UK breaks: 24 hours in Manchester

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.

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1

Munch at Albert’s Schloss

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.

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2

Muse at Castlefield Gallery

Castlefield Gallery

 

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.

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3

Marvel at John Rylands Library

John Rylands Library

 

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.

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4

Lunch at Refuge by Volta

Refuge by Volta

 

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 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.

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5

Linger at the Whitworth

Whitworth Gallery

 

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.

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6

Learn with New Manchester Walks

New Manchester Walks

 

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.

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7

Snack at the Teacup Kitchen

Teacup Kitchen

 

If you miss lunch, head to another example of DJ-turned-restauranteur – Teacup Kitchen, which is owned by Mr Scruff. It’s an endearing mix of kitsch and contemporary, and always on point. The range of loose-leaf teas is a big draw, along with the eye-achingly bright rainbow cake – you can’t miss it, even though it’s surrounded by an ocean of bakes.

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8

Splash out in the Northern Quarter

Northern Quarter

 

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.

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9

See some street art

Manchester Street Art

 

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.

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10

Pig out at the Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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.

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11

Party at the Night and Day Café

Night and Day Cafe

 

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.

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12

Pass out at Hotel Gotham

Hotel Gotham

 

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.

 

Good to know

 

Ten minutes away, Salford has culture and legends in spades. Amble around Imperial War Museum North, The Lowry and MediaCityUK. Tour Old Trafford – the home of Manchester United FC – or immerse yourself in The Smiths Room at the iconic Salford Lads Club.

Get there

Train: 2hrs from London Euston Station

Coach: 4hrs40 from London Victoria Coach Station

Car: 4hrs10 from central London

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29 Nov 2018(last updated)
  • 1

    Albert’s Schloss

  • 2

    Castlefield Gallery

  • 3

    John Rylands Library

  • 4

    Refuge by Volta

  • 5

    Whitworth Gallery

  • 6

    New Manchester Walks

  • 7

    Teacup Kitchen

  • 8

    Northern Quarter

  • 9

    Manchester Street Art

  • 10

    Hawksmoor

  • 11

    Night and Day Cafe

  • 12

    Hotel Gotham

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