Manchester is a melting pot of eclectic and trendy places and spaces, with a walkable downtown and architecture that will have you pulling out your phone every few blocks to snap photos. Our favorite part of visiting this up-and-coming city was hitting spots that the locals love (and trying some amazing food!). If you’re looking for a vibrant bar scene, you’ll definitely find it here. Manchester is a short 2-hour train ride from London, which makes it the perfect weekend getaway if you’re craving some variety in your visit to the UK. You’ll get the best taste of this city by staying in the downtown area, so you’re just a short walk away from some of the must-see spots in our 24-hour guide to Manchester…
9:00am — Soak it all in
Some of the best architecture and interior design can be found inside Manchester’s hotels. We stayed at King Street Townhouse hotel and started our morning with a dip in their rooftop pool, followed by breakfast in the lobby. There’s no better way to wake up than with views like this!
10:00am — Coffee and a pastry
Enjoy a casual wake-up call at one of Manchester’s many photogenic coffee shops. Favorites include Evelyn’s Cafe Bar, The Refuge (located inside the beautiful Principal Manchester hotel), Fig & Sparrow, and Federal Cafe Bar. Get ready to swoon – the interiors of these cafes belong on your Pinterest board.
11:00am – Check out the street art scene
Street art is a big part of Manchester’s culture. I recommend taking your own walking tour around the city, starting from the intersection of Oldham and Ring Road. We created this map featuring some of Manchester’s best street art spots, so you can explore at your own pace.
12:00pm – Walk down King Street
Make your way towards King Street. This beloved walking street is home to unique and historic buildings. Don’t miss Boodles (a renowned jewelry store worth stopping by for the façade alone), the Barton Arcade (a Victorian-inspired shopping and dining arcade), and The Old Wellington (Manchester’s oldest building, a pub with outside tables that are jam-packed on a sunny day).
12:30pm – Lunch
The people of Manchester know how to eat. Depending on your mood, opt for a sit-down lunch in the city center (I recommend The Patron). Or, create your own food tour by hitting up some of Manchester’s most-loved food spots: grilled cheese sandwiches at Northern Soul MCR, Spanish tapas at El Gato Negro, and a slice of pizza at Crazy Pedro’s. Finish it off with some homemade ice cream at Ginger’s Comfort, located inside a one-of-a-kind indoor market with thrift shops.
2:30pm – Visit John Ryland’s Library
After lunch, meander through John Ryland’s Library. It’s a stunning space with Victorian Gothic architecture, with rooms that look like they belong in Harry Potter.
4:00pm – Art galleries and museums
Visit one of Manchester’s many art galleries and museums. We loved the Museum of Science and Industry, which happened to have a display of robots from around the world when we visited! Other top museums include The Whitworth, Manchester Museum, and People’s History Museum.
7:00pm – Mackie Mayor Food Hall
For a casual dinner, Mackie Mayor is the perfect spot. The building was previously home to a meat market and dates back to 1857. It was recently restored and now contains food stalls serving everything from fish tacos to homemade pasta, bbq, and more. Grab a drink, peruse your options, and snag a table early because it fills up quick! If you’re looking for more of a sit-down dinner, don’t miss Wood Manchester.
8:30pm – Drinks at Albert’s Schloss
We loved the retro, ski-lodge bar vibes at Albert’s Schloss. Whether you’re with a date or a group, you’re bound to enjoy yourself at this open-space bar with nightly entertainment. Don’t miss hitting up the downstairs photo booth at some point in the evening!
- Bongo’s Bingo – we missed this off-the-wall Bingo Night that is half rave, half “bingo on steroids”. You’ve never seen a party like this! Check the event calendar and buy tickets early if you plan on going. We heard someone walked away with a Mercedes at the last bingo night…
Dog Bowl – bowl your heart out at Black Dog Ballroom’s Dog Bowl. The space has drinks and food too, so you can take all the time you need to improve that bowling arm.
Shows at the Royal Exchange – catch the latest performance at the Royal Exchange. Visit the schedule to see what’s showing during your visit.
Manchester is very walkable. Or for an affordable alternative, use Uber in downtown Manchester. On average, our rides within the city center were 2-3 pounds.
Exploring more of England? Don’t miss our 24 Hour Guide to London!