kingstreet Townhouse had some of my favorites like Avocado on toast and eggs made to order and I had a hard time picking what I wanted! However, once you've had your fill, head to Grindsmith coffee roasters not just to admire the poster of Bryan Cranston of 'Breaking Bad' fame but also to smell freshly ground coffee.The people behind Grindsmith's are passionate about coffee, not just about crafting and brewing it but also sourcing it and ensuring your cup of coffee is exactly how you need it to be. They also have a range of quick bites to choose from and also conduct classes and events like latte art classes.  

DETAILS

Address: 231 - 233 Deansgate, Manchester, UK, M3 4EN

Opening Hours: Monday - Friday 8 AM - 8 PM, Saturday 9 AM - 6  PM, Sunday 10 AM - 6 PM

Additional details : You can check the website here

manchester attractions and travel guide Grindsmiths coffee house with bryan cranston pic

manchester attractions and travel guide Grindsmiths coffee house with bryan cranston pic

9 AM

Next, visit John Rylands library to admire the collections and architecture

  While many might not include libraries on their list of 'things to do in Manchester', a visit to John Rylands library aka the library of the University of Manchester should be included if you admire architecture and places that remind you of Harry Potter and Hogwarts! A late Victorian Neo-Gothic building located near Grindsmith's, you will notice gargoyles and other elaborate structures on the exterior and as soon as you step foot inside you will be greeted with the smell of books.In addition to numerous manuscripts and special collections, believed to be the largest in the U.K., the library currently has nooks and crannies commemorating the centenary of the suffragette movement. One of the quirky things we visited while at the library was the Victorian style ladies toilets, with enough space in each cubicle to accommodate a Victorian bustle thus making it quite spacious.  

DETAILS

Address: 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH

Opening Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM, Sunday and Monday 12 PM - 5 PM

Additional details : You can check the website here

manchester attractions and travel guide Reader at John Rylands library

manchester attractions and travel guide Reader at John Rylands library

manchester attractions and travel guide little leaders book at John rylands library

manchester attractions and travel guide little leaders book at John rylands library

manchester attractions and travel guide printing press at john rylands library

manchester attractions and travel guide printing press at john rylands library

1 PM

Lunch at The Refuge by Volta

 While tapas isn't a novelty in Britain, the menu at The Refuge and the atmosphere were quite unique. Tapas here did not signify cuisine from just Spain but actually meant small sharing plates with dishes from around the world. Slow-cooked beef brisket mole, a burrata salad and the lamb rump were my favorites. However, it isn't just for the food that you must visit The Refuge. The all-day bar is classy with tall pillars and is located in a wide, spacious area serving an extensive list of wines. There's intricate ceramic work that lines the walls and the entire space has enough natural light, making it quite well-lit even on a dull day.However, it's usually  the winter garden that draws people here. Comfortable seating is provided around trees decorated with lights which makes the area very inviting and relaxing. Perfect for a cold winter's night for families and couples! 

DETAILS

Address: Oxford St, Manchester M60 7HA

Opening Hours: Monday - Wednesday 8 AM - 12 AM, Thursday 8 AM - 1 AM, Friday 8 AM - 2 AM, Sunday 8 AM - 11.30 PM.

Reviews: You can check reviews here

sign at the refuge by volta manchester attractions and travel guide

sign at the refuge by volta manchester attractions and travel guide

food at the refuge by volta manchester attractions and travel guide

food at the refuge by volta manchester attractions and travel guide

food at the refuge by volta manchester attractions and travel guide

food at the refuge by volta manchester attractions and travel guide

winter garden at the refuge by volta manchester attractions and travel guide

winter garden at the refuge by volta manchester attractions and travel guide

4 PM

Time to admire Victoria Baths

  The Victoria Baths should be the next 'must-do' on your Manchester itinerary. The heritage attraction isn't just for people who love architecture, but also for ones who appreciate history and offbeat activities as well. The management here has been working tirelessly to reopen the Turkish baths here for public use, while that is a little way away, the heritage building is used from April to October each year for a number of events and activities. One can easily see why it was once called the 'most splendid municipal bathing institution in the country' as stepping inside Victoria Baths, you are instantly transported to an era gone by! Once you get through the turnstile entrance, there are 3 pools you'll get to see on a guided tour, and for visitors familiar with Peaky Blinders, you should be able to recognize that parts of it were filmed here! The 'Turkish rest room' caught my fancy as it was tiled floor to ceiling and had a stunning angel on one of it's windows. There was also a 'Pineapple room' called so due to its characteristic stained glass window. The venue also has ceramic tile art fishes that you'll get to see as you wander through the venue.Preparations for a wedding were underway, and if you plan on getting hitched here, you are free to choose to do so in any of the rooms present here. The complete and updated list of events taking place can be found on the official website of Victoria Baths.  

OR

 If you've had your fill at The Refuge, and are keen to avoid any unpredictable showers, feel free to head off to your accommodation to take a nap!  

DETAILS

Address: Victoria Baths, Hathersage Road, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, M13 0FE

Opening Hours: Guided tours are organised every Wednesday, however if you're looking at to attend an event, please check the website for details. If you're looking to hire the venue, please call 0161 224 2020 to arrange a viewing.

Website: You can check the latest events here

Victoria Baths building manchester attractions and travel guide

Victoria Baths building manchester attractions and travel guide

glass angel at victoria baths manchester attractions and travel guide

glass angel at victoria baths manchester attractions and travel guide

pool at victoria baths manchester attractions travel guide

pool at victoria baths manchester attractions travel guide

8.30 PM

Time for dinner at Tast

  Anyone who is fond of food will know how drastically ingredients and flavors change from one region to another within the same country. Tast proves this by bringing the cuisine of Catalonia to Manchester. As someone who loves trying new cuisines, I always found quality with all the new cuisines I experimented with here in Yorkshire, however, it wasn't something I hadn't had before. After about half a decade here in the North of England, I was glad that I'd finally found a restaurant that serves something utterly unique. Our host at Tast graciously informed us that while Catalan food does include tapas,  the portions are bigger and the flavors more complex.  Termed 'tastet' by the talented chef at Tast, Paco Perez, a five star Michelin chef, tastets place a lot of emphasis on the presentation of food, which was evident in the way we were served mini doughnuts with Foie gras and beef tartare. This was followed by some Arròs De Calamar (Rice, red prawns, squid, codium mayo), a melt-in-your-mouth truffle sandwich, croqueta's and ended with a dessert of Puff pastry, custard and dark chocolate. The atmosphere at Tast is classy and you can indulge in the delicacies by opting for the tasting menu which will start February 19, or share tastets with friends and family at 'Folre', the main open kitchen on the first floor. Do not leave without taking a look at the extensive list of wines they have on offer!  

DETAILS

Address: 20 - 22 King Street, Manchester, M2 6AG

Opening Hours: Lunch: 12 PM – 2.30 PM, Dinner: 5 PM - 10 PM, Closed Mondays.

Website: You can take a look at the menu and the updated timings for the Bar at Tast here

Reviews: You can check reviews here

food at the tast manchester attractions travel guide

food at the tast manchester attractions travel guide

11 PM

End the night with a nightcap at Alberts Schloss

Alberts Schloss aka Albert's chateau will remind you of a Bavarian Beer hall complete with roaring fires, benches and a live music stage. While spacious, it was filled with locals and visitors alike, all looking to start (or end) the night with a drink. The large bar sits in the center and proudly serves Pilsner Urquell tank beer, which is brought in fresh every week from the Czech Republic. In addition to beer, there's an extensive list of wines, prosecco and martini's on offer too.  There's food as well if you're still hungry; the highlight being the fresh bread the in-house bakery bakes every day. You can continue sipping on your cocktails till 2 am while enjoying live entertainment that changes everyday here. 

DETAILS

Address: 27 Peter Street, Manchester, M2 5QR

Opening Hours: Monday - Friday: 8 AM - 2 AM, Saturdays and Sundays: 9.30 AM - 2 AM

Website: You can take a look at the menu and the updated timings for the Bar at Tast here

Reviews: You can check reviews here

people having a drink at alberts schloss manchester attractions travel guide

people having a drink at alberts schloss manchester attractions travel guide

drinks at alberts schloss manchester attractions travel guide

drinks at alberts schloss manchester attractions travel guide

Day 2

9 AM

Head to the Northern Quarter for a street art tour before the crowds do!

  In addition to the National Football Museum, another attraction that's synonymous with Manchester is it's Northern Quarter. The Northern Quarter is a part of Manchester that conveys the story of Manchester's growth and expansion through its existing buildings, street art and structures.  While some lie in abandonment, the eclectic mix of the old and new with the bright array of illustrations in the area make this the top attraction in Manchester to explore. This has given rise to many establishments, stores and restaurants in the area, which are quite unique, which make the Northern Quarter a delightful place to spend a day. Think vinyl records, vintage clothing, bespoke furnishing, you'll find all of it in the Northern Quarter. The area was a flourishing part during the industrial revolution and its location with respect to the transport systems made it the natural marketing center of the city. However, the high cost of British cotton post the First World War led to a decline of the cotton industry in the area leading to many institutions closing down before becoming what it is today. The area is rich with street art by renowned artists like Axel Void, Qubek, Martin Whatson, French artist Christian Guemy aka  C215 and Lee Jeffries to name a few. The Cities of Hope project which was initiated in Manchester actively uses street art to raise awareness about local and current issues not just in Manchester but around the world, thus providing Manchester with numerous street art pieces over the years. We were taken around the Northern Quarter by Hayley, blogger at The Skyliner, who continues research on how changes keep occurring in the Northern Quarter and conducts an alternate tour in the area. We were told stories and shown some of the prominent street art in the Northern Quarter by her for about 2 hours which passed by too quickly! The best way to start the day!    

DETAILS

Address: Northern Quarter, Manchester

Tours: Contact Hayley at theskyliner.org@gmail.com for prices and dates. more details can be found on Skyliner

Duration: About 3 hours

batman superman kiss street art manchester attractions travel guide

batman superman kiss street art manchester attractions travel guide

street and bus in manchester attractions travel guide

street and bus in manchester attractions travel guide

street art in manchester attractions travel guide

street art in manchester attractions travel guide

street art in manchester attractions travel guide

street art in manchester attractions travel guide

1 PM

Proceed to Mackie Mayor in the Northern Quarter for food

  You'll definitely be hungry by the time you're done walking around the Northern Quarter.Time for lunch at the Mackie Mayor, the former meat market, located in the Northern Quarter, which is like a food festival that takes place all year round. After recently undergoing a facelift, the heritage building now houses various food operators under a stunning glass roof that serve cuisine from around the world at affordable prices.  Be warned though! There's a lot of variety and you will be spoiled for choice! There's Bao buns, chicken sarnies, pizza, tender grilled fish, stir fried noodles, burgers and muffins to name a few of the items we saw from various parts of the globe. Delicious smells drifted from every eatery we turned to. The place is massive and while having lunch you can be sure to be charmed by the quirky street art that pops here occasionally and the pleasant decor that retains its semi-industrial look and feel.  There's no menu but the latest establishments being housed at the Mackie Mayor can be found on their website.  

DETAILS

Address: Mackie Mayor, 1 Eagle St, Manchester M4 5BU

Timings: Tuesday to Thursday, 9 AM to 10 PM

Fridays and Saturdays, 9 AM to 11 PM

Sunday 9 AM to 8 PM

Closed every Monday

mackie mayor manchester attractions travel guide

mackie mayor manchester attractions travel guide

grilled fish at mackie mayor manchester attractions travel guide

grilled fish at mackie mayor manchester attractions travel guide

muffin at mackie mayor manchester attractions travel guide

muffin at mackie mayor manchester attractions travel guide

4 PM

Head to some of Manchester's quirky museums or spend the noon exploring more of the Northern Quarter

  I would dedicate an entire day to the Northern Quarter given a chance and I'm pretty sure you will find new interesting shops and stories the more you delve deeper and explore it better.  Nevertheless, for someone looking to do something different (and probably avoid the rain), Manchester is home to some offbeat museums too, such as the Museum of Science and Industry, Greater Manchester Police museum and The People's history museum to name a few.  Admission to most of them is free, however, I would advise to check the site for the museum you plan to visit, to get an update on the opening times and prices for each.  

OR

 Get some rest before dinner as I'm sure the morning must have been busy! 

street art in victoria quarter manchester attractions travel guide

street art in victoria quarter manchester attractions travel guide

funny street art in victoria quarter manchester attractions travel guide

funny street art in victoria quarter manchester attractions travel guide

7 PM

Dinner at the Wood

 Dinner time at the Wood, the restaurant by Masterchef U.K. winner Simon Wood, places emphasis on high end relaxed dining. The place was warmly lit and had a fantastic menu that included starters like Orkney scallops and Wood Pigeon. The food was flavorful and was paired perfectly with the wine suggested by the servers. The main course included items like Highland venison, duck and celeriac, however, the highlight was the dessert, citrus tutti frutti, created by Wood that helped him win Masterchef and it is worth it to visit the restaurant just to try the tutti frutti!  

DETAILS

Address:Jack Rosenthal Street, First Street, Manchester, M15 4RA

Timings: Open Tuesday to Saturday. Tasting menu available from 12:00 PM – 2:30 PM and 5:00 PM – 9.30 PM.A La Carte menu available from 12:00 PM – 2:30 PM and 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM.

Website: For additional details and reservation, please contact the restaurant

food at the wood manchester attractions travel guide

food at the wood manchester attractions travel guide

dessert at the wood manchester attractions travel guide

dessert at the wood manchester attractions travel guide

9.30 PM

End the day by playing a game of golf!

  If you're still not tired and would rather do something a little different than the usual pub-hop (although Manchester does have some lovely bars all around town), head to Junkyard Golf where reclaimed random bit and pieces were put together to create some eccentric and amazing golf courses. Irrespective of the time of day, Junkyard Golf is a great spot to spend time with friends and family and works really well if there's showers too! Some of the courses were quite tough which added to the fun. After spending a couple of hours here, it was time to call it a night and visit the Lake District the next day. The weekend in Manchester had been eventful, fun and pleasantly surprising. It had made me realize how one often forgets to explore their own surroundings and if you take a peek, what's on offer will surprise you!  

DETAILS

Address: 2 First Street, Manchester, M15 4RP

Timings: Junkyard Golf has branches in Leeds and London too, hence please check the website for the opening timings for each.

Website: For additional details and reservation, please check the website

bee street art in victoria quarter manchester attractions travel guide

bee street art in victoria quarter manchester attractions travel guide

WHERE IS MANCHESTER

  While Manchester needs no introduction, for those who may not know, it is located in the county of Greater Manchester in the North of England. It is well connected to almost all cities in the United Kingdom as also most of the cities in Europe. It is also quite convenient to get to Scotland from Manchester. 

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MANCHESTER

 Spring, Summer and Autumn, from April to October are the best times to visit Manchester. While the weather and the temperature may be at it's best in summer, unfortunately as with most cities in Britain, it can still get quite windy and there can be unpredictable rains. Shoulder season in Spring in Autumn is still pleasant and it also  means accommodation prices are cheaper. November to March can be quite cold at times, with plenty of rain and the occasional snowfall. 

HOW TO GET AROUND MANCHESTER

FROM THE AIRPORT Uber can be pre-booked from the airport. If you do not have a valid sim-card you can purchase one at the airport as well.Unfortunately, taxi's are not available at the airport unless pre-booked. The Manchester Airport train station is a 5-8 minute walk from the airport and has good connectivity to most cities in U.K. Please check National Rail for the latest updates and timings. TAXI You can easily get around Manchester by using Uber however public transport is the better option as the frequency is good, it is cheaper to do so and you can easily check the timings and route by making use of Google Maps. If you do not have access to Google Maps, almost all bus stops have the route and timings available for all the buses that pass by.  BUSESFirst Bus  has good connectivity in Manchester, however, Manchester also has trams which can be used to get around faster. You can use the Transport for Greater Manchester website to check routes and plan your journey.  

PIN FOR LATER!

street art manchester attractions travel guide

street art manchester attractions travel guide

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