Weekend breaks in Manchester

Take a couple of days to explore this exciting northern city that truly offers something for everyone – especially football fans
Manchester is one of the most diverse, energetic and vibrant cities in the UK. This powerhouse and unofficial capital of the north-west has long been a vital player in British music, sport and the arts, while also being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. But for all the city’s rich history, it’s its future which is most exciting. Manchester is constantly evolving, making it one of the most exciting places in the country. 

A weekend in Manchester is a weekend spent exploring the cutting-edge of music, food, drink and culture, a weekend exploring one of the widest arrays of shops in the country, or a weekend centred around a visit to the Etihad or Old Trafford, homes of two of the world’s best football teams. A weekend in Manchester can be many things, but it will never be boring.

What’s more, Manchester boasts a near-perfect location in the north-west of England, only two hours by train from London and just two and a half hours from Edinburgh. It’s a remarkably easy city to get to, wherever you’re coming from.  

Where to stay
Manchester is one of the UK’s biggest cities but it’s not on the same scale as London. Where you stay will be dependent on the reason for your visit. If you’re coming for the football, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium is out to the east of the city on Ashton New Road, while Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, is to the south-east in the Stretford area. If your weekend is about finding the newest, hippest bars and restaurants in the city or exploring its best independent shops, you’ll want to set up camp in the Northern Quarter, where you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Where to eat
As a city with an eye to the future but also one that’s home to a massive student population, Manchester is the perfect meeting place between high-end, adventurous, zeitgeist-capturing cuisine and cheap but incredibly tasty food that comes in generous portions. For the former, Manchester House is one of the most popular spots in the whole city, but don’t even think about turning up without a reservation or trying to make one the day before. Aiden Byrne’s food is in constant demand so plan ahead. The wonderfully elegant Rosylee Tearooms are another highlight, serving beautifully cooked British classics and the best afternoon tea in Manchester. For stunning pub grub, you can’t go wrong with Sam’s Chop House, while The Kitchens is a super on-trend collection of street food vendors that will leave you joyously stuffed. For brunch or breakfast, Gorilla is hard to beat. For more tips, read our favourite Manchester restaurants for those on a budget.
Where to drink
The Trof family of venues/bars are some of the best in the city, and you’re in especially safe hands with Gorilla and The Deaf Institute, both of which have separate bar/restaurant areas to relax and eat and drink before heading into the gig. If you’re partial to a cocktail or two and want something a bit more creative than a blue lagoon, Cane & Grain, Dusk Til Pawn and The Alchemist definitely won’t disappoint. But if you’re yearning for a decent pub, then Manchester has you covered. The Kings Arms (owned by Paul Heaton of Beautiful South and Housemartins fame), The Marble Arch and the legendary Castle Hotel are all exceptional. Read more about Manchester’s coolest bars in our guide.
What to do
Football is always going to feature high on this list, with two of the Premier League’s top teams in the city. Both Manchester United and Manchester City offer extensive stadium tours, so you can still get a taste of the giddy heights of glory if they’re playing away while you’re in Manchester. Obviously, tours don’t run on match days. There’s also the National Football Museum on Todd Street. Housed in this futuristic-looking building are countless engaging interactive exhibits. Commentate on a moment from footballing history, test your skill at tiki-taka, follow the story of your club from its early days right up to the current season, or meet the Michael Jackson statue that used to stand outside Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage.

Even though football is life itself to so much of Manchester (whisper it) there’s more to the city than just that. You can explore the city’s past at the Museum of Science and Industry, which contains many working exhibits from Manchester’s industrial glory days and backs out onto the world’s first railway station. Or you could take a journey back through the conflicts of yesteryear at the imposing Imperial War Museum North in the impressively redeveloped Salford Quays. Or wander in wonder through The Whitworth, the award-winning refurbished gallery that is as much as work of art as the works of art it contains.
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