TRAVEL GUIDE: 48 hours in Manchester
Manchester is the third most visited city in the UK after London and Birmingham. That somehow isn’t surprising. From Old Trafford and the Curry Mile to rich cultural hotspots the Lowry Centre and Urbis, Manchester is a truly vibrant city with sights, sounds and entertainment to suit all tastes. Here are our tips for a perfect 48 hour weekend in the city...
Three good reasons to visit:
1 The Salford Music Festival: A four-day festival (September 9-12) hosting some of the finest new bands from both Manchester and Salford. With more than 60 live gigs at the Festival, plus many fringe events which will be free to attend all across the city. The Salford Music Festival will feature a mixture of music and culture for everyone. See http://www.salfordmusicfestival.co.uk.
2 Heaton Park: Visit Manchester’s biggest green space. There’s plenty to do whatever your age: a well-equipped children’s playground; rowing boats, woodland walks and cycle paths; even a grand 18th-century mansion and farm. It’s also home to beekeepers, astronomers, trolley-bus enthusiasts and the Commonwealth Bowling Club.
3 Beer and Jazz Festival: September 23-24. A selection of 40 cask ales and ciders with a full bar service. Live music including The Bavarian Beer Band and many more.
Spoil yourself with a real culinary treat at the Lowry’s spectacular River Restaurant. Once known as a Marco Pierre White restaurant, current head chef Eyck Zimmer delivers an exceptional menu of seasonal, locally-inspired dishes. Food like this does cost (half a lobster is £21 and a 28-day aged Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak is £29.50) but it’s worth the splurge.
Quick bite:Grab a barm with bacon or what we know as a Belfast bap — a bread roll with bacon. Barm cakes are equally delicious. If you fancy some quick and casual dining, head to Barburrito in Piccadilly Gardens for a tasty Mexican light lunch or take-away www.barburrito.co.uk.
Window Shopping: King Street is the location with the highest concentration of designer stores with Harvey Nichols and Selfridges at the Millennium Quarter. Try the huge Trafford Centre for the best in cutting edge high street fashion. If you fancy picking up some bargains, head for Affleck’s Palace or the Lowry Outlet Mall at Salford Quays.
Try a Real Ale Pub: The Marble Arch is off the beaten track but worth it for the experience. The 120-year-old pub is a real cultural hub that serves up gourmet pints. Be sure to try one of its Marble beers which are brewed on site. If beer isn’t your thing, another popular local drink is Vimto, (a sweet, fruity cordial which has been a household name in Manchester since 1908). Red Rose Whisky from Wigan is another local favourite.
Lunch: You can’t go to Manchester and not eat at least once in Chinatown. Many of the Chinatown restaurants have all-you-can-eat buffets and off-peak discounts for authentic cuisine.The Little Yang Sing is famed for its authentic dim sum and also offers an extensive menu of traditional Cantonese dishes with two courses set lunch menu costing £9.95 or three courses £11.95.
Something for the kids: Try out some snow at Manchester’s indoor real snow centre www.chillfactore.com. It’s the coolest way for kids to spend the holidays! The Kids Activity Days are affordable and flexible and are a great way to keep kids active and even tire them out so you can relax come evening!
Nightlife: Manchester’s (Madchester’s) music scene is legendary. The city is full of quirky, intimate music venues for live music fans. If you prefer clubbing, head to the Northern Quarter, Deansgate or Castlefield. For a family evening, take a trip to the Lowry Centre to enjoy some dance or theatre.
Take an early morning walk Heaton Park is the largest municipal park in Europe. It’s just four miles north of the city and even includes its own animal centre and a golf course, which offers spectacular views over the Pennines. For opening times visit www.heatonpark.org.uk.
Football: Manchester and football are synonymous. The city’s home to two Premiership teams — Manchester City and Manchester United — and is a magnet for football fans worldwide. The Theatre of Dreams guided tour in Old Trafford (home of Manchester United since 1878) attracts thousands of visitors each year to share in some of the Man U magic. Tours take place daily from 9.40am to 4.30pm. Admission: Museum £9 (adults) and £7 (kids).
Lunch: If the idea of a nice Sunday pub lunch grabs you, make your way to The Bulls Head. It’s ideally located close to Manchester Piccadilly train station — handy if you’re getting the train back to the airport.
GET A ROOM: Use the online booking service on www.visitmanchester.com or call the Manchester Information Centre on 0871 222 8223 for a range of quality and great value accommodation. Browse special rates and packages online in the ‘Special Offers’ section. Visit www.bmibaby.com to see great hotel deals from lastminute.com. For anyone arriving in the city by train, the Malmaison Hotel (0161 278 1000, www.malmaison.com) is handily located at the foot of the approach to Piccadilly station. Doubles cost £160 a night. This trendy hotel has a small gym and Zen lounge which offers facials, massage and manicures. For any fanatics looking to eat, drink and sleep football, ‘Truly Reds’ Manchester United’s fan blog, recommends several hotels which are only 10 minutes away from the sacred turf of Old Trafford — Monton House Hotel (twin room starts from £36), Copthorne Hotel (twin room starts from £56) and Holiday Inn (twin room starts from £59). If you’re visiting Manchester on a shoestring budget then try the YHA Manchester (+44(0) 845 371 9647). This youth hostel is located on the picturesque canal side of Castlefield. Particularly perfect for groups, the YHA has everything you need.
GETTING THERE: bmibaby (www.bmibaby.com) operates up to 12 flights a week from Belfast International to Manchester Airport, with prices starting from just £9.99 one way, including taxes and charges. The low cost airline offers a number of other benefits including reserved seating, online check in (if travelling with hand luggage only) and group bookings online. Don’t miss the best deals on accommodation through bmibaby’s partnership with Lastminute.com. From Manchester Airport to Manchester City Centre by public transport is a straight choice between train or bus. The train is the quickest (20 minutes) and offers a true 24-hour service.