A lifestyle expat travel blog about culture, history, Brexit, the Royal Family, travels around the world, Europe, and being British in Berlin!
As you know, I’m The British Berliner, and my original home country, is England.
You know the one.
Now if you’ve met me in real life, you’d be shocked to discover that I actually hail from the Northern part of the country.
But you wouldn’t know it if you heard me speak!
When I talk, I sound as posh as any Sloane in Chelsea.
Put that down to an independent private education!
Having said that, even though I sound rather plummy, I am in fact, a Northerner, and my original home town is Manchester.
Not industrial steel Manchester mind you, but the leafy suburbs of Cheadle!
In fact, not far from my parent’s home is Abney Hall Park – the inspiration for country house life, and indeed, many of the scenes – of Agatha Christie!
What I’m trying to say is that even though I sound as if I come from the manicured landscapes of Surrey, I’m from Up North!
And what was once the suburbs of Greater Manchester in Lancashire, is also part of the suburbs of Cheshire!
If you would like to know a little bit about England, Scotland and other British things, just follow the link here!
Manchester really needs no introduction, but if you insist…
Manchester began as a Roman fort called Mamucium or Mancunium, in about AD 79 and was historically a part of Lancashire, and until the 20th century, became a part of Cheshire.
Manchester is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the South, the Pennines to the North and East, and an arc of little towns surrounding it!
In fact, where I grew up, is technically no longer known as Manchester, but Cheshire!
Throughout the Middle Ages, Manchester remained a manorial township, but began to expand around the turn of the 19th century, brought on by a boom in textile manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution, bringing extreme wealth to Manchester, and making it the first industrialised city in the world!
Now even though I’m a Mancunian, I haven’t lived in Manchester since I went to university!
And that’s quite some time ago!
I had planned some day trips but we went to Liverpool instead!
That notwithstanding, we did a historical walk, had a few beers, and then went to hipster Ancoats and the Northern Quarter!
There are so many things to do in Manchester that you need at least a week to do them all, so here’s a list of things you could do whenever you get there.
Go on then, choose your poison!
1. Discover the Victorian historical past of Manchester
I found a large collection of self-guided walking talks distributed by Discovering Britain and created by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers – IBG), which you can find online! I picked The Slums, squalor and salvation – A self guided walk around Victorian Manchester. Being that I was named after Queen Victoria, I’ve always had a fascinating interesting in the era of that period! I enjoyed it very much, but ran ut of time!
2. Read a book at one of Manchester’s oldest libraries
The John Rylands Library is one of Manchester’s most majestic buildings, and as a little girl, I was very much a bookworm and a bit of a boffin, so this library was one of the libraries of my dreams! It’s a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture and looks more like a castle than a library! Go see for yourself.
3. Go to Victoria Square – the first “industrial suburb”in the world!
Victoria Square in Ancoats was built in 1894, and is the first “industrial suburb” in the world! Ancoats became a cradle of the Industrial Revolution and was a thriving industrial district before it suffered economic decline and became quite a horrible slum! You can still see bit and pieces of it’s historical past, but you’d have to hurry as Ancoats is being turned into a gentrified Quarter of horrible glass and steel!
4. See the home of one of North England’s most famous writer
Once the home of famous novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, the building – Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is now open to the public, exhibiting her old kitchen, servant’s hall, a tea room, and beautiful recreated gardens.
5. Learn about Manchester’s industrial past
The Museum of Science and Industry is one of my favourite museums and is based on the site of the oldest passenger railway station in the world! As you know, I really like museums but most importantly, it’s completely free of charge, so why shouldn’t you visit?
6. Travel through time
Ordsall Hall is a fine example of Elizabethan architecture. Dating back to 1340, Ordsall Hall is one of Manchester’s oldest buildings and was built by the Radclyffes, an influential local family with close links to the monarchy! And certainly, when I was a young girl I never forgot the importance of Tudor and Stuart! Oh, and it doesn’t cost a penny!
7. Explore Art!
The Manchester Art Gallery is an amazing gallery that houses a huge collection of paintings, craft and design, and early 20th Century British art. Entry is free!
8. Imagine life during WWII
Be a modern day Doctor Who and wander through time via the original tunnels from the Stockport air raid shelters used during 1940 Wartime Britain. Opened in 1939, the shelters were the largest purpose-built civilian air raid shelters in the country, and provided shelter for up to 6,500 people!
9. Visit one of England’s finest Grade II listed buildings
One of the finest pieces of architecture is the Manchester Central Library. With it’s original historic features, cutting-edge design, impressive Wolfson Reading Room, as well as a fascinating collection of reading material, as a young girl, it inspired in me a love of dusty books!
10. Hail the Suffragettes!
The Pankhurst Centre was the home of Emmeline Pankhurst and her family, who led the Suffragette campaign for Votes for Women & the Women’s Social and Political Union. She was named as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, and is a must visit for anyone interested in political history at the turn of the 20th century! It’s also free of charge!
11. Stay trendy and cool in the Northern Quarter
Similar to Berlin’s Kreuzberg, the Northern Quarter is one of the most popular places to head to. Situated between Piccadilly and Ancoats, the Northern Quarter retains a unique character and charm, and is Manchester’s urban creative, urban heart and home, to countless independent fashion designers and stores, record shops, cafés, bars, restaurants, street art, and other creative hubs! We spent a little bit of time hanging out here. Note that the Quarter also has the bohemian hippy air of Copenhagen’s Freetown of Christiania!
12. Lose yourself in music
Since it opened in 1978, Piccadilly Records has become one of the world’s best independent record shops selling a wide variety of musical genres spanning from indie, disco, funk, house, psych and everything in between. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, they’ll tell you where you can!
13. Rip your jeans at the centre of Manchester’s punk scene!
Manchester was very much a prominent part of the punk scene in the 1970’s where the Buzzcocks, the post-punk band The Fall, and Joy Division used to play before they hit the big time! Occupying a grand old Victorian building is the pub where it all started – Band on the Wall – with a reputation for hosting respected artists from all over the world. Visit, if you want to reveal Manchester’s 20th century music scene!
14. Take a stroll and do business
Situated in the heart of Manchester, Spinningfields is one of Europe’s most successful urban regeneration projects! It’s the leading regional business quarter in the UK and the centre of Manchester’s corporate community, over 165 world-class financial and commercial services organisations, luxury international fashion brands, restaurants and bars, and over 5.5 million tourists a year!
15. Be dramatic. Do theatre!
Once the largest trading hall in England, the Royal Exchange Theatre is soaked in history and was a prominent target in the Manchester Blitz in 1940! Today, the Royal Exchange Theatre attracts the very best acting and writing talent to the seven-sided, glass-walled capsule, and is uniquely suspended in the middle of the historic Cotton Exchange, so that each and every seat, is less than nine metres from the circular stage. We went to see a play there and it was remarkable!
16. Experience the reality of war at the Imperial War Museum North
The Imperial War Museum North (IWM) at Salford Quays was initially established during the First World War! Housed in an iconic aluminium clad building, it represents a globe shattered by conflict and is the first museum in the UK to be designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Daniel Libeskind, and of course, is free of charge.
17. Power to the People!
My second favourite museum in Manchester is the People’s History Museum. It’s a national museum that shows the way ordinary people used to live, as well as the history of labour and democracy, in the UK. It’s very interactive and hands on. We visited a few years’ ago, and The Tall Young Gentleman was amazed to see an 1800 telephone that had both a mouth piece and an ear piece. He was so astonished, he didn’t know how to use it! Absolutely free of charge!
18. See the oldest library in the world. Probably!
Chetham’s Library was founded in 1653 and is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world! It’s housed in a building from 1421, and it’s entire collection is deemed to be a national and international treasure!
19. Visit Whitworth Park Gallery
The Whitworth is a gallery that I remember well as a young girl! It’s located in Whitworth Park, and is now a part of the University of Manchester and exhibits an extensive and eclectic collection of art and design, which is of international significance. It’s free of charge.
20. Run away to the circus. No! Visit the theatre!
The Lowry represents a diverse programme of theatre, opera, musicals, dance, music, comedy and visual art, as well as events and activities to expand the horizons of audiences and artists alike. One of the most familiar childhood places that I remember is that of the Lowry Gallery. The Gallery presents paintings, sculpture and photography, as well as the exhibitions of one of Britain’s best loved artists – LS Lowry.
21. Party on!
Housed in a venue built in 1878, The Deaf Institute, is a music hall ballroom with velvet curtains, a domed ceiling, a massive mirror ball, and parrots on the wall! It also hosts live gigs, comedy and club nights for big names in the early stage of their career, as well as craft beers served to rock ’n roll sound tracks!
22. Listen to live classical music
As one of the BBC’s six performing groups, the BBC Philharmonic offers a wonderful opportunity to experience live classical music at its very best. The BBC Philharmonic gives many concerts, nearly all of which are broadcast on BBC Radio 3, it also appears at the annual BBC Proms. If you’re interested, you can apply for free tickets for concerts in the studio, or purchase tickets for the annual season at Bridgewater Hall.
23. Experience musical talent at the Hallé
In my younger days, I used to play the clarinet and was a member not only a jazz-like Big Band, but also a symphony orchestra! And one of the places that I delighted in visiting was the Hallé. The Hallé is an 1857 English symphony orchestra that ranks among the UK’s top symphonic ensembles and supports youth choirs, children’s choirs, and youth orchestras, as well as releasing its recordings, on its own record label! It was a huge deal to perform there, and we did!
24. Listen to music under the Arches!
It can’t get any more authentic when you dive under the arches along the railway tracks. Gorilla is a mixture of film, comedy, live and club music space. It’s also a little gritty and is one of Manchester’s music haunts. And isn’t that what we all want!
25. Get it in, at Manchester City FC!
Enjoy an exciting Manchester City Stadium and Club Tour and bask in the pride and heritage of Manchester and it’s very own football team – Manchester City!
26. Kick a ball for Manchester United
Travel to the home of the most successful football club in the world! Book yourself a Manchester United Museum & Stadium Tour, and enhance in the experience of a life-time as a premier league football player and a behind the scenes look at the most recognised football team in the world at Old Trafford!
27. Be a Viking and throw an axe!
If you’re looking for something different, why not visit the Great Northern Warehouse where Whistle Punks will show you how to throw an axe. Jaaaaaa!
28. Go to the clouds on the 23rd floor!
The highest point in Manchester is a unique venue on the 23rd floor! Cloud 23 at the Hilton has the most fabulous views of Manchester’s skyline as well as genteel afternoon tea, and elegant cocktails. Dress smartly. Note: Children under 18 are only allowed between 11:00 and 17:00.
29. Sip gin at the City of Manchester Gin Experience
The City of Manchester Gin Experience is a purpose-built space with a cinema screen and private bar. Take your time and tour the distillery, explore the history, learn about the intriguing history of gin, as well as drinking it. And then top it off by creating your own personalised bottle of gin!
30. Welcome to Chinatown!
Manchester, twinned with Wuhan in China, has the second largest Chinatown in Britain, and the third largest in Europe! Originally created in the 1970’s as a cultural hub for Chinese families in the north of England, Chinatown is now famed for its restaurants, grocery shops and bakeries, as well as Chinese New Year celebrations which attract thousands of visitors. In 1987, an impressive archway (a paifang) shipped from China – was built!
31. Put your finger in a Bury Black Pudding!
Black Pudding traditionally served with hearty favourites like bacon and fried egg is the ultimate Lancashire delicacy and dates back to 1865! There is an English speciality called Bury Black Puddings! It’s a Bury institution and a must have, when having an English breakfast in the North of England! I’m not a fan myself, but why not give it a try at least once!
32. Eat street food at a Farmers’ Market
Manchester has a huge number of local food and drink, produce, and Farmers’ Markets, so why not enjoy all that Manchester, and the North of England has to offer!
33. Sing carols at the Manchester Christmas Market!
Step into winter with a dose of European / British local food from the number of Christmas Markets scattered around the city. It won’t be traditionally German, but you’ll get food, drinks, wooden gifts, hand-made products and a good sprinkling of glühwein and sausages!
34. Visit Manchester’s Edwardian Corn Exchange
Take a step back in time and immerse yourself in Manchester’s rich past via the Edwardian Corn Exchange. Bask in the Gothic Quarter and take your senses through the quaint medieval cobbled streets, away from the hustle and bustle of Manchester city centre.
35. Sip coffee at Pot Kettle Black
Established in 1871, Manchester’s Barton Arcade is an industrial vintage space that is home to a speciality coffee shop – Pot Kettle Black. We went there for a snack and a few drinks, but sadly, they stopped serving meals at 16:00, and the cakes they had on offer were either filled with nuts, or crammed with chocolate! A beer it is then!
36. Enjoy craft beer
Manchester has a growing craft beer scene, with more than 80 breweries operating across Manchester! Try the beer, slap someone on the back, and buy a round for the locals!
37. Laugh your head off!
Located along Deansgate Locks, the Comedy Store Manchester is right in the heart of a popular nightlife spot. Housing a spacious bar and canal-side restaurant as well as an auditorium, this hugely popular venue showcases some of the best comedic talent from around the world building on its impressive heritage from the original London venue, which helped launched the careers of French and Saunders, Jack Dee, Paul Merton, Julian Clary, and Eddie Izzard. We went to one of the performances, and it was pretty alright!
38. Pub crawl through Deansgate Locks
The Deansgate Locks’ is home to not only the Comedy Store Manchester, but also ten converted railway arches with six bars, a walkway, and a bridge hanging over a part of the Manchester canal beneath! Not far away is the real Deansgate and also the longest road in the city centre, one of the oldest thoroughfares ,and dating right back to Roman times! Can you imagine that just 30 years ago, many of the gentrified gastro-pubs used to be working men pubs, or packed with underaged kids either wearing tightly ripped jeans and second-hand leather jackets, or listening to the 70’s post-punk music of The Police, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths, and The Cure, before the area beame a desolated mess! In fact, when I went back a few years ago, I was shocked at how gentrified Deansgate Locks had become!
39. Drink at some of Manchester’s finest pubs and ale houses
You wouldn’t be in Manchester if you didn’t have a bevy of good old British pubs, serving real beers and traditional ales. Check out the Peveril of the Peak – one of Manchester’s most celebrated pubs – as the only ‘detached’ pub in Manchester city centre, and it’s distinguished two-tone green tiled exterior. It dates from the early 19th century and is said to be named after a stagecoach that ran from Manchester, across the Pennines. It’s an architectural gem, has original wooden benches, stained glass, etched mirrors and bells. Or perhaps The Briton’s Protection – a historic, grade II listed pub dating back from 1806! As well as serving real ale, it is known for offering a wide range of over 200 whiskies. A real British find!
40. Be fabulous and glow, at Manchester’s Gay Village
Located just south of Chinatown, along and around Canal Street, the Manchester Gay Village is both a place to party, and a piece of the people’s history. Like New York, London, and Berlin, Manchester is one of the world’s leading gay-friendly cities, so whether you’re part of the LGBT community or just a supporter of the cause, head out to Canal Street and paaarty!
41. Head to university!
Manchester is a university town and has over 99,000 students across four universities namely the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Salford and the University of Bolton. It’s also home to the University Campus Oldham and the Royal Northern College of Music. Like London and Berlin, Manchester has one of the largest student populations in the UK, and therefore, one of the largest entertainment and nightlife available and very cheap beers!
42. Shop ’til you drop
Manchester Arndale, otherwise known as the Arndale Centre, or the Arndale, is one of the largest shopping centres in the UK, and receives up to 41 million visitors every year! The Arndale was built in the 1970’s but was redeveloped after the 1996 Manchester IRA bombing, making it Europe’s third largest city-centre shopping mall! It’s so worth a visit!
43. Hop on the train
The best way to explore the North England region is by train! Northerners have a soft spot for heritage trains which can’t really be used for travel, but are a picturesque reminder of how we used to live! One of such, is the East Lancashire Railway. With a history stretching back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the East Lancashire Railway is the steam-powered heart of the Irwell Valley, pumping goods and people around the region for nearly 200 years!
44. Be a Children’s BBC (CBBC) presenter for a day
The CBBC, otherwise known as Children’s BBC, is the British children’s television strand owned by the BBC and aimed for older children aged from 6 to 12. BBC programming aimed at the under 6-year-old child is broadcast on the CBeebies channel. If you have young children, let them go behind the scenes, join one of the interactive tours, and discover how it feels to be a TV presenter. The CBBC tour lasts about 1.5 hours and is suitable for ages 6 to 11! Note: You can only watch the CBBC videos and games online, if you’re actually in the UK!
45. Visit a farm!
Set on 70 acres of rolling countryside, the Smithills Open Farm is a family run business, where children can meet and learn about a mixed bag of animals such as goats, cows, pigs and sheep, as well as reptiles, and more unusual species like Burmese pythons. Most animals can also be fed and held!
46. Hats off!
Hat Works is Stockport’s hat museum! It’s an attraction with two floors of interactive exhibits, taking you on a journey through the history of Stockport’s once thriving hatting industry. At Hat Works, visitors can step back in time and experience the world of hatting from its humble beginnings in the cottage industry, to the mass production of the early 19th century when hat manufacturing was a thriving industry, with over 100 hat factories and businesses in the area. You can even try on a huge collection of hats, or try your hand at making your own! Utterly free of charge!
47. Go rambling through the country
Manchester isn’t just city centred, but encompasses rural environments too. The Dovestone Reservoir lies at the convergence of the valleys of the Greenfield and Chew Brooks, above the village of Greenfield, on Saddleworth Moor. The reservoir is on the edge of Oldham and the Peak District National Park in the South Pennines, offering several walks amongst picturesque landscapes. The reservoir has its own sailing club, a permanent orienteering course, an extensive network of footpaths, and good links to areas of open access moorland. If you’re looking to ramble in the countryside, go sailing, cycling, orienteering, or horse-riding, then this is the place to do it!
48. Sail across the oldest man-made canal in the world!
Pack up your troubles nd put it on a barge by river cruising along the historic Bridgewater Canal opened in 1761! The canal flows through Dunham Massey, Sale, Stretford, Barton-upon-Irwell, Old Trafford, Boothstown, Worsley Village, and beyond. Relax in the gentle sounds of Manchester’s most historic waterways, or use Manchester Water Taxis, or a Waxi, to travel around!
49. Travel for free with the hop-on, hop off bus!
Within the Manchester city centre, you can travel for free! Yes, for free! The Metroshuttle is a free of charge ‘hop on, hop off’ service, linking all of the main rail stations, car parks, shopping districts and business areas. There are three services which operate on circular routes and operate in Manchester city centre (routes 1, 2 and 3), Bolton and Stockport. When in “town”, we also used the metroshuttle, and it’s very efficient. Just look for the bus stop signs dotted around the city centre. Free of charge!
50. Pop into Greggs for a meatpie
Greggs is the largest bakery chain in the United Kingdom! It specialises in savoury products such as pasties, sausage rolls, sandwiches, vanilla slices, and cream finger doughnuts! The first Greggs was opened in 1951 and is generally considered to be primarily based in the North of England. Prices are low and quality is really good for a quick snack. To be candid, you’re not in Manchester if you don’t pop into Greggs for a cheese pasty or a sausage roll!
That’s it for now!
This article isn’t sponsored, and even though I thoroughly enjoyed myself in my original home town, and some of the ideas are inspired by Visit Manchester, absolutely all opinions, and the great times I had in my childhood, are my very own!
I have so much to share with you.
In the Autumn, I’ll be visiting the UK and travelling around Cheshire, Staffordshire, Manchester, Blackpool, Derbyshire and Yorkshire!
November is going to be exciting!
Watch this space!
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Thanks a million!
These reasons are so good and more than enough for me to visit Manchester. Excellent list of tips, Vic. 😉
Thanks so much Agness!
Manchester is a fantastic city. I know you’ll love it! 😀
This is such a timely post – I’m going up to Manchester in a couple of weeks to attend some Christmas event in a deer park(?!). As you can probably tell, I wasn’t involved in the planning of this trip, but I do look forward to exploring this famous city, even though I don’t follow football AT ALL haha.
Thanks so much Michelle!
You’ll have such a lot of fun and I’m guessing the “deer park” is either going to be at Dunham Massey or Tatton Park. Both are actually in beautiful Cheshire, which is not far away! Enjoy Manchester, and if you have any questions, holler! 😀
p.s. Don’t worry about the football. There’s plenty to do without it! 😉
Manchester looks like a place which has so much heavy metal in it with all that industry!
🙂 But seriuosly, I would love the check out the museums and the Chetham’s Library.
Thanks very much Miro! It has gone seriously industrial-looking these days, ‘cos of the massive property investment rolling in on areas previously seen as “awful” but now enormously attractive. However, Manchesters’ museums are lovely and free of charge! 😀
Never been but heard many great things. And I don’t think there is one country on earth I’ve visited where I have not crossed paths with some Man U fans hahaha. Plus several of those things are completely new to me, like the Northern Quarter. Quite a list indeed, well done!
Thanks very much Derek!
Yep! You definitely should, you’ll like it! Ha! Ha! Man United fans are everywhere. Even in the desert! 😀
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Of all the trips I’ve taken in recent years, Manchester was the most unexpectedly delightful. The Northern Quarter! John Rylands Library! The curry mile! The art at the Whitworth! Allllll the music! So much to see and eat and do and experience.
Thanks so much Kristin!
I’m so pleased that you like my original hometown – Manchester. Everyone knows of it, but somehow have never, ever been! But yes, the Northern Quarter, the art and music scene, make Manchester so much more, than the home of the Industrial Revolution! 😀
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