There’s something to be said for the familiarity I get when I head into Manchester – I know where to go for coffee, the bars with the best happy hours and the tastiest restaurants, but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a tourist in my hometown. There is the quirkiness of the Northern Quarter, or the sophistication of Spinningfields with everything else scattered in between. The great thing about Manchester too is that you can walk from one area to another, meaning you can fit more into a trip.
Manchester is a brilliant city to have grown up in, and every time I head there, I am amazed with how many new places there are to discover, and it is definitely somewhere that I think tourists will love. Not only did I grow up there, but I also went to university there, which was an amazing student experience and one I always look back on fondly. If you are thinking of taking a trip up North (or down depending on where you’re from) there are loads of hotels in Manchester to make your stay that little more magical in amazing locations too.
Today I’ve rounded up some of the things I think you should do if you’re heading in the city over the festive period for a little break.
You may have heard of the market hall, Mackie Mayor in Manchester, but not really have known what it is (still not 100% sure where that name came from). It is one of Manchester’s coolest places to visit in a Grade II listed building on the edge of Ancoats and the Northern Quarter. The old Smithfield Market has been transformed into an eatery and bar with loads of different vendors from Honest Crust pizzas, to Fish Bar, Fin. They do breakfast from 9am, brunch, lunch and dinner, and there is something for everyone. I would highly recommend the blueberry crumble muffin from Wolfhouse Coffee washed down with a local tea brewed in Castlefield which is a great way to start your day in Manchester.
If you’re visiting in the evening, you can get a beer, wine or gin from either Blackjack Brewery or Reserve Wines and people watch for hours. There is ample seating too to make your stay that extra bit comfier.
From Mackie Mayor, it is a short walk down to Manchester’s answer to feline obsessives; the Cat Cafe. Their mission is to create a stress-free place where humans can come to unwind in the presence of some beautiful furry friends. You pay by 5-minute slots and get unlimited hot or cold drinks. Booking in advance is advised, but they welcome walk-ins too.
Or if that isn’t high up your list, the Manchester Crafts and Design Centre is a short walk away with some brilliant independent artists and painters, if you’re looking for something a bit different. They have a whole calendar of events too so definitely visit the website to see what’s on. Or if you’re more of an artist, then head to Fred Aldous, which has more supplies than you could ever imagine, as well as a photo machine to get instant prints from.
There is an abundance of shops in the Northern Quarter too for you to have a browse in, from charity shops to art galleries, and some great places to eat and drink too. It’s one of Manchester’s hippest areas and worth a visit to experience it in all it’s glory. If you’re just after somewhere to sit and chill, Zifferblat is a great place for that; you pay by how many minutes you are there and they offer tea and cake too.
Somewhere new I tried on our touristy day was 1761 & Lily’s Bar up near the Town Hall. We decided to go here for Sunday lunch and were joined by two friends. They had a full Sunday menu if you didn’t fancy the traditional offering, but we all went for it as it sounded delicious. It was £13.95 each and I went for the half chicken with all the trimmings whilst the others had lamb and the vegan pie. They had an offer on too so if you bought two glasses of wine, you got the rest of the bottle free.
The atmosphere in 1761 was great and they even had gospel singers performing in the main bar. The restaurant area is huge too, which meant we almost had a room all to ourselves but the staff were really attentive. The food was such good quality and I would definitely head back there again to try some of their other menu items in the beautiful surroundings. They also have Lily’s Bar beneath the restaurant which has a full cocktail menu.
One thing that Manchester does really well is the Christmas markets, and this year is no different; they span from Albert’s square all the way to Exchange Square, filling up the streets in between too. We went for a festive hot chocolate with baileys and whipped cream on top. Even though we visited on a Sunday, which most people would think is crazy, we managed to find a seat in the main bar, and I didn’t think it was too busy.
They have stalls from all over the world, including food and drink, as well as decorations and present ideas. We decided to get a crepe and plum strudel and custard between us, but I was also eyeing up the cookie dough, which is new for this year. People come from far and wide to visit the Manchester Christmas markets and they have been voted the best in the country – I may be bias, but it’s easy to see why once you’re there.
You wouldn’t think you could get traditional Belgium beers in the middle of the city, but head to independent craft beer bar, Cafe Beermoth on Brown Street in the business district and you will find an array of beers from all over the world. From visiting Belgium three times last year, I know my favourite is a cherry Kriek beer. which goes down very quickly. If you’re after something specific, the bartenders are so knowledgeable and will let you try before you buy which is always a bonus.
The bar’s atmosphere is really relaxed and cosy with almost a botanical vibe with all of the leaves and flowers hanging from the ceiling. It’s somewhere you may not think you will find in Manchester but it is a great addition to the city’s already bustling bar scene and fun to try somewhere a bit different.
If you can fit anymore food in, two new additions to the Manchester scene are The Pasta Factory and Noi Quattro which I’ve both heard really good things about, but I am yet to try. There might be a queue as they are very popular, but I’ve heard they are worth the wait and from seeing photos of the food, I cannot wait to get down and try.
One of my favourite restaurants in Manchester though is Lust, Luck, Liquor and Burn which is a modern take on Mexican food, as well as burgers, fries and shakes. They also do amazing cocktails and great desserts if you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth.
I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my day as a tourist in my own city, and it has inspired you to take a trip to my hometown and sample some of the best bits in the city.
This post was written in collaboration with hotels.com