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How to show off the city to friends and family (or just check out some of the highlights yourself)

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A 2-day tour of Manchester

“Manchester has everything but good looks…, the only place in England which escapes our characteristic vice of snobbery.” – Historian AJP Taylor

Are your family and friends visiting this summer and you don’t know where to take them in the city? Let’s face it, Manchester might not be the most touristy place in England, in fact I kind of appreciate this as my experience here has been very authentic. However, the city that has opened its arms to you during your studies has interesting places to visit and, believe it or not, beautiful sights if you pay attention.

Here I share an itinerary for a short tour in Manchester which includes various activities:

Day 1

You can start your day having a Full English Breakfast in any of the classic English pubs or you can go to the brunch at the Whitworth Café, a beautiful restaurant with a large window with the views of Whitworth Park near Rusholme.

After breakfast, you can head to the Alan Turing Memorial in Sackville Gardens and take the free walking tour at 11 a.m. I personally recommend this tour as the guides are very friendly and have a lot of interesting insights of the city that you could not find in any other place. The tour is 3 hours long with a break in the middle and you will learn about Manchester’s history while you walk through its most important streets, buildings and places. The tour ends at the Manchester’s Cathedral so you can walk a few blocks to the Corn Exchange and have some lunch in any of its restaurants.

Main image: The Shambles. Top right: Manchester Central Library. Bottom Right: Manchester Canal. Photo credits: Mariana Amador

After lunch, I recommend you take a bus or a walk to the Science + Industry Museum. It has a lot of exhibitions related to the Industrial Revolution as the city was the place in which it was born. They have a really cool live exhibition of how the cotton mills worked at that time. It also has a lot on “Baby”, the first computer and “Rocket” the first locomotive. You can have a refreshment in the café of the museum and keep on going.

In the afternoon you can take the tram at Deansgate Station to Salford Quays and Media City UK. It is one of the sights I am telling you about! This place is very different from the city centre and has an attitude of its own. You can go to the theatre at The Lowry (which you should book in advance), or to The Lowry outlet for some shopping, to the Imperial War Museum, to any of the restaurants in there or simply take a walk through the quays and take nice pictures. In summer, they open beer gardens to have a pint and just sit in the grass and relax a bit. From here you can take a 15-minute walk to the Manchester United Stadium.

Salford Quays / Media City UK. Photo credits: Mariana Amador

For dinner you can stay in The Quays and find any of the good restaurants they have there, I recommend Nando’s, a South African restaurant chain specialized in peri-peri style roasted chicken. Or you can upgrade your game and eat in the restaurant with the best and cheapest chicken wings in the city, Bunny Jacksons. If you buy any drink, each wing, depending on the flavour you choose, costs from 10p to 30p. You can also take the tram back and go to the Northern Quarter which is the home of many good restaurants and bars for the night. For example there is Mackie Mayor, a big old warehouse which has been refurbished and has a lot of food and drink options inside without having to switch restaurants.

Day 2

If you are interested in shopping, you can start your morning at Market Street, Arndale an its surroundings. You can take any bus that stops at Picadilly Gardens. Arndale itself is a shopping mall with a lot of shops for all requirements (clothing, books, shoes, home elements, games, perfumes, you name it). If you need a coffee break, i love the the café at Waterstones the book shop. Around Arndale there are many other shops such as Primark (which has a new Friends’ themed Central Perk Cafe), Marks and Spencer, Zara, Scribbler and more. After a morning of shopping you can have lunch either inside the mall (they also have a Nando’s here 😉) or you can head to The Printworks, another commercial place which has many restaurants (Hard Rock Café, Chiquito, Frankie and Benny’s, etc.).

After lunch, please go to the John Rylands library. It is a 30-40 minutes visit to one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Managed by the University of Manchester, the library holds exhibitions related to the city (currently there is one about the Peterloo Massacre) and it is worth it just by its beautiful architecture and detail. If you are a Harry Potter fan you will feel as if you are inside Hogwarts!

John Rylands Library: Photo credits: Mariana Amador

And for the rest of the afternoon, my advice is to leave John Rylands and walk straight to Castlefield which is an inner-city conservation area. Surrounded by canals, Castlefield is the home to private housing, little offices and many pubs that make it worth it the visit. You can take a walk by the side of the canals and end with a beer in a pub to enjoy the summer sun of the afternoon. I recommend The Wharf, a pub that is located in a point where the canals meet and has a nice terrace.


And for dinner, you cannot leave Manchester without eating at the Curry Mile, the largest concentration of Asian and Eastern restaurants in the UK (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi, among others). I personally recommend MyLahore (Pakistani) or Mughli Charcoal Pit (Indian) and the best thing to do is to order various dishes to share and taste a lot of things.

So, I hope you enjoyed my blog and that you family and friends have a nice time here in Manchester. Or you can even take a day off from your studies and mix up any of these activities to really get to know your city! Obviously there are many things that I didn’t include in these tour such as other museums and activities but for me, I think with this tour will show you the best of the city.

If you want to have an insight on other possible activities, please check my other blogs on culture, street art and different things to do in the city.