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24 Hours In Manchester

The city of Manchester

Since 2000, Manchester has been dubbed the UK's Second City - and it's quite easy to see why. The city is filled to the brim with interesting architecture and diverse cultures, and is home to two of England’s finest and best-known rival football teams. It also has a vibrant music scene (Hello... Oasis?), a love for sport, and a passion for science (did you know that the first atom was split here?). So here are the best things to keep you entertained, a selection that will hopefully make even the proudest Mancunian excited to explore their city.

Breakfast At The Koffee Pot

English BreakfastEnjoy a traditional English breakfast

If you’re looking for the ultimate hangover-cure breakfast, or just a nice traditional start to the day, The Koffee Pot is the place for you. You can get a Full English Breakfast complete with baked beans and black pudding for only £5.50. And best of all, they serve breakfast until 2pm. Or if your sweet-tooth is getting the better of you, try out their butter pancakes with maple syrup and streaky bacon.

Museum Of Science And Industry

Museum of Science and IndustryThe Museum of Science and Industry

For those who feel like being educated a bit more on the city they’re visiting, the Museum of Science and Industry, or MOSI, is one of the most popular places to go to. Since 1969, the museum has been located in the famous Liverpool Road Station, a historical landmark. There are many exhibitions here, but one of them that you won't want to miss is a look back into the past to imagine what it would have been like to work in a cotton mill. You can also venture into an old Victorian sewer, where they use sounds, sights and even smells to make it truly authentic. People interested in objects such as steam engines will also be happy to see one of the world’s largest collections of working steam engines.

Handy Tip: There are many things to see here, so try to go there early. The museum opens at 10am and entrance is free.

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Manchester Craft And Design Centre

Manchester Craft and Design CentreCraft and Design Centre
Image courtesy of Dave Croker

A bit of shopping while on holiday never did anyone any harm, so make sure to visit the Manchester Craft and Design Centre if you’re looking for something truly unique to buy for yourself or for the family back home. More than 30 artists produce and sell their various forms of artwork in the building’s 19 studio boutiques. You can find pretty much anything you’re looking for, from jewelry, to illustrations to furniture. The centre also houses different exhibitions that run for a couple of months at a time. Up until 9 March 2013, the exhibition FourFront, showcases the work of artists who create things the “21st century way” - such as 3D printing and the use of complex machinery.

Handy Tip: Look out for the new exhibition called “Every Step: The Design Process Of Joseph Hartley” starting on 23 March 2013 and ending 29 June 2013.

The Cultural Corridor

For a taste of Manchester’s culture, you’ll want to take a leisurely stroll down the famous Oxford Road. With its infamous bustling traffic, this road has many beautiful sights to take in. From the majestic architecture of museums, to art galleries and arty movie houses - this is a street where you really get to soak up the culture of the city. Make sure to take a look at the University of Manchester’s campus too - this awe-inspiring building is of palace proportions.

Oxford RoadThe famous Oxford Road. Image courtesy of Pete Birkinshaw
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Lunch At Barburrito

BarburritoEnjoy lunch at Barburrito

Whether you’re a fan of Mexican food or not, Barburrito is the place to stop by for something to eat. Co-founded by Morgan and Paul, this is the coolest burrito bar you’re ever going to find. The casual, fast-food restaurant is perfect for fussy eaters as all food is made to order.

The food here is also made completely from fresh - so you know that your burritos, tacos and nachos are all made from the freshest ingredients. There are no waiters here, so simply order your food, pay for it and sit and enjoy a tasty, uninterrupted lunch in the heart of Manchester.

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People’s History Museum

People's History MuseumPeople's History Museum

The People’s History Museum is a wonderfully unique museum, in that it honours all classes of people. This museum takes you back in time as it documents Britain’s struggle for democracy and equality over two centuries. The stories are told in the museum’s galleries, artefacts, various speeches and short films. Visitors to the museum get to see the lives of all the people involved in that time in history - such as the workers, citizens, voters and even the revolutionaries. It’s all a very family-friendly place to be and has many interactive activities for children to take part in, including a Busy Bee fun pack filled with fun things for them to use whilst exploring the museum. People’s History Museum is free of charge and open all week from 10am until 5pm.

Handy Tip: There are very interesting, changing exhibitions at the museum, so take a look before you go to see if there’s one you’ll want to see.

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National Football Museum

National Football MuseumThe National Football Museum

Calling all you football fans out there! There’s no doubt that you simply cannot visit Manchester as a footie fan, and not visit the National Football Museum. Entrance fee is free - which is pretty amazing considering all it has to offer. Walk through the ground floor and discover the National Football Hall Of Fame, honouring the greatest players and managers of the sport. The first floor tells you the story of football such as the history as well as about players, stadiums, clubs and even the fans. On the second floor you will learn everything you need to know about the game - things like the rules and what it takes to be the best club manager. The third floor is constantly changing, as it houses temporary exhibitions.

Even though entry is free, you might want to spend a few quid on the Football Plus ticket for the ultimate experience. With the tickets, you get to try out various interactive exhibitions in the museum. You can take your shot at a penalty shootout, test your ball passing moves, and even try your hand at commentating. Each exhibition uses one credit per person and one credit is £2.50.

Platt Fields Park

Pack your picnic basket and do as the locals do by enjoying a relaxing afternoon in Platt Fields Park. If you’re feeling active, the park has sport facilities for you to enjoy such as a skate park and a basketball court. There are beautiful gardens for you to explore such as the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Gardens and an orchid garden. One that tends to stand out the most, especially for those who are into their classic literature, is the Shakespearean Garden - home to plants and flowers that were mentioned in both his plays and his sonnets. If you’re more in the mood to just relax, sit back and enjoy the scenery of the huge lake in the centre of the park while your kids play on one of the park’s playgrounds.

Platt Fields Park LakeThe lake at Platt Fields Park. Image courtesy of Karel Hladky

Handy Tip: For an educational afternoon, make sure to check out the Platt Hall and Costume Museum situated within the park.

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Dinner At Frankie’s Fish Bar

Frankie's Fish BarDinner at Frankie's Fish Bar

Instead of recommending a ridiculously overpriced restaurant for you to have dinner at in the city, I’m recommending the city’s best traditional fish and chip spot, Frankie’s Fish Bar. Voted 6th best fish and chip restaurant in the country, Frankie’s only uses the freshest produce to create the yummiest, typically-English fish ‘n chips meals. Enjoy your meal in the relaxed and friendly environment - and you get to choose from a variety of different fish. There are also wines and ales available to compliment the taste of your food. The fish and chips will cost you from £6.30, but if you’re not really a seafood person, it’s worth visiting just for the pork sausages and the traditional pies and puddings.

Godlee Observatory

One of Manchester’s most famous spots (and a great place to spend your early evening) is the Godlee Observatory in the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology building. Built in 1902, you can’t help but be taken aback by the beauty. Take a walk up the high, spiralling staircase until you find yourself in the observatory. The telescope there is still the original one - a proper vintage telescope that uses ropes and wheels to move. If you’re really into astronomy, try to go there on a Thursday so that you can join in on the weekly public discussions that take place. Besides the chances to see the majestic heavens and planets above, you also get to see a breathtaking view of the city below.

Handy Tip: If you want a formal astronomy lecture, there will be one on the third Thursday of March.

Southern Cemetery

Southern Cemetery ManchesterSouthern Cemetery
Image courtesy of Geoff Royle

When you hear the word “cemetery”, don’t straight away think of it as something morbid or scary. Southern Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in the country and it’s also home to a number of legendary people from Manchester. The cemetery is open from dawn until dusk, so I would recommend visiting it early evening, before it gets too dark - there’s lots to see. It opened way back in 1879 and is filled with pathways, gardens and some beautifully designed sculptures, tombs and tombstones. In 2008, the Remembrance Lodge opened within the cemetery, which allows people to go and pay their respects to the people they’ve lost. There are also guided tours available that you can go on if you wish to see the graves of famous people such as former Manchester United manager, Sir Matt Busby,or John Alcock, the legendary British aviator. Try something different by visiting this cemetery on your trip - many say it’s a peaceful experience.

O2 Apollo

O2 Apollo TheatreO2 Apollo Theatre
Image courtesy of Gerald England

Spoil yourself on your evening in Manchester by watching a show at one of its leading concert venues. The O2 Apollo was built in 1938 and it hosts some of the most famous names in the entertainment industry, from comedy shows, to theatre plays to music concerts of all kinds. In March, rockers can enjoy a performance by Bullet For My Valentine, while the old-school fans can go watch a concert by Grease star, Olivia Newton-John. The venue hosts the hilarious Jimmy Carr in April and the legends, ZZ Top, in June. There’s something for everyone at the O2 Apollo.

Handy Tip: Keep an eye out for any competitions for a particular performance you want to watch, as O2 Apollo runs them often. A great way to save some cash!

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Munchies At The Curry Mile

Curry MileThe Curry Mile
Image courtesy of Maarten

Manchester’s infamous Curry Mile is situated along Wilmslow Road and is said to have over 70 Indian and Middle Eastern food establishments in less than a mile. Take a walk down this street after (or before) your night out and take in all the eastern cuisine smells from all around you. Besides the restaurants, there are also places and stands where you can buy kebabs and takeaways. Many of these restaurants stay open until the early hours of the morning, so it is the place to go if you have a serious case of the munchies after a hectic night out.

Handy Tip: If you’re in the area during the Eid festival celebrations, this is the street you’ll want to be in, as it is often full of festivities during Eid.

Cloud 23

Cloud 23 At NightView from Cloud 23

A night of pure sophistication is what you’ll get at Cloud 23. Situated on the 23rd floor of the iconic Beetham Tower (also known as the Hilton Tower), the venue offers breathtaking, panoramic views of the city of Manchester. Sip on one of the many interesting cocktails Cloud 23 has to offer while listening to the DJ doing his thing. You’ll need to dress smart and stylishly to this venue - you are entering a place of great luxury after all. There are even various lounges you can book, and each of them is named after an ancient Greek god. So you get the Apollo 23 lounge and the Zeus 23 lounge and so on. The cocktails are truly unique in that they come with their own story which honours Manchester’s heritage, such as the “Here’s To Baby” cocktail - honouring the first ever working computer which came about thanks to Professors Williams and Kilburn of the University of Manchester. Best of all? Entrance to Cloud 23 is free everyday.

Handy Tip: Due to its popularity, if you want to book a table, you may have to do so 2 - 3 months in advance as it’s often fully booked.

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DJ at SankeysParty at Sankeys
Image courtesy of Eddy Gosht

For an all-night party, spend the night at Sankeys. This nightclub was originally opened in 1994 as Sankeys Soap, and after closing down a couple of times, it finally reopened for good as just Sankeys to become one of the most popular nightclubs Manchester has to offer. Not only that, but it has now also opened in Ibiza and New York. The best time to start off your party would be at around 11pm at the earlies (as the club closes at 6am!) Party and dance all night to house music, dubstep and plenty more genres that guarantee you a night you’ll never forget. Sankeys boasts many different sections, such as The Basement (the original main club space), Spektrum (another space for you to dance), The Bar and also The Terrace.

Due to its popularity, many well-known acts have performed here such as the Chemical Brothers, Moby and Daft Punk. If you happen to be there in March, there’s plenty going on. You can see Treehouse VS La Loop on 2 March; Recentes VS YamaJam on 8 March and Recentes VS Fiesta on 16 March. Once you enter Sankeys, make sure you’re ready to party well into the next morning.

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Last Updated: March 2013

Zoe Harrington

Zoe Harrington

After graduating with a degree in English Literature and a passion for writing, Zoe finally ended up at Essential Travel. An avid animal lover, Zoe is also an enthusiastic traveller and loves the richness it brings to one's life. Born in London, she has been to many European countries, the USA, Thailand and Singapore, making her always keen to inform others of the wonders of travel through her writing.