Make the most of Manchester’s compact size and whizz through the city’s highlights in a whirlwind day of walking. A tour of the city center, along with some well-judged foodie stops and a dab of culture here and there, will give you a flavor of Mancunian life. From visiting John Rylands Library to exploring the Northern Quarter and the Shambles, here’s how to spend 24 hours in Manchester.
Start your day at Federal Cafe Bar on the edge of the Northern Quarter. The crowd is young and hip and the menu is chock-full of coffee choices and tasty nouveau-health staples like acai bowls and smashed avocado on sourdough. It makes as much as possible on site and sources from local suppliers.
From Federal, walk down through the city’s old butchery district, the Shambles, and take a look at the black and white timber frames of Sinclair’s Oyster Bar before going for a free look inside Manchester’s 600-year-old cathedral. When you’re done, take a guided tour of Chetham’s Library and breathe in some more historical details and a good lungful of ancient book dust.
You’re still close to the Arndale Center so head to the buzzing food market and take your pick from countertop tapas at La Bandera or Asian flavors at the Fusion Lab. For something really filling, try the poutine from new traders Blue Caribou Canteen, or, for a taste of the sea, get your fishy fix from Holy Crab.
Take Deansgate down to the historical heart
Down the central thoroughfare of Deansgate is the splendidly gothic-looking John Rylands Library. Visit inside for free and poke around the twisted stone staircases and the chambers designed to resemble a church. Next stop is Albert Square, one of the hubs of the city and the location of the twinned town hall and Central Library buildings, both of which deserve a look. On the opposite side of Albert Square is St Peter’s Square, an area important historically as the site of the Peterloo Massacre. You’re next to Chinatown so take in the sights and sounds there before walking over to the Gay Village for a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the Alice in Wonderland-themed madness of the Richmond Tea Rooms.
As the afternoon draws into evening, it’s worth taking a trip up Oldham Street to the Northern Quarter. Pop into the record shops, vintage clothing stores, and art supply emporia before seeing the post-work crowd trickling out and filling up the bars and restaurants in Stevenson Square and Thomas Street.
Although there are heaps of dinner options in the Northern Quarter, some of the best new places are a 10-minute walk away in Ancoats. Head up there for soulful fish and chips at the Hip Hop Chip Shop, authentic Neapolitan pizza at Rudy’s, or tiki torches and burgers at the lively Viet Shack.
There are two ways to play it in the Northern Quarter at night, and they just depend on your mood. You might want to keep it super simple, so start with beers and bar snacks at the Port Street Beer House before taking it up a notch at 57 Thomas Street or Cane & Grain. The night is then open for music and easy-going vibes at Matt and Phred’s or Night & Day. If you’re feeling a bit more dressy and dancey, however, there are speakeasy cocktails to be had at The Fitzgerald and Apotheca, before checking out underground electronica at Soup Kitchen.