Manchester is undoubtedly a powerhouse and the uncrowned capital of the North of England. While most travelers make a beeline for London to soak up the history and the hustle and bustle, the vast majority fail to even consider Manchester. And that’s a shame because this is the city that gave birth to the Industrial Revolution. The locals are regarded as the most friendly and relaxed people in the UK and are fiercely proud of their roots. And why wouldn’t they be? Manchester has a rich history, promotes one of the world’s leading medical and scientific research facilities and sports two of the world’s largest football (soccer) teams, an ice hockey team and has hosted the Commonwealth Games. One day here, therefore, means you will have plenty to see!
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What’s the best time to visit Manchester?
Because of its geographical location in England, it is known as ‘Rain-chester’ due to the fact that it rains a lot here. Even by English standards! The city is surrounded by hills and mountains, and the weather tends to get trapped rolling in off the Atlantic Ocean.
However, this is not to say the city is grey, far from it. It’s colorful and very vibrant. Like anywhere in Northern Europe, the summer months between June and September are your best chance to stay dry, plus summer days are very long. The sun rises around 4 am and does not set until almost 10 pm!
You can also enjoy many fascinating festivals here. King Street Festival, for example, brings an additional explosion of life to this famous street. On the other hand, Manchester International Festival covers all kinds of art, from music to contemporary art. Then there’s also the Manchester Festival of Nature, an ideal event for all nature lovers.
A few facts about Manchester
– The architecture around here is extremely impressive. Most people tend not to look up but focus on the streets below. You miss out on so much.
– It’s an incredibly easy city to get to. Manchester is fed by a direct train service from London Euston that takes about two hours, and outside of London Heathrow and London Gatwick, boasts the country’s third-largest airport with direct services from every continent in the world.
– Manchester airport is roughly 7 miles from the city center and trains leave every few minutes.
– Navigating the city is easy. The whole city is connected by the Metro service. Bright yellow trams meander the city and are relativity cheap. Do not bother with taxis. You will be faster on foot or using the Metro service.
– If you enjoy food, music, and culture, Manchester will not fail to please you. The city is divided into various districts. The CBD, The Green Quarter, The Northern Quarter, Spinningfields, Exchange Square, Albert Square are all worthy of your time and have something interesting to offer.
– Manchester also boasts one of the largest gay neighborhoods named the Gay Village.
One day in Manchester itinerary
Exploring this city for just one day would be a shame. However, if you don’t have more than 24 hours here, wake up early because you have a busy day ahead! Follow this itinerary and you can be sure you will have a fantastic time. You are about to enjoy a spectacular experience! These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Manchester.
Start your day with a nice breakfast
There’s a lot of ground to cover during your one day in Manchester, so first, you will want to get a nice breakfast. And it’s also a good excuse to start exploring first thing in the morning.
Moose Coffee is the best choice for an early bite. Not only do they serve excellent food (they are known for American breakfast), but their location also fits perfectly into this itinerary. Evelyn’s Cafe and Bar is a good alternative as they offer several different options. Ezra & Gil are also a good choice if you don’t mind being slightly further away from your next stop in this itinerary.
In any case, there are many places to choose from. And once you have a nice breakfast, the whole day will be much better!
Find a very special library
The John Rylands Library is breathtaking in a kind of ‘Hogwarts sort of way’. Named for John Rylands but actually founded by his wife, it is the kind of place where you never stop looking up, even when you manage to score an alcove in the soaring Reading Room for yourself. The place is just magical, there’s no other way to put it.
This neo-Gothic beauty belongs to the University of Manchester, and it opened its doors in 1900. The place holds some truly breathtaking collections, including a precious Gutenberg Bible, among other spectacular things. Definitely a must during your one day in Manchester.
Learn about the city’s legacy in the MOSI
MOSI, or Manchester of Science and Industry, is a free museum that displays Manchester’s rich industrial legacy. No doubt, one of the best free things you can do in the city.
As an added bonus, this legacy is explored in an excellent museum set within the enormous grounds of the old Liverpool St Station, the oldest rail terminus in the world. The large collection of steam engines and original factory machinery tells the story of the city from the sewers up, while a host of new technology talks about its future.
You can access this museum by using the Metro and disembarking at the Castlefields-Deansgate stop.
Sit down and have a delicious lunch
Now would be the perfect time to stop for lunch. And Manchester abounds with some amazing options! Oh yes, the foodie in you will be very happy.
For example, Hawksmoor Manchester serves amazing steaks and other British food in a fascinating setting. Gusto Italian is very close by if you would like some good stone-baked pizza, and Dishoom Manchester will treat you to some excellent Indian food. Oh, and we can’t forget about Australasia – a very interesting place where Australian food is served with an Asian twist.
All of these places are close to each other, so they fit into this itinerary perfectly. However, if you would like to explore some more, you certainly won’t be disappointed. The food scene in Manchester is incredibly vibrant.
Visit the Central Library
The Manchester Central Library is considered one of the grand old buildings in Europe. Circular in design, it stands resolutely between the Midland Hotel (where Mr’s Rolls and Royce developed the car) and Manchester Town Hall. The galleries and exhibit halls flank the outside of the structure.
Go ahead and enter it because there is much to see inside. There are some very impressive collections and more than 30 incunabula, and when you’re done exploring you can always sit in the library’s cafe and just take a moment to yourself. Enjoy the fact that you’re here and do some people-watching.
Marvel at the Town Hall
Manchester Town Hall is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city providing a decadent, historical setting. And it’s practically right next to the Central Library, so you won’t have to go far.
Indeed, the Town Hall is regarded as one of the finest examples of neo-Gothic architecture in the United Kingdom and is one of the most important Grade 1 buildings in England. It also creates an incredible backdrop to one of Europe’s biggest Christmas Markets. So, should you come here during Christmas time, you know where to go.
Treat yourself to some shopping
If shopping is your thing, then you will be spoiled. There are three distinct areas all of which are accessible by foot or by jumping on the relevant Metro services.
If you are after Premium department stores offering lavish items, then head to King Street where you will discover Chanel, Dior, Vivienne Westwood, and Louis Vuitton, along with the designer restaurants of Rosso or Gotham. Most bars and restaurants in this area are owned by celebrities, so this is where you’ll be most likely to spot them.
If you are after High Street stores, then head to Market Street and Exchange Square which is home to the usual Diesel, H&M, Lacoste, and two huge department stores Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
The third shopping area is found in the Northern Quarter. This is probably the most relaxed area of the city and offers very independent, trendy, and bohemian items. One of the best places to just lose yourself is Aflecks Palace. Floors of independent stalls selling everything from food, jewelry, and clothing.
End the day with a nice dinner and some drinks
Food and drink are extremely important in Manchester. The locals are hard drinkers and are ever so surprised foreigners choose this city over London. They have a genuine interest in knowing your business over a few beers, so you feel welcome here in a matter of seconds!
Some of the best places to sample the local brews are in the Northern Quarter, fondly known as The NQ, where most bars serve local independent beers. Tib Street Tavern, Lammars, Dry Bar, and The Terrace are among my favorite bars here.
If you head towards the Town Hall and Albert Square, you will find numerous bars and restaurants that all offer great food and reasonably priced cocktails.
Where to stay in Manchester?
16 Chapel Street, Salford, Manchester, M3 7NH, UK
When it comes to five-star accommodation in Manchester, Citysuites Aparthotel is really hard to beat. Apart from the swimming pool, the hot tub and the fitness center, you can also enjoy a great breakfast here. Then there’s also the view of the city, which is just amazing, and there’s also a secure car park in the vicinity. With all that, you will definitely feel like you got your money’s worth and be eager to come back again.
King Street Townhouse
10 Booth Street Manchester, Upper King Street Conservation Area
King Street Townhouse offers contemporary accommodation as a great combination of historical features and modern standards. It is located in the center of Manchester, only 5 minutes’ walk from Manchester Town Hall. The hotel is set in an impressive Italian renaissance building, originally built in 1872. The hotel features an infinity spa pool on the rooftop, a relaxation room, and a steam room as well as a conference and event space. The rooms provide comfort and contemporary design.
Motel One Manchester – Royal Exchange
15 Cross Street, Manchester M2 1WD, United Kingdom
With a great location right in the city centre, Motel One Manchester – Royal Exchange is very convenient. But it’s so much more than that! The staff does an amazing job maintaining the hotel, and the interior design is lovely. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, with toiletries and other nice details. There is also a hotel bar where you can enjoy a nice drink, plus the continental breakfast is great. Excellent value for your money!
Potato Wharf, Manchester City Centre, Manchester
YHA Manchester is a modern and comfortable hostel stay not too far from the city center. The hostel features café bar, cinema room, communal kitchen and canal side restaurant. Bright rooms provide a comfortable stay in bunk beds and are en-suite.
Day trips from Manchester
Yes, Manchester does have a lot to offer. However, a day trip from this beautiful city is also an excellent idea. There is much to see and explore in this part of the world, so if you have the time, it would be a shame to miss the opportunity. Here are some day trip destinations you won’t want to miss!
Now, this is a really obvious choice. Liverpool is only about 45 minutes away from Manchester and offers plenty to see. Obviously, it’s the city that gave us the Beatles, but there are so many interesting sights to see, too. Anglican Cathedral is the largest cathedral in England, but its Catholic Metropolitan counterpart is just as impressive. Apart from that, museums, galleries, and stunning parks guarantee a fantastic experience.
Because it’s less than 100 kilometers away, York is an excellent destination for a day trip from Manchester. The city was founded way back in Roman times, so it has a rich history and loads of things to see. The view from its impressive city walls will leave you speechless, and you certainly must see York Minster. Apart from those, there are plenty of medieval monuments left from the age when the Normans ruled here.
Chester is another historical English city worthy of your time. Basically, on the outskirts of Liverpool, you will be absolutely stunned by the architecture characterized by white and black timber and the history this place brings. The immense Chester Cathedral and the city walls are a must, but the whole city is a time machine because it too dates back to Roman times. If you can, visit it!
This is a real foodies paradise, so if you want some fine dining just head to Knutsford. You will find all kinds of fantastic restaurants there, but you would do well to try some authentic British cuisine or simply hit one of the pubs. You know what they say, when in Rome… It is also possible to visit the beautiful Tatton Park with its magnificent mansion. A stroll through this place will surely build up an appetite.
If you’re a fan of architecture, you’ll love what Stockport has to offer. Loads of beautiful mansions, some of them going back centuries, are a sight to behold. Of course, their surroundings with impeccable greenery are just as impressive. Be sure to visit Lyme Park in the nearby village of Dysley, which is a huge Tudor building. Authentic England at its best.
Extra tips for visiting Manchester
– Manchester allows London to have the attention it so desires because Manchester already knows what it has. The city is just waiting for everyone else to figure this out.
– If you want the traditional English experience of castles, red tourist buses, and people too socially stunted to look or speak to a stranger, stay in London. Despite the business, it really is beautiful, and everyone should go at least once.
– However, if you want the kind of city that makes you feel at home, if you want to make friends, if you want to stroll amidst gorgeous architecture and good books and better music — visit Manchester. You will be the only person you know who did.
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British Born and raised in "Alice in Wonderland" country. From a small village known as Daresbury, Cheshire where the infamous story was fabricated. Traveling around the globe is not only a hobby but a true life experience. The World and Geography have always been of interest since a child and it was not uncommon for me to be seen reading atlases and maps rather than storybooks. South-East Asia is my happy place. Its where most of my memories are made. Life is a rich tapestry.