Plan a 48-hour visit to Manchester and you will surely enjoy it
By Lyssiemay Annoh
Manchester the hometown of the British soap Coronation Street is blessed. I say that Manchester is blessed because it has everything a city can ask for; at the same time it does not scream. This is a destination where you can combine a city break together with countryside activities. Manchester is a city with a Canal and there is always something fascinating about cities with Canals.
Before I visited Manchester, I was convinced that there was nothing much to see in this old textile city. This is because I had previously passed through Manchester and felt that it was empty. Yes, the key word is passed through; so this time I decided to spend 48 hours in it.
Even before I started to explore it, I was struck by the warmth of its people, their friendliness and their simplicity. The City has culture and I mean a lot of culture. I had 48 hours to enjoy this cobbled city and had to make a plan.
Where to stay
Hotels are very easy to come about so there should be no problem in finding accommodation. I travelled to Manchester by air and since the Manchester Airport hotels were really what you would call an airport hotel in terms of location and service, I stopped at the Crowne Plaza Manchester airport and the warm welcome started with my chauffeur who waved past his uncle, also taking another fare to another hotel. I felt at home already. Manchester also has many hotels and accommodation choices in the city but it is very practical to fly into Manchester, stay at the airport and enjoy the city life at the same time. The airport has a first class train service that takes you direct from the airport into the city centre in under 20 minutes and the newly refurbished 4star Crowne Plaza, at the airport is an ideal place to stay. Nevertheless, there is nothing preventing you from taking a taxi into the city to choose from the many hotels and apartments available to visitors.
Sightseeing and attractions
My first point of call was to the size up the much hyped about Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry (MoSI) in the heart of Castlefield – Manchester’s urban heritage park.. During my visit it was exhibiting the Body World exhibition. Exciting – but I was visiting the museum for another reason. The museum’s innovative eco-friendly building had been inspired by Manchester’s historic links with the cotton industry and with over 400,000 visitors to the museum it is already one of the most popular tourist attractions.
A few metres away and I discover an RAF museum of even greater interest – a complete display of aircraft and everything relating to aviation and the war. The whole display has been carefully crafted for the visitor to relive the war days.
I know that Manchester had more to it than museums and culture. Everyone I met in the city appeared to be busy so where they heading? Shopping of course!
Shopping in Manchester
It is fair to say that Manchester is about shopping. After all, the city led the world’s textile industry and invented the concept of the Department Store. The city has a dedicated market for Christmas too and this year’s Christmas Markets will run in November and December in the City Centre.
Where to shop
From the transformed Arndale Shopping Centre to the chic stores like Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, the trendy boutiques, Debenhams and the reliable Marks and Spencer’s, shopping in Manchester is a love story on its own. The Trafford Centre is the place to visit if you do not have time to comb the whole city centre’s shopping extravaganza.
The centre boasts 230 stores, 60 restaurants, cafés and bars, the largest Odeon Cinema in the UK together with leisure facilities such as Namco Bowling and Laser Quest all under one roof. Nevertheless, if you would like to stroll and around the City Centre while shopping, you will be able to mix culture with shopping when you visit the Arndale Shopping Centre. Located in the heart of the city, Manchester’s Arndale Centre dominates the central shopping area of the City.
The Centre which was opened in 1979 is the largest covered town shopping centre in Europe, covering some 30 acres in the old city centre, with 750,000 shoppers visiting it each week. With over 200 shops, major department stores, restaurants and fast food outlets it has become a busy and active shopping arcade.
For the curious Bohemian, there is always the Affleck Palace in the Northern quarter. This is where you will find a multitude of little quirky boutiques with local designers, vintage clothing stalls, piercing studios, tarot readers, music makes, craft design centres and more. Continue to stroll up north along Deansgate, and you will discover the magnificent John Rylands Library, housed in one of Manchester’s finest gothic buildings and a few walks from here is King Street where you will find some of Manchester’s most exclusive shops such as Vivienne Westwood, DKNY, Armani and several other designer labels.
Where to eat
Every city which has so much to offer in terms of shopping evidently offers an extensive choice in food and drink. From the Chinatown to the Curry mile, you can eat and drink well in Manchester like you have never done anywhere else.
I had the pleasure of dining at Grado; Paul Heathcote’s chic and trendy Spanish restaurant situated in the heart of the city centre. Grado serves an eclectic mix of regional and Spanish food from an open Kitchen and drinks from a bar to die for.
The Gay Village
If you are gay then Manchester is one City you will feel confident in. Just down south of Chinatown, along the Canal Street are, you can encounter the proud gay and lesbian community in their moments of pride and joy.
One cannot fail to admire the unique sense of culture and freedom that surrounds Canal Streets and its neighbouring Bars and Clubs. The city hosts three events each year to celebrate its gay and lesbian community activities. The Great British Bear Bash at the beginning of May, the Queer up North festival at the end of May and the Manchester Pride in August.
The Royal Exchange Theatre
From architecture to design and simplicity, this is by far my favourite theatre destination. It is a theatre appeals to both the young and old. The Theatre module is built within one of the Manchester’s most prestigious historic buildings – the former Cotton Exchange and once the largest room for commerce in the world.
This is a seven-sided steel and glass module that squats within the Great Hall of the Manchester Royal Exchange. The theatre has a circular seating whereby the stage area is surrounded on all sides, and above, by seating. It seats up to 700 people on three levels, making it the largest theatre in the round in Britain. There are 400 seats at ground level in a raked configuration, above which lie two galleries, each with 150 seats set in two rows.
As the floor of the Exchange would not be able to take the great weight of the theatre and its audience, the module is suspended from four massive columns that also carry the hall’s central dome.
Only the stage area and ground-level seating rest on the floor of the hall itself. What I liked about the Royal Exchange Theatre is not so much its circular seating arrangement but the beautiful welcoming feeling you get when you enter the former Cotton Exchange. The old trading boards have been kept and it is as if all the traders have left simply because you made an appearance. It is spacious with a restaurant, bar and tea room. It is absolutely fascinating.
The good news is that for Executive Travellers, it has a Corporate Members Lounge & Function Room which offers absolute privacy for a working lunch, an important business meeting, or simply elegant entertaining, with a stylish and intimate Lounge and bar. Fancy meeting or entertaining a client in the private double-height reception with bar and sweeping staircase that leads up to the listed oak-panelled original Manchester Exchange boardroom!
A rendezvous in this unrivalled setting overlooking both St Ann’s Square and the Great Hall of the Royal Exchange, with striking views of the steel and glass Theatre module and the grandeur of the former Cotton Exchange speaks volumes. It is accessed via a scenic lift in St Ann’s Square and is self contained with its own toilets and bar.
The Royal Exchange Theatre is not the only theatre of cultural destination in Manchester. There is also the Palace Theatre & Opera House, the Printworks an entertainment complex located in the heart of Manchester City Centre which is home to a range of restaurants, bars and clubs alongside a cinema and a gym.
How to travel to Manchester
The city of Manchester is in the north-west of England and there are many regular train or coach services from most towns in England to get there. It’s pretty easy to get to by car, too.