How to spend a weekend in Manchester – a First-Timer’s Guide

Manchester England

Thinking of heading off for a weekend in Manchester and wondering where to start? We have you covered with this post on some of our favourite things to do in Manchester, from seeing famous art to spending an evening at the theatre. Manchester is a thoroughly modern city with an industrial past, which is the perfect blend of heritage, culture and class. There’s plenty to see and do here, but you can just take it easy and soak up the vibe if you prefer.

Here’s what we recommend fitting into your itinerary if you’re spending a weekend in Manchester:

FRIDAY

After arriving in town, check into your hotel and head straight out for an early dinner. We’re fans of The Anthologist for its global menu and rather cool interiors. Then it’s time to get the party started.

Kick off your weekend in style with an evening out in the city. Whether you want to take in a show, chuckle in a comedy club or listen to one of your favourite bands, there’s always something on in Manchester. The Opera House and the Royal Exchange are particularly famous venues, where you’ll be surrounded by history. Check out current Manchester Events to see what’s on during your stay.

Salford Quays in Manchester
Salford Quays in Manchester

SATURDAY

Start with brunch

Having brunch in Manchester is a bit of an institution, so unless your hotel has a particularly tasty-looking buffet, I’d suggest heading out to one of the city’s many eateries. For a bottomless brunch, opt for Pen and Pencil up in the Northern Quarter, or tuck into steak and eggs at Federal in Deansgate.

Salford Quays

Fully fuelled up for the day, it’s time to get on with some sightseeing. Start off with a visit to Salford Quays to see one of the country’s best dockland regeneration schemes. This modern district is home to everything from restaurants and bars to water sports activities and even the BBC. It’s a fun place to stroll around at any time of day.

River cruising

Hop on board a boat and enjoy a river cruise through the heart of Manchester. This is a great way to see the sights in style. You’ll head along the famous Manchester Ship Canal and learn about the history of this industrial region.

Manchester Cathedral

Continue your adventures by heading up to the Corn Exchange and grabbing a bit to eat in the food courts. The 19th-century building makes a particularly enchanting setting. If you’re into architecture, you’ll enjoy visiting Manchester Cathedral which is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Corn Exchange. The ornate chapels and choir stalls are quite a sight to behold.

Manchester Cathedral
Manchester Cathedral

National Football Museum

While you’re in the area, why not visit the National Football Museum? There are thousands of exhibits relating to the game, both from the present day and years gone by. Test your skills with immersive challenges and learn about the history of England’s national sport.

Shopping time

Indulge in a bit of retail therapy at the Arndale Centre, where you’ll find all your favourite high street fashion stores. Then welcome the evening with some fun and games at the Printworks which is just up the road. Here, you can do everything from tenpin bowling to minigolf.

You’ll be hungry by now, so after freshening up back at your hotel, go out for dinner at one of Manchester’s top restaurants. We’re big fans of El Gato Negro, which serves up Spanish food with a local twist. There’s a tapas bar as well as a restaurant at this King Street location, and if you’re there in summer, the retractable roof on the bar upstairs just adds to the experience.

SUNDAY

After a leisurely breakfast at your hotel, leave your luggage at reception and head back into the city for a final explore before you depart. If you’ve had a late one the night before, why not check out some of Manchester’s museums for a peaceful and relaxing morning?

A morning of museums

The Lowry is one of the most famous art galleries in Manchester. Home to the world’s biggest collection of work by L. S. Lowry, this museum is a must for art fans. Even better, it’s free to enter. The Manchester History Museum is also worth a visit, with exhibits and artefacts shining a light on world cultures. For something that’s more focused on the city itself, head to the Science and Industry Museum and discover the amazing things that Manchester has achieved through the centuries.

If you have time before heading home, pop into the beautiful John Rylands Library and feel like you’re stepping into a Harry Potter film set. This neo-Gothic building looks like a church and makes for great photos.

John Ryland Library in Manchester
John Rylands Library

How to get to Manchester

Being one of the largest cities in the north of England, Manchester is well connected by public transport to all the country’s major hubs. Manchester Piccadilly is the main railway station, with plenty of trains running from London and beyond.

We love taking the train from our base in the Lake District, as parking can be difficult to find, and it’s expensive. You can also take the train from Manchester Airport into the city centre for a seamless connection.

Where to stay in Manchester

Manchester isn’t short on hotels, and there’s a huge range of properties to choose from – all budgets are catered for here.

For a splash of luxury, we tend to stay at the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel or King Street Townhouse. The latter has the most incredible spa infinity pool overlooking the Town Hall. For something a bit cheaper, Hotel Gotham is always a good choice. There are Travelodges too if you’re keeping an eye on your pennies.

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