A Travel Guide For Doing Manchester On The Cheap
The Debrief: Cheap places to stay, yummy places to eat and bars to booze at in one of the UK's best cities
Manchester is a bloody great city. After all, it’s home to the birth of the Industrial Revolution and the Co-operative Movement, it was where the first atom was split and the first programmable computer and vegetarianism were invented. Plus, this great city gave us Mark E Smith (ask your dad), Eccles cakes, Take That and Vimto.
Whether you’ve studied, worked or simply partied in Manchester, you won’t forget this city in a hurry. Easy to get to and inexpensive, Manchester is brilliant for a UK city break, providing you don’t live there already, that is. Because that would be silly.
How to get there
Luckily, Manchester is super easy to get to from all over the UK and abroad. The most budget-friendly options are the ‘slow’ trains, like London Midland (try Trainline for deals) or one of the super cheap coaches (Megabus FTW). Once there, the city centre is totally walkable or you can get an all-day or weekend travel card from the metro stops. They have tram, train or bus options and the tram is useful if you’re planning to head to Salford Quays and check out The Imperial War Museum and The Lowry Museum.
Where to stay
There are some great central apartments on Airbnb, including this newbie in the buzzing Northern Quarter, which works out at £20.50 per person, per night.
Museums to visit
There are lots of free museums and galleries such as The Museum of Science and Industry and The Football Museum. And you definitely can’t go to Manchester without visiting the gorgeous John Rylands Library, a late-Victorian neo-Gothic building on Deansgate that’s the oldest public library in the UK and where Marx and Engels wrote the first draft of The Communist Manifesto – that's some hardcore history right there!
The Manchester Art Gallery has some great permanent and temporary exhibitions and The Whitworth Gallery is worth a jaunt up Oxford Road. It was recently transformed by a £15 million development and hosts some brilliant contemporary exhibitions. You could check out the superb Manchester Museum en route and The Whitworth is at the start of the infamous curry mile so if you fancy a cheap and spicy curry, then there’s no better spot and the offers are ridic cheap.
Where to go out
You’ll be gaggin’ for a drink after all that exploring and and Manchester has an incredible selection of great bars to choose from. This means that, as long as you avoid the hen parties at The Printworks, you should have a night to remember, for all the right reasons.
Students should head for Fallowfield and some of the student bars on Oxford Road, while those wanting to avoid the freshers feeling stick to The Northern Quarter, which is chocker with great bars such as The Fitzgerald, a classy speakeasy – accessed via a hidden entrance on Little Lever Street, up a chandelier decorated staircase – where you can enjoy a delicious cocktail for just seven quid, in lavish surroundings.
Common Bar is one of the NQ originals and has a boss happy hour, DJs, ever changing décor and top notch falafel. Seriously, what more could you want?
On the edge of the Northern Quarter is The Frog and Bucket, one of the UK’s best comedy venues, where the tickets and beer are so reasonable you’ll think they’re ’avin a laff. Around the corner is the quintessential Mancunian boozer, The Castle, which has been around since 1776 and has a firm place in Manchester’s musical heritage with John Peel interviewing Ian Curtis here in 1979 and Mark E Smith counting as a regular. To this day ,it can be relied upon for quality gigs and pints.
Salut is a mint wine bar and shop where you can grab a card, top it up and serve yourself from the selection of white, roses and reds on offer. It may require a bit of self restraint (hard around wine, I know), but you can pick either a small taste, small glass or large glass from the self-serve selection, which range in price, so you can sample some top end wines, according to your budget.
Corbieres is a subterranean drinking den that has stood the test of time for good reason. Not only is it located on the delightfully named Half Moon Street (looks more like a back ginnel though), once you’ve found the discreet doorway for pre-drinks you’ll be welcomed into a cosy wine cave where you can enjoy the old jukebox and a Wizard of Oz pinball machine. Just watch that windy staircase after you’ve had a few.
Another underground drinking den is The Temple of Convenience. A former public toilet (yep), this small bar is usually packed with a friendly crowd enjoying some pints and a well-stocked juke box. The Temple’s sister, Big Hands (named after a Violent Femmes song) is located further down Oxford Road and is a great dive bar, where you’ll often catch bands having post-gig pints after playing at The Academy next door.
Manchester is synonymous with music so if you want to catch a gig, then this is your place with a plethora of biggish venues such as, The Ritz, The Academy and Apollo. Most Manchester independent gig venues have their own impressive personalities and are multi-purpose, making them worth a visit even if you just want to grab a bite and a drink.
Gorilla is a nice intimate gig venue with a massive gin selection and affordable menu. The Deaf Institute just off Oxford Road is a wonderfully decorated bar and gig venue in an iconic building. It’s in the heart of studentville, but the crowd is very mixed.
If you’re a after a really special gig experience then head to Albert Hall, A Grade II-listed Wesleyan chapel with a 2,500-capacity, that has been resurrected by Trof, the Manchester nightlife stalwarts who are also behind Gorilla and The Deaf Institute.
They recently introduced Albert Schloss, which they call a Bavarian cook haus, bakery, bier palace and wunderbar on the ground floor. This bohemian drinking palace hosts club nights such as Get On the Piste on Fridays – who doesn’t love a good instructional pun name for a club night.
Where to eat
When your belly rumbles, Manchester answers with an abundance of budget-friendly options to grab some proper good scran. If you want a full tum and a wallet full of change then check out Panchos Burrito in The Arndale food market. There’s a 15% discount for students and a cracking collection of Mexican craft beers on offer.
The Nexus Art café is a friendly community space that’s great to pop into for lunch if you’re enjoying the abundance of independent shops in The Northern Quarter. Pop next door to Junk Shop for a good selection of fun vintage wares and nearby Piccadilly Records and Vinyl Exchange are institutions.
Oklahoma is a bonkers haven for all things kitsch and includes arthouse DVD rentals and a really fun café with a good cake selection, that includes vegan options. Overwhelmingly packed and bright, it’s nigh on impossible not to make a cheeky little purchase in this place. Also, check out the RSPCA boutique charity shop on Oak Street for guilt-free purchases.
Also in the Northern Quarter is Slice, where you can grab a slice of pizza for just a couple of quid. And if you end up staggering around the Northern Quarter late at night, looking to ward off a hangover, it’s worth noting that at weekends, Slice remains open, for takeaway only, from 10pm to 1am. That way you can ensure you’re not hanging and mad fer it again the next day.
Manchester does roasts like no other city. Electrik, The Parlour and The Horse and Jockey are a tram or bus ride away in the cool suburb of Chorlton – a digestive walk in Chorlton Nature Park is a must – or if you feel like staying central, then check out Sam’s Chop House. For just £1.50 extra you can avoid making decisions with a hangover and opt for slices of roast beef, roast lamb and slow-roasted pork belly stacked up in the middle with a splash of apple sauce on the pork and a stick of salty crackling. There’s also a tasty wellington option for veggies. Om om!
Have we missed anything out Manchester ladies? Let us know on Twitter @TheDebrief.
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