A Weekend In Manchester

view of Manchester town hall from below

What To See In Manchester In Two Days 

Manchester is the north of England’s historic industrial powerhouse. Over the last two centuries, this huge metropolitan city has now grown from its Roman beginnings into the cultural capital of the north, boasting not only a historical place in the major political and social movements of the last two centuries, but also being a longtime incubator for innovative technological advances and creative endeavours.

It is a wonderful place to savour not only the industrial past of England, the historic social upheavals and political battles of its people, but also its exciting future, being home to some of the greatest minds and think tanks the country has to offer. You could spend a year exploring the different parts of Manchester, but below you’ll find my two day itinerary for seeing the very best this city has to offer.

Day One: City Centre and the Northern Quarter

Start your first day in this bustling city from Piccadilly Gardens, as it’s a good starting point for getting into the centre, especially if you’ve never been to Manchester before. From there, make your way to the Northern Quarter. This is the quirky and bohemian part of the city centre is great for wandering about and getting a taste for the creative and alternative side to Manchester.

Wander around the streets and spot some of Manchester’s amazing street art that decorate its streets. Some of the best includes the famous 22 bees mural by the graffiti artist Qubek on Oldham Street,  which is a dedication to those killed in the 2017 terror attack.

22 bees mural street art

As well as taking in your fill of the local street art, pop into the Northern Quarter’s unusual and interesting boutiques. Have a look inside Magma bookshop, the art and craft shop Fred Aldous and the indoor independent market Afflecks selling everything and anything. Don’t forget to check out the Manchester Craft and Design Centre, which is a treasure trove of local art and craftsmanship definitely worth the visit! Once you’re all shopped out, stop for brunch in one of the Northern Quarter’s many, many independent coffee shops. This part of town has loads of the city’s bests places for brunch and coffee.  Try out Koffee Pot, Ezra & Gil, Evelyn’s, The Foundation Coffee Shop, Federal and Chapter One Books. If you want to see a bit more of Manchester’s foodie scene, head to Mackie Mayor for some mouth-watering Mancunian delicacies and cooking mastery.

indoor food market

Come the afternoon, walk over to the Corn Exchange, which used to be the city’s Corn and Produce Exchange. Now a home to a collection of new restaurants, the building itself demonstrates some of the best of Manchester’s Edwardian architecture. Next, if you fancy a kick-about, head into the National Football Museum. If football is not your thing,  check out Manchester’s Cathedral round the corner and it’s oldest pub, The Old Wellington Inn. Continue onto the Royal Exchange Theatre, which was part of a collection of buildings used for exchanging commodities. Although now a theatre, if you go inside you can still see high on the wall the boards still showing the exchange rates on the last day of operation

old English pub

Finish off the afternoon by musing around the Manchester Art Gallery.  Allow a few hours here, as the gallery has some extensive and breath-taking collections of world-class art, both local and international that are well worth your time. Once you’ve had your dose of culture for the day, walk back to Piccadilly where you can either call it quits for the day or head out for some late night food. For evening entertainment, why not see some live jazz in the Northern Quarter’s Matt and Phred’s Jazz Club. For a really fun night, head to Manchester’s gay village around Canal Street, where you’ll find plenty of bars to choose from. 

Day Two: Deansgate

Day two, begin in St. Ann’s Square, the beautiful pedestrianised square down the road from the Royal Exchange Theatre which is nestled in the commercial heart of the city. It boats some great examples of Victorian and Edwardian architecture to admire, including the exquisite Barton Arcade, a Victorian shopping centre hidden between St. Anne’s Square and Deansgate. If you’re looking for breakfast, head in here to Pot Kettle Black for a fragrant morning coffee and a jazzed up version of a Manchester tart.

From Barton Arcade, head onto Deansgate, one of the city’s oldest paths, where you’ll find plenty to see and do. Head to the People’s History Museum for a morning of eye-opening museum-trailing. Unlike many museums you’ve probably been to, this is one that is still very much engaged with the present. Documenting how democracy has emerged in Britain, the museum houses thousands of snapshots of the British people’s fight for equality, fair legislation, equal representation and much more, that goes up to the present day!

old red brick gothic building

After a fairly politically-inspired morning, head back to Deansgate down to the John Rylands Library. Free to enter, this historical hub of learning is a must-see if not just for its beautiful neo-Gothic architecture, but also for the history that lines its walls, including extensive collections of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Next, head over to Manchester’s Town Hall in Albert Square. This grand neo-gothic building is closed until 2024 due to an extensive renovation project, but is still worth seeing even from the outside as it is a very impressive building. 

view of Manchester town hall from below

Down the road from the Town Hall, you will find the Central Library, the city centre haunt of bibliophiles and local students throughout the year. It is a good place to rest your feet for free, admire its rare book collections or just to admire a part of Manchester city life. After a day wearing down your feet, finish your afternoon by heading to Grindsmith for a well-deserved coffee. With three locations around the city, this Manchester-based coffee brewer is a go-to for locally crafted, good coffee. Their espresso bar in Deansgate is the nearest to the Central Library, which you can find here

If you still have time and energy remaining, a trip to the Science and Industry Museum located nearby is a good way to finish your second day. Free to enter, this museum showcases ideas that have changed the world, housed in the middle of a city that was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. After two packed-full days, end your second day in Manchester with a show at the Royal Exchange Theatre. 

Want to see what else the UK has to offer? Head over to the Travel section for more inspiration on what to see in the UK. 

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