I lived in Manchester for three years when I was doing my bachelors degree, BA Interior Design. It was my first experience in the UK and I didn’t know what to expect. The three years passed really quickly and I made some nice friendships, knitted a lot and lived the comfortable slow life.
After graduating, I moved to London, but I go back to Manchester every couple months to visit family and friends. It is much smaller than London for sure, but there are still many things to see and do in Manchester. This post is a collection of my favourite things in the city and it will hopefully help you plan your time there.
Travel time + best times to visit Manchester
Manchester is rainy and windy most of the year, but it does get a nice summer regardless! There is no way of really predicting the weather up North, so if you are visiting, make sure you pack a rain jacket and an umbrella whatever the season is. In the Spring and the early Fall, you get to do a lot of activities, so they are my favourite times, but if you love to experience the European Christmas then November and December would be perfect for you, where the city gets transformed and filled with lights, market stalls and happy vibes.
Train or Bus from London to Manchester
Getting the train from London to another city in the UK is not as cheap as you might think. It’s actually expensive and you need to plan your trip in advance. The Virgin train takes 2 hours and 10 minutes and departs from Euston station in London. For an adult -open return- ticket from London to Manchester it can cost you £85. Thankfully, I am a student in London and have a rail card, which give me £30/off. If you are a student and plan to travel to see other UK cities, get the rail card! (link in photo below). If you want a much cheaper ticket, you can check the National Express couch buses for sometimes a £10 ticket, BUT the journey is a minimum of 4 hours and sometimes up to 6 hours, so see what works for you.
Things to do in Manchester
Manchester is not big, but it has a good amount of sights that will fill up your weekend or even your week there and it ranges from art, culture, food to sports!
Manchester Art Gallery
I love the Manchester Art Gallery. It’s two main floors and it includes fantastic art pieces from the old art masters and contemporary changing exhibitions with a lot of interesting themes. They also have some interactive parts and they are fun for instagram pictures (Info from their website).
Manchester Craft & Designer Centre
This is another favourite of mine and it’s located in the very cool Norther Quarter. It’s a collection of little shops by local artists and makers. If you want to support the local creatives and buy unique gifts, this is the place for you! (Info from their website).
It’s a nice little museum and I say little because I am used to the huge ones in London, but it will still take two hours to go around. I think it’s a good one for families and my nephew LOVED IT! (Info from their website).
John Rylands Library
This library dates to 1889 and it located in the central part of Manchester, so you will walk by it for sure and appreciate its old building that took ten years to get built! They have small changing exhibitions every few months. It’s worth visiting for the building itself.
Media City - BBC
When I was in university in Manchester, they were building Media City and I got to see some of it when I was in my last year. After I graduated, they moved some of the media and design departments there. It would have been really cool to study there! It’s very modern and if you are curious to see it from the inside, you can go there on a tour! I didn’t even know they have open tours to the public up until recently.
Imperial War Museum North
If you make it to Salford Quays and Media City, 10-15mins away from Manchester city centre, make sure you visit the Imperial War Museum North, IWM, because it’s right around the corner. It is actually one of my favourite museums in Manchester. The building is very contemporary and they have a temporary changing exhibition, so I try to go see it every few months. The films that play on the hour in the main hall are so cool. Sad, but impressively executed. (Info from their website).
Quirky things to do in Manchester
If you want to see the quirky side of Manchester you have to go to the Northern Quarter. It is where the Craft and Design Centre is located (mentioned above). All the independent shops and cafes are there too including vintage clothing shops if you want to revamp your style. My two favourite things there are the Affleck’s Palace and the street art.
Affleck’s Palace is where you would go to get all the cool and the unusual things. I got a piercing done there too, which wasn’t as painful as I thought!
Graffiti in the Norther Quarter
There is a mix of graffiti and street art in that part of town with some big commissioned walls that are worth seeing in person!
Things to do for Sports fans in Manchester
ALSO!! Sports (football/soccer)fans would love Manchester for the Manchester United and the Manchester City Stadium. Every time a male relative visited me in Manchester, I took them to the Manchester United Stadium in Old Trafford. I haven’t been to the Manchester City one, but I hear it’s good too. Book your tours in advance though!
Muslims in Manchester
There is a large Muslim population in Manchester and I never had any issues with my hijab in the central and busy parts. It’s very usual to see all types of Muslims there and there are a few mosques and Islamic centres around too. The Muslim community usually keeps within their circles. I like Islamic Unity Society, IUS, Manchester because they provide English Islamic programs during event times and have a nice mix of ethnic backgrounds.
Where to eat in Manchester?
There are good halal and vegetarian options in Manchester to choose from.
Halal Burgers in Manchester
I was very pleased to have them again after I tried them for the first time in Leicester. They are so yummy and filling.
It is one of the older halal burger joints in the city and it’s always crowded!
Fancy Asian Dinner in Manchester - Booking Advised
Akbars is the best Indian restaurant in the UK. Ok from the ones I tried. It’s just SOOOO good, but it’s on the pricey side and can get really crowded, so make sure to book in advance. They are only open for dinner btw!
Zouk is a fusion of different dishes and is also on the fancy side. Their food is nice, but their service depends on the time of day you go.
Best Afternoon tea in Manchester
I love afternoon tea and I love it more in Manchester because you can find affordable and delicious options all over town. You can get the three tier afternoon tea or just really nice slice of cake and some tea.
My absolute favourite is Richmond Tea Rooms. It might be a good idea to book in advance because it gets full up quickly especially with mini gatherings like hen dos and baby showers. It’s very pretty and they do fun acts and performances in the evening, so you might want to check what’s on there as well.
I also really like Sugar Junction, which is also located in the Norther Quarter. They do nice brunch there with a nice selection of teas! I always leave happy and return when I am visiting.
There is Proper Tea as well, which is just in front of the Manchester Cathedral and they have a great tea menu and lots of cakes!
If you want a place further from town centre a little away from everyone, go to Chorlton and have your afternoon tea treat in the Tea Hive. It’s quieter there and they have good afternoon teas and cakes!
Where to stay in Manchester?
When I visit Manchester, I am usually staying with family and friends that I have since my university days, but I can tell you about some of the areas that are good for your visit. Best place is near the town centre or anywhere near the tram tracks.
Cheap Hotel in Manchester
For something very affordable, check the Travel Lodge. It’s very basic, but it’s located near the tram and since it’s the Salford location, it’s slightly cheaper than the town centre and it’s only 10 minutes away. There is also Holiday Inn Express, which is also basic (Click on photo to be directed).
Midrange Hotel in Manchester
Motel One seems like a good option with its great location (Click on photo to be directed).
Boutique Hotel in Manchester
You can find really lovely fancy options in Manchester too, so if you are going there as a treat, you can check out the Abel Heywood Boutique. (Click on photo to be directed).
Some Manchester Reads.