The ultimate guide to Manchester

Written by Travel Adventures

It’s no Florentine oil painting, but there are moments of beauty in Manchester. A grapheneblack cormorant breaking the surface of the Irwell, the thick terracotta tiles of the Refuge building that you want to break off like toffee and eat. Earlier this year, I found a fresh view, from the Castlefield Viaduct: a miniature High Line where clematis and ferns sprout amid the girders. Looking across, I could see both the ruins of the Roman fort and the four towers of Deansgate Square, flashing sunlight like beacons marking out new territory. Manchester’s a little greener these days, a little softer. In Mayfield Park, conjured from rail-yard dereliction, I walk over cast-iron beams, half-buried in the grass like fossils.

Kimpton Clocktower Hotel

Kimpton Clocktower HotelMilly McDougall

The River Medlock has been uncovered, kingfishers have returned. People, too. Hard to believe that in the late 1980s, when I was a teenager going to clubs and gigs (an era the city’s self-mythology is far too reliant on; I don’t need to hear “Fools Gold” ever again), only a few hundred lived in the centre. “The shutters slammed down at 5pm; you couldn’t buy a pint of milk,” says Tom Bloxham of architecture studio Urban Splash, which has played a part in the city’s regeneration, most recently with the marina and townhouses of New Islington. “Joined-up thinking has really reinvented Manchester.” Right now, it’s brimful of confidence: the ambitious new Aviva studios, which opened in October, is an emblem of this – but so is the evolving food and drink scene.

City architecture

City architectureAdam Pester

How to get to Manchester

Manchester has the UK’s third busiest airport, with flights to 199 destinations. Trains into the city centre run every 10 minutes, seven days a week and take around 20 minutes. Manchester Piccadilly is the city’s main train station, with connections from most main train stations throughout the UK. The city has good bus, train and tram services.

Leven bedroom

Leven bedroomMariell Lind Hansen

Malmaison Manchester Deansgate bedroom

Malmaison Manchester Deansgate bedroomTim Winter

There are so many empty warehouses to fill… Peacock-coloured Forty-Seven opened in a Peter Street one, while Malmaison Manchester Deansgate has bagged the best views over the refurbished Town Hall. Soho House will land later in 2024 in the former Granada Studios, with motel rooms below the club and its optimistic rooftop pool (would a young Ken Barlow have been allowed in?). Opening in April is Treehouse Manchester, a sequel to the London debut that’s just as playful (stepping stones in the lobby) but more locally minded: Bury-born chef Mary-Ellen McTague brings a zero-waste approach; DJ-restaurateurs Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey are sorting the 14th-floor bar and restaurant. Of recent-ish arrivals, I like The Alan: nudging Chinatown, it’s an exercise in upcycling, with bare plaster walls in the bedrooms and an ethereal, mosaic-floored lobby that appears almost Balearic, linking workspaces, bar and dining room (with Cumbrae oysters and crab cavatelli on the menu, it’s a rare Manchester hotel for eating in at). Leven, meanwhile, may feel familiar to Posh and Becks, who came here when the building housed Mash & Air, the 1990s restaurant where Jason Atherton cut his teeth. Different vibes now, with an art-filled cocktail bar (Black Forest martinis, rhubarb sours) that’s a little pocket of calm amid the Canal Street head rush, and loft-style suites with huge crittall windows. Manchester has a fair few frictionless, hit-the-ground-running hotels, but this is one of the best.

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