The “city of firsts” is how Manchester is known, but ironically this was my third time in the UK’s fastest-growing city.
Music concerts had been my reasons for my previous visits. This one? It was all about exploring a modern and medieval Manchester. “People come to Manchester for a variety of reasons,” said Josh, my free walking tour guide – and it’s so true.
The beauty of Manchester is your trip can be anything you want it to be. Whether you are a party-goer, a music fan, a culture vulture or a staycationer, you will find plenty to enjoy.
My Manchester experience began rather star-studded. First, after the easy drive from Glasgow – and en route to the newly-opened Moxy Hotel – we spotted former X Factor star Jake Quickenden leaning out of his dressing-room window of Manchester Opera House. Then, after checking into the fun and playful Moxy, round the corner on Atkinson Street, we shared a lift with Strictly Come Dancing’s red-headed dancer Neil Jones. Good start!
Although our sixth-floor room at the Moxy was compact and lacked storage space, it was perfect for an overnight stay. Ideally situated, just a stone’s throw from the epicentre of Manchester – Deansgate – the Moxy hotel opened in December. A franchise of Marriott Bonvoy, Moxy has a party vibe with its quirky decor. Everywhere you turn, there is an Instagrammable photo opportunity. The hotel itself is a former hat factory, hence the bowler hats dotted around the foyer and the wall of hats in the dining area!
After soaking up the Moxy vibes, we head out for a bite to eat at the city’s newest burger joint, The Butcher. Located in the urban playground of the huge Arndale shopping centre, The Butcher brings quality burgers to the city. Sandwiched between an adventure golf course and a full-size replica of TV gameshow The Cube, is where you find The Butcher.
It’s a casual dining experience with high tables, bar stools and a party atmosphere, serving beautiful burgers. I opted for the Truffle Burger (prime Aberdeen Angus beef, lettuce, tomato, grilled onion and truffle glaze) with a side of chunky Butcher Fries and basil mayo (recommended to us by the greeter on the door) – and it did not disappoint!
After a comfortable night’s sleep in my stylish room, I awoke to a second busy day in Manchester, kick-started by a free walking tour. I decided on this after learning the sightseeing bus was temporarily out of operation.
Run by history masters graduate Josh, the three-hour tour has something for everyone. As well as learning about the city’s Greats and Firsts and bands, you discover quirky facts – like Manchester being the home of Vimto and the first ice cream cone being patented here! Josh’s tour is a fantastic way to see the city – wrap up warm and wear comfy shoes.
Next, I popped into Manchester Cathedral, which stands proud on Victoria Street before my sister and I check in to our second hotel, the newly-opened INNSide by Melia. If driving, park in the First Street Q Park as the hotel offers a 25% discount. And you don’t have to walk far as the hotel is on First Street.
Inside the INNside, you are met with a decadent, open foyer with fresh flowers and foliage, lanterns, and friendly reception staff. Clau checked us in to our studio. And it was a “wow” moment when we flung the door of our 10th-floor room open because of the spaciousness and floor-to-ceiling windows that offered panoramic views across to the city’s skyscrapers.
After a lunch-time shopping trip to the most ornate and elegant out-of-town shopping centre I have ever visited – The Trafford Centre – we watched the sun setting from our 10th-floor studio before heading out to dine at a popular Mancunian haunt, Ducie Street Warehouse. Taxis come and go constantly outside the warehouse, which has been transformed into a social hub with a stylish bar and restaurant that boasts sophistication and intimacy.
We enjoyed a selection of tasty tapas plates before heading back to INNside for a drink in the hotel’s beautiful bar area.
Our guide Josh said his tour was “not necessarily a historical one, but a celebration of what Manchester used to be and what it’s becoming” – and that is exactly how I would describe our staycation.
Manchester Cathedral was the second-most-bombed cathedral in the UK during the Second World War. Maintaining this Grade One listed building costs almost £3,000 every day.
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