See the best of Manchester. Use our picks to create your own 24-hour itinerary. Can you do it all?
Follow the beat to this northern city of reinvention, where old industrial districts are hip cultural hubs, uber-cool DJs turn restauranteurs, and the whole place thrums with music, art and nightlife.
Munch at Albert’s Schloss
Start your day with a bit bohemian, and a lot Bavarian. It would be a crime not to drop into this vast pleasure palace beneath Albert Hall. Brunch on cronuts, cruffins and a malty shake, get your glow on with smashed avo on toast, or press your table’s ‘Push for Prosecco’ button – it’s never too early here.
Mid-morning matters, so whether you've had your fill at brunch or gone for a quick bite, head to the Castlefield Gallery for your afters art fix. Both an art gallery and an artists agency, this contemporary art gallery in Manchester’s industrial, cultural Castlefield area is a launch pad for emerging artists, so it’s easier to get close to the people behind the exhibitions. You won’t see art quite like this anywhere else in the city – plus it’s free.
One of the few libraries in the world that upstages the books, you’ll be in more awe of the gothic architecture here than you will be of the books – which include some of the rarest ever made. If you can drag yourself away, check out the collections in the Rylands Gallery too.
By lunchtime, you'll probably have your appetite back. Run by The Unabombers, who made their mark on the Manc music scene before turning their attention to hip eateries, Refuge, located in the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel, is one of the best restaurants in Manchester. The small plates and sharing dishes are inspired by The Unabombers travels. Hungry and on a budget? Get the no-nonsense £7.50 People’s Lunch.
Topping many-a-bucket list of things to do in Manchester is the eclectic and extensive Whitworth Gallery. It has over 55,000 artworks, yet nothing on permanent display. The Art Garden is worth a trip alone. If the weather fails, the café has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the garden and Whitworth Park.
Join a themed tour and delve deeper into a topic that snaps your synapses, or simply scratch the surface of Manchester’s motley history. You could take in the city’s most beautiful buildings, its legendary music landmarks, or see it through the eyes of suffragettes, Alan Turing, Jeremy Corbyn, or The Smiths.
If you miss lunch, head to Evelyn's Cafe Bar for a tempting smorgasbord of small and big plates. This casual dining room combines the eclectic flavours of Asian, Peruvian and Middle Eastern cuisine to create a delicious menu suitable for all. Choose from the likes of duck salad topped with beansprouts, sesame and orange, freshly baked flatbreads dipped in creamy kale hummus, and moreish vegan cheesecake, all washed down with a signature cocktail. On Friday and Saturday's, you can even pop by for a nightcap, when the esoteric subterranean bar that resides below Evelyn's, The Daisy, opens its doors.
If you ever find yourself wondering what to do in Manchester, get thee to the Northern Quarter. The city’s creative neighbourhood teems with hipster hangouts. Lose a few hours flicking through Vinyl Exchange’s two floors of records and CDs, or lose yourself in Afflecks, a vast emporium of indie eclectica.
While there's daylight, Manchester has some stunning street art to see. If shopping has left you light-of-pocket, take in the Northern Quarter's strong and dazzling street art. In 2016, the world's most talented street artists gathered here for the Cities of Hope festival, transforming an area just minutes from Picadilly. There are colourful surprises around every turn. A giant blue tit on an office building. Enormous Manchester bees. A Greek god in a car park. And cats, many cats, in space hats.
By dinner time, where better than the Hawksmoor. With a grand Edwardian interior, it provides the perfect atmosphere for fine grills and delicious cocktails. Known for having the ‘best steaks in Manchester’, visitors also wax lyrical about the eatery’s seafood offering.
This place has hosted some big names since it opened in 1991: Elbow, Paulo Nutini, the Manics and the Arctic Monkeys, to namedrop a few. It’s a huge player on Manchester’s epic music scene, so see who’s playing. If you don’t already know the headliners, chances are you will soon. The food’s good too.
This place has won just about every award you would want for your hotel of choice, from ‘Coolest Boutique’ to ‘Most Stylish Independent’. Why? It’s deeply tactile (brass, leather, velvet, sky-high thread counts), pays attention to the details (homemade biscuits, big mugs, waffle robes), and its location is awesome.