Getting There: Manchester International Airport (MAN) is the busiest airport outside of London, serving over 200 destinations. The 14km journey into the city takes around 20 minutes by taxi or 15-30 minutes by train.
Manchester United Kingdom lies 200 miles Northwest of London but can be reached in around two hours thanks to the high-speed Virgin train network, making it an easy day trip from the capital. Tickets bought on the day are expensive but cost as little as £10 if purchased in advance – try The Trainline to bag a bargain!
Getting Around: The city centre is easily navigated on foot, or try the free Metroshuttle buses which connect all major areas and stations. Manchester also has a comprehensive tram system which passes through the city centre to outlying towns such as Altrincham, Bury and Eccles – look for the yellow Metrolink signs and buy tickets on the platform.
Where to stay:
There are an array of hostels and hotels to choose from with shared dorms starting around £15. Stay close to the Northern Quarter (between Piccadilly and Great Ancoats Street) for easy access to quirky cafes and cosy bars, or head to the centre (around St. Peter’s Square) for grand Victorian buildings and a tram stop on your doorstep.
If you’re travelling in group, consider booking an apartment – there are several offering clean, modern rooms which can work out cheaply between a few people, such as The Atrium (Princess Street). Check Late Rooms for last minute deals.
What to do:
Theatre & Performance – For famous names and big musicals, try the Opera House or Palace Theatre. If you’re after something a little more experimental, head for the Contact Theatre or Lowry Studio in nearby Salford.
Tickets at the Comedy Store cost from £2 to hear new, untested material or £10 upwards for more established acts.
Museums & Art– Many museums and galleries in Britain are free to enter – ideal for those travelling on a budget (although special exhibitions sometimes have entry fees). Three of Manchester’s best are the Museum of Science and Industry, the Imperial War Museum and Manchester Art Gallery. The work of local painter, L.S Lowry, famed for depicting industrial scenes of Northwest England, is also displayed at the Lowry Galleries.
Shopping – Affleck’s Palace is an institution for Manchester teenagers , selling everything from feather boas to beads, with tattoo artists and hairdressers located on lower floors. For designer goods, head to the glass fronted shops of King Street, while Oldham Street houses charity shops and vintage stores.
Seasonal – Jazz festivals, Christmas markets, music events, outdoor film screenings… there is always something happening in the city. Check Visit Manchester for latest listings.
Where to eat:
Dining in Manchester is an international affair, offering everything from traditional British favourites through to Japanese, Thai and the ubiquitous end-of-the-night kebab. Onion Ring is a good place to get your bearings and hunt for special offers.
Three of the best:
● Oklahoma, High Street. This intimate cafe-cum-shop serves tasty, wholesome meals.
● Sam’s Chop House, Back Pool Fold. A Victorian style pub with fine wines and hearty English food.
● This & That, Soap Street. Don’t be fooled by the scruffy surroundings – this place sells the some of the best (and cheapest!) curry in Manchester. Line up at the counter to chose your ‘rice and three’ from the day’s specials.
Where to drink:
Deansgate Locks are popular with twenty-somethings armed with a little money and a lot of attitude. Canal-side bars tucked under railway arches provide the ideal spot for a drink in the sunshine.
The Northern Quarter is where the coolest kids hang out. Bars here are small in stature but big in personality – expect everything from technicolour dancing dens to cocktails and candlelight. Wander round and see what catches your eye or head for Walrus and Trof.
Canal Street is the epicentre of Manchester’s ‘Gay Village’ and promises a lively night out, regardless of your sexual orientation, with a holiday atmosphere as you sip neon cocktails on the waterside.
● Eat sweets like a Mancunian – pick up an Eccles Cake (a flaky pastry with currants inside) or Manchester Tart (pastry with jam, coconut and custard)
● Bring an umbrella – Manchester is in the top ten of Britain’s wettest cities so keep your waterproofs close to hand.
Poppy is a freelance Business Analyst and fledgling travel writer from the UK. When not busy planning her next big trip, or writing about the last one, she enjoys analog photography, swimming and trying to make the perfect mojito. Follow her on Twitter.