Recently ranked third in Time Out’s Best Cities In The World list (behind San Francisco and Amsterdam), the Manchester scene is officially bubbling – with music at its heart.
If you fancy a weekend out of London, you couldn’t hope for a cooler spot to get your culture fix. Here’s our guide to a proper mint weekend in Manchester.
Go back to the good old days
Manchester is where Morissey rode his bicycle around graveyards, looking for inspiration. Manchester is where Noel and Liam lived, back when they still liked each other. But perhaps most (in)famously, Manchester is where UK dance music exploded.
The postpunk music and club scene boomed when industry entrepreneur Tony Wilson opened the Haçienda nightclub...
The postpunk music and club scene boomed when industry entrepreneur Tony Wilson opened the Haçienda nightclub in 1982 – and around the same time, Factory Records. Start your trip at Use Hearing Protection, the incredible Science and Industry Museum exhibition showing graphic designs by Peter Saville and previously unseen gems from the Factory archives.
You’ll discover precious objects loaned from the personal estates of both Wilson and Rob Gretton (former Joy Division and New Order manager) and even Ian Curtis’s original Vox Phantom guitar.
Jump on the bus
True to their city’s heraldic worker bee symbol, Mancs buzz to share their home’s musical soul. Nowhere is this more blatant than inside a van with a bunch of strangers on a Manchester Music Tour, zipping around Moss Side.
On a mission to show music lovers the true Manchester, warm and wonderful Rosie Marie Gill (wife of Inspiral Carpets drummer Craig Gill, who sadly passed away in 2017) will take you on a rock ‘n’ roll adventure. Three hours of tangential turnings and anecdotal alleyways disappear in a flash, it’s all so fascinating.
The iconic entrance is crying out for you to recreate the Smiths' The Queen Is Dead album art...
Our highlight has to be the properly inspirational Salford Lad’s Club, the only charitable youth club of its kind still operational in the UK. Sat on Coronation Street (yes, that Coronation Street), the iconic entrance is crying out for you to recreate the Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead album art.
Buy some merch to support this amazing cause, or attend a Q&A with a music legend. You might just catch Shaun Ryder talking about alien invasions.
Whilst the gargantuan Arndale center and surrounding streets peddle every commercial brand you can think of, a trip to Manchester should be about rummaging through vinyl crates, and buying vintage corduroy rainbow dungarees that definitely don’t suit you.
Swerve Selfridges and head for the boutiques dotted around the Northern Quarter, stretching from Piccadilly to the now super trendy Ancoats area. The latter was recently voted one of the most desirable places to live in Europe, being a hub of yoga studios, bars and coffee spots. And don’t miss…
Afflecks: An emporium of eclecticism, this totem of indie commerce is stacked with retro clothing, accessories, vinyl, footwear and bric-a-brac. Buy a little something on every floor and you’ll soon come out looking the part (tattoos and all).
Oklahoma: A home and lifestyle shop like no other, you can’t leave this technicolour dream of a store feeling anything but joyful. Find the best birthday cards, home decor, party supplies and a ton of inspiration, too.
Piccadilly Records: Spend endless hours rooting through staff picks and bestsellers. It’s criminal to leave Manchester without a slice of music history on record.
Banging bars & nightlife
Ducie Street Warehouse is a one-stop shop for great cocktails, vibey DJ sets, movie screenings, talks and casual meet ups. Sundays kick off with Breakfast Margaritas (citrus jam, Ocho Tequila, spiced honey and lime) and we’d recommend the epic new cauliflower roast with a vegan Yorkshire pud.
Start with a Pisco Sour in the Platform area, before a Voodoo Rays slice to line the stomach...
Start with a Pisco Sour in the Platform area, before a Voodoo Rays slice to line the stomach. Then it’s a hop, skip and a jump to the club queue next door.
If 10,000 people raving to Seth Troxler in a dark, drippy warehouse sounds like your perfect night, consider your Saturday plans sorted.
Don’t fancy a total mash up? Stick around at ETFI for the in-house entertainment. We caught London’s drag outfit Guilty Pleasures on our visit, while happily munching vegan fare by Plant Grill and Soft Boi ice cream (clever).
Feed your hangover
We adore the Sunday vibes at The Black Friar, a laid back pub and restaurant in Salford. A fabulous live singer reworked old classics while we ordered up Bloody Marys and beef roasts, extra gravy and crispy potatoes doing our sore heads the world of good.
We ordered up Bloody Marys and beef roasts, extra gravy and crispy potatoes...
Get glammed up for an unforgettable night of modern Australian cuisine at Australasia, where a plethora of colourful dishes take you right to the Pacific Rim.
Drawing on the country’s strong links with Japan and Southeast Asia, the menu spans fresh sushi, *huge* steaks, meats flamed on a Robata grill, and inventive small plates. We gorged on roasted baby aubergines with caramel miso and katsuobushi, followed by poached lobster tail with choi sum and pickled radish.
Twisted and classic cocktails are shaken while club music blasts from the speakers. If you’re going ‘out, out’ but want to keep it classy, start your night here.
A handful of buzzy, design-led hotels and apartments stand out from homogenous chains. with coffee shops, bars and events calendars to boot. Escape the crowds of teenagers crashing at hotels near the nightclubs, and bed down in total comfort at these gorgeous, grown up boltholes.
NB: Manchester never sleeps (and you’ll have to sometime) so an eye mask and high quality earplugs are highly recommended…
Steps from the best bars and clubs of Canal Street – we really mean it, bring earplugs – spanking new design hotel Leven is perfect for party animals. Why? There’s a stylish (yet oh-so-subtle) *24hr* bar open downstairs for all guests. Non-drinkers will still appreciate the calming decor, and eclectic range of coffee table books scattered about.
Highlights: Staff are thoroughly pleasant, the coffee is excellent, and there’s a rather useful NCP car park just a few steps down. Oh, and the rooms are gorgeous – we loved our separate bedroom and sitting room, each with stylish furnishings (including a marble-topped dining table-for-two… fancy!).
A full kitchen means you never have to leave, but the myriad of bars and restaurants outside soon beckon. After heading out to play, we retreated to our freestanding bath, from which we nursed a killer hangover. Highly recommended: lashing of bubble bath and plenty of Queer Eye beamed from the bedroom’s flat screen.
The Cow Hollow
We’re obsessed with the immediately comfortable, super chilled vibes at The Cow Hollow. Walking in is like lowering yourself into a warm, candlelit bath, all tropical plants and neutral colourways.
From the handmade room keys to the spot-on playlist, every aspect of the hotel has been given real thought. After check-in, grab a free coffee or tea from the machine (open 24 hours) or pull up a chair at the intimate lobby bar.
A ton of cute little extras make you feel special...
Upstairs are 16 beautifully appointed rooms (think exposed brickwork, shuttered windows and high ceilings). Huge flat screen TVs offer Netflix: we can highly recommend a hungover Schitt’s Creek marathon, interrupted only by a bedside cocktail delivery from downstairs.
A ton of cute little extras make you feel special. Continental breakfast is delivered to your door, plus there’s free water and sweets. Don’t want to leave? There’s the option of a 3pm check out (but room rates are so reasonable, you might actually consider moving in).
Sister hotel to Dalston’s Kingsland Locke, Whitworth Locke was once a 19th Century cotton factory. Offering apartment-style living right in the city centre, its social spaces are alive with activity.
In one weekend, you might catch a DJ pumping soul music through the building, try a relaxed yoga class or join a drag disco brunch. Breakfasts in the house coffee shop are huge, and excellent. Go for the bacon, avocado and egg bap with tomato chutney.
The beautiful Conservatory Bar and spacious co-working lounge offer great spots to meet cool new people, but if you’d prefer to chill out alone, your room has all the home comforts.
Beds are ridiculously soft, and huge flat screen TVs beckon after a long day of pavement pounding. Our kitchen set up included a microwave, dishwasher, sink, hob and kettle. But with so much to do in such a dynamic city, no one will judge you if they go completely unused…
Offering apartment-style living right in the city centre, its social spaces are alive with activity...
Manchester is genuinely commutable from central London (we loved it so much on our last visit, talk turned to such plans).
Jump on an Avanti West Coast train from Euston, and it’s just a couple of hours to Manchester Piccadilly. Standard Premium tickets are a steal, with super comfy seats and table service from the cafe and mini bar. Their app is great, too.