Before I went to Manchester, all I really knew about it was the David Beckham connection (and really, what more can you ask for in a destination?). Having spent a weekend in the English city, I now know there’s plenty more on offer there. For one thing, the food is terrific – but I did more than simply eat my way around the city. I got out there and explored it. Here are my picks of the best things to do when you’ve only got a couple of days to live it up like a local. There’s not a museum in sight.
Day one: Brunch, beer and beats
Start your first day in Manchester with a meal to be reckoned with. England loves a good brunch, and it’s your duty to find one with plenty of grease, stodge and baked beans. I recommend Albert’s Shed, a Castlefield restaurant overlooking the Bridgewater Canal that makes for some quite lovely views. Go all out with a full English breakfast featuring bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, poached eggs, potatoes, baked beans, toast and the coveted black pudding. There’s a vegetarian option too if you’re that way inclined.
Once you’ve lined your stomach, head to Marble Brewery to sample some locally-brewed ales. The microbrewery commenced operation out of the Marble Arch Inn in 1997 and has since grown to a 12 barrel plant on Williamson Street. The natural, un-pasteurised beers can be sampled at one of the Marble bars (there are two Beer Houses and the original Marble Arch Inn). If you’re feeling brave, order a pint of the Marble 900 – it packs a serious punch.
Next up, it’s time to fill your ears with glorious music. Manchester has one of London’s greatest music scenes, with everyone from Oasis, the Smiths and the Stone Roses through to Simply Red, 10cc and the Moody Blues cutting their teeth on Mancunian turf. Start your musical journey at one of the city’s best independent record stores, such as Vinyl Exchange or Piccadilly Records. Once you’ve had your fill of sweet, sweet vinyl, consider checking out a live gig a one of Manchester’s major music venues. The Albert Hall is one not to be missed.
Day two: Head to the Northern Quarter
The last day of your Manchester weekend should be spent exploring its Northern Quarter. This is an area beloved by locals, rich with cafes, bars and a general sense of activity.
If you want to see and be seen, head to Kosmonaut for a drink, meal or simply to soak up some atmosphere. The hip neighbourhood hangout has a constantly-changing art display and frequently hosts gigs and performances, making it a hub of culture in this little part of the world. They also do exceptional cocktails – and ping pong!
Dale Street’s Junk Shop will delight lovers of vintage and sustainable fashion. The team have developed three in-house labels that focus fun and affordable clothing items, with plenty of jewellery and other bits and bobs to appeal to your inner magpie.
Finish your weekend with a trip to Bonbon Chocolate Boutique, proclaimed to offer the best choc treats in Manchester (that proclamation was made by me, but I stand by it). The Artisan chocolatier and café serves up truffles and other treats that will make your mouth water.