I believe it was Samuel Johnson who famously said, “he who is tired of London needs to get himself to Manchester, kid”. He might have had a point. Check out our non-stereotypical travel guide to the capital of the North, providing you with the some of the best things to do in Manchester for delicious food, fun activities, and a bit of fresh air in the Peak District.
1. The Circus Tavern
Not your run of the mill boozer. Not only is The Circus Tavern the smallest pub in Europe, but it’s also one of the oldest pubs in Manchester. As you can imagine, it can be a bit of a squeeze, but that adds to the charm. This tiny pub sits between Chinatown and The Village: stop off here for a drink – the building may be small but the pints are full-sized.
2. Eastern Bloc
This tiny record shop has some big history. First established 33 years ago in Afflecks Palace, the shop has specialised in supplying a whole host of Electronic music ever since. The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays even held record signings here. Now based on Stevenson Square, some big names in the industry are frequent customers. Flick through the record sleeves and finish off with a coffee at the in-store café. The shop transforms into an intimate venue on a Friday and Saturday night and hosts renowned DJs of different genres (for no entry fee!).
Succinctly described as a ‘Co-operative Arts and Social Space’, Partisan is a hub of activity. Live music events take place across the calendar from Punk to Jazz. Other activities include debates about capitalism, crafting tea parties for women and non binary people, African drumming workshops, yoga, poetry workshops for the LBQT+ community and writing workshops for women refugees. There’s something for everyone; and everyone is welcome.
4. Northern Soul – Grilled Cheese
If you want a quick, no nonsense, but tasty lunch then Northern Soul is the place to go. Based on the edge of the Northern Quarter, it’s the UK’s first grilled cheese restaurant. The inside of the unit is simple but they make up for it with some inventive twists on the classic grilled cheese butty. Go for the Nice Pear (nuts beware!) or Spicy Chicken Calabrese for something a bit different. I’m going to have to stop there because my mouth’s watering.
5. White Hotel
In the middle of an industrial estate on the outskirts of the city, you’d be half tempted to tell your Uber driver to turn back around. But allow the rumbling syncopated rhythms to be your Pied Piper and guide you into an old car garage, misleadingly named the White Hotel. The raves usually have a focus on Techno and ‘heavier’ styles of music and attract an eclectic mix of people. This is a heads down, no phones, in deep until 6am affair. Event highlights include Meat Free and Project 13 – visit Resident Advisor for more listings.
6. Rudy’s pizza
Hailed as the best pizza in Manchester, Rudy’s should undoubtedly be on your list of places to visit. The dough is made fresh daily and the pizzas are cooked in the proper old-school, Neapolitan way. There are around 11 pizzas to choose from with vegetarian variations available, too. There’s usually a bit of a wait for a table, which is all thanks to the growing popularity of the place. Walk-ins only, too, but a wander around Ancoats will help build up an appetite. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
7. Mam Tor
The best thing about Manchester is its proximity to areas of outstanding beauty. On a crisp Sunday morning, catch the train to Edale. Just over an hour’s journey will have you nestled amongst the undulating hills of the Peak District. The guys in the visitor’s centre can give you tips on the best route to take, or have a look online to see ramblers’ recommendations. After your climb, stroll to the nearby town of Castleton. There are some lovely pubs to stop off at for a hearty lunch and even the chance to peer at The Devil’s Arse. (Not a joke, go and see for yourself!)
8. The Washhouse
At first glance, The Washhouse looks like an unassuming laundrette. But have another look. That door handle doesn’t open up a washing machine – oh no – it opens up a secret bar. Fancy sipping a cocktail that’s sat in a terrarium? How about served in a cauldron with marshmallows on top? Wait until you see the rest of the menu. Reservations only though, so make sure you book in advance.
9. People’s History Museum
This is an immersive and interesting way to learn about social development over the last 200 years. The museum is sat right by the River Irwell on the edge of the city centre. Information about the Industrial Revolution, political movements, democratic ideas and rights to vote are showcased across the two floors. No matter what your political stance, it’s an engrossing way to spend a rainy afternoon.
10. Heaton Park
If you want a break from the city but don’t want to travel too far, then Heaton Park is only a tram ride away. The park spans 600 acres just north of the city and is the easiest way to escape the hustle and bustle. Stroll around the grounds, hire a boat on the lake, or pop into the ‘Animal centre’ to see chickens, guinea pigs and even alpacas. Come along in the summer for a quiet picnic or join the excitement and visit the park on the 9th of June for Parklife Festival.
Granted, they have one of these in London but what sets it apart from your average coffee shop is that you pay by the minute; in this instance, it’s 8p. You can chill out, play board games or get some work done all whilst guzzling and scoffing as much tea and cake you’d like.
It’s easy to see why this place keeps cropping up on your telly. Peaky Blinders and Life on Mars ring any bells? An old Edwardian swimming pool, the architecture of Victoria Baths is something to be marvelled at: emerald green tiles, stained glass windows and a huge glass roof. Now drained, the swimming pool is a space for events – a gin festival was held here most recently. Or just come here to stand where Cillian Murphy once stood. It’s up to you.
Porky Pigs Yorkshire pudding wrap
If London’s Borough Market and the North had a baby, it’d be this. First introduced at the Christmas Market, people have been pining after the puds so much that a whole restaurant is due to open up. A roast dinner wrapped up in a big Yorkshire pudding for £4.50… what more could you ask for?
So what are you waiting for?
❓ What is your favourite thing to do in Manchester? Comment below and let us know 👇
About the author:
Steph’s overdue acquisition of her first passport in her early twenties set about a frenzied accumulation of air, land and sea miles. A chaotic and unbiased choice of destinations, from city breaks to month long stays, she enjoys meeting pugs and eating desserts in all corners of the globe. Follow her travels, here.