It’s no secret that I am utterly in love with anything and everything British.
I’m clearly British at heart and I spend as much time as possible in England which feels like home.
This time it was Manchester.
This time it was industrial, urban revolution.
HOW TO GET THERE
Manchester Airport is the UK’s Global Gateway for the North, so book a cheap flight. Book and headphones are a must. Wherever you are flying from, Manchester’s airport has three terminals handling over 23 million passengers each year, so you are in good hands. It has a combined railway and bus station, with departures to Manchester and the rest of the country. The train to Manchester Piccadilly takes about 20 minutes. Airport buses to Manchester depart every half hour. Taxis and car hire companies are also available at the airport.
WHERE TO STAY
I always do home-exchange when I visit the UK, which saves me a lot of £ and allows me to live like a local instead of being a tourist. I use homeexchange.com which never failed me so far. But this time was different. We stayed at a hotel as this was a part of our 16th-anniversary gift. We chose Easy Hotel, which is set in the historic Flatiron building, less than a 3-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly train station. Super cosy, minimal, clean and warm, it was the perfect place to return to, after a pint at the local pub. Don’t listen to the fancy Nancys, simple is good, I’d rather spend my money on Prada, thank you very much indeed. I couldn’t recommend it more!
Coffee-addict’s selling point: a surprisingly good coffee from the vending machine. Easy and 24/7 access to a good cup of Joe? Yes, please.
WHAT TO EAT
Manchester is a food lover’s paradise and if they tell you otherwise, they are not your friends. I never understood why the British cuisine got such a bad reputation in the first place. But even if you are not into the traditional stuff and black pudding is not your cup of tea, there are so many options to choose from. I always recommend street food; it’s the best way to immerse yourself into the city’s gastronomy and it’s also a frugal way to feed the family. Pub grabs are almost always good; stick to the classics, fish and chips, pies and bangers and mash. If it’s a Sunday, go for a roast and wash it down with a house ale. I suggest that you simply walk around and into the first place that catches your eye. The less touristy the better.
Remember to always add vinegar to your chips.
VEGAN IN MANCHESTER
Vegans rejoice. We are taking over. The options are endless and every hole in the wall has a vegan menu to offer. You won’t get stared at, there will be no uncomfortable moments whatsoever. More and more vegan restaurants keep popping up around the city. Keep it simple and grab a falafel, or try a vegan version of a traditional pie.
WHERE TO SHOP
Designer boutiques, high street stores, departments and vintage shops, you name it!
I always start with the quintessentially British: Selfridges, House of Fraser, Harvey Nichols and Debenham’s. I love visiting the food hall at Selfridges and get the fancy biscuits in the fancy box. Harvey Nichols has an amazing luxury beauty department, so if you feel like treating yourself to a new Tom Ford lipstick, that’s the place you’re off to.
Arndale Shopping Center has over 200 stylish stores for you to explore. From All Saints to Burberry and Boots, you can practically spend an entire day at the mall, if that’s your kind of thing. I didn’t do that, but I popped in Paperchase, to get my stationary fix. You always ask me were I get my gold pens and cute minimal notebooks from. Now you know.
Top brands in key locations.
Head to Selfridges and visit the Chanel boutique. The bag of your dreams awaits, next to that lovely tweed jacket.
Or Hermès maybe? Excellent service here, and if you are after a timeless classic this is the place to invest in.
The only thing that disapointed me in Manchester was thrifting, but maybe I just didn’t find the right places. I always look for designer pieces, one of a kind luxury items that will effortlesly blend into my minimal capsule wardobe. Manchester has a lot of vintage shopping to offer. Reworked items, hipsterish vibes and a lot of Levi’s 501. Which is not what I am after, but maybe that’s your thing so head to Oldham St. and have a blast!
A little retro gem that I found is Retro Rehab again on Oldham St, where you will find the most well currated collection of one of a kind pieces and a 10£ rack with suprisingly beautiful items. I tried on a marvelous maxi black dress which sadly did not fit properly.
The Smiths, New Order, and Joy Division. That’s what comes to mind when I think of Manchester’s music scene. Groups like The Hollies, and The Bee Gees. Or the post-punk scene of the 80’s. So with such a rich musical herritage the expectations are massive, right?
There’s a diverse range of music venues and a lot of shows to catch any time of the year. But what I personally love doing is discovering the raw, unpolished and underground scene, the most organic way. To do that you have to be prepared to be unprepared. Walk around and find pubs and small local venues that have open mic nights or local band gigs.
I went to Jimmy’s which was really close to my hotel. It seemed a bit hipsterish for my taste but hey, it’s all about having an open mind in order to discover new things and expand your horizons. There was a live gig and we got to see 3 local bands for 6 quid. Not bad!
Manchster’s Art Gallery is worth a visit. Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday join a gallery tour, to get deeper into the art. When I’m in a moody mood I like to put my headphones on and wander around. It holds over 25,000 objects of fine art, decorative art and costume, developed over 200 years and still growing. I got to see a real KINTSUGI item and I’m still fascinated as we speak. Remember my KINTSUGI post? You can find here just in case you missed this one. And when you are done with soul food head over to the amazing reastaurant they have on site, and grab a bite.
If you have a whole day to spare, thread your way through Manchester’s rich legacy of industrial innovations, scientific discoveries and ideas that changed the world at the Science and Industry Museum. The permanent galleries are free and open 10.00–17.00 daily.
Weave your way around Cottonopolis, find out why small is beautiful in Manchester and discover engineers like Joseph Whitworth and Richard Roberts, who helped the wheels of industry to turn and make Manchester into a global powerhouse.
Step into the circle of energy and uncover the pioneering work of James Joule, then tinker with a nuclear fusion machine.
Manchester is built on cotton…
Visit the Textiles Gallery which is truly interesting as it tells the story of the people, products and pioneers that made it and their continuing legacy in the city and our world today.
To be honest, I wasn’t wowed. The little pastry shops are totally worth a visit. Same goes for the little Chinese supermarkets. Apart from that my high expectations have not been met.
Enjoy a well kept Tetleys Bitter at Europe’s smallest pub. Mingle with the regulars and tourists and have a giggle and a traditional mandatory selfie at the front door while pointing at the sign. Done.
If you fancy shopping at Primark you will have a blast. Manchester’s store is massive and they also have a Central Perk Cafe. Yes, an exact replica where you can sit down, have a cup of coffee and ponder over life’s greatest mysteries: Were they, or were they NOT on a break?
Walk around with a cup of tea with milk and a biscuit. Google what’s happening now and pick something random. Get out of your comfort zone. Eat something different, try drinking something new to you. Bring a rain coat and wellies. Umbrellas are not the vibe. While you are mingling with the regulars at a random pub ask what their favourite part of the city is and what makes it so special to them.
Listen to their stories and go out again to see the city from a different perspective. Take it all in. It’s a city that constantly evolves so next time you’ll be here, it will be different.