Last week, I went back to my favourite city in England – Manchester. It holds a special place in my heart as my university city, and the place where I bought my first property.
Of course, London is great, but it can be expensive. Although I highly recommend London to travellers, I think that there are so many cheaper cities where you can truly experience British culture. Manchester is definitely at the top of this list!
Manchester – The Must see UK Destination of 2016
The Lonely Planet has highlighted Manchester as one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2016. It’s combination of culture, architecture, shopping and music scene make it a fantastic getaway. You can have an amazing time in Manchester in a weekend, but I highly recommend that you go for a week at least.
Just be prepared – the weather in Manchester can be very changeable and it rains a lot, because of the Pennines. Take an umbrella and a rain jacket, also a few layers, particularly if you are travelling in the autumn or winter months (October to February).
Manchester on a Budget
Oh, and did I mention, many of the sights and museums are completely FREE, making Manchester a great student or budget travellers destination. 😉
Getting to Manchester
If you are coming from abroad, the best thing to do is fly into Manchester Airport. Public transport from the Airport is excellent. You will probably get to Manchester Piccadilly by train from Manchester airport. There are several train stations in Manchester – most trains come into Manchester Piccadilly, the largest and the main train station in Manchester.
If you are staying near the University, you might be better getting a train to Manchester Oxford Road. The other smaller train station in the city centre is Victoria, which you will only use if you are near the Pressworks or going to the MEN (Manchester Evening News Arena).
Trains in the UK are always cheaper if you book in advance. Read this article on Travel Hacking UK Trains. Avoid taxis if you want to save money, and if you do use a taxi, make sure that it is on the meter at Tarrif 1 (unless it is after midnight or a public holiday).
Within Manchester, you can also travel around the city and area by Metrolink (trams). Remember to book your ticket before you board (go to the ticket machines).
My Top 10 Things to do in Manchester on a Budget
- Manchester Cathedral – For one of my university modules, I used to meet my lecturer at the Cathedral. It is a stunning example of a Grade 1 listed Anglican Cathedral. Visit http://www.manchestercathedral.org/a-good-day-out for more information.
- The Manchester Museum – The Manchester Museum is located on Oxford Road next to the main University building. Manchester Museum is FREE entry and home to over 60 mummies and a collection of dinosaur bones! The Museum also has a live collection in the Vivarium, where you can meet frogs and other amphibians/reptiles, so it’s great if you are travelling with kids. You will need to get a bus for 10 minutes down Oxford walk, or if you are prepared to walk, it will take about half an hour.
- The Museum of Science and Industry – The Manchester Museum of Science and Industry is another FREE museum in Manchester and offers many interactive collections. They also have free exhibitions and events – they recently had an ‘adult ball pool!’ Find out how to get there here: http://msimanchester.org.uk/visit
- Trafford Centre – The Trafford centre is a must for shopaholics! From home to fashion, high street brands to designer labels, shoppers can have it all. You will need to take a bus from the city centre (find out how to get there) and try to go early as it can get very busy around lunch time, and absolutely packed in December due to Christmas Shopping.
- Manchester Art Gallery – Another FREE delight of Manchester is the Art Gallery. It is easy to find (Mosley Street) and houses fine art, craft and design collections. Regular exhibitions come to the gallery, and until January 2016, you can see ‘House Proud’ House Proud, an exhibition of glass, metalwork and furniture inspired by the Gallery’s Industrial Art Collection.
- Manchester Central Library – Manchester Central Library on St. Peter’s Square is a example of 1930’s rotunda design based loosely on the Pantheon in Rome. Another freebie, so do go inside and in particular, explore the ground floor if you have time.
- Manchester Town Hall – The Manchester Town hall on Albert Square was designed by the same architect as the Central Library. It is one of the finest examples of neo-gothic architecture in the UK, and one of the most important grade 1 listed buildings in England.
- John Ryland’s Library – Yes, I am a bit of a library buff! I spent a great deal of time in the stunning John Rylands Library Deansgate. It is a stunning late Victorian neo-gothic building that you can visit for free. Go inside (for free) to appreciate the internal structure. Don’t get this one mixed up with the other John Rylands library – there is also a library called John Rylands on Oxford Road, but it is the Deansgate on you need to visit.
- Palace Theatre – The Palace theatre is an amazing place to visit for theatre productions. I have seen Miss Saigon and Les Miserable at the Palace Theatre and both moved me to tears. Book in advance, and if you want a cheaper option, go for the matinee.
- Go to a Gig! If you are a music lover, you have to appreciate the live music scene of Manchester. It is the home of the famous Hacienda and birth place of the Smiths, Stone Roses and Joy Division. My favourite places to see live music are the Albert Hall and the Manchester Academy on Oxford Road. Our recent gig of chocie was the fabulous Bloc Party 😉
Alternative Destinations in Manchester
If you love just roaming around to see artsy or alternative destinations, while you are there, you should check out the Northern Quarter. For alternative fashion, trade in the Trafford Centre trip for Afflecks Palace 😉