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A guide to your visit to Manchester

Manchester is the former industrial heart of the United Kingdom and today is one of the most exciting and dynamic cities in the country, with hundreds of thousands of people visiting the city each year for culture, business, sport and more.

If you’re visiting from abroad it’s likely that you’ll be arriving through Manchester International Airport, which services around 26 million passengers annually, with routes to 200 major international destinations and budget flights from EasyJet, Jet2 and more.

There are three main train stations in Manchester City Centre, Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria with direct rail services from across the country including London which takes just over 2 hours direct. The metro link tram and a busy bus network will get you around the city and further afield in the city region from there, if you don’t fancy a stroll in the famously lovely Manchester weather - best bring an umbrella just in case.

The cities architecture is a real mix; from ultra-modern buildings of swanky apartments and new retail to the beautiful gothic architecture of Manchester Cathedral and John Rylands Library, so there’s plenty of Instagram moments as you stroll around the city centre.

There’s museums and galleries aplenty here too for the culture vultures. Top picks are the Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth, the Manchester Museum, the Imperial War Museum North, the museum of Science and Industry, The Lowry and the National Football Museum. There’s also a growing number of small independent galleries in areas like the Northern Quarter.

If culture’s you’re thing you might want to visit in June for the Manchester International Festival, the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events, which takes place every other year in venues across the city. But don’t worry if you can’t get over for the festival, on any night in the city you’ll stumble across a gig from exciting upcoming musicians or famous stars, comedians and pretty much whatever else you’re into.

Many people will also know Manchester for the football that’s played there. The city is home to Premier League titans, Manchester United and Manchester City, both of whom bring thousands of people into the city every week for premier league games and visitors from Europe for European club competition matches at Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium. Both stadiums have daily tours available on most weekdays for visits fans of the beautiful game.

Manchester Hotels

There are over 23,000 hotel bedrooms in Greater Manchester, and 10,000 in the city centre alone - the struggle for somewhere to stay for visitors isn't a problem that the city has. Choice of types of hotels and budgets isn’t a problem either - there are options to suit all budgets including hotels, hostels and apartments.

For those visiting Old Trafford to watch the football, Hotel Football may be just the choice for lovers of the Beautiful Game. Hotel Football was launched by ex-Manchester United legends Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs and is a stone’s throw from the stadium. The hotel and rooms have an up-market modern feel and there are two room types, king and executive - unsurprisingly both come with Sky Sports and BT Sport as standard so that you can watch the pre-match amble before you head to the match. There’s an on-site restaurant too, Cafe Football, and a range of meeting spaces and suites for business users.

In the city centre, you’ll find the Midland Hotel. Its 200m from Oxford Road train station and 800m from Piccadilly Station and over the road from Manchester Central so its easy to get to and find. The place is a bit of an institution and has hosted Kings, Queens and Presidents as well as various sports and music stars. It has 312 bedrooms and suites and plenty of conference and meeting facilities, a spa, a couple of restaurants and is famous for its afternoon tea.

At the highest end of the hotel spectrum is Manchester’s first five-star hotel The Lowry. Sitting on the Salford side of the River Irwell and 10 minutes’ walk from Manchester City Centre, the hotel has 165 rooms, high-end restaurants, cafes and bars.

Closer to Manchester Piccadilly and the shopping and leisure delights of the Northern Quarter sits Abode Manchester. Abode is based in a former textile factory and retains some of the period features whilst feeling quirky and modern, particularly in the bedrooms and suites. Suites come with Nespresso machines and Bose sound systems so you can have a posh coffee and listen to Oasis on your iPhone without heading to the hotels two bars or restaurant.

Manchester also has pretty much all the chain hotels you’d expect to find in a major city with Hilton, Malmaison and co being present here as well as Holiday Inn, Tune and other budget retreats ideal for weekend visits to the city.

Food and drink

Manchester has a thriving food and drink scene; with everything from fine dining, afternoon tea and cafés, to quirky bars and even crowdfunded pubs springing up across the city, regularly. Whatever it is that you fancy - Manchester certainly has it on offer.

Once branded ‘menuchester’ in the 1990s thanks to its diverse range of dining options, Manchester has continued with its gastronomic growth, and today is arguably the home of some of the north west’s coolest bars and restaurants.

If you fancy some fine dining, make sure you head over to Manchester House on Bridge Street, where you’ll find stunning surroundings which pay perfect lip service to the quality of food on the menu. Headed up by much revered Chef Patron Aiden Byrne, Manchester House’s culinary offering is hard to beat in the city, and definitely worth a visit. Similarly, if you’re after decadent dining, a night at The French, an art deco inspired eatery in the heart of the city serves up modern British cuisine; it’s worth a visit - and much deserving of a Michelin Star, too.

Another Manchester restaurant of note is Volta - a cozy little restaurant situated just outside of the city centre, in West Didsbury. The restaurant serves up a range of small plates, and head chef Alex Shaw was recently named Chef of the Year at the Manchester food and Drink Festival.

If you’re looking for a place to have a tipple or two, Manchester’s famous nightlife scene certainly won’t let you down. In the city centre alone, you’ll be able to find over 500 licensed venues, offering one of the best night’s out in the UK. The famous Canal Street in the heart of the city centre is perfect if you’re looking for somewhere to let your hair down and have a dance. But there’s also plenty of jazz bars and cozy pubs to while away the hours in as well - whatever type of evening you’re after, Manchester can definitely deliver.

If it’s the pub scene that you’re after, make sure that you head over to the Pilcrow Pub, which is situated in Sadler’s Yard in the city centre. Recently opening its doors to the public, the Pilcrow Pub is a beautiful bright and airy public house which was built entirely by volunteers. The pub has a diverse range of craft beers on tap to enjoy too!

Attractions

Manchester is a city packed full of outing options for all the family. From museums and galleries, some of the country’s best sporting sights, hidden historic gems and beautiful lush green spaces - Manchester has it all.

The Museum of Science and Industry

Pay tribute to the city’s industrial heritage, with a day out at the Museum of Science and Industry. An excellent and intriguing day out for all of the family; the Museum of Science and Industry focuses on the city’s achievements in the field of science, technology and industry. Inside you can find extensive displays of transport such as cars, aircraft and railway locomotives.

National Football Museum

Another popular attraction in Manchester is the National Football Museum - a haven for sporting fans and spread across six floors in the city centre, visitors can expect to find vast collections including the FIFA and FA collection. Also inside is the Neville Evans Collection - part of the largest private collection of football memorabilia in the world, which is also known as the National Football Collection.

Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden

Manchester is graced with plenty of green space, and one of the most popular with visitors is the Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden. Known to the locals as Fletcher Moss, the gardens are situated south of the city in leafy Didsbury, and are home to an array of wildlife and beautiful rock gardens. Take a picnic with you and soak up the sun - you can even have a game of tennis at the onsite tennis courts.

Clayton Hall

Alternatively, head over to Clayton Hall for the day, the stunning 15th century manor house, half of which is Georgian and the other half Tudor. A popular attraction situated in Clayton, in Greater Manchester the hall has been dressed as though the Victorian occupants still live within its walls. Admission is free to the public on the first and third Saturday, most months.

Chillfactore

Imagine snow in the summer. As famous as Manchester’s weather is, it’s unusual that you’ll be encountering snow during the summer season - unless you’re at the Chillfactore. Get ready to hit the slopes with Manchester’s year-round ski slopes, and have a family fun day of sledging, luging, skiing and snowball fights.

Shopping

Manchester has enough variety to satisfy the most discerning shoppers, ranging from local food markets and independent retailers and to high end designer and department stores.

The streets of the Northern Quarter host a wide variety of independent shops, including vintage fashion, record shops and craft and design centres. The world-famous Afflecks Palace provides a home for a huge variety of independents across its four floors. Music lovers should devote some time to visiting Piccadilly Records, Eastern Bloc and Vinyl Exchange, while design fans shouldn’t miss furniture boutique Den, mixing bespoke furniture with vintage homeware, quirky bazaar Oklahoma, and Manchester Craft and Design Centre, set in the beautifully-restored former Victorian Fish and Poultry Market. Boasting over 30 artists, designers and craft makers, you’ll find it filled with the best in local design, jewellery, bags and accessories. Have a look in Retro Rehab, Junk Shop and Pop Boutique for vintage clothes.

Moving across town towards Deansgate, Whitworth Street’s Ferrious is *the* shop for contemporary furniture and designer gifts, mixing local designers and makers with brands like ArchitectMade, Vitra and Tom Dixon.

The Arndale on Market Street is still a mecca for high street shops, and mixes them up with some independents and cafes and restaurants, while nearby Harvey Nichols (New Cathedral Street), Selfridges (Exchange Square Central) and House of Fraser (Deansgate) department stores give plenty of options, each under one roof.  

 

The Arndale Market (you’ll find the entrance on High Street) is a great stop for foodies, with fresh fish, cheese and meat, bread and pastries, and has a food hall where you can try food from around the world. You’ll find Piccadilly Street Food Market open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and Castlefield's Royal Mills Market is on the first Sunday of every month, mixing antiques and bric-a-brac with art, food – and plenty of samples!

Altrincham’s market – or Alty Market, as it’s known locally – has been attracting attention and awards from the Observer Food Monthly and Radio 4. You can visit every day except Monday and Wednesday for stacks of tasty regional food, vintage fashion and furniture, homeware and contemporary crafts.

While Manchester is compact and walkable, if – by any chance – you can’t find what you’re looking for, the Trafford Centre is about four miles outside the city centre. A lavish temple to shopping, complete with fountains, columns and sculptures, it’s also home to a cinema, amusement arcade, Laser Quest and large food court.

The Streets

The Northern Quarter

The Northern Quarter’s laid back daytime vibe turns to a bustle of bands and live music come nightfall. Focused around a cluster of streets to one side of Piccadilly Gardens, including Oldham Street, Thomas Street, Church Street, Newton Street, Stevenson Square and the roads running between them – but it still manages to be a place with great character and identity.

The old red-brick textile warehouses have become a treasure trove of independent shops, cafes and bars, and are much seen in TV and film. Home to the city’s creatives, this bohemian quarter is packed with character and distinctive identity. It’s *the* place to head to for food, drink, events and live music. It’s also an open-air gallery of public art – local street artist Aske’s murals adorn much of the area, including his tribute to David Bowie in Stevenson Square.

Castlefield

One of the oldest parts of Manchester city centre, Castlefield’s cobbled streets and canals create a European vibe, mixed with atmospheric mills and warehouse conversions. 

Losing much of its industry in the 1970s and ‘80s, in 1992 the area became England's first Urban Heritage Park, as regeneration money flowed into the city. It quickly became the scene of inner-city living urban professionals, with the cafes, bars and restaurants looking out over the waterways.

In what is now a real cultural hub for the city, Castlefield is the location for HOME's cross-arts programme, alongside the Museum of Science and Industry and Castlefield Gallery.

The Village

Centring on picturesque Canal Street, The Village is the heart of Manchester’s LGBT community, and reputedly the oldest gay village in the country. With its main street crammed with canal-side tables, it moves effortlessly from daytime cafe culture to an all-night party location.

Sitting alongside the Rochdale Canal, The Village has maintained a distinctive identity since it first became a ‘destination’ in the 1990s. It’s host to the areas two big festivals celebrating queer culture: May’s QueerUpNorth – Europe’s largest – and August’s Manchester Pride, a week-long event these days, with tens of thousands of people joining in the party.

Rusholme

Manchester’s ‘Curry Mile’ attracts people from across the city to the huge number of curry houses along Rusholme’s main road. The mixture of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi restaurants are said to be the largest concentration of Asian restaurants in the country, with a choice of more than 70 eateries. 

Alongside the evening trade the shops around here focus on Asian food and drink, spices and bhangra CDs, and the area is book-ended by parks at Platt Fields and Whitworth Park, which also includes the Whitworth Art Gallery.

A large student population contributes to its lively nightlife, alongside the area’s own distinct identity and unique flavour.

Car or Van Hire in Manchester

When visiting any city one of the best ways of getting a bit further around and allow you to explore more is to hire a car or van. With our website Compare Car and Van Hire we have all the latest offers on car and van rental from most of the major car and van hire companies in the UK. So instead of having to check out every car hire website you can quickly see the best quotations and comparisons of the type of car or van you would like to hire for your visit to Manchester, the number of days you would like and the best prices available.