Wednesday 23 April 2014

Discover Manchester

Manchester City Centre, picture by Daniel Cadden Photography

It’s the NODA North West conference just around the corner and we are already so excited as we gear up towards it!

Also this year it’s in Manchester- the city that our very own Marketing and Social Media Co-ordinator Tamsin lives (on weekends!) so we thought we would put together a list of top things to do whilst you’re in this wonderful city from the unique perspective of someone who actually lives there and knows the secret spots that the tourist guides fail to mention!

We know many of you will be staying in the Mercure Hotel and will be dining and celebrating with us at the conference, however there will no doubt be one or two of you who have perhaps planned an extended weekend as a chance to see a bit of the city and the surrounding area.

Manchester is a buzzy, vibrant city with plenty to do for all ages, but without the jacked up prices of London or the huge distances you have to travel to get from one end to the other.
With a rich cultural history and a, safe to say, historical music scene (Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Smiths, The Buzzcocks, The Courteeners, Elbow, Joy Division, The Happy Mondays, Simply Red and of course Frank Sidebottom – do we need to drop anymore names?) Manchester undoubtedly has a fantastic nightlife, offering a huge range of independent quirky bars, music venues and restaurants – at which you’ll often see many a famous face!

It’s also home to two of the world’s biggest football clubs – Manchester United and Manchester City, and the city has a multitude of different theatres, museums and tourist attractions as well as plenty of opportunities for shopping.
Manchester is considered to be one of the top destinations for a city break in the UK so if you’re not planning on staying on a bit longer and taking the opportunity to discover the city – why not?! Call and extend your booking now!

To help you explore and get the best out of your time here in the beautiful city we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite places to go and things to do in the city centre from the best places to eat down to where you’re most likely to spot a footballer (you might see ex Man United manager David Moyes partying down Deansgate, P45 in hand!)
Artwork on Affleck's Palace
Have a look through the list and see what you fancy – and if you know a gem that we’ve not mentioned then don’t hesitate to let us know and share the knowledge!
We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at the conference at Manchester, come say hello to us on our stand and if any of you try anything from our list then do tell us what you think!

Top places to eat:

Mr Thomas’ Chop House – an old Victorian pub that has maintained its charm and on Sunday's it offers the best roast dinner in all of Manchester, the infamous 'Chop House Roast'. Enjoy your dinner and a pint in its historical surroundings and gaze at the portraits of famous Mancunian’s that cover the walls.

Mr Thomas' Chop House
Koffee PotThis place is top dog when it comes to breakfasts and people flock from across town to this diner to get their full English or stack of American pancakes. With a retro setting, out of this world food and a purse friendly menu to boot this is probably the place I eat at the most.

Sugar Junction – Another Northern Quarter favourite Sugar Junction is an excellent tea room that is also known for its delicious cocktails. The ‘Twickers Shake’ is a personal favourite.

Almost Famous – This place is absolutely notorious for producing burgers on a whole new level. If the UK had a version of ‘Man vs Food’ Almost Famous would be featured. Having gone from a well kept secret to 'place to be' all I'll say is that this burger joint is not for the faint hearted or for those who don't like any mess. With burgers like the 'Baddaboom' (double cheeseburger, garlic butter brioche, bacon, chorizo, onions, marinara, famous sauce, frenches, parmesan and chilli) expect to be covered in sauce as you try and chomp your way through their gravity defying stacks.

Koffee Pot, photo c/o innasky
Friday Night Food Fight – I’ll admit – we’ve not attended this yet but I have seen the crowds lining up round the corner outside of it. Situated in the Victorian Markets opposite the Hilton Hotel (Beetham Tower) you can get a table and sample some of the best street food that there is on offer, accompanied by music and of course with a fine selection of drinks and cocktails. Since it was started it’s quickly become very popular with people around the city and is not something to be missed if you fancy trying something different.

Frank pops up at Koffee Pot!
Photo c/o innasky
Red Chilli Restaurant, China Town – A favourite of our owner Kate’s. Expect superb chinese food and massive portions. I recommend the sweet and sour chicken and at the end of your meal don't be afraid to ask for a doggy bag- there will be leftovers.

Luck, Lust ,Liquor and Burn – linked to Almost Famous burger, the guys at Luck Lust Liqour and Burn,as well as having a fabulous name, serve up fantastic burritos, tacos, nachos and general tex-mex.

Dimitri’s – a bit more upmarket, many footballers frequent Dimitri’s for its fantastic tapas and greek food.

Teacup – Another tearoom that has an astonishingly large selection of teas. If you are a tea connoisseur and fancy finding and trying something different then this is the place to go to track down an elusive leaf.

Teacup, photo c/o innasky

Home Sweet Home – Cake makers extraordinaire. We also rate Hey Little Cupcake but this is a bit closer to the Mercure hotel. Expect wild theatrical creations with many colours and lots of unusual, yet delicious, flavours.

Dough – pizzas just like mama used to make. Their pizzas are works of art but with no compromise on taste. They are also able to meet lots of dietary requirements with gluten free and even whole-wheat pizzas on offer.

Bem Brasil – Experience a taste of Brazil with its exquisitely barbecued meats and well stocked buffet. Ask any Mancunian what a great place to eat is and this will often be the first place that anybody will mention.

Deansgate Locks - photo by T.J. Blackwell

Best Places to Drink

Generally, you only need to walk down the street and you’ll come across a great pub or bar but the best place to go for unique and independent bars and clubs is the trendy Northern Quarter.
Home to many of Manchester’s best loved nightspots you’d be mad not to try it – however if you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket and glam then you’re best bet is to try in Deansgate where you’ll find places such as Revs de Cuba and The Living Room, or along Deansgate Locks where you’ll find the clubbing institutions such as Vodka Revolution and Lola Lo.
You can also try along Canal Street for Manchester’s vibrant gay district which features popular venues G-A-Y, Baa Bar and AXM.
Here’s a few of our favourite places to go for drinks:
Night & Day Cafe, photo c/o Holly89

Night & Day Café – A truly historical music venue in the Northern Quarter that has hosted some of the biggest names in the UK music scene. This much beloved venue has been at the centre of a news storm recently where it has been met with thousands of messages of support and a series of fundraising gigs have been announced to help it in it’s upcoming court battle. Without a doubt this is my favourite nightspot in Manchester as it hosts some fantastic live music nights and its quirky venue is perfect for enjoying a drink on a Friday night.

Trof Northern Quarter – Another quirky venue, Trof is a popular place to go for drinks on Fridays and Saturdays before ‘hitting the clubs’, they often have DJ’s playing music that can stretch from reggae to the most recent chart hits and during the week host a popular Open Mic night.

The Liars Club – Devilishly good cocktails and an authentic tiki bar décor create this 'tropical hideaway'. The tunes and a few Zombie cocktails will soon have you up on the dancefloor!

Black Dog Ballroom - Black Dog Ballroom is a fantastic bar that plays fantastic music and also just happens to serve fantastic food and have its own pool hall. Their latest venture is the new Dog Bowl which, alongside the fab food and drink, also has a bowling alley.

Font bars – A Manchester institution really, a little way out of the city centre (but only a couple of minutes by taxi and opposite the Palace Theatre!) the cocktail menu is incredible and won’t break the bank. With a huge range of £2 and £3 cocktails my recommendation would be to try the ‘Dr Pepper’.

Soup Kitchen, photo c/o trip advisor

Soup Kitchen – Craft beers in a 'canteen, bar and music venue'. Split across two floors you’ll find DJ’s playing anything from disco to techno until the early hours, and the venue has hosted everything from art exhibitions to film nights. A recent winner of the 2013 Manchester Evening News City Life 'Best Club'.

Big Hands – Another bar that’s out of the city centre but a great place for spotting band members. Situated next to Manchester Academy (where lots of bands play) you’ll find plenty of good drink and a member or two from whoever is playing at the music venue next door.

Places to Visit

As well as a fantastic nightlife Manchester is culturally rich with an array of places to go and things to do suitable for all ages and interests.
With theatres scattered across the city there’s plenty of opportunity to catch a show, but Manchester also plays host to two of the biggest football clubs in the world so why not book a stadium tour?
For people more interested in history then visit one of the various museums, book a canal walk or visit the Cathedral or the Roman ruins at Castlefield.
Take a look at what we recommend to do to really get to know Manchester:

Old Trafford at night
Old Trafford Stadium – Book a tour and see the ‘theatre of dreams.’ You’ll get shown all around the stadium, go into the home dressing room and even have a chance to get on the pitch! If you’re a fan of football (or just Man United) then Old Trafford is probably the most famous stadium in the world, and home to one of the world's biggest clubs.

Etihad Stadium – that said, I’m a City supporter myself and considering how we’re doing in the Premier League so far compared to United it might be worth going to see the Etihad instead!

Hopefully we will be seeing this again soon! Picture c/o Reuters

Manchester Museum of Science and Industry – Manchester played a huge part in the Industrial Revolution and the Museum of Science of Industry was seen recently on ‘Corrie’. Learn more about Manchester’s industrial past here and enjoy a walk along the canals.

Manchester Museum – A lovely museum in the University that was recently renovated with a brand new rejuvenated Egyptian department. Having studied Archaeology at the University of Manchester a lot of my time was spent in this museum and alongside the exhibits it also has a lovely shop that perfect for souvenirs, as well as a café. Well worth visiting to see the fantastic T-Rex they have on display which they have running along the gallery.

Gallery of Costume – this is all the way down in Platt Fields Park but definitely a must see for us theatrical folk! Featuring beautiful costumes and fashion through the ages this is just a small museum but always lovely to go to.
Royal Exchange Theatre, photo c/o innasky

Royal Exchange Theatre – in the centre of Manchester is the lovely Royal Exchange, a beautiful ‘theatre in the round’ that attracts lots of fantastic productions, both modern and traditional. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is showing until Saturday the 3rd May – we’ve got our tickets booked for the Friday performance already!

The Palace Theatre – when the touring musicals come to town they come into this theatre and on the 3rd of May a run of ‘Rock of Ages’ will be starting, eventually finishing on the 10th of May. After three years on the West End Manchester now has a chance to relive the 80’s with this energetic musical that’s filled with power ballads. Excellent if you feel like punching the air, unleashing a mullet and doing the air guitar in the stalls.

Take a walk along the canals in Castlefield
Photo c/o innasky
The Opera House – yet another great theatre and the 3rd of May happens to be the last night of ‘See How They Run’, presented by The Reduced Height Theatre Company and starring the legendary Warwick Davis. We’d suggest booking your tickets now to avoid disappointment!

The Lowry – if anyone is planning a long weekend in Manchester and you’re still around on Monday the 5th May then you’re in luck as 'Fame the Musical' has its opening night at the Lowry! Dust off your legwarmers and ‘learn how to fly’ with the students of New York’s High School of the Performing Arts.

Manchester Cathedral – You’ll find the cathedral near Harvey Nichols and Selfridges and it offers a peaceful and tranquil area away from the buzz of the city centre. The Cathedral dates back as far as Saxon times and the cathedral its famed for its misericords which are considered to be some of the finest in Europe.

Castlefield – the Castlefield Bowl is a popular visitor attraction due to its Roman ruins from when the city was first founded. The site also has a reconstruction of a small fort and if you follow the site around you can get down to the network of canals which are perfect for a walk as you can see some of the Industrial buildings and mills. On the way to Castlefield there is also a small ‘greasy spoon’ that serves up delicious bacon rolls – perfect for a cold day!

John Rylands, photo c/o Manchester Confidential
John Ryland’s Library – Part of the University of Manchester but tucked away on Deansgate is the John Ryland’s Library which has one of ‘the world’s finest collections of rare books and manuscripts.’ The library itself is a beautiful gothic building that was originally designed by the architect Basil Champneys. The library took ten years to build and is considered ‘the best example of neo-Gothic architecture in Europe’.

Afflecks Palace - Affleck's is a shopping mecca and an absolute must for anyone visiting the city. Located in the Northern Quarter Afflecks features hundreds of different small shops run by independent sellers where you can find anything from records, vintage clothing, an american diner with out of this world milkshakes, a bead shop and several extensive costume shops! If you are putting on a show or need a costume for a themed evening or night out Afflecks is the first place to go and despite having lived in Manchester for 5 years I always discover something new when I go to Afflecks. It really is the pride of the city and is a wonderful place to discover and support independent traders.
Afflecks Palace with Black Dog Ballroom tucked underneath it. Photo c/o Murder Mystery Costumes (who can be found inside)

Of course, these are just our top picks, there really is much more to do and explore in this city.
We will be on our stand all weekend so do make sure you come say hello and if you want any further recommendations – perhaps artisan cinemas or karaoke bars, then don’t hesitate to ask!

We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at the weekend and we hope you find this guide helpful, or that you’re persuaded to stay a few extra nights!

Written by Tamsin

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