Making the most of your time: The best places to visit in Manchester
Moving somewhere completely new is notoriously daunting, but the benefit of living in a city as bright and bustling as Manchester is the incredible variety of independent shops, cafés, bars and restaurants. I moved here in September 2021 to study my Master’s and have already fallen in love with the city’s unique offerings! Find below my recommendations for making the most of your time in this vibrant place.
Manchester’s café culture was one of the first things I fell in love with when I moved here. Chapter One Books is just off Piccadilly Gardens and makes the perfect afternoon study spot, with shelves of old books and amazing cakes. Sugar Junction offers a cosy vibe for work or socialising, with friendly staff and an extensive menu of savoury and sweet food. I recommend their signature pistachio latte. If it’s brunch you’re after, you can’t go wrong with Fig and Sparrow on Oldham Street, or Toast if you’re near Fallowfield and Withington. A little further up from Fig and Sparrow is Nibble; an incredible women-run café with great vegan and gluten free options.
If it’s bars you’re after, Manchester won’t let you down. YES in the Gay Village spans four floors, with a mix of everything from cheap pints to fancy cocktails. Head towards the Northern Quarter to Lost Cat for more interesting cocktails, or Night and Day for affordable drinks and some live music from local and international bands. If you’re closer to Fallowfield, Wilderness is a record shop that becomes a bar in the evening, serving indie beers and delicious cocktails with a student discount. Around the corner from there, Southside Tequila Joint offers a colourful range of tequilas, margaritas and £1 tacos to help stomach the shots. I recommend the coconut and honey flavoured tequilas; though be warned, they don’t serve salt or lime!
The restaurant scene in Manchester is endless, but here’s a few independent places serving food you won’t find anywhere else. Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun is Manchester’s only late-night ramen place, serving their wonderful broths and bao buns into the early hours. If you fancy bao buns but you’re on a budget, I can’t recommend Wolf at the Door and its delicious £1 bao buns and tacos highly enough. Another great option in the centre is the Piccadilly Gardens street food market; the stalls stay up all year round, offering exciting world foods from Venezuelan arepas to delicious falafel for less than a fiver. If you like your seafood, Street Urchin on Great Ancoats Street might just become your favourite restaurant of all time. If you’re more of a down-to-earth grilled cheese person, Northern Soul will not disappoint.
There’s a shop for every student in Manchester. Afflecks is a place of worship for any lover of the alternative, packed with unusual clothing, jewellery, art and paraphernalia. If you’re into arts and crafts, Fred Aldous has you covered with a basement filled with supplies and project kits. If you’re colour-mad, Oklahoma sells beautiful things with Latin American influences. Sostrene Grene on Cross Street sells gorgeous, affordable homewares, perfect for setting up a student bedroom. Over in the Northern Quarter, Nordic Muse sells irresistible jewellery and scented items that make great gifts. Oldham Street is packed with great vintage and secondhand shops if you’re a fan of sustainable fashion, my personal favourite being Cow. Last but not least, Paramount Books is a brilliant second-hand book shop that’s been open since 1995, perfect for buying books for less.