With just 24 hours in Manchester on my recent trip to the other side of The Pennines, I knew I’d have to plan carefully if I wanted to get the most out of this awesome city. In an ideal world I’d spend every single city break getting lost on purpose, taking long, relaxing coffee breaks in cosy cafes, and just seeing where my feet take me. But when you’ve only got 24 hours in a city, you need to plan more than usual and be OK with the fact that you might not be able to see and do absolutely everything.
24 Hours in Manchester
Dubbed “The Capital of the North”, Manchester played a huge part in the industrial revolution, and its this, along with the city’s links to music, politics and sport, that makes it such an interesting place to explore. Combine Manchester’s heritage with its unique shops, eclectic eateries, and independent coffee-scene and you’ve got yourself a city that’s perfect for a weekend away.
If you’ve got 24 hours in Manchester, here are 7 places you have to eat, see, and explore. I can’t promise it’s going to be a relaxing weekend away but, who cares, you can rest when you’re home, right?
1. Breakfast at Evelyn’s Cafe & Bar
I visited Evelyn’s on my second morning in Manchester, having left my hotel while it was still dark so that by the time I’d walked to the Northern Quarter, where Evelyn’s is located, I’d be able to take some early-morning-light (and people-free!) photos in my favourite part of the city.
It was a cold January morning, the kind of cold that turns your nose a bit pink, so when I rocked up at Evelyn’s I was desperate for a breakfast that was going to warm me up and a coffee to perk me up, of course. One shakshuka and a two flat whites later, I was ready to head out and explore again before I headed home to Leeds.
2. Get inspired and informed at the People’s History Museum
The People’s History Museum is home to one of the largest collections of political material in the UK and chronicles two hundred years of British democracy in a light and airy former hydraulic pumping station in the Spinningfields area of Manchester.
Personally I found this museum fascinating. I’ve been to a lot of museums on my travels, but none of them have gripped me the way the People’s History Museum did. Some of the topics covered, like the suffragettes, women’s right to vote, and the history of the Labour Party, are particularly close to my heart, and it was so interesting to see political campaign posters alongside photographs and interactive exhibitions.
If you want to go to a museum in Manchester, I’d urge you to make it this one.
3. Visit John Rylands Library
I won’t claim to be a fan of Harry Potter (sorry not sorry) but with its Victorian Gothic architecture and impressive winding staircase, Hogwarts is definitely the place that springs to mind when you’re walking around John Rylands Library. The library collection itself is incredibly special (it’s home to one of the oldest known pieces of the New Testament) but it was the soaring ceilings of the grand Reading Room that really wowed me. Definitely worth the visit – and it’s free!
4. Discover Manchester’s architecture
Is it any wonder architecture is on my list? Buildings (along with shop fronts and street art) are my favourite things to photograph when I travel, and I spend at least a couple of hours on every city break admiring the local architecture. The thing that makes Manchester’s architecture so interesting, though, is the fact that it’s so varied. The important role Manchester played in the Industrial Revolution can be seen in its many old warehouses and cotton mills, while John Rylands library, the Town Hall, and Manchester Cathedral are all examples of the city’s Victorian Gothic and Neo Gothic architecture.
5. Explore the Northern Quarter
With its industrial red brick buildings, cool cafes, and shops selling everything from vintage clothes to vinyl, the Northern Quarter is a neighbourhood that’s full of character. Once home to busy textile factories during the Industrial Revolution (factories that saw Manchester hailed as the textile capital of the world at the time), this unique district near Piccadilly Gardens is now a destination in its own right and home to some of the best street art in the North. During the day, the area is laid-back and lazy; at night, its streets team with revellers looking for craft beer and live music. It’s my absolute favourite place to hang out in Manchester, and definitely one to put on your list if you’re visiting.
6. Go meat-free at V Rev
I love halloumi too much to ever go vegan, but because I’m pescatarian I’m always on the hunt for cool veggie-friendly restaurants when I travel. I was recommended a bunch of places to eat before my trip, but I ended up at V Rev in the Northern Quarter because, honestly? I really fancied a burger. And when you really fancy a dirty meat-free burger in Manchester, this retro diner with a modern twist is the place to be.
The spicy “chicken” burger is my pick, but nachos, “beef” burgers, and hot dogs are all on the menu, along with loaded fries, salads, and milkshakes.
7. Get some shut-eye
I get that you want to see as much as possible, but at some point you’re probably going to have to get some sleep. When you’re choosing a hotel for a super-short city break, it’s all about the location. I stayed at Roomzzz Aparthotel on Princess Street: 5 minutes from Piccadilly station, 10 minutes walk from the Northern Quarter, and a stone’s throw from most of the city centre attractions.
I liked this hotel because, well, it didn’t really feel like a hotel. It felt like I was looking after someone else’s cool, edgy, inner-city apartment for the night; like a home from home. It was the perfect place to relax (which I did, in the bath whilst watching Legally Blonde on the waterproof TV) and so nice to stay so close to everything I wanted to see.
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Disclaimer: my visit to Manchester was part of a collaboration with Roomzzz. However all opinions are photos are my own.