Looking for a weekend of culture, cuisine and clubbing? Look no further than Manchester - one of the UK's most exciting and vibrant cities. Here's our pick of some of the best bits of the Capital of the North.
Let's get this out of the way first. Yes, the rumours are true. It does rains a lot in Manchester. But Mancunians never let this spoil their fun, and neither should you. Manchester is a thriving, multiculturural and multi-faceted city with plenty to see, do, eat and feel - and as such it's an amazing place to visit at any time of the year, and in any weather.
Only there for the weekend? Here's our guide to some of the city's best experiences.
Where to stay:
Manchester has a great range of accommodation choices, from the budget to the down right decadent. Thanks partly to the decline in the property market, there are also an abundance of apart-hotels - ideal if you're visiting in a group.
Imagine a place where the boho chic of New York's East Village meets with the glitzy cosmopolitan self esteem of London's West End - and somewhere in the maelstrom, you will find Velvet Hotel. Located on Manchester's thriving and bustling Canal Street, Velvet has been instrumental in, and indeed integral to Canal Street's Cafe Society for more than a decade, maintaining its place as the Village's premiere venue to eat, drink, chill or party as the mood takes you. The bespoke 19 bedroom Velvet Hotel, occupies the four floors above the Bar and Restaurant, offering individually designed luxury bedrooms, balcony king rooms, and penthouse suites. Hotel stays are taken to an opulent new level for business and leisure guests alike. The decadent boudoirs are all fully air-conditioned and individually designed with the utmost of tender loving care and comprise all of the things you would expect of an exceptionally high standard of bedroom, plus some you may not - digital TV, complimentary Wi-Fi access, in-room safe, bespoke tea and coffee making facilities, fully stocked mini bars, iPod docking stations, in-room cocktail and canap?ackages and luxury REN toiletries. Careful detailing and distinctive design elements ooze from every crevice, creating a contemporary feel with a twist, and coupled with attentive yet understated service with a smile.
Click here to find out more and book a room at Velvet Hotel.
Located in the heart of Manchester city centre, this Grade II listed building offers the best in location, comfort, facilities and flexibility, housing stylish and contemporary apartment-style accommodation. Less than 100 metres from Manchester Piccadilly train station and within walking distance of all of the city's main shops, restaurants, theatres and trendy bars, the Place Hotel is a great base for your city break. This historic Victorian warehouse has been tastefully converted into a luxurious apartment hotel. The barrelled ceilings, vast rooms, exposed brickwork and ironwork make this hotel a truly unique and special place to visit.
Click here to fins out more and book an apartment at The Place.
Abode Manchester offers a funkier then average hotel in the heart of Manchester, two minutes walk from Piccadilly train station and 10 minute drive from the major motorway networks. Originally the headquarters of a textile company, the hotel has been sympathetically renovated to retain powerful features, whilst embracing the iconic art and furniture within. Each floor features a complimentary 24hr diner. Included in the Guardian's 'Britain and Ireland's 50 Best Hotels'.
Click here to find out more and book a room at ABode Manchester.
The Light Boutique ApartHotel
The Light ApartHotel is a boutique luxury serviced apartment scheme in Manchester, occupying a prime city centre location. Guests enjoy boutique hotel-style accommodation, with the flexibility of apartment living. Styled to appeal to both the business and leisure traveller, The Light ApartHotel consists of 42 fully equipped and beautifully furnished penthouses and apartments in a landmark tower, designed by Conran and Partners.
Click here to find out more and book a room at The Light Boutique ApartHotel.
Malmaison Manchester is slap bang in the middle of the city, only minutes walk from Piccadilly station, Chinatown, Canal Street and retail therapy. Amid the bustle, relax in a striking individually designed room, many in stunning red, black and cream all with CD players, cable TV, great amenities and interesting art. Then enjoy the busy buzzy Brasserie and Bar, serving great French cooking and fantastic wines or pamper and tone your mind, body and spirit, in the fitness and treatments boutique, Le Petit Spa. Rooms include great big beds, slinky light, real bathrooms, power showers, CD players, CD libraries, cable TV, personal bars, drinks you'll want to drink, serious wines, naughty nibbles, vroom room service, interesting art, two line phones, data ports exclusive toiletries.
Click here to find out more and book a room at The Malmaison Manchester.
What to do:
Shop, shop, shop
From the quirky, independent boutiques of the Northern Quarter to the high street behemoth stores of the Arndale Centre and the up-market designer stores of King Street, Manchester is a shopper's paradise.
If you have an hour or so to spare, discover some of Manchester's industrial past on a canal walk through the city. Start amongst the redeveloped warehouses, canal barges and trendy bars of Castlefield basin, and walk into the city centre - passing along Deansgate Locks, under Oxford Road and along Canal Street - Manchester's vibrant LGBT district. The canal path leads all the way to Picadilly basin - where you'll find plenty of trendy bars in which to quench your thirst and rest your weary legs.
Once a run down district of derelict warehouses, factories and fabric wholesalers (some of which still remain), The Northern Quarter has evolved into Manchester's coolest night (and day) spot, with street after street of vintage boutiques, cool bars, quirky eateries and independent galleries. Give yourself at least a couple of hours to explore the hidden gems of this area - including the fabulous Craft and Design Centre tucked away behind Edge Street and housed in an old indoor market building.
Museums and Galleries
Discover a little more about the history of the city with visits to the Museum of Science and Industry, and the newly redeveloped People's History Museum, just a short stroll from eachother in the city centre. Both are free entry, and worth a visit for their impressive industrial buildings alone. If art's more your thing, then Manchester Art Gallery on Mosely Street makes an peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city (and the rain) outside. The majority of the gallery is free to enter, with only the special exhibitions charageable. Particularly impressive is the pre-raphaelite gallery on the second floor, featuring key pieces from the likes of Ford madox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The Wheel of Manchester
A great way to survey the city from up high, Manchester's big wheel is located in Exchange Square and offers great views across the city and beyond from its 42 capsules. The wheel will take you 60m up in the air, with a commentary to point out local landmarks. There's even a VIP capsule with a glass floor and Champagne on ice, if you fancied splashing out.
With two world class teams calling Manchester home, football fans shouldn't miss out on the opportunity to pay a visit to the red camp, the blue camp, or both. Old Trafford and the newly built City of Manchester Stadium, homes of Manchester United and Manchester City respectively, both offer great visitor experiences, with guided tours, museums and trophy galleries. Of course, one team's trophy gallery is slightly more impressive than the other. But we wouldn't want to be biased.
Where to eat:
Argentinian beef is the essence of the menu at Gaucho Manchester, which offers matured meat flown in direct from Buenos Aires, although there are plenty of other equally succulent cuts to whet your appetite. This stunning Manchester restaurant, A transformed Methodist hall where the organ exists is the home of this spectactular and authentic restaurant. Spread over two bustling mezzanine areas, with an open industrial kitchen and three private rooms, this restaurant meets everyone's needs. Their unique method of cooking (churrasco), large Argentine wine list and regular live music makes Gauchos a meal to remember.
Click here for more information and to book your table at Gaucho Grill.
Michael Caines at ABode Manchester
In the bustling centre of Manchester's Piccadilly, Michael Caines at ABode Manchester offers smart modern European cooking from its period location inside a former cotton merchant's warehouse.
Situated on the lower ground level, this elegant restaurant has a buzzy, easygoing vibe, with snappy grazing menus and express lunches for busy diners and sumptuous à la carte offerings for more leisurely meals. Typically creative dishes include pan-fried brill with creamed leeks and chive butter sauce or best-end of Herdwick lamb with onion and thyme purée.
Click here for more information and to book your table at ABode.
The Northern Quarter
The Northern Quarter is a bright, good-looking restaurant set in the edgier part of central Manchester from which it takes its name. The interior is stylishly welcoming, with white walls, glossy surfaces and a pleasant, relaxed vibe. However, the restaurant's real strengths lie in the robust flavours of classy Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as slow roast lemon and thyme poussin with chestnut and redcurrant stuffing.
Click here for more information and to book your table at The Northern Quarter.
Housed in Manchester's elegant former Stock Exchange, Stock matches its smart Edwardian surroundings with a sophisticated menu of inventive southern Italian cooking. Robust, richly flavoured dishes from Neapolitan fish broth to the restaurant's famed steak alla Fiorentina are served beneath the 50-foot domed ceiling, rounded off with a well-chosen regional Latin wine list. Regular live jazz.
Click here for more information or to book your table at Stock.
Where to drink:
A great way to start an evening or end a day of shopping and sightseeing, Cloud 23 floats 23 floors up, halfway up the landmark Hilton Tower. Drinks prices are nearly as high as the view itself, and the atmosphere is pretty ‘meh’, but the views across the city reach and to the hills beyond are spectacular – especially if you time your visit to catch the sunset.
Arguably Manchester’s best independent bar, this hidden gem is yet to be discovered by the weekend idiots thanks to its subtle exterior and location. With an impressive roster of DJs and clubnights, exhibitions by local artists and a superb food menu, this understated bar is the place to go for chilled out vibes, great music and an impressive drinks selection.
Slightly out of town but well worth the five minute bus ride, Big Hands is located near the university and next door to the Academy music venues. It’s dark, no-no nsense rock n’ roll bar with a great jukebox some great club nights, loved by Manchester’s music community and visiting bands alike. From the Strokes to Elbow and the Kings of Leon to Jet, they’ve all drank in Big Hands.
Located in the bohemian Northern Quarter, this stylish bar has been recently refurbished to create a trendy, elegant space with great DJs and a laid back crowd. While the ground floor level is great, it's downstairs in the glass tiled basement that the bar really comes into its own.
Where to dance:
Fac251 The Factory
Newly (re)opened in 2010 and housed in Tony Wilson's old Factory Records building, Fac251 is a three storey nightclub owned by Peter Hook (New Order), and invoking the spirit and design of the Hacienda while providing a progressive line-up of varied club nights and live gigs by artists new and established. If Madchester's your thing, then no visit to Manchester would be complete without a visit to the building in which the scene was created and, ultimately, broken.
Click here to find events at Fac251 The Factory
The Warehouse Project
What's that? You've never heard of the Warehouse Project? Get back in your box and never come out again. The Warehouse Project, born in 2006 (???) and returning each year since then for a season of world class house, electronic, dubstep, hip-hop and underground indie at its atmospheric venue amongst the dark vaults beneath Picadilly Station. This year the action kicks off on September 23rd and continues every weekend until New Year.
Click here to find events at The Warehouse Project.
Another new addition to the Manchester clubbing scene, Sound Control has quickly made its mark on the city with a line-up of diverse club nights to cater for all musical tastes. With an atmospheric underground club, a street level bar and an upstairs gig venue that's fast making its name as one of the best live music spaces in the city, Sound Control has something to cater to all tastes, and is open most nights.
Click here to find events at Sound Control
Of course, no mention of Manchester's club life would be complete without a nod to the mighty Sankeys. This world famous club opened its doors in 1994, when it was known as Sankeys Soap. In the past 15 years the club has welcomed some of the biggest names in dance music through its doors, and now - simply known as Sankeys - it's firmly established as one of the greatest night spots on the planet.
Click here to find events at Sankeys