Next weekend it is Manchester Pride and of course the Bank Holiday! If you're heading up for the event next week or just thinking of visiting; these are 50 things (in no particular order) that I recommend you do in and around the city centre. Also, I'm just feeling nostalgic and sentimental because I'm moving away in a couple of short weeks *sobs*....
Food & Drink
Artisan | I must admit, I preferred their food menu a year or two ago, however this is still a stylish restaurant with an relatively affordable menu with something to suit everyone (from steaks to pizzas to mixed small plates like fishcakes and camembert). They also do REALLY great cocktails plus it has a great atmosphere on a weekend and is in Spinningfields; all in all a great place to start a night out!
Australasia | You might miss this underground bar and restaurant as you wander into Spinningfields and that would be a mistake! It's on the pricey side but if you want to treat yourself... As the name might suggest, most of the dishes are inspired by Southeast Asia and there's plenty of seafood. It has a really great atmosphere, an extensive cocktails range and everything is so stylish and well-presented.
The Oast House | This is a bizarrely brilliant pub in the centre of Spinningfields; you wander down the walkway, past the clean, modern architecture of the designer shops and there's a little Hobbit town the centre! They do really nice deli boards and sometimes in Summer there's live music so you can just sit on the steps, get a glass of wine and soak up the atmosphere.
Comptoir Libanas | I *think* this is a chain but it's still a pretty nice one! It's a really pretty restaurant and you can sit outside with the flowers whilst still being under cover (perfect for the British weather). This is pretty much my perfect restaurant for lunch because they do lots of mezze options. If you like humous, falafel, halloumi, pitta bread and other sharing foods like that then you'll really like this place.
Thaikhun | This is also in Spinningfields and just next door to Comptoir Libanas. I have to admit that bright, eye-catching exterior lured me into this restaurant but the food and drink lived up to my expectations. Again, I believe this is a smaller chain restaurant. It's a Thai street food restaurant and whilst I'm not deluded enough to think it's 'super authentic', I do really like it. You can opt for a small dish for lunch or something bigger for dinner and there's an impressive range of cocktails, all at a reasonable price.
Harvey Nichols 2nd Floor Restaurant | Believe it or not I've never been to Cloud 23, which is why this isn't on my list! However this place (right in the centre) still offers nice views over the city and their brunch menu is really great value. The dishes are relatively small and light but that's kind of what I like about it. The restaurant always feels very relaxed and it's just a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Dough | We've moved over to my personal favourite place to eat and drink in Manchester: the Northern Quarter. Slightly hipster, a bit 'alternative' but still pretty affordable and the place I usually opt to go to for lunch, dinner or drinks. One of the best-value places to go is Dough. It's not the most Instagrammable place but they do a really great selection of just about every pizza you can imagine. They even have a speedy lunch menu for weekdays.
Luck Lust Liqueur and Burn | I guess this is a sort of Mexican-American style restaurant because it pretty much exclusively offers an array or burritos, burgers and tacos. It just has a really great vibe and there's a dedicated bar downstairs where you can stop for a drink if you're off out for the evening.
Soup Kitchen | I feel like the concept of this place is really hard to explain to someone who hasn't been there... Upstairs it is literally a soup kitchen/pub. But it doubles as a gig venue and even a rave. I don't know who thought to combine these things but it works...
Home Sweet Home | This is a cute little place that does food (generally kind of stodgy, but in a good way: think mac and cheese, sweet potatoes fries and burgers) however for me it's all about the desserts and milk shakes! I think it may be possible to get diabetes just by reading the menu... However it's so good! Think peanut butter milkshake and a door stopper of rainbow cake.
Teacup Kitchen | This is such a nice place to go for brunch or afternoon tea. I even sometimes just pop in and get a slice of cake to go because it's so lovely! They have just about every type of tea under the sun and beautiful, fresh cakes. Most of the food they offer is quite light and brunchy. It can be hard to get a table at the weekends but it's well worth the wait.
Almost Famous | This is a pretty legendary burger place. It has a really cool feel, nice milkshakes and a huge array of yummy burgers (even if you're a veggie!) The portions are also pretty huge so you definitely get your money's worth.
Ning | This is a Malaysian restaurant hidden in the Northern Quarter. Ok so the decor doesn't look like much but don't judge it from the outside because the food is really top-notch. It's a family-run place and so affordable but the portions are really generous along with being amazing quality.
Allotment | This is a pub and cafe; as you may have guessed it's gardening-themed so full of flowers and potted plants. It's a nice place to go and have a pint of cider and there are lots of light lunch options and 'fancy' pub food. It's one of the best places in the Northern Quarter for vegetarians in my opinion, whilst still having stuff like steak (so everyone's happy). They also often have voucher deals so you get a lovely afternoon tea hamper with prosecco for something like £20 for two people!
Chapter One | If I didn't know this was there I'd walk right past it because it really doesn't look like much from the outside! However it's actually quite pretty inside. The menu is very much tea, cakes and brunch however it's very nice and there's a really interesting book shop inside. It's the kind of place you can go in with a book on a rainy day and just spend hours.
Evuna | This is a really great tapas place with an absolutely epic menu. If you've got a big group of people I'd recommend getting one of everything, a few bottles of wine and going wild! I honestly don't think there's a single bad dish on the menu! Plus the staff are really helpful with their recommendations. It's just so good and not too expensive.
Evelyn's Cafe Bar | If you're vegan, vegetarian or into clean eating then this is a really great option for breakfast or lunch (or a light dinner). There are still plenty of meat options though, in case you were wondering! They do also do lovely cocktails and the setting is really pretty (though be warned: the portions are small).
The Botanist | Deansgate is largely occupied by chain restaurants but this is one of the smaller and better ones. It's a beautiful garden-themed bar and restaurant (though slightly more upmarket than Allotment, I must admit!) There are so many lovely little dishes; I tend to go for small plates to share at lunch time and a cocktail from their slightly-pricey but fantastic range.
Richmond Tea Rooms | This is one of those 'word of mouth' places that I found out about through a recommendation and have since taken other friends to and they now love it! We've moved out of the Northern Quarter and across into the Gay Village. This is an amazing Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant that's a stone's throw away from the legendary Canal Street. They didn't do the theme by halves at all with this place! However the food is also really good; they do lovely cakes, have a great brunch menu (the rarebit is my favourite) and lots of different teas.
Try Thai | Slightly cringey name, really great restaurant! This is just a few minutes out of the Gay Village as you head towards Chinatown (I'm not a big fan of Chinese food to be truthful but I do love the karaoke bars in the area!) My mouth is watering just thinking about the beautiful, fragrant food... The flavours are so full and beautiful; I think this is the best Thai restaurant in Manchester.
Mughhli | On to the Curry Mile! This is definitely a place I wish I had time to explore more and find all the hidden gems in however Mughli is one restaurant I can confidently recommend. It's definitely one of the more high-end places, though I think they do still do takeaway. They offer an amazing range of full-flavoured curries so there's something in there for everyone, whether you like your spice or not.
Vermillion & Cinnabar | Slightly bizarrely-placed, this restaurant can be found near Sport City. This place isn't *as* great as it once was for food (their old menu was great and I had such an amazing 18th birthday meal there) however it's still good (if a little pricey). They have the most beautiful opulent decor to match their Thai-Indian fusion cuisine. Upstairs there's a bar where you can reserve a pod for some champagne or sip some of the best cocktails in Manchester. They also do a excellent-quality buffet on Sundays that's very reasonably-priced.
Canal Street | You can't really visit Manchester without a night out in the legendary Gay Village. Canal Street is of course the most famous strip of bars and clubs in the area. I'd recommend going on a Friday or Saturday night and working your way down from the Piccadilly end and finishing in the big G.A.Y. club.
The Comedy Store | Once a month on a Sunday night the legendary comedy club does an up-and-coming night for about £4 with an array of new comedians. As you'd imagine, not every act is a winner but you get some great new talent doing this gig. It's a really small venue so it's quite intimate and if you sit at the front you'll definitely get heckled! It's a really good night; you can have a few drinks and real laugh.
5th | This isn't my favourite place, I have to say, but so many people love it that I felt it deserved a mention! It's a bit of a grubby student-y night for those who are into indie music.
Factory | This is a nightclub on the site of the former Factory Records which has 3 floors of different music. It isn't the classiest of venues but it's always good fun and some nights you can get in for as little as £1 or even 1p with a flier! One of the floors is always mainstream and/or indie, one is usually Motown and one is dance and R&B so it's one of those crowd pleasers. Along with 5th, this is in the student part of town.
Twenty Twenty Two | This is the place I always seem to end up after 'only going for one' in the Northern Quarter! It's a basement bar (and sort-of club) with a dance floor and ping pong. It's pretty unpretentious but the music is always good.
Neighbourhood | Onto more classier establishments in Spinningfields! I really like this cocktail bar - they have such an amazing selection of drinks and though it's pricey there's always a great atmosphere and they often have DJs despite it being free entry. I've never actually had food there, I tend to eat at Artisan then move onto Neighbourhood as it's just across the way.
The Alchemist | There are a couple of these dotted about and there's one quite close to my work, as well as a bigger one in Spinningfields. The food is quite nice; it's a little bit of everything really (stir fry, fish and chips, fajitas...), along with steaks and burgers. However the cocktails are really where it's at; you can have your own little Harry Potter potions class! You can get drinks that change colour or flavour and that combine really unusual tastes to create something unique.
Liars Club | This is an underground tiki bar just outside of Spinningfields that you'd probably walk right past if you didn't know it was there! There's always a good atmosphere there on a weekend, great music and I totally recommend trying one of their flaming zombie cocktails.
Shopping, Active & Relaxation
The Trafford Centre | The Trafford Centre is pretty legendary; it's kind of like a tacky, themed Westfield. It has every shop you could possibly need, a massive food court and array of restaurants as well as a cinema. You haven't lived if you've not eaten a McDonald's in the fake cruise ship/Titanic thing! But in all seriousness it is quite impressive in its gaudiness and the Bill's in the French Quarter is actually a lovely setting for brunch. True story: I actually used to be terrified as a child of the giant dragon that sits at the top of the Chinatown area!
Vintage shopping in the Northern Quarter | The Northern Quarter isn't just a great place for food and drink but also if you want to do some vintage shopping. Oldham Street has dozens of second-hand stores and whilst there are the usual suspects like Oxfam Originals, there are loads of independent places where you can grab amazing bargains.
Afflecks Palace | Ok this is in a sense a vintage retail space but it's also so much more! It's quite a nostalgic place for me because I got so many piercings here as a teenager... It's a sort of multi-storey emporium where you can buy anything from crafts and beading to fancy dress to American candy to vintage home accessories!
Booths | So this is a supermarket. I bet you're wondering why a supermarket is on this list? Clearly you've never been to Booth's! If Marks and Spencer and Waitrose are 'nice', Booth's is 'incredible'. There is a branch in Media City, Salford (where the BBC is based) and although it's definitely a big treat to go there, it's the best supermarket ever. It just has the most fresh, handcrafted produce. You can buy a ready meal anywhere but can you buy one where the chicken was slaughtered this morning and the tomatoes were grown by a farmer in the Lake District? I think not. Plus that cheese counter... If you're planning a dinner party or just fancy a nicer sort of night in then I'd definitely recommend precluding it with a trip to Booths.
Chill Factore | I'm not gonna lie: this was not for me! However if you're the sporty type; so many people love the Chill Factore. It's an indoor snow sports facility near the Trafford Centre where you can learn to ski or snowboard or just have a laugh and fall over a lot!
Bali Health Lounge | Relaxation is much more my sort of thing! This is a really beautiful spa in Chinatown (it's incredible how tranquil it is despite the city centre location!) The staff are fantastic and though it's pricey if you go on a weekday they often have discounts and promotions on. The massages and facials are incredible; it's such a relaxing experience and they also do other beauty treatments.
Landmarks, Museums & More
National Football Museum | Of course the main reason people across the world would have heard of Manchester is because of our football teams! This isn't my cup of tea but if you're a visiting football fan who doesn't have time to stray too far out of the city centre to go on a stadium tour at the Etihad or Old Trafford then this is for you.
Imperial War Museum North | This is a pretty moving experience so it's one that you kind of have to mentally prepare yourself for. The museum has a range of thought-provoking exhibitions that focus mainly on WWI and WWII, as you'd expect.
The Manchester Museum | This is a really great museum though I must warn you that it doesn't tend to change much so when you've done it once you probably don't need to see it again for a good while. However if you're new to the city then it's a must-visit place. There's everything from stuffed animals to dinosaurs to mummies.
Museum of Science & Industry | This is another must-see, though it's probably more one for the kids it's still pretty fun for everyone else! Manchester was at the forefront of the industrial revolution and through our universities has contributed greatly to scientific discoveries, so this is a really interesting museum to learn about that history.
People's History Museum | This is definitely a smaller museum; you can do it in an hour or two but like (I think) all of these places is free. It's a really interesting, interactive museum that walks you through the fight various groups of people in Britain went through to get the vote, as well as British political history in general. You'll be ready to rally the comrades and overthrow the bourgeoise after a stroll around this place!
University of Manchester | This is so close to the Manchester Museum that you should definitely take a stroll around the university because the architecture really is lovely.
John Rylands Library | The 'old' John Rylands Library near Spinningfields is well worth a look around (it won't take you long). It's a stunning gothic-style building full of beautiful historical books. If you're a bookworm who likes somewhere peaceful with character then you'll be in your element here.
Manchester Central Library | This is such a beautiful, huge library that's worth visiting just to take in the architecture. It's also a working library so if you're thinking of going to university in Manchester; it's a great change of scenery for a study day.
Manchester Town Hall | The full building isn't always open so I'd check ahead of visiting but this is another incredible building, both inside and outside. There are also often art exhibitions you can go and check out too.
Manchester Cathedral | Although this is quite a quick sight to see, it's an incredible building that you can't really visit the city without taking in! Plus it's conveniently-located right near all the shops and restaurants.
Manchester Art Gallery | This is the main art gallery in Manchester and is quite traditional so most of the works on display are paintings. There are a lot of very famous pieces in the gallery, my favourite of which is Ophelia by Arthur Hughes.
Whitworth Art Gallery | Although not quite as famous as it's bigger brother, this art gallery is an option if you want to see something a little different. Although there's still traditional art, there's a lot of other stuff like thought-provoking exhibitions, costume and tapestry.
Christmas Markets | The Manchester Christmas Markets are some of my favourites in the UK. Market traders come from all over Europe to sell everything from cheeses to clothing to hand-carved chess sets. There's also always an amazing Bavarian beer hall in front of the town hall as well as plenty of places to get pancakes, waffles, hot chocolate, mulled wine, sausages or beer along the way.
Pride Weekend | Of course I have to mention Manchester Pride! I'd say that along with Brighton it's probably the top Gay Pride event in the UK. The entire city is pretty much in the spirit for the weekend - even banks have decorations on them! There are so many things happening and ways to get involved that you can pretty much take your pick. There's live music, parades, club nights and remembrance services and charity work for those killed or affected by discrimination against LGBT+ people.
Have you visited Manchester? What are your top things to do?