It might not have Big Ben or Buckingham Palace or extortionate rent prices, but Manchester does have a lot to offer. Located in the North of England, the city is often missed in favour of the Southern capital. While it’s certainly a lot smaller than London, and a lot less touristy, what it does have is a huge variety of music, arts and food scenes waiting for you to explore.

Manchester is cheaper, friendlier and more down to earth than London. It’s big on vegan food, celebrating its worker bee history and championing new bands, bars and craft beers. I’ve been proud to call this city home for over a year now, and having previously lived in London, I can say that Manchester is a great city to live in

and explore. Here are some of my favourite things to do.

1. Brunch at Federal

Start your weekend in the right way with a Brunch at Federal Cafe. The Aussie-inspired joint is just about Manchester’s best brunch spot, serving up avocado rich dishes alongside the best French toast ever. Top it off with a strong coffee, Milo or Matcha latte. Be warned that on weekends and sunny days you often have to queue, it’s worth it for the delicious food and Instagram worthy table spreads.

2. Take a visit to Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester is home to a host of galleries but one of the best has to be Manchester Art Gallery. Located in the city centre just outside Chinatown, it is home to a revolving schedule of interesting exhibitions as well as permanent displays, a shop and cafe. It’s free to enter; check out their website to see what’s on.

3. Go Vintage Shopping

London might trump Manchester’s Vintage scene when it comes to variety, but we certainly win when it comes to prices. In Manchester’s Northern Quarter you’ll find a host of vintage stores selling good quality vintage at very reasonable prices. Also watch out for pop-up festivals and kilo sales which are often happening if you know where to look. The cities best vintage shop has got to be Cow, but Thrift Shop, Pop Boutique and Blue Rinse are worth an explore too.

4. Spend your weekend at Altrincham Market

Out of the centre and into the suburbs, Altrincham Market is one of my favourite places in the city and the perfect place to spend your weekends. The indoor market hall is home to quirky food stalls selling delicious brunches, stone-baked pizzas, exotic hot chocolates and cakes galore. Head to the outdoor market and you’ll find local handicrafts, flower shops and record stalls. The rest of Altrincham is worth a wander too; there’s great charity shopping, antique bookstores and a branch of my favourite Manchester cafe Trove.

5. Enjoy the city’s cheapest lunch at This & That

If you find yourself in Manchester’s Northern Quarter at lunch time and are peckish for a hearty meal for under £4, then look no further than This & That. The curry house is often named as the cities best kept secret, serving rice & three for discount prices.

6. Head back to university (or pretend you’re in Harry Potter) at the John Rylands Library

One of the city’s most gorgeous buildings is the John Rylands Library. It operates as a university library although it’s open to the public to explore. The gorgeous interiors will make you swoon and there are some great photo opportunities here.

7. Hunt for handmade gems at Manchester Craft Centre

Another hidden gem in the Northern Quarter is the Manchester Craft Centre. The centre is tucked away from the main streets and is housed in a gorgeous greenhouse-like building. Here you’ll find two floors of local handicrafts and designers, mostly jewellery and homeware. It’s a great place to pick up gifts and you can also stop for a coffee and veggie lunch at the Oak Street Cafe.

8. Explore one of the best Chinatowns in the UK

Outside of London, Manchester’s Chinatown is the UK’s biggest. The area which is located in the city centre is full of resturants, bakeries, Bubble tea shops, Asian supermarkets and gift shops. Much of the best stuff is hidden from the main street, but have a proper explore and I promise you you’ll find some gems. Two of my favourites are the & craft gallery ltd and Chatime Bubble Tea shop.

9. Watch a film at HOME

Manchester’s home of independent cinema and theatre is HOME, a big complex down in Deansgate, an area just outside the city centre. HOME shows films from around the world, but you won’t find any Hollywood blockbusters here, this place is for independent and left field cinema. They also have a theatre and galleries. To check out what’s on, click here.

10. Stroll the grounds and galleries of the Whitworth

The most idyllic art gallery in the city is the Whitworth. It’s not as central as the Manchester Art Gallery but instead located in a beautiful leafy park. The gallery is big, light and airy and showcases a range of exhibitions year round. It’s also got a wonderful cafe situated in glasshouses so it seems as if you are eating in the trees.

11. Take a trip to Levenshulme

Levenshulme often gets a bad wrap for being a little run down, but as in all places with a slightly grotty exterior, creativity thrives and Levenshulme is full of hidden gems. Your first stop must be Trove, my favourite cafe in Manchester. The menu here is seasonal, delicious and quirky. You’ll find brunch, lunch and from Thursday to Saturday they also do small plates and drinks in the evenings.

Across the road from Trove is the Levenshulme Antiques Village. Housed within the old Council Building, it’s worth having a look around just for the stunning interiors. You’ll find lots of antique furniture, bric a brac and homeware housed here, and head outside where there are lots of workshops to explore. Every Saturday from March-October, Levenshulme also hosts a weekly community market; with over 50 stalls, it’s one of Manchester’s best!

12. Pretend you’re in Tokyo in Cha-ology

Just outside of the Northern Quarter is another area of town gaining attention for being a little bit hip and happening –  Ancoats. It’s home to places like Rudy’s Pizza and Ancoats General Store and also Cha-ology. Step through the glass doors and you’ll feel like you’ve arrived in a trendy suburb of Tokyo. Matcha and Japanese teas are the highlight here, but the rotating selection of cakes and treats deserves a mention. Try the matcha cheesecake, red bean and mochi soup or enjoy a bowl of Matcha prepared freshly in front of you. If you’ve never been to Japan before, this place is going to give you even more wanderlust for the country!

13. Escape for a day in the Peak District

One of my favourite things about Manchester is the ease of getting out of the city and into some of England’s most beautiful areas. Less than an hour’s drive from the city you can reach the Peak District, an area of wide open dramatic spaces and hiking galore. It’s also home to one of the best sunrise spots in the UK, Mam Tor (see photo below!). It is also possible to take the train directly into the National Park by heading to Edale. From the Edale train station it’s easy to get to the tourist information and start many walks into the surrounding hills.

14. Grab some authentic Middle Eastern or Indian Cuisine on the Curry Mile

I love a curry and especially an authentic one. The best place to go in Manchester for just that is the Curry Mile. Located in Rusholme, it’s literally a mile of curry shops. Well, curry shops, Indian sweet shops, shisha bars, falafel shops, African food restaurants, some sari shops and South Asian super markets. It’s a whirlwind of senses and lights, and sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. Check out this article for more!

15. Boutique shop and cafe hop around the Northern Quarter

I’ve already mentioned the Northern Quarter several times in this article, but it really is the best place to go for shopping, eating and drinking. It’s full of quirky independent shops, street art, coffee shops and brunch spots. There’s so many places to check out! For a starters, head to Fig & Sparrow, Piccadilly Records, Soup Kitchen, Takk, Ezra & Gill and Common.

16. Head out to the suburbs for nature and independent cafes in Chorlton

Another suburban spot and one known for being the home of a vegan supermarket, multiple yoga studios and Manchester’s largest green area is Chorlton. This leafy suburb is one of the most idyllic places to live in the city. Beech Road is a big attraction, with lots of independents such as Laundrette and Foam Coffee House. From there, head to the Chorlton Water Park and Nature Reserve, a huge area full of dog walkers, cycling trails and the water park. On a sunny day with a couple of beers there’s no better place in the city to be.

17. Explore the city’s worker bee history at the People’s History Museum 

Manchester is a working class city and it’s very proud of its roots. The city mascot, a bumble bee, is on lampposts, bins and floors around the city and it all comes from the city’s reputation of being hard-working. The People’s History Museum is dedicated to the history of democracy in the UK, showing how hard working people have pushed for change and have fought injustices in the country. This museum is all about revolution, reformers, workers and voters. Admission is free.

18. Go see some live music and check out the lively bar scene

And finally, you can’t visit Manchester without checking out its live music scene. It’s one of the things the city is most known for, and we’ve moved on from bands like The Smiths and Oasis while still celebrating their heritage. Head to The Caste, Night and Day or Deaf Institute to see some new and upcoming bands.

Have you ever been to Manchester? What things on this list would you like to check out?

Pin this for later:

18 Fun Things to Do in Manchester