Whether you call it Manchester or Madchester, this is a city for those mad to live everywhere you look. There is the Theatre of Dreams and The Albert Hall, neighbourhoods filled with red brick buildings and pubs flowing with local craft ales, cobbled streets, converted cotton mills and an intricate system of canals woven into the adventure. There is a city centre you’ll want to explore every inch of and, beyond that, something for every kind of country escape - woodlands, hills, mountains, lakes and the lake district. Basically, there’s everything for everyone.
And this city in the north of England is just getting started - that’s what makes it a must-explore metropolis. Built on the Industrial Revolution, Manchester has become the place for alternative culture. Whether you’re a full-on foodie or footy-obsessed, music-mad or a fresh air addict, there are a thousand reasons why the new face of the North has started stealing London’s limelight.
In that spirit, here’s the Stubble & Co guide to doing Manchester in 48-hours:
Where to stay: The Cow Hollow Hotel
You could pin a map of Manchester on your wall, throw a dart blindfolded and still land on a next-level place to stay -- but nowhere has the wow-factor of The Cow Hollow Hotel. Set in a turn-of-the-century textile mill, this place has kept its Victorian majesty while still being state-of-the-art. And the best bit: this boutique bolthole is located in the Northern Quarter, that neck of the woods that just oozes cool. From the free prosecco n’ nibbles served between 6 and 8pm to the complimentary milk and cookies you get before bed to it’s Netflix-on-tap offering, this place knows just how to keep its guests happy. But what do you expect when you’re looking at the hippest hotel in the city’s hippest area.
Friday night: explore the must-see music scene
Rule No.1: when in Manchester, you have to dive into its world-famous music scene, fact. There’s just too much heritage to spend your first night doing anything else but exploring the venues that gave us The Smiths, Oasis and The Stone Roses. Venues such as Band On The Wall, Soup Kitchen and Night & Day. But before you step into one of these intimate, band-making and crowd-pleasing spaces, you have to grab a pint at the Port Street Beer House -- the Holy Grail of drinking holes for any and all beer enthusiasts. Whether you know your craft beers or you need to ask the bartender for a recommendation, Port Street is a Manchester institution.
Saturday Morning: Whitworth Art Gallery
For the perfect Saturday morning pick-me-up, there’s only one place to go -- that place is Takk, and it’s just around the corner from your hotel bed. We know it will be hard to get up and go, but you should because there’s nothing quite like slurping down a Nordic-style espresso as you wait on your maple smoked bacon, smashed avocado and chipotle ketchup sandwich. After this, grab your backpack, jump on a bus down Oxford Road and set your destination to the Whitworth Art Gallery because, even if you’re not into art, the architecture alone will make your eyebrows rise and your smile widen. As will the setting, with the gallery’s impressive space and glass walkways connecting the indoor exhibitions to the outside world of Whitworth Park in Rusholme.
Saturday afternoon is for: The Northern Quarter
You can’t stay in Manchester’s coolest neighbourhood and not spend the afternoon exploring this bohemian block; strolling through the higgledy-piggledy streets, losing yourself in the labyrinth of street art and stopping at almost every independent store that has etched itself in Manchester’s history. There’s Retro Rehab for your vintage one-offs, Piccadilly Records to peruse records new and old, and then into Fred Aldous, partly because it’s an artist’s paradise and partly because everyone wants to snap some selfies in their old school photo-booth. Of course, no inner city adventure is complete without a coffee break, and for that there is the Foundation Coffee House. Not only does it have one of the most Insta-friendly interiors, but they have two of Manchester’s most iconic beverages: their Matcha Latte and Espresso Martini.
Dinners on Saturday are done at: Yard & Coop
For some, Nandos is enough, but we'd highly recommend you check out Yard & Coop. Hipster, heavenly and the home of a) their buttermilk fried chicken and b) some seriously boozy milkshakes. This really is the most mouth-watering, mind-melting place to go when you want something simply cool - and you won’t have to walk far because this creative chicken shack can be found in the Northern Quarter. Just don’t even think about leaving before you’ve nibbled on a dish of Not Chicken Nuggets (translation: delicious balls of crumb-coated halloumi cheese). We haven’t checked, but we’re pretty sure they’re the best thing you can eat for less than a fiver.
Sunday mornings are for: Heaton Park
This is more than just a walk in the park; this is a mini-getaway -- a peaceful and historic escape from the hustling, bustling city centre. So grab your bag, fill it with a couple of warm jumpers, some foil-wrapped bacon butties and a grab a coffee to go, then hop onto one of Manchester’s iconic yellow trams, venture a little further north and enjoy the 600 acres of wildly open space that is Heaton Park. This is the place to stretch your legs, grab a lungful of fresh air, escape the madness of Manchester, and enjoy an alfresco brekky in the prettiest outdoor space.
Sunday lunch at: Hawksmoor
Set up in an old Victorian courthouse on Deansgate, the Hawksmoor aim has always been the same: to serve you with the best steak in the north. This is one for those that want to dine on a slab of slow roasted pink rump with all the trimmings while taking in the eclectic interior made up of reclaimed features, from the parquet flooring of an old courthouse, to the wood panelling from Birmingham’s Sandwell College, to the glazed bricks taken from a once Liverpudlian public lavatory. In short: there’s a reason this place was named ‘Best Sunday Lunch in the UK’ by the Observer Food.
Sunday afternoon stroll: Salford Quays
After every long lunch comes an even longer walk, and it doesn’t get more incredible than a stroll along the river and through Salford Quays, one of the most incredible regeneration projects in the UK and an absolute must-see when exploring Manchester. Stop off at the Science & Industry Museum on your way, explore The Lowry Theatre, have your eyes-opened wide by the Imperial War Museum North and, of course, take a trip around MediaCityUK.
Sunday evenings at: Cloud23
Hiding on the 23rd floor of the Beetham Tower skyscraper is a cocktail bar with floor-to-ceiling views of Manchester’s iconic cityscape, complimented by the most pinch-yourself interiors as designed by Britain’s own Ian Simpson. Elegant, opulent and innovative, this place is the perfect spot for something wow, from vibrant sunsets to forget-me-not dates, to those evenings where you fancy wearing something a little nicer than that funky tee you bought in Retro Rehab. Clink-clink.