Will it surprise you to know that I haven’t actually been a tourist in Central Manchester itself?
It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve actually been to Manchester nine times but all for different reasons. Shaking a bucket for children’s charities claimed a few. I used to have friends in the outlying districts of Manchester so we never actually came in to the centre. We went to go out and sample the Manchester Northern Quarter Nightlife but I had to take a drunk friend home after two drinks. Three times I went to Manchester and promptly fell ill within an hour of my arrival. Was I allergic to this North Western City in England? Could only my last two successful visits to Manchester can only be attributed to drinking mulled wine at its Christmas Markets?
So, I was in a quandary. I really wanted to see Manchester as a tourist so I decided to play devil’s advocate by leaving it to the last possible minute to book my plans. That way, the germs couldn’t mobilise its forces.
So on the first weekend of a brisk March, I jumped on the TransPennine Express at First Class from Hull, my hometown, and headed two hours west to the city that’s reputed to never stop raining.
I did think about the last time I was playing tourist in the vicinity of Manchester. I was a kid of 11 years old and I was too busy marvelling at the set pieces of Granada Studios, which is about to be closed. I could feel the history of the cobbles when I set foot on Coronation Street, Britain’s longest running serial drama, now at 55 years.
But fast forward 18 years (god, I feel old), I was to see Manchester at its best. Let’s see what I did for a quickie weekend in Manchester.
The Northern Quarter
First things first, we need to celebrate the weekend has arrived. So, a beverage needs to be drunk in honour of the occasion, as you do. But where to drink? I give you the Northern Quarter.
Regenerated in the 1990s, this area of central Manchester is nestled between Piccadilly and Victoria districts. It is known for its bohemian and eclectic vibes. Basically, it’s the Shoreditch of London. With an array of eyebrow raising shops and cafes, you can browse to your hipster’s heart delight but for me, it’s for the music scene.
Live music is played almost every night and I do recommend checking out ‘Band in the Wall’ for talented unsigned musicians that will soothe away the stresses and worries from your working week. This is how to kickstart your weekend in Manchester.
The Palace Hotel
Of course, when in Manchester, you need a place to stay. But I’m sure you want somewhere that’s affordable, stylish and centrally located. I would recommend the Palace Hotel.
An iconic centrepiece of the Manchester skyline thanks its glittering clock tower and dominant Victorian architecture, the Palace Hotel really is an experience to stay in. Even as a grade 2 listed building, the hotel mixes history with modern culture that can be found in all areas of the place. You may signs of heritage within as it used to be a Refuge Assurance Company in Victorian times but since 1989, it has transformed into a stylish and boutique like hotel.
So why do I love The Palace Hotel?
- It’s only less than 1 minute walk away from Manchester Oxford Road Train Station
- The room prices are reasonable at £72 a night for a standard double room
- The Entrance Hall will take your breath away
- The customer service is second to none
- The room is spacious and feels luxurious
- Free Wi-Fi!
- You are yards away from a delicious range of restaurants
- You are next door to the Palace Theatre
- You are just a few minutes walk away from the Northern Quarter and Canal Street
What I love about the Palace Hotel was how conveniently located in Manchester it was. If I needed to quickly get back to the Hotel, then I could do so.
I know I would come and stay here again.
Java Coffee House
Waking up on a Saturday morning, you might want to perk yourself up with some freshly made and delicious coffee. Mmmmm. Can you taste the caffeine hit already?
Even though there are hundreds of coffee shops around, I would just cross the road and park your bottom on a stood at the window of Java Coffee House, right opposite Manchester Oxford Station. You might not want to open your tired and grumpy mouth in the morning but you can still interest yourself by people watching as they walk past to catch the train. I thought it was rather interesting seeing all kinds of characters that are the people of Manchester.
Oh, don’t forget to try out their toasted croissants as well. Yum.
To blow the last of the sleepy cobwebs away I would recommend a walk alongside the canal. It may not the most glamorous canal you’ll ever see but you’ll certainly feel the history and culture emanating from this historic waterway.
You can either follow the canal into the centre of you can cross the canal and traverse to the centre as well. The choice is yours. But for me, I crossed because of the next thing I’m going to tell you.
Central Manchester Architecture
Keep your eyes peeled upwards as you cross the canal. You will be truly appreciative of the epic Victorian architecture that you’ll find in plentiful supply here in Central Manchester.
St Peter’s Square
You may be mistaken that you have arrived in front of the White House in St Peter’s Square. But luckily, you won’t have the Secret Service hot on your tail here. You’re actually in one of the most spacious squares in Manchester. In front, is the Central Library. Just poke in for a few minutes or longer if you wish. It’s a great information resource to find out the history of Manchester, but as it was a SUNNY and CLEAR day, a rare occurrence in Manchester, I opted to have a quick nosey round.
But before you leave, just remember to glance up at the ceiling of the Entrance Hall. It’s beautiful.
Manchester Town Hall
Around the corner is Manchester’s Town Hall. I’ve been before for Manchester’s Christmas Markets so it was quite strange for me to see it in another way. But in a way, i didn’t expect. As we rounded, we came face to face with scores of policemen waiting for us. The initial shock over, I enquired why and turns out on that day, an EDL march was on to finish up in Manchester’s Town Hall Square. This was not pleasant news and I hoped never to cross their paths as their stance is absolutely appalling and a joke to freedom and democracy.
However, we took advantage of the quietness of the square and looked at the Town Hall in its might.
St Ann’s Church
If you head in the direction of Manchester Cathedral, you’ll certainly come across a gem. It’s St Ann’s Church and this small place of worship is a quiet sanctuary in the sea of busy Manchester streets.
Take a peek inside and perhaps have a quiet moment of reflection as you appreciate their stained glass windows.
So by then, your stomach must be rumbling. Then look no further than Manchester Cathedral Gardens. With the oldest and medieval inspired architecture here, you can take a pew outside of the two timbered pubs to appreciate the sun whilst having a pint of local ale. You could also tuck into hearty homemade fare as well. I opted to sit in the ‘garden’ of The Old Wellington Inn and sit back to enjoy the first warming sun rays of the year here.
After a few drinks, it’s probably time to pay your respects to Manchester Cathedral. But as the sun was shining ever so warmly outside, I became entranced by the pretty flowers pushing up through the ground in the Churchyard. However, I was slightly perplexed to see a staged event happening for The Christie Charity within the Cathedral. A sea of dazzling white dining tables greeted us before our eyes adjusted to the two large flickering tv screens that screamed colours at us. The event was happening later but it didn’t stop shocked patrons giving disapproving stares that a place of sanctuary was taken over for a glitzy affair.
People’s History Museum
So it’s early afternoon on Saturday and you’re in the mood for some argy bargy of politics. But, wait! Do you know everything there is to know about politics in the UK? If you’re unsure, I’d take a walk down Deansgate from the Cathedral and make yourself known at the People’s History Museum.
It’s free admission and you can even check out their really interesting exhibition on ‘Election! Britain Votes,’ that’s open until 28th June 2015. Who would you vote for? The walls are filled with different parties’ manifestos and I found myself changing allegiance to another party as a result. Oops! But the highlight of the museum? You can dress up and pretend to be a Prime Minister. I wonder which party I would be in with these clothes?
John Ryland’s Library
*Whispers* Do you like history? Me too.
Well, the best place to find it is the gorgeous and stunning late-Victorian neo-Gothic John Rylands Library. Opened in 1900, the library still remains true to its form today. Even the Gents toilets are still working over a hundred years later! Part of the University of Manchester, the John Rylands Library is wondrous and, dare I say it, Harry Potter esque that will have you scouring through ancient manuscripts and early works of printing by William Caxton. But the main attraction to me was the Grade I listed medieval style architecture within that towered greatly above and held together my grandiose pillars. Lovely!
All that walking down Deansgate street is sure hungry work. Perhaps it’s time to stop off for lunch in Castlefield Market.
As Manchester’s biggest fine food, craft and vintage market, Castlefield certainly didn’t disappoint. Browsing through eclectic paintings and portraits along with handcraft toys, your eyes couldn’t help but land on the foodie selection on display. I opted to help myself to a bratwurst and, yes, I had another. It was that delicious.
Sooner or later, you’ll finally reach Deansgate district after walking down that mammoth road. It’s the perfect opportunity to sit back and relax with a local beer by the canal in one of the many bars under the arches. Make sure you arrive at sunset, it’s just simply a magical feeling.
I’ve heard so much about Salford Quays in the news recently thanks to it becoming a Media hotbed for programming. So much so that a section of it is called ‘MediaCity.’ So imaginative, isn’t it? But it wasn’t the MediaCity I was interested in. It was purely about the regeneration efforts of this outlying district of Manchester, only 15 minutes tram stop away from Deansgate.
Named ‘Greater Manchester’s Waterfront,’ Salford Quays was part of the Manchester Docks that closed in 1982. Since then, it became the UK’s first and largest urban regeneration projects. I do have to say that they’ve done a smashing job on the place as I was entranced by the beauty of the place. Perhaps it was the sun setting? Maybe it was the fact Salford Quays was the perfect backdrop to relaunch my modelling career? Or quite simply, it was a place I really fancied living in. What do you think?
The Gay Village and Canal Street
Ah, here we come to the main event. All that sightseeing in the day must have surely worn you out. So after a quick nap back at The Palace Hotel, a big dinner to fill your belly and a chance to get changed, you’re ready to party. So where should you go on a Saturday night?
Everyone will surely say, you must go to ‘The Gay Village’ or aka, the better known Canal Street. Big, loud and in your face, Canal Street has a huge choice of LGBT bars to partake a beverage in. Everyone is extremely friendly so as long as you behave and you are encouraged to dance your heart out. However, if dancing is not your thing, I would hugely recommend getting cosy in the Oscars Bar, which is a Musical Theatre Bar! This basement bar has show tunes sung all night long and if you’re lucky, you may see an impromptu performance!
After midnight, if you still want to party, I would direct you to G A Y. With two dance floor tiers, you can celebrate hearing your favourite songs whether they are Spice Girls, S Club 7 or my own favourite, Steps!
So after a late night, you’re probably forgiven for sleeping in late but if you have time to spare, I would encourage you to explore Manchester again. Although for me, I had to jump on a train back home that late morning. But would I be back?
Just try and stop me.