The bee symbolizes Manchester—hardworking, industrious, and buzzing around from one thing to the next. You’ll find it emblazoned on walls, logos, and even the trash cans on the street. And it fits. Manchester used to be known as Cottonopolis, the textile hub of the world, and spending a day here will not disappoint. Today it’s known for music and art (ever heard of a little band called Oasis?), vintage shopping and street murals, its football team, and countless bars and clubs. Manchester is well on its way to London-level trendiness, but hasn’t lost its character in its quest to make it to the big leagues. It’s not just a mini-London, but rather an evolving creative hub full of history, working its way into the shells of industry that used to occur there. And although they say Brits might not be the friendliest people out there, Mancunians might just prove you wrong. If you have 24 hours to spend in Manchester, this itinerary can help you get the most out of your stay.
Morning: Start your day at Manchester Art Gallery
Oh, art galleries. You’re so cultured and highbrow. That’s what we think of when we hear “art gallery,” but if you’re burned out and have no desire to stare at old paintings of dead people, then you’re in luck, because this gallery holds way more than just the typical landscapes and portraits. Some of the best pieces of the gallery come from the re-done caption addendums from the gallery’s first feminist takeover. So while you’re reading a snooty art historian’s interpretations of the juxtaposition of light and dark in the paintings of pre-Raphaelite artists (whose works are beautiful, we’ll admit), you can also read a nice little paragraph roasting the men who refused to acknowledge female competency. The gallery also hosts contemporary exhibits upstairs. Be sure to check out the mindfulness exhibit. It’s as if the art gallery had a rebellious teenage kid—the two different vibes you’ll get from the gallery might not match, but they create a full experience (imagine the vibes of Banksy amid seventeenth-century paintings).
If art galleries aren’t your thing (hey, we get it—they aren’t for everyone), take a quick guided bus tour of Manchester instead. It’s a great way to get an overview of the city’s most popular attractions.
Lunchtime: Sample a Manchester egg and Vimto
You’re probably wondering what exactly these are. They’re actually pretty tasty—you’ll be noshing on a pickled egg coated in sausage and black pudding and rolled in breadcrumbs. Wash it down with a Vimto (a local drink made from a blend of fruit, herbs, and spices). When in Manchester, right?
Afternoon: Tiptoe through John Rylands Library
The reading room of this library puts basically every American library to shame. Neo-Gothic architecture meets centuries-old books in an old but warmly lit banquet-hall-esque library. If you have any reading to get done, you might not want to do it here, because the room’s details will keep your eyes focused on everything but your book. And yet it is an ideal place to work—hushed and somber except for the occasional echo of a step, a camera click, or the brush of pages turning. Make sure you look up (they provide mirrors to avoid sore necks—nice.) and look at the lights, which are indicative of John Rylands claim to fortune: cotton. His second wife created the library in his honor. Thanks Enriqueta! The books they have on display are not-quite page-turners but are historically important—as in, really old.
Not in the mood for an afternoon of quiet reading and reflection? You can always check out the People’s Museum, instead. This museum focuses on England’s fights for equality for different groups of people, condensing hundreds of years of movements into three floors. Or if you’re feeling active, consider a guided walking tour of Manchester.
Evening: Dinner and drinks in Salford
This area of Manchester is known for its historic architecture and pretty parks. It’s also home to some of the city’s trendiest (and tastiest) restaurants. Once you’ve eaten, stick around for some after-dinner cocktails and cheers to a day well spent.