The north of England has not historically been associated with high glamour, but Manchester is a city on the rise. The locale, formerly known as an industrial hub, was selected as the site of Chanel’s 2023/24 Métiers d’art show in December 2023, further spotlighting the growing popularity of the destination. This year, Manchester will welcome a Soho House, and several exciting hotels, including Treehouse Hotel Manchester, are on the verge of opening. In April 2024, Co-Op Live will open as the U.K.’s largest music venue, with concerts from Olivia Rodrigo, Nicki Minaj and Eric Clapton on the horizon.
The city is just a two-hour train ride from London’s Euston station, and easily paired with other popular northern destinations like Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham, if you want to turn your getaway into a longer jaunt. Here’s what you need to know when planning a trip to Manchester.
Where to Stay
4 Norfolk St, Manchester M2 1DW
Set in the former Manchester Stock Exchange, the aptly-named Stock Exchange Hotel is Manchester’s favorite boutique luxury hotel. It’s comprised of 40 rooms and suites, as well as a top floor residence, and the hotel boasts thoughtfully-designed bedrooms that feature Nespresso coffee makers and modern details while still embracing the building’s history. Guests can take advantage of a variety of services, including a chauffeur, personal shopping and dry cleaning, and breakfast is served in the hotel’s restaurant, set on the former trading floor. The location is ideal, with the high-end shops of Exchange Square and Arndale Shopping Centre only steps away.
16 Peter St, Manchester M60 2DS
The Midland, opened over 120 years ago, reflects Manchester’s long history—over the decades, the property has hosted famous guests including Winston Churchill. Its accommodations, recently refurbished, are elegant and tasteful, with modern décor and notably large square footage (especially the suites). The Rena Spa welcomes guests for relaxing treatments and thermal experiences, and there’s also an expansive fitness center. The hotel is home to Adam Reid at the French, and the property’s opulent afternoon tea has been a staple of the city since 1903. Nearby, Spinningfields is a hub for entertainment and nightlife, and the Manchester Art Gallery is a mere block away.
29 Ducie St, Manchester M1 2JL
Dakota Hotel Manchester recently opened in the city’s Northern Quarter, overlooking the canal and offering quick access to Manchester Piccadilly station. The hotel is contemporary, with a sleek vibe and well-appointed rooms that feel peaceful and modern. Guests can book into a garden or balcony room, or splurge on a suite, which come with high-floor views and jacuzzi tubs. There is a fine dining restaurant, relaxed cocktail bar and outdoor terrace for summer stays, although travelers will find plenty of restaurants and bars right on their doorstep.
Oxford St, Manchester M60 7HA
Many of Manchester’s old offices have found new life recently, as seen in The Kimpton Clocktower, set in an ornate Victorian building in the heart of the city. The rooms are chic and stylish, with many of the Kimpton’s signature amenities, like an evening social hour on offer for guests. There’s a fitness center, complimentary bicycles, a casual eatery and a cleverly-designed winter garden; the perfect place for coffee or cocktails when it’s raining or cold. The hotel, which opened in 2020, is one of the city’s most recent hospitality additions, and embraces a lively, youthful vibe that some of the older hotels lack.
What to Do
Oxford Rd, Manchester M15 6ER
Part of the University of Manchester, The Whitworth exhibits both historic and contemporary work with free entry for all visitors. The exhibitions change regularly, and the gallery also hosts special events that take place both inside and outside, from talks to wellness activities to family days. A visit can be paired with other nearby museums, including Elizabeth Gaskell’s House and the Manchester Museum.
Mosley St, Manchester M2 3JL
The city’s most well known art museum is the Manchester Art Gallery, located in the center of town. The museum, which has been around for two centuries, offers free entry and features a compelling permanent collection along with special exhibitions. There is a focus on British art, including works from Manchester itself, and the museum is also renowned for its costume collection. Stop by for one of the regularly-held free gallery tours.
Ashton New Rd, Manchester M11 3FF
Manchester boasts two football (soccer to all the Americans) teams, Manchester United and Manchester City. Etihad Stadium is the home of Man City, while Manchester United plays at Old Trafford. It can be challenging to score tickets to a match, but worth it to experience the intense fandom that accompanies English football. Both the men’s and women’s teams play at Etihad, and visitors can attempt to book tickets online in advance. If you miss out, don’t worry—every pub in town televises the matches. The National Football Museum also hosts exhibitions and events.
2 Tony Wilson Pl, Manchester M15 4FN
Manchester is a hub of art, theater and live performances, especially live music. All of these come together at Home, an independent cinema, theater and exhibition space. It frequently hosts talks by notable figures, including, recently, Bernie Sanders, and it’s a great place to see on-the-cusp work by international artists. For more, head to Aviva Studios, which opened last year, or The Bridgewater Hall, one of Manchester’s top concert venues.
Where to Eat and Drink
16 Peter St, Manchester M60 2DS
Adam Reid’s fine dining restaurant at the Midland Hotel is one of Manchester’s top culinary experiences. Serving modern British cuisine, Reid uses seasonal produce to create the tasting menu at The French, which he has helmed since 2013. Expect a celebration of local flavors and dishes in an elevated way, with an optional wine or non-alcoholic drinks pairing to match. Be sure to book in advance, especially on a weekend or over a holiday.
42 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6BF
Mana, helmed by chef-owner Simon Martin, is Manchester’s only Michelin-starred restaurant (for now). The avant-garde cuisine pairs Asian techniques with British produce and seafood, resulting in stylish, delicious dishes that are served in a chic dining room. The menu is offered in two versions, complete and extracts, depending on how many courses you prefer. Reserve a table in advance, although it’s sometimes possible to sneak in at the last minute.
3 Little Quay Street Sunlight House, Manchester M3 3JZ
Joe and Daniel Schofield are two of the U.K.’s top bartenders, so it was only fitting for the brothers to open their own cocktail spot in their hometown of Manchester. Schofield’s, set in an Art Deco building, serves a combination of classic cocktails and signature drinks, along with a few snacks. The atmosphere is upscale casual and the service is attentive. Tables can be booked online, but guests are welcome to just pop in for a drink (or more). The team behind Schofield’s also runs Sterling, the Stock Exchange Hotel’s high-end bar.
7 Rostron Brow, Stockport SK1 1JY
The nearby town of Stockport is a quick train or taxi ride from Manchester. While there’s not much there that regularly draws tourists, homegrown restaurant Where the Light Gets In encourages the trip. The intimate, contemporary dining room is relatively small (book several weeks in advance) and the food is seasonal and creative. The dishes emphasize British ingredients from farmers and fishermen around the U.K., and the sustainable restaurant has its own farm to help supply chef Sam Buckley’s kitchen. Dinner is offered as a tasting menu only, but the restaurant is good about catering to those with dietary concerns. Wine and non-alcoholic pairings are available, and if you’re short on time, book in for Saturday lunch, which comes at a slightly lower price point.
4 Cathedral Gates, Greater, Manchester M3 1SW
What’s a trip to England without a visit to a historic pub? While travelers can find a local on every corner, Manchester’s Old Wellington Inn is worth seeking out. Built in 1552, the boozer is housed inside the oldest building of its kind in the city, and has been a working pub since 1830. It’s especially lively during the summer; stop by for a pint or to try one of the many stocked whiskeys.
Smithfield Market Hall, 1 Eagle St, Manchester M4 5BU
Manchester’s independent restaurants are on display at Mackie Mayor, a centrally-located food hall with nine eateries. The atmosphere is lively and casual, but the food is notably good, showcasing cuisines from all over the world (look for New Wave Ramen). It’s a great pick for lunch between excursions and the building, from 1858, is as impressive as the food.