Honestly, what an incredible city Manchester is. It was my home for nearly 5 years and even with not-the-greatest weather (to put it politely), it's still one of the UK's best cities with a wide range of things to do there:
Starting off with something relatively new on the block is NQ64. This retro arcade bar will take you on a pleasant trip down nostalgia lane. Grab 15 tokens for £5 which you can use to play on such classic games as Time Crisis II, Street Fighter or, if you're feeling a bit more active, on the dance machines. There's even a bunch of pinball machines too and an N64, a SNES and Playstation that are free to play. Generally each game costs 1 token but it differs from game to game. The bar has cocktails themed after video game characters too and snacks like Monster Munch and Space Invaders!
Stepping out of NQ64, you'll find yourself on the edge of the Northern Quarter (or NQ for short). NQ is classed as one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in Manchester, though it's neighbouring neighbourhood Ancoats is making some serious moves for that title in recent years. It's nice just to wander the streets, admire the street art round every corner and check out the quirky independent shops, which brings me onto my next place to check out.
Affleck's is an indoor market which brings together some of the best local retailers in Manchester. As it's websites states 'Affleck's is an emporium of eclecticism, a totem of indie commerce in Manchester's Northern Quarter'. It's cool just to get lost here and see what weird and wonderful things you come across. You'll probably leave with a new tattoo, a custom made top hat and a vegan brownie (On the vegan side of things, check out the Manchester Vegan Cafe here).
After lying empty for years, this Grade II listed market building dating back to 1858 re-opened as a food hall which is home to a variety of local vendors. If you and your friends have different tastes in food, it's a great place to come so you can all order from separate places but then sit together on the dining tables whilst admiring the beautiful architecture of this former meat market.
This & That
I can't believe I lived in Manchester so long and only visited this place in my final week there. Hidden down an alley in NQ, This & That is a family run Indian dining room serving a classic menu of Indian curries. It has everything I love. It feels like a hidden gem, it's cheap, the staff are super friendly and the food is really good too, especially for the price! I grabbed three veggie curries, an onion bhaji, an Irn Bru and a chapati for like £6.50 or something mad.
Matt + Phred's
The last of my Northern Quarter recommendations is Matt & Phreds Jazz Club. With a cosy and super positive atmosphere, the best of local and international jazz grace the stage at Matt & Phred's 6 nights a week. Feel free to grab your partner, or mate (or if you're confident enough just go solo you brave bastard) and get up and dance too! From Monday to Thursday entry is free, but there is a £5 door charge on the Friday and Saturday nights. You can sneak a look of who's coming up at the Jazz Club on their diary page.
Often called the best pizza in Manchester, Rudy's is one of many popular restaurants that has been drawing people to the up and coming area of Ancoats. They don't take bookings so you may have to try your luck on the day, but if it's packed out you can head to the Hip Hop Chip Shop down the street, or Sugo Pasta Kitchen.
Moving from the best pizza in Manchester to the best coffee in Manchester, Grindsmith is a must-visit for any coffee lover visiting Manchester. They have a couple of sites in the city centre but in particular I really like the Pod that sits next the River Irwell. It's away from the hustle and bustle of the city and has some nice outdoor seating for those rare sunny days. I also want to give a special shout out to Grindsmith Pod for apparently being the first coffee brand in the UK to ditch take away cups and single-use plastic. Major kudos.
Pot Kettle Black
If you fancy a bit of food with your coffee instead, head to Pot Kettle Black. Tucked inside the Barton Arcade, a Victorian shopping arcade that was constructed in 1871, PKB (as the locals call it) is a prime brunch spot that has something for everyone. Alternative brunch spots include Ezra & Grill, and Federal Cafe Bar.
Speak In Code
As you may have noticed, I'm partial to a good hidden gem, and Speak in Code is certainly one of them. This secret bar is 100% vegan focused, with vegan snacks including cauliflower wings and vozzarella dippers. The staff here are some of the friendliest in all of Manchester and their Old Fashioned's are delightful.
John Ryland's Library
John Ryland's Library is a photographer's dream. Walking through the Victorian Gothic architecture, it feels like you're stepping into a scene from Harry Potter. It's free to walk round and open 7 days a week.
If you're into your theatre and arts, then HOME is worth a visit. It has two performance venues; a 500-seat theatre and 150-seat flexible studio space, five cinema screens, gallery space to display contemporary art, a cafe bar and restaurant. Honestly, I literally go here just for the movies as there's a 4 row cinema which makes the movie feel really exclusive and it's also less trashy than other cinemas in Manchester.
I've always been really terrible at golf, but for some reason i'm actually relatively good at Junkyard golf (possibly due to the fact that everyone else is busy getting pissed whilst i'm focusing on my shot like an absolute saddo). If you haven't heard of Junkyard Golf before, it's basically crazy golf courses created from pre-loved and reclaimed random shizzle/junk. They have a few sites round the UK but it started here in Manchester. There's junk food, beer and cocktails also. A nice healthy way to end a day in Manchester.
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