You’re right in the heart of the action when you wake up at the Principal Hotel Manchester, a Grade II-listed red brick building which was built in 1891 and is conveniently right next to Manchester Oxford Road station. To start the day, take a jog along the canals running from Manchester’s famous Castlefield area – previously the Roman Fort from 79AD – down to the Manchester Shipping canals. The route is roughly 6.2 miles and a great way to dust off the cobwebs.
To fuel up for the day ahead, make a beeline to Federal Café Bar in the Northern Quarter and Espressos, all-day brunch menu and cakes, plus evening cocktails in a casual, Antipodean coffee bar. Open from 07.30am there will definitely be something on the menu to suit any taste. Try the halloumi and shrooms – a mouth-watering medley of garlic-and-thyme-roasted mushrooms with poached eggs and chorizo – all served on a doorstopper wedge of sourdough.
For something a little out of the ordinary that really showcases Manchester’s warmth and eclecticism, Afflecks is an indoor market just a short hop away on the junction of Church Street and Dale Street with Oldham Street. Dozens of independent stalls, small shops and boutiques operate in the one building selling everything from handmade cards, well-thumbed vinyl and there’s even a retro games shop.
An area on the up, Ancoats has been named the hippest neighbourhoods in the UK for its industrial architecture and creatives flocking to set up shop in its coffee houses. While you’re there try and spot the Ancoats Peeps – little brass spy holes hidden in its old buildings. They were installed by artist and architect Dan Dubowitz to give passers-by a glimpse inside at objects from the area’s industrial past. There are no maps, guides or plaques to help point them out – the best way to find them is to simply explore. Stop for a shocking pink beetroot latte at Ancoats General Store.
By now you’ll have worked up an appetite and Manchester locals congregate at The Oast House a good old-fashioned pub where the star of the show is the cheese and home-brewed ale fondue, complete with mini skewers of chicken, falafel and garlic mushrooms – perfect for a drizzly day. If the sun’s out, make the most of the outdoor barbeque, there are even teepees through the year.
For a dollop of architecture, The Portico Library and Gallery on Mosley Street is an independent subscription library designed in the Greek Revival style by Thomas Harrison of Chester and built between 1802 and 1806. Library members and researchers access a private reading room, but in the main library area visitors can enjoy the exhibitions, relax in the café or chat to staff about the library’s amazing history.
After that, head along Deansgate down to Liverpool Road and into the Science and Industry Museum (MOSI). The Museum is devoted to the development of science, technology and industry with emphasis on the city’s achievements in these fields. This is a great place for the whole family with free entry and open seven days a week.
Shop the big hitters
From King Street to Manchester Arndale shopping centre, Manchester has everything for hardcore shoppers. On every corner you’ll find well-known retail stores to small boutiques, and heavy-hitter Selfridges celebrates its 15th birthday in the city this year. Plus Manchester is great for vintage, which you’ll find at Pop Boutique and concept store Oi Palloi is the best place in the city for menswear.
Bust some suds
For a pre-dinner apertif, head to The Washhouse – one of Manchester’s hidden bars. This place takes the façade of a simple launderette but they staff won’t do any washing for you, instead they’ll shake up some of Manchester’s best cocktails. Be sure to make a booking – they operate a strict reservation-only policy.
Next, don your glad rags and head to Tattu – a modern Chinese restaurant with a dark wood bar and intricately carved screens. The centrepiece is a dramatic pink cherry blossom tree. Order the red pepper lamb chops with hot and sour pumpkin or the beautifully presented caramel soy fillet steak. Great for special occasions.
The night is still young, and after all, it’s Manchester’s legendary nightlife that helped to put it on the map – so head to Dusk til Pawn – a Prohibition-chic lounge with a pawn shop storefront serving craft cocktails, wine & beer until late.
Finish the day with a nightcap in the Refuge Bar located inside the Principal Hotel, taking its name from the building’s history as Refuge Assurance company. The laid back atmosphere is great for chilling out at the end of a long day. It’s worth noting – if you’re staying in Manchester for a weekend, their hearty Sunday roasts are the best in the city.