Manchester is often called the world’s first industrial city, but today thriving shops, restaurants and bars have moved into all those now-empty warehouses. Old meets new in this vibrant English city where ornate neo-Gothic buildings from the Victorian era sit alongside contemporary glass and steel.
This unofficial Capital of the North, also known for those famous soccer teams and popular music scene, isn’t going to rival London’s size anytime soon, but that’s partly what makes it so appealing.
It’s utterly easy to navigate Manchester’s outstanding transportation system (double-decker buses, trams and trains) to explore its patchwork of distinct neighborhoods. Here are the five best for shopping, eating and, of course, drinking.
Anchored by Manchester’s massive town hall and radiating out from there, the City Centre is easy to cross on foot in less than 40 minutes. After hitting the area’s major attractions like the Manchester Art Gallery and the Museum of Science and Industry, head to Bundobust in Piccadilly Gardens for Indian street food and craft beer, all served in a convivial atmosphere.
Located just north of the City Centre, this former warehouse district grew out of the city’s thriving textile industry in the late 19th century. Today it’s where Mancunians go to let off steam on the weekends. During the day it thrives as shoppers browse the quirky independent boutiques and secondhand shops.
Start on Oldham Street and pop into Magma book shop and then move onto Vinyl Exchange for records. Fuel up at Northern Soul Grilled Cheese before making your way to the Manchester Craft & Design Centre, located inside an old Victorian fish-market building. It provides retail space for more than 20 local artists, jewelers and ceramicists.
Come evening, the neighborhood transforms into Manchester’s premier nightlife district. Dusk ’til Pawn, a cocktail bar decked out in pawn-shop decor, is just one of many hidden neighborhood bars.
For a more laid-back evening, try a pint of Brightside Brewing Company’s Hoppy Mondays IPA (named in honor of the famous band from Manchester, Happy Mondays) at Port Street Beer House.
This former industrial district located adjacent to the Northern Quarter is suddenly buzzing with a young, entrepreneurial spirit. Take Cha-ology, for example. There’s always a line outside this Japanese tea house where shoe removal is required, and guests peacefully sip matcha while sitting on floor cushions.
Prefer cappuccinos to tea? Then visit Ancoats Coffee Co. inside an old cotton warehouse and get caffeinated while snacking on a toastie made of melted English cheddar and Marmite. Later, dine at Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza and then cross the street for a craft beer from newcomer Seven Bro7hers Brewery.
This south Manchester neighborhood has changed quite a bit since Mancunian band The Smiths released the song “Rusholme Ruffians” back in 1985. It now borders on the growing University of Manchester, which lends a youthful vibe to the once rough-and-tumble area.
It’s also home to the famous Curry Mile, a stretch of Wilmslow Road that’s home to more than 70 restaurants serving international cuisines — it’s the largest concentration of South Asian restaurants outside of India.
Make sure to bring your appetite for a meal at Indian stalwarts Mughli or MyLahore. Then try some Indian-style falooda ice cream at Moonlight or knafeh, an Arabic pastry made of goat cheese, at Syria Sweets.
Across the River Irwell, Salford is technically a city in its own right and the previous site of the Manchester Docks. After years of abandonment, the shiny new Salford Quays development became one of the most significant urban regeneration projects in the United Kingdom.
It’s now the revitalized home of the BBC at MediaCityUK. It also boasts The Lowry Art Gallery, the Imperial War Museum North and the Lowry Outlet mall, with shops dedicated to British brands like Marks & Spencer and even Cadbury’s.