Your guide to... Manchester
Ah, Manchester. The home of the ‘Curry mile’, the first steam passenger railway and Oasis (the band - not the drink) - this Northern city certainly has a lot of history. Boasting some of the country’s best shopping destinations, cultural spots and up-and-coming restaurants, Manchester today is a hub of all things foodie, arty and entertainment-y. No wonder SpareRoom frequently has over 1000 ads for rooms in the city (and it's also where our second office lives)!
Whether you’re exploring the quaint independent shops of the Northern Quarter, browsing the bohemian bars in Chorlton or rifling through records at Levenshulme’s Saturday market, you’ll never be lost for something to do in MCR.
New to the city and need some tips? From art galleries and music venues to quirky bars and fascinating museums, we’ve got you covered when it comes to all things to eat, drink and do Mancunian style.
Where is it?
T’up North, of course. More specifically, Manchester lies to the North of Birmingham and South of Leeds, not too far from the Peak District.
So, how do you get there? Well, by train…! Boasting 14 platforms, Manchester Piccadilly makes rail travel to the city easy. Trains from London to Manchester can take as little as 2 hours, whilst Birmingham is a mere hour and a half away. When it comes to driving, the journey from London takes around 4 and a half hours and from Leeds roughly over an hour.
In the city getting around is just as easy. It's compact enough to explore on foot, but there are also buses, trams and trains serving the city. Manchester also runs a free ‘hop on, hop off’ Metroshuttle bus with three services on a circular route, connecting all the major rail stations, shopping areas and business districts.
What is there to do?
If its history you’re after, make a beeline for the stunning gothic architecture at John Rylands Library. Commissioned in 1888 after the death of industrialist and philanthropist John Rylands, this incredible piece of architecture more resembles a magnificent castle than a library. Visit for behind the scenes tours, art exhibitions or just to marvel at the breathtaking architecture. More history can be found at Manchester Cathedral, which dates back to around 700 AD - although you wouldn’t know it from its 19th century renovations. Visit to be stunned by the intricate detailing of the decorations, some of which are considered the finest in Europe.
If there’s one thing Manchester’s known for, it’s music. The birthplace of household names from The Smiths to The Chemical Brothers, this city knows a thing or two when it comes to rocking out. If its pop and rock royalty you’re after head to Manchester Arena (they’ve hosted everyone from Madonna to The Rolling Stones) or to Bridgewater Hall for the very finest in classical, rock, pop and jazz. The city certainly isn’t lacking in more intimate venues either; for a mix of established artists and up-and-coming talent go to Gorilla, or make your way to the cosy club that is Matt and Phred’s for live jazz, electro, salsa and swing.
For a history of Manchester’s canals, head to Castlefield, one of the city’s more relaxed districts and home to waterfront bars, green spaces and an 8000-person capacity outdoor music venue, Castlefield Bowl. Being the site of the Roman-era fort of Mancunium, which was built in 79AD, and the terminus of the world’s first industrial canal - the Bridgewater Canal - Castlefield is a conservation area seeped in history. Stop off at one of the riverside bars - the sun terrace of Lock 91 or the intimate rooms and alcoves of The Wharf will serve you well - and watch the world go by.
Where do I eat?
You'll never be lost for something tasty to eat in Manchester. Start your day off at the Northern Quarter’s Federal for a breakfast done Aussie style – think pan-fried halloumi with garlic and thyme roasted mushrooms. To get a Instagram-worthy brunch, make your way to Evelyn’s. This cosy neighbourhood hangout serves up healthy dishes with an Asian twist against a backdrop of hanging plants and wooden benches – ideal for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even a Sunday roast.
The truly hungry - or hungover - should go to Brewski for breakfast; their 20” sharing platter (equivalent to 6 separate brekkies) is filled with everything from flat iron steak and sweet potato cakes to poached eggs and maple syrup-topped buttermilk pancakes.
If there’s one thing Manchester’s not short of, it’s great Asian food. The fresh, authentic Japanese cooking at Yuzu is unmissable, as are the fragrant Vietnamese dishes at Oldham Road’s Vnam and authentic Thai street food plates at the understated Siam Smiles.
If its small plates and charcuterie you’re after, head to Volta.. Pizza lovers should go to Ply, a bustling cocktail and craft beer bar and wood-fired pizza palace. And those in search of a big old meaty burger should head to Almost Famous. Their wings are pho-king amazing - their words, not ours!
For something really special, Manchester House is your place. With a £75 tasting menu - we're talking oysters, caviar and more - set against a lavish backdrop of cushioned booths and tiled floors, this is your ideal spot for a birthday celebration or anniversary. Just try not to look too hard at the prices...
And the drinks?
Bunny Jackson's is a low key 'dive bar' that's home of 10p chicken wings, a big selection of bourbon, and a 'dance on the tables' vibe.
But if you want something more polished, check out Arcane for great cocktails, cosy booths and dim lighting. The Fitzgerald is a prohibition-inspired drinking den that serves drinks in 1920s glassware alongside live jazz music (on certain nights).
Looking for a more hardcore night? You can't leave Manc without a visit to The Warehouse Project – a true UK legend. The venue showcases the biggest and best DJs from across the globe, for long, loud parties that go on well into the morning. And equally lively Lazy Lizard will take you right to Ibiza – with amazing sound systems, exclusive monthly DJ residencies, confetti canons and a 200-capacity dancefloor.
Proud MCR local? Let us know your favourite spots.