Visiting Manchester means enjoying a lively mix of history and fun. The city is full of great places to take in music, sport, delicious treats, and historic sites. But tourist traps aren’t everything. And if you want to experience it all the way a local might, we’d recommend starting with these five ideas.
1. See Some Music
Manchester has a reputation for being full of energy, particularly when it comes to the live music scene. Some of the best bands have come out of Manchester, including The Smiths, so why not make a point of visiting a club or music venue while you’re there? You might just see the next big British group, and if not, you’ll still enjoy some fun tunes as you mingle with the locals. There are dozens of legitimate music venues around town, but we’d recommend you check out YES, Warehouse Project, Band on the Wall, or Soup Kitchen for a rocking good time.
2. Get Drinks
Manchester is full of local coffee shops that specialize in artisanal brews. Stop by places like Fig & Sparrow, Takk, or Pot Kettle Black for local roasts and even produce from local farms. You’ll have a nice pleasant outing and feel like you’re really getting in on some local culture.
Meanwhile, if you’d prefer to check out the craft beer scene, there are plenty of pubs and specialty bars in Manchester too. Local brewers have beer on tap from places like Cloudwater Brew Co. (a fun company that concerns itself with everything from women in brewing to the values of beer) and Alphabet – establishments locals tend to be familiar with (meaning you might get some good recommendations as well).
3. Catch A Manchester United Football Match
If you aren’t familiar with the UK’s adoration of football, you should know that catching a match in Manchester is about the most exciting experience you could have. Fans around the country tune in for every match they can watch; they bet on outcomes, and track football scores online, not just for the English leagues, but around the world. Amidst all this activity though, Manchester is still arguably the unofficial capital of UK football, with both local clubs – Manchester City and Manchester United – among the best in Europe. Seeing either club in action is wonderful, but Manchester United packs a bit more history, and a legendary venue in Old Trafford. If you can get tickets, you should!
4. Eat Your Way Through the City
We covered coffee and beer above, but the delicious restaurants and indie cafés that dot the city are also worthy of consideration. At this point, there’s something new and locally sourced for every meal, for those who take the effort to find fun or unique dining experiences. For a few specific recommendations, we’d direct you to take in a pizza from Honest Crust, excellent Chinese takeaway in Chinatown, or an evolving menu at Where The Light Gets In. If international fare is on your mind (as it should be throughout much of the UK, where immigrant cultures’ cuisines have thrived), then visit Dishoom for delicious, traditional Indian street fare. And if you care as much about having a unique experience as trying interesting food, you can always turn to the Viking-themed tapas bar that opened earlier this year.
5. Visit An Art Gallery
It’s normal to visit some museums and galleries while you’re out sightseeing, but Manchester in particular is chock full of amazing art, both inside at places like Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery, and outside in the street. Wander through the Northern Quarter to gain perspective on local street art, some of which addresses very pertinent social justice problems, and some of which is pure fun.
All in all, Manchester is a city that provides a ton of character for visitors to enjoy. The city dates back centuries, in one form or another, so you shouldn’t be surprised to find some historical sights and thoroughly entrenched aspects of the local culture. But it’s the city’s ability to adapt and present a blend of past and present that makes it so charming to explore.