Even rain can’t put a damper on this bustling British metropolis
World-renowned for its music (the Smiths, Joy Division, and Oasis all hail from “Manny”), sport (we’re football, aka soccer, obsessed), and radical (including feminist) politics, Manchester’s also got a reputation for rain (approximately 140 days per year). But there’s no raining on this British city’s parade: Manchester is busy and eclectic, with skyscrapers towering over what remains of its industrial heritage. So grab your Wellies and get ready for an adventure.
ART, CULTURE, & SPORT
The Whitworth (Oxford Rd.), Manchester’s “Gallery in the Park,” has won fistfuls of awards since it reopened last year; visit for a tranquil afternoon browsing the exhibitions and sitting among the trees in the café. Less well known is the Portico Library (57 Mosley St.), an unexpectedly stunning hidden gem above a pub and handily near the following civic icons. The neo-Gothic Manchester Town Hall (Albert Sq.), often used as a Houses of Parliament stand-in for film and TV, is well worth a tour (check out the clock tower at Christmas for an amazing view of the bustling holiday markets below). Just around the corner is the beautiful Central Library (St. Peter’s Sq.): head inside to gawk at the huge Reading Room with its domed ceiling.
Canal Street is home to Manchester’s gay bars, and the center of Pride—unmissable if you’re lucky enough to visit at the end of August. Make time for a quiet visit to Sackville Gardens (Whitworth St. and Sackville St.), home to the statue of Alan Turing, the pioneering computer scientist persecuted to his death in the 1950s because of his sexuality.
You can’t get away from football in Manchester. And why would you want to? Manchester City and Manchester United both offer stadium tours, and the National Football Museum (Cathedral Gardens, Todd St.), which occupies the striking Urbis building in the city centre, is the best place to get a good feel for our national obsession.
The Pankhurst Centre
To truly understand Manchester’s story, visit the People’s History Museum (Left Bank, Spinningfields), which charts the moxie of Britain’s working folks and their battle for equality and democracy under the slogan, “There have always been ideas worth fighting for.” One of those ideas was the vote for women: The Pankhurst Centre (60-62 Nelson St.) was once the home of feminist activist Emmeline Pankhurst, and the birthplace of the British suffragette movement. Now the townhouse holds a small but inspiring museum and an active women’s community center.
EAT, DRINK, & SHOP
Try to book a table at the outstanding Mughli (30 Wilmslow Rd.), a busy Indian street food restaurant with a mouth-watering menu of grilled kebabs and classic biryanis on the Curry Mile. The rest of the Mile is sadly long past its heyday; if Mughli is booked up, stay in the city center for curry at a branch of Kashmiri chain East Z East (Blackfriars St. or Princess St.).
The Northern Quarter bars and cafés speak the international language of hipster fare, from avocado toast to zebra pie. Try the cheery Home Sweet Home (49-41 Edge St.) for milkshakes and cake, Almost Famous (100-102 High St.) for creative burgers, and Pie & Ale (The Hive, 47 Lever St.) for a classic Northern combination of savory pastry pies and a craft pint. If you prefer moo-free meals, try vegan diner V Revolution (Edge St.) or experience gourmet veggie dishes like “fish” and chips or seasonal salads at 1847 (58 Mosley St).
Home Sweet Home
The Northern Quarter is also great for independent shops: try Fig + Sparrow (20 Oldham St.) for design-focused gifts, cards, and housewares (plus you can perk up with an espresso at its in-house coffee bar), and the Manchester Craft & Design Centre (17 Oak St.), a Victorian building packed with studios and boutiques where local artists sell their wares from jewelry to ceramics.
For an unforgettable (if pricey) drink, grab a cocktail at Cloud 23, the very fancy bar in the iconic Beetham Tower (303 Deansgate). Or for a down-to-earth pint, The Briton’s Protection (50 Great Bridgewater St.) is a classic British pub that’s been serving suds since the early 1800s.
Manchester Craft & Design Centre
MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE
Morrissey is kind of annoying these days and famed nightclub the Hacienda (the epicenter of the city’s late-’80s and early-’90s Factory Records scene) is now an apartment block, but Manchester music continues. The Warehouse Project’s occasional huge club nights (locations vary; thewarehouseproject.com) are unforgettable for electronic dance music. Prefer live tunes? Check out what’s on at Gorilla (54-56 Whitworth St. W.), a smaller venue in the arches under a railway bridge near Oxford Road Station, where you can enjoy a decent burger before catching an indie band, and a delicious cocktail afterward.
Photographed by Rebecca Lupton