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There’s so much to see in and around Manchester that it can be challenging to pack everything into just one 48 hour trip. If you’re only in the city for a couple of days, we’ve pulled together an essential guide to help you to plan your visit, including our recommendations for where to eat and what to see to make the most out of your trip.
Start off your day the right way by heading to a Northern Quarter favourite, Takk, for a light breakfast. This ambient coffee house has a subtle Icelandic theme, serving its own Nordic-style espresso, perfect for a morning pick-me-up. Their brunch menu offers a variety of dishes including blueberry porridge, French toast, eggs on sourdough toast and their infamous maple smoked bacon, smashed avocado and chipotle ketchup sandwich.
After breakfast, jump on a bus down Oxford Road (you won’t have to wait long, this is one of the busiest bus routes in Europe) to spend your morning admiring art at Whitworth Art Gallery. Here, you will discover a constantly rotating series of exhibitions set inside a recently refurbished building that has won awards for both its collections and its architecture.
Enjoy your lunch with a view in the gallery’s restaurant, The Modern Caterer, overlooking the park and art garden through floor-to-ceiling windows. The selection of hot and cold dishes include fresh market salads and handmade sandwiches, using the finest seasonal and organic produce.
Following lunch, head back into the city centre to spend the afternoon exploring the bohemian Northern Quarter. Hours can easily be lost wandering around the labyrinth of streets discovering an array of interesting street art, independent boutiques and artisan coffee shops.
Pop into Manchester’s finest vintage shops, including Retro Rehab and We are Cow, before turning your attentions to music and perusing Piccadilly Records, a Manchester institution containing a wide selection of vinyl. Make time to pop into cute homewares shop Fig & Sparrow before browsing the studios in the Craft & Design Centre, seeking out unique souvenirs, and then heading over to Fred Aldous to peruse the art supplies and take photographs in their old school photo-booth.
If you’re in need of a coffee break, Foundation Coffee House is large enough to ensure that you’ll find a seat among one of the city’s most photogenic interiors. Try their iconic Matcha Latte, or opt for an Espresso Martini if you’re already in the mood for an alcoholic beverage.
Before heading for dinner, take time to discover the city’s most intriguing street art, hiding away on the side streets and standing proud in the middle of Stevenson Square.
You’ll definitely have to wait for a table, but it’s worth it at Rudy’s, a Neapolitan pizzeria in Ancoats that is repeatedly named the best in the city. After your belly is full of pizza, head back into the Northern Quarter to spend the evening sampling the city’s best independent pubs and bars.
If you prefer traditional pubs, you’ll love the laid-back ambiance in The Castle Hotel and its sister pub, Gulliver’s over the road. Cocktail lovers should head to Hula for tiki-themed flaming cocktails or The Fitzgerald (located two floors above, entrance in the alley around the corner) for Prohibition-era decadent drinks and the chance of catching a live jazz performance.
Those wishing to stay up late should wind their night up at underground drinking den, Twenty Twenty Two, where they can dance the night away to the tunes the resident DJs are spinning or start a ping-pong competition in the back room.
Grab a take-away cup of coffee from Federal Coffee Bar and jump on a tram to Chorlton (the East Didsbury line) to spend your second day in Manchester exploring the city’s suburbs.
Chorlton is known as Manchester’s most bohemian suburb and is home to many bustling bars, cafés and delis. Head to Beech Road, popping into Object Man | Woman | Home along the way to peruse their selection of Scandinavian-inspired homeware and men’s and women’s clothing (closed on Sundays).
Stop off at The Laundrette to enjoy a late breakfast, choosing from a classic full English, organic muesli or American-style pancakes with one of their special Bloody Marys on the side. After breakfast, take your time exploring the small independent shops that line this popular street, or wander down to the woods to enjoy a little fresh air with a stroll around Chorlton Meadows.
When you’re starting to feel peckish again, head back to the tram and make your way to Altrincham (you’ll have to change lines at Trafford Bar). This suburb may technically be in Cheshire, but a visit should be planned into every Manchester itinerary, if only to visit its award-winning market.
Peruse the stalls on the outdoor market, discovering an array of food, drinks, crafts, plants and gifts, before heading inside for the impossible task of selecting what to eat for lunch. The recently renovated indoor market hosts a communal central seating area surrounded by an array of vendors selling everything from wood-fired pizzas to handmade pies and fresh salads.
When you’re feeling suitably stuffed, spend some time investigating the local independent stores including Idaho and Edit & Oak for candles, stationary and unique gifts. If you’re interested in homewares, it’s worth hopping in a taxi for five minutes to visit Rose & Grey, an independent interiors store on Atlantic Street specialising in Mid-Century Modern and Scandinavian style furniture and accessories (closed on Sundays).
Once the shops close, head back into the city centre, disembarking the tram at St Peter’s Square. Wander down Oxford Road to enjoy a luxurious meal in a stunning setting at recently opened restaurant, The Refuge. Choose from a selection of tantalising small plates to share in the elegant Dining Room (we recommend booking ahead to avoid disappointment) before retreating to the bar to sample the extensive cocktail list or to try their own pale ale. Don’t leave without admiring the Winter Garden with its beautiful tiled floor and trees filled with fairy lights.
Just across the road, you will find the Palace Theatre, one of Manchester’s most beloved theatres with a staggering array of performances scheduled all year round. Make your booking well in advance of your visit to be able to spend your last evening in the city enjoying a spectacular performance of one of your favourite shows.