Discover Your New Favorite City: Manchester
We partnered with Visit Britain to send 4 tastemakers to England and share their experiences. Kristin Luna (@lunaticatlarge) split her trip between Mancheseter and Liverpool. Check out her experience and start planning your own amazing moments in Manchester.
Steeped in industrial heritage, bustling Manchester has a storied past as the world’s manufacturing darling. But it’s also home to a number of top pop and rock acts, such as the Smiths and Oasis, that helped put this large British city on the map for something other than industry. Now, among other attributes, it’s also celebrated for its dazzling art offerings like the Whitworth. To get your bearings, head straight up to the top of the Hilton hotel on Deansgate where cocktail bar Cloud 23offers a unique perspective via panoramas of the glittering city below.
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The newly opened Hotel Gotham plays up its quirky spaces and angles—it was originally opened in the 1920s as a bank—with an Art Deco theme, gilded accents, original art and bold patterns like textured peacock wallpaper. On top of being able to dine at Honey Restaurant, which also serves up a filling afternoon tea, guests of the 60-room boutique hotel also got access to the swanky, members-only Club Brass on the top floor where there’s a full menu of fun artisan cocktails like the Bellboy Barry’s Bramble.
Another bonus of staying at Hotel Gotham: the martini trolley. Each afternoon, the club’s bartender rolls around a spirits cart to the rooms of guests who request his presence and creates for them the perfect gin or vodka martini as they watch in awe of his craft.
The free Whitworth Art Gallery on the University of Manchester campus reopened in early 2015 after a two-year renovation process. The result is double the public space to house the gallery’s 55,000-work collection, installations from British sculptor like Cornelia Parker, plenty of visiting exhibits and shows, and the leafy Whitworth Park out back, which also includes moveable, interactive art.
Some of the best shows in town can be found out by the Media City Footbridge at The Lowry, the waterfront music venue that hosts a bevy of iconic artists, both British and international, like Tom Jones. In addition to mainstream acts, the Lowry also offers theater productions, comedy acts, cabarets, operas and much more.
The edgy Northern Quarter, just five minutes by foot from the heart of Manchester, is the city’s creative hub, full of independent shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and bright, playful murals. Be sure and pay a visit to Manchester Craft and Design Centre, a collective of artists and merchants selling their wares.
The architecturally stunning John Rylands Library is Hogwarts personified with its soaring arches, neo-Gothic grandeur and dense stacks of old books. This working research library, part of the University of Manchester, was built in the 1890s and is free to visit. There’s also a well-stocked gift shop chock full of fun, colorful merchandise and literary collectors’ items.
Manchester’s culinary scene is heavily influenced by Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi fare, which can be found in excess along “the Curry Mile” (i.e. Wilmslow Road) or in popular shops like the Northern Quarter’s This & That, the perfect lunch spot for the local specialty, “rice and three” (that’s one plate with three different curry options).
Perhaps the most interesting part of Manchester’s aesthetic is the striking dichotomy between its former industrial areas and the Gothic Revival and Victorian buildings that went up in the second half of the 19th century. Clustered together in the heart of town, the Manchester Town Hall, Central Library and rest of Albert Square are every bit as worthy of a visit as the city’s newer, more contemporary edifices.
The dockyards, four miles west from the city center, may have closed more than 30 years ago, the revitalized Salford Quays at the end of the canal is very much alive and thriving. It’s the global home to the BBC, but the Quays also offer shopping and dining galore. Stop in at the Dockyard Pub, a spacious restaurant and bar with British pub grub like burgers, meatloaf and Shepherd’s pie, for a bite to eat and a pint or two. Just be sure and take time to also visit the Imperial War Museum North while you’re in the area.
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