My best ideas on how to spend a perfect weekend in Manchester – The city that unexpectedly swept me off my feet.
The city of Manchester took me by surprise. Based on stories I’ve heard I expected the third largest city in England to be dull, colorless, and filled with drunk football fans wandering the streets. Little did I know that I would fall in love with this industrial town instantly. Turns out there is more to Manchester than football. Much, much more.
We’re talking excellent shopping, fine dining, beautiful architecture, the coolest street art, the nicest locals, the most accepting environment, the best cocktails, an exciting night life.. Everything you need for a great weekend with friends, family or your better half. And the best part? Underrated Manchester isn’t overcrowded like London and Edinburgh.
YET. So hurry up and book a weekend trip to Manchester before the secret’s out. And keep reading for my best tips on how to spend a perfect weekend in Manchester City – map included.
Table Of Contents
- How To Get To Manchester
- The Best Hotels In Manchester
- Fun Things To Do In Manchester
- Day Trips From Manchester
- Shopping In Manchester
- The Best Places To Eat In Manchester
- My Manchester City Map
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How To Get To Manchester
Spending a weekend in Manchester is doable for most people as the city is easily reached from all corners of the world.
BY PLANE: Most larger airlines fly to Manchester Airport, but flying into other UK airports and taking the bus or train to Manchester is also an option. Check flight search engines like Momondo or Skyscanner to find the best option for you. Getting from the airport to the city centre takes approximately 20-30 minutes by train, bus or car.
BY BUS/TRAIN: Manchester is close to many cities in Britain and it’s easily reached by train or bus. It’s just 2 hours from London, 3 hours from Glasgow and Edinburgh and 40 minutes from Liverpool – that’s not bad at all! I suggest adding Manchester to your itinerary next time you’re exploring the UK. Check out routes and prices here.
The Best Hotels in Manchester
Perfect your weekend in Manchester by choosing the right place to stay. As always, I recommend picking a hotel with a central location. Getting around in compact Manchester is easy and public transportation in the city is great (they even have a free bus!). But the best hotels in Manchester have such a good location that you won’t have to depend on public transportation at all, and you can walk anywhere if you prefer (like I do). Here are some of the best hotels in Manchester:
Our Hotel In Manchester
We chose to stay at ibis Styles Manchester Portland and it was such a pleasant experience. The location was perfect for us (we could walk pretty much anywhere), the weather themed interior was quirky and fun, and the staff were very helpful and nice. There was a lovely breakfast each morning and everything was clean at all times. This is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a hotel that is budget friendly without compromising on location, cleanliness, service or quality.
Other Great Hotels In Manchester
King Street Townhouse: With an amazing view and infinity pool, this 4 star hotel is every millennials dream. Every travel blogger out there loves this place for a reason and it truly is one of the best hotels in Manchester. It’s located in the middle of the city centre, super close to Manchester Town Hall and Albert Square.
The Cow Hollow Hotel: Stunning boutique hotel located in the coolest neighbourhood in Manchester, the Northern Quarter. Not only is their decor to die for, they also provide a complimentary continental breakfast bag and their cocktail bar is open 24/7. This place is also perfect if you crave a little Netflix ’n chill after a long day of exploring as each room comes with a smart TV with Netflix included (you’ll have to take care of the chill part on your own though).
Abel Heywood: A popular 4 star boutique hotel located inside a former cotton warehouse in the Northern Quarter. By staying here you’ll be close to everything you need while spending the perfect weekend in Manchester.
Fun Things To Do In Manchester
Don’t worry, you will not be bored when spending a weekend in Manchester. There are more than enough fun things to do in Manchester to keep you busy for weeks. There is always a game, concert or event happening, so I recommend checking out current events prior to your weekend in Manchester so you don’t miss out. Here are some other great ideas on fun things to do in Manchester:
1. See Manchester From Above
I always do my best to see a new destination from above when I’m traveling. Manchester was no exception, so one night we headed to 20 Stories in Spinningfields. Their outside terrace was beautiful and lush, and we immediately had our eye on an available bungalow in the corner. The view from 20 Stories was spectacular and a definite must-see when in Manchester. I highly recommend The Manchester Tart Punch and The Mosaic from the cocktail menu, so good!
2. Visit The National Football Museum
If you’re a football fan traveling to Manchester you have to check out the National Football Museum. See famous trophies and other memorabilia while learning about the popular sport. The Manchester United Museum and Stadium Tour is also supposed to be an amazing experience. Or the Etihad Stadium Tour if you’re a ManCity fan instead.
3. Explore The Northern Quarter
My absolute favorite thing to do in Manchester was to walk around the Northern Quarter and just explore. The Northern Quarter is a bohemian neighbourhood filled with quirky independent shops, record stores, vintage shops, street art and an abundance of interesting restaurants and bars. It is a definite must-see and no trip to Manchester is complete without a visit to the Northern Quarter.
4. Go Vintage Shopping
Manchester is flooded with great vintage shops, so this is the place to let your inner hipster out to play. Most of the shops are located in the Northern Quarter, which makes vintage shopping more fun than in London or New York City where they’re scattered all over town. The prices are also waaaay more reasonable than in the larger cities. Get more details on the best vintage shops in Manchester here.
5. Admire The Street Art
It’s impossible to miss all of the impressive street art while walking around Manchester. Wherever you look you’ll find one – they’re basically on every corner. And I loved it. In fact, I consider the street art of the most memorable aspects about my long weekend in Manchester. So keep those pretty eyes open while strolling the city, particularly in the Northern Quarter and The Gay Village. Don’t forget to stop by Outhouse Manchester, an outdoor project space for public art.
6. Explore The Other Charming Neighbourhoods
My obvious love for the Northern Quarter aside, it is not the only charming neighbourhood in Manchester. Make sure you also explore the other great neighbourhoods this city has to offer like The Gay Village, Spinningfields and Castlefield.
The Gay Village: A fun and friendly neighbourhood where everyone is welcome. Start out in the lively Canal Street (even more fun at night!) and see where your gut takes you. Head over to Sackville Gardens and pay your respects at the Alan Turing memorial, a statue dedicated to the WWII hero who got prosecuted for his sexuality.
Spinningfields: Manchester’s financial centre and an elegant neighbourhood that offers great shopping and loads of amazing restaurants and bars. Why not taste some delicious thai food at Thaikhun or fine dining at Tattu, or enjoy the view of the city from 20 Stories? Cocktails at Sunset by Australasia is also supposed to be delicious.
Castlefield: Take a stroll along the canals that this lovely and laidback neighbourhood is known for. There you’ll find loads of charming waterfront bars and restaurants worthy of a visit, like The Wharf and Barca. Try to catch an outdoor concert at the Castlefield Bowl, admire art at Castlefield Gallery or HOME, or see the ruins of the Roman fort Mamucium.
7. Stop By Manchester Cathedral
The Manchester Cathedral is a stunning piece of medieval architecture and a definite must-see in Manchester. Even if you’re not the religious type (I’m not either). It is open 7 days a week and general admission is free. We didn’t find the time to go inside when we were there and I’ve regretted it since, so learn from my mistakes.
8. Have A Pint At A Traditional Pub
Like at The Old Wellington, a charming old pub located at Shambles Square right by Manchester Cathedral. This unique building was built in 1552 and is the oldest building of its kind in Manchester. It’s an absolute must see, and great location for a pint or a quick lunch break inbetween shopping sessions.
9. Hang Out At Albert Square
Albert Square is a popular town square in Manchester you should check out. It is a natural meeting point and a common venue for markets, including the seasonal Christmas market. This is also where you’ll find Manchester Town Hall, a stunning building you’ll just have to see.
10. Pretend You’re A Hogwarts Student
Been waiting for that acceptance letter to Hogwarts your entire life, too? Check your mailbox – you just got in! … or at least you can pretend like you did at The John Rylands Library. All jokes aside, it truly is a breathtaking library you shouldn’t miss in Manchester. The library is free to visit, open seven days a week and has a fantastic gift shop.
11. Visit The Beatles Museum In Liverpool
Liverpool is located only 40 minutes west of Manchester, making it the perfect destination for a day trip. Make sure to pop by The Beatles Story, an award-winning museum dedicated to the famous band. Super fan? Add this Beatles walking tour to your itinerary as well.
12. Enjoy Some Afternoon Tea
With the exception of James Bond, what can possibly be more British than enjoying some delicious afternoon tea? Get the real experience at Richmond Tea Rooms in The Gay Village. Walking through the doors of Richmond Tea Rooms is like entering the world of Alice in Wonderland – we’re talking magical chandeliers in the draped ceiling, a ton of flowers and adorable furniture. Although Richmond Tea Rooms is known for their tea, cakes and sweets, they also serve other meals if you crave something more filling. I do recommend you book a table in advance as it’s a very popular spot.
13. Visit A World Class Museum or Gallery
Visit one of city’s amazing museums or art galleries while spending a weekend in Manchester. Some of the most popular choices are Manchester Art Gallery, The Whitworth, HOME, Manchester Museum & Science And Industry Museum.
Day Trips From Manchester
Want to see more of the United Kingdom on your trip? There are a ton of amazing day trips from Manchester you can do. Rent a car and drive yourself, catch the train to your dream destination, or book one of the many available tours. Here are some great day trips from Manchester you can choose from:
Day Trip To Liverpool
Located only 40 minutes away Liverpool is the perfect destination for a day trip from Manchester. Walk around and explore, see a football match, do a tour of Anfield or visit the Beatles museum.
Day Trip To York
Visit the city of York just 1.5 hours north east of Manchester. Built by The Romans in 71 AD and captured by the Vikings in 866 AD, York has a ton of exciting history to discover. Shop in one of the oldest shopping streets in the world, visit beautiful York Minster or go on a river cruise.
Day Trips To The Countryside
If you want to escape the busy city life and spend a quiet day in the countryside instead, you have loads of places to choose from. A popular day trip from Manchester is heading to wonderful Wales and Snowdonia National Park or the beautiful Chatsworth House. Visiting Lake District or Derbyshire and Peak District are also great choices if you appreciate nature.
Shopping In Manchester
In Manchester shopping is so much fun. The city has everything you need, from affordable chain stores like Primark and TopShop, to high end stores like Louis Vuitton and Armani, as well as a ton of vintage shops and indie shops with gems you’d never think to look for. You’ll find all mentioned shops in my Manchester city map here.
Manchester Shopping Streets & Centres
MARKET STREET: Manchester’s main shopping street, stretching from Piccadilly Gardens in east to Exchange Street in the west. It hosts a variety of shops and has several entrances to Manchester’s main shopping centre, Arndale.
MANCHESTER ARNDALE: The go-to shopping centre in Manchester city. It houses more than 200 stores like TopShop, River Island, Next, Monki, Disney, All Saints and a ton of other chain stores.
SELFRIDGES MANCHESTER EXCHANGE: Department store next to Arndale with brands like Dior, Prada & Gucci.
NEW CATHEDRAL STREET: Popular street next to Arndale and Exchange Square, filled with luxury brands.
THE BARTON ARCADE: Gorgeous victorian shopping centre you’ll just have to see.
OLDHAM STREET: The main street in Northern Quarter with the best independent and vintage shops in Manchester.
AFFLECK’S: Eclectic shopping centre in Northern Quarter with a ton of unique and quirky shops.
INTU TRAFFORD CENTRE: The second largest shopping centre in the country, located 30 minutes west of the city centre.
LOWRY OUTLET: Outlet mall located only 20 minutes from Manchester city centre.
Vintage Shops In Manchester
Manchester is flooded with great vintage shops, and most of them are located in the Northern Quarter which makes vintage shopping easy. Compared to cities like London and New York City the vintage shops are also very affordable. Pop by the shops below and see what gems you find!
BLUE RINSE / 29-31 OLDHAM ST
COW VINTAGE / 61 CHURCH ST
OXFAM ORIGINALS / 51 OLDHAM ST
POP BOUTIQUE / 34-36 OLDHAM STREET
RETRO REHAB / 91 OLDHAM ST
BAGS OF FLAVOR / 33 TIB ST
RSPCA CHARITY SHOP / 15 OAK ST
Other Great Shops
NORTHERN FLOWER / 58 TIB ST
Adorable flower shop which is basically a landmark in the Northern Quarter. Simply enjoy their outdoor display while passing by, or pop in and see what treats you find inside.
DEADSTOCK GENERAL STORE / 46 EDGE ST
I initially found this pink shop through Pinterest, but it was even cooler in person. They sell anything from notebooks and pens to and decor and shaving kits. Well worth a visit.
OKLAHOMA / 74-76 HIGH ST
The perfect shop if you’re looking for a fun gift for your better half, best friend or kids. Or something cool for your apartment. Great selection of fun books, jewellery, home goods and decor.
FRED ALDOUS / 37 LEVER ST
A super colorful shop with loads of fun things for your home, your studies or hobbies. Definitely pop by when in the area!
FORM LIFESTYLE STORE / 6 BRADLEY ST
Lifestyle store that supports independent designers, with loads of beautiful decor pieces & more.
THUNDER EGG / 22 OLDHAM ST
Cool shop in the Northern Quarter that sell unique pieces like handmade clothes and jewellery.
The Best Bars & Restaurants In Manchester
My favorite part of spending a weekend in Manchester? All the incredible restaurants this city has to offer! Deciding on where to eat and drink was a serious struggle, as there were just too many amazing options. The fact that every restaurant we laid our eyes on looked like an Instagrammer’s fantasy didn’t exactly help make our decision either. (Ohh gotta love those first world problems). Anywhoo, here are some of the best cafés, bars and restaurants in Manchester:
TATTU / 3 HARDMAN SQUARE
For the best dining experience. Perfect for a romantic date. Cocktails to die for.
THAIKHUN / 3 HARDMAN ST
When you crave delicious thai food in a laidback environment.
THE REFUGE / OXFORD ST
The most Instagram-worthy restaurant in Manchester. Simply spectacular. Great food and cocktails.
20 STORIES / 1 HARDMAN ST
Enjoy the best view of Manchester while sipping on a cocktail
EVELYN’S / 44 TIB ST
My personal favorite. Perfect for when you want to enjoy a meal with the best atmosphere. Green plants everywhere, incredible frozé, delicious avocado toast. What more can a girl ask for?
Read: The 10 Best Places To Eat In Manchester
My Manchester City Map
Any of my ideas on how to spend a weekend in Manchester sound interesting? You can find them all in my Manchester City Map below. Click on the photo and you’ll get a Manchester City map that you can use on your trip. I hope it’s helpful!
Enjoyed this post on how to spend a weekend in Manchester? Maybe you’ll enjoy these related reads as well.
The 10 Best Places To Eat In Manchester
Fun Things To Do In Glasgow
Magical Things To Do In Dublin At Christmas
The Ultimate Guide To Edinburgh
How To Spend A Perfect Weekend In London
Pin For Later
Hopefully you got some ideas on how to spend a weekend in Manchester. I wish you a wonderful trip and I hope you fall in love with it as much as I did. Pin & save for later if you wish, I appreciate every share.
Absolutely amazing guide, it’s such a vibrant city with so much going for it! Glad to have discovered your blog!
Thank you so much, Jen 😄❤️
Even though I’m British I visited Manchester for the first time last year (admittedly only for 2 days before a flight). I couldnt believe what a cool and quirky place it is. I loved the vintage shops and art and the music scene vibe. I knew I’d have to come back so this is a great guide!
Right?? I had no idea! I got Spice Girls tickets for Christmas so we went to Manchester with no expectations and it blew us away 😄 thanks for reading
Wow! Amazing! My husband is a massive Man U fan and has always wanted to go. Now that I know there is so much to do I have to join him! What a great post!
Yes you haaave to join him, you’ll enjoy it so much 😍
Wow, this is so comprehensive. I think I would head to the vintage shops first, then head for something to eat. Looks like loads to do. I haven’t been to Manchester before, but I have been to York, one of your recommended day trips.
Sounds like a great plan 😄👌🏻 ahh I haven’t been to York yet, but it looks amazing too 😍
I haven’t been to Manchester. It looks like such a fun little city! Your pictures make me want to go!
Wonderful post! I am so excited to come back to this for my trip planning! The photography is so beautiful!
Awee thank you so much, Melissa, you’re the best! Can’t wait to read more about your adventures!
Amazing guide! Love how colorful your pictures are.
Thank you 😄😄
Manchester looks like a wonderful weekend getaway as it’s in such a good location from other major cities. I would love to visit old pubs, have tea and just wander many of those neighborhoods finding cool street art! Beautiful photos too! 😁
It really is the best, you have to visit one day 😄 thank you 🥰
I have yet to visit anywhere but London in the UK and I really, really want to visit Manchester! Visually, it looks so interesting and the food looks pretty darn good as well!
Ohh it really is worth a visit, such an interesting city with something for everyone 😁
Seeing the street art and doing some vintage shopping sound like a fantastic day out in Manchester to me. And I’d probably have to see the football stadium as well.
Sounds like a great plan, Katherine 😄 Manchester was amazing!
Such a detailed guide. We are hoping to get to the UK towards the end of the year so this will come in very useful.
That’s great! I hope your trip is amazing <3
This was a super informative guide! I love all the photos and the street art looks so cool!
thank you so much!
I love Manchester! I wish I could explain how many beautiful memories your post has managed to bring back from my time there. Beautiful photos, Tina.
Thank you, Charu 😄 such a great city
I’ve only been to Manchester once but really enjoyed it. Your post is amazing, made me want to go back and explore the city some more!! Great photos too, thanks for sharing! 🙂
Thank you😊 I want to go back too, it is such a lovely city 😍
I love your pictures and suggestions 🙂 I live near Manchester, and I love visiting The John Rylands Library and the Northern Quarter. They are amazing places and I could spend hours there!
Ahhh lucky you! I would do the same if I lived close 😄😄
Can you believe I’ve lived in London for 8 years and still never been to Manchester?? I need to get out of London more! This is such a good guide, thanks for putting it together! Will be using it for my Manchester weekend escape (when I actually get round to doing it!)
Girl you need to go asap! …. wheeen the world gets back to normal of course haha 😅😄 you’ll have so much fun!
Manchester looks so beautiful. Next time I go to the UK, I’d love to go there. Also, your photos are stunning. 🙂
Thank you so much😍
Well, now I feel stupid for not visiting Manchester when I lived in London! I made it to Liverpool, and caught the train to Scotland, but never Manchester. I guess it’ll just have to go onto the bucket list for when I take the hubby to the UK to show him my favourite spots!
It’s never too late 😄👌🏻
I love this! These suggestions are really helpful. Going back to England is on my must do list for when we can start traveling! Your pictures are amazing!
Thank you so much, Melissa! <3
Ah I love your write up of Manchester! I’m a Mancunian and I’m so thrilled you enjoyed it, we definitely feel its underrated compared to London. The northern quarter is amazing, and also often used as New York in films! It’s been used in Captain America! xXx
Thank you so much, Natalie! Means the world to me that you liked it. Honestly, I fell head over heels for Manchester, and now I recommend it to everyone. Cannot WAIT to go back (hopefully soon). The northern quarter was my favorite spot, had no idea that it was used as NYC, how cool! I used to live close to Greenwich Village in NYC and the northern quarter reminded me alot about it! Again, thank you so much Natalie!