What to Do in Manchester in 48 Hours
Vibrant, dynamic and having great train and airport connections, Manchester is the ideal city break for a weekend or just for one day. But with such short time to explore it’s important to prioritise what you see, so you get a real taste of the city and don’t waste time with things that won’t enhance your experience. Here are our suggestions of things to do in Manchester if you only have 48 hours or a weekend.
Our suggestions have been designed to keep you in the city centre, be done on foot and take you to all the hip places and areas of Manchester you just shouldn’t miss. Please DO break away from it or use only the suggestions you like the most, then tell us all about it in the comments box below. We would love to hear what you have been up to during your visit and what you think of this bohemian city.
Arriving: Where to shop and have lunch
After checking into your serviced apartment, you will probably be ready to refuel and explore your surroundings. Head to Exchange Square.
Exchange Square is right in the middle of Manchester’s shopping district and walking distance from any accommodation in central Manchester. Around the square you will have:
- the Arndale Centre – high-street heaven and the biggest shopping mall in the city centre
- Selfridges and Harvey Nichols – both high-end department stores
- and the Corn Exchange mall – offering a mixture of shopping and eataries
- tucked away in the corner, in between the Corn Exchange and Harvey Nichols, is The Old Wellington pub, one of oldest pubs in the city and definitely worth a visit. Mind your head, though! Ceilings here can be pretty low.
Grab a quick lunch inside any of the shopping malls or have a browse around the big rectangle (marked in red on the map above) formed by:
- Exchange Square at one end
- New Cathedral Street, Exchange Street and St Anns Square to one side
- King Street at the other end (accessible through the Arcade behind St Ann’s Church)
- and Cross Street and Corporation Street going back to Exchange Square on the other side of the rectangle
You are sure to find a lunch eatery that takes your fancy walking around these, but if it all fails, walk down to Deansgate (marked in orange on the map) by turning right in front of St Ann’s Church and going down St Ann Street. The stretch of Deansgate that will be on your right (or to the right of House of Fraser as you face it) is full of cafes and restaurants.
After lunch would be a good time to head back to your serviced apartment, refresh, relax and get ready for the night. Manchester nights are a big event, especially if you come to visit over the weekend. Ladies and gentlemen here dress to impress when night falls.
Dinner & Night Out in Manchester
Head to Spinningfields for dinner. A designer shopping complex during the day, at night it thrives with excellent restaurants and cocktail bars.
To start your night out in Manchester, grab dinner at Manchester House or Australasia for a high-end and high-cost food experience, The Oast House or Fazenda Brazilian Restaurant for really good but affordable food or Nando’s and Wagamama for dinner on a budget. But if you rather leave your apartment ready for cocktail hour and throwing some shapes on a dance floor (or if you just don’t fancy going out after all the shopping!) you can always pop into a local supermarket and make full use of the kitchen in your apartment by cooking dinner in-house. This option will also save you money! If you need a good wine to water down the meal at home, BistroVin is on Deansgate, near House of Fraser, and has a really good selection.
Address: 18-22 Bridge Street, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3BZ
Opening hours: Tuesday – Thursday 12-2.30 & 7-9.30, Friday – Saturday 12-2.30 & 6-10
Offering: A la carte menu and wine
More information: manchesterhouse.uk.com
Once you are ready to go out, you just must have a cocktail or glass of wine at Lounge on 12 so you can take in the panoramic views of the city. Lounge on 12 is not only cheaper, but it is also easier to get into than Hilton’s famous Cloud 23, especially at the weekends. Just watch out for the entrance, as the bar is on the 12th floor and the entrance is not very obvious. Sitting in the corner in between Bridge Street and the North Avenue arcade passage, it looks like an apartment block with a receptionist standing behind a lectern. Its tucked away location only adds to the excitement and exclusivity of the place and the 360-degree views from the bar are amazing.
Address: Lounge on 12, 18-22 Bridge Street, Spinningfields, M3 3DZ
Opening hours: 12noon – late
Prices: Cocktails: £9-£10, beer: £5.75, glass of Prosecco: £8.50
Offering: afternoon tea and cocktails
More information: http://www.loungeon12.uk.com/
After a cocktail at Lounge on 12 you can try the other cocktail bars in Spinningfields. The highlights are Neighbourhood and Australasia, but if you want to try something out of this world, try The Alchemist. This bar does just what it says on the tin and cocktails here will bubble, smoke, go against gravity and taste amazing. Try classic cocktails or something off the wall like the Bubblebath or The Mad Hatter.
Address: The Alchemist, 3 Hardman Street, M3 3HF
Opening hours: 10am – 11pm (2am at weekends)
Prices: Cocktails £4.50 (nonalcoholic) – £10.50, beer: £3.80, glass of Prosecco: £7.00
Offering: brunch, lunch, dinner and cocktails
More information: http://thealchemist.uk.com/
A night in Manchester would not be complete without music and a little dancing. If you don’t want to stray too far from Spinningfields, wonder back to Deansgate and turn left walking back down to House of Fraser. The stretch after the department store is full of bars and restaurants. Famous highlights are Las Iguanas for a little Latin flavour, The Botanist and the Living Room for a little more sedate evening. Now, if you really want to shake the old bones to some really good tunes, you need to head to the Northern Quarter – the hip and alternative side of Manchester.
A 17 to 25 mins walk from Spinningfields but definitely worth the walk is Terrace NQ. Playing a mixture of old and new chart music, house and R&B, this bar/club venue will surely make everyone in a big group happy. The cool thing about it is that it’s quite hidden. There isn’t even a sign outside or a website you can visit, but it’s always full! Cocktails are a little cheaper than Spinningfields and the crowd is a real mix of ages, but everyone is out to relax and have a good time. If the tables are available you are also free to sit on them without a charge or minimum expenditure. This place gets really lively at the weekends, but it’s great fun! If you can, arrive early as Terrace always has a queue outside despite not even having a door sign!
Address: Terrace NQ, 43 Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1NA
Opening hours: 11am – 12night (longer at the weekends)
Prices: Cocktails £7.20 – £8, beer £4.40, glass of Prosecco £3.70
Offering: breakfast, lunch and cocktails
More information: http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/food-and-drink/bars/terrace-nq-review
Breakfast and sightseeing
If you need to check out of your apartment, you can ask if they could store your luggage until later. If they can’t, Left-Luggage could keep your bags for you at Manchester Piccadilly Train Station so you can explore the city without carrying extra weight. It costs around £6 for 1 hour and £8 for 7 hours, you can book it all online and just drop your luggage at the pre-booked location.
Address: Left-Luggage, Manchester Piccadilly Station, Piccadilly, M60 7RA
How to get there: you can walk here from anywhere in central Manchester or take the tram Metrolink straight into the Piccadilly stop
Opening hours: 8am-11pm
More information: https://www.left-baggage.co.uk/
Before or after dropping off your luggage, nothing will soak up the wine from the night before better than a good breakfast. When you have a meal at the Sculpture Hall Café inside the Manchester Town Hall you will not only have some lovely food, but you will also visit one of Manchester most iconic landmarks. Talk about getting two for one! Take in the surroundings, bask in the grandeur of Victorian era and taste food with a real Northern touch. We would highly recommend having breakfast here as the start to a day of exploring. Before you go, however, make sure to book a table as the Café is usually very busy.
Address: The Sculpture Hall Café, Manchester Town Hall, Albert Square M2 5DB
Opening hours: 9am-4pm
Prices: Breakfast £1.60 – £3.95, lunch £3.85 to £6.95
Offering: breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea
More information: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/info/500323/town_hall
Booking a table: http://www.thetownhallmcr.co.uk/sculpture-hall-cafe
From Albert Square, you are in a great position to explore the rest of the city. Going in a big loop…
- you can marvel at John Rylands Library in Deansgate
- contemplate the traditional beauty of Royal Exchange Theatre & Arcade in St Anns Square
- have a silent moment at Manchester Catedral in Victoria Street
- admire the beautiful game at The Urbis Museum of Football
- wander through the lights of The Printworks
- and the weird and wonderful maze that is Afflecks – a true testament to Manchester’s edgy alternative culture.
If you were to walk all these sights without stopping, it would take you around 36-45 mins, at which point, you will need a pitstop for a coffee and a nibble. Head to Piccadilly Gardens.
There will be plenty of choice around the Gardens square and you can people watch while you sip your well-deserved break. Once you are ready to carry on, you can:
- wander down Canal Street – the vibrant and beautiful epicentre of Manchester’s Gay Village
- have a taste of another culture passing through Chinatown at Nicholas Street
- admire art at the Manchester Art Gallery at the end of Nicholas Street
- and be back at the Town Hall where you started in time for dinner.
The whole loop is just under 3 miles long and would take around an hour to complete if you didn’t stop.
Now, if you don’t fancy wandering around on your own, you can sign up for a Discover Manchester Walking Tour and explore the historic city centre with the help of a guide who will tell you all about Manchester’s place and rise in the industrial revolution. Tours cost £8 per person, meet daily at 11am outside Manchester Central Library in St Peter Square (just behind the Town Hall) and take one and half hours to complete. An easy way to have a quick but efficient snapshot of the history of Manchester. Please note you need to book this up to one hour prior to the tour taking place and you must bring your tickets or the confirmation email printed out or on your phone.
Address: Discover Manchester Walking Tour, outside Manchester Central Library, St Peter’s Square, M2 5PD
Prices: £8 per person
Duration: 11am – 12.30pm
More information: http://www.manchesterguidedtours.com/events/discover-manchester-walk/
Last meal before going home
All that walking needs to be rewarded before heading home. For a final meal in Manchester, Red’s True Barbecue will not only be the dream of every meat-eater, it will also show you Manchester’s edgy multicultural culture.
With an alternative décor and rock music as the soundtrack to the flame action inside the barbecue cage (their open kitchen), Red’s is the self-proclaimed place of barbecue worship. We can say amen to that and would highly recommend you try the ribs or the Donut Burger – if that is not a trip to barbecue heaven, we don’t know what is! Book a table before you go, as this is another popular spot with visitors and locals. If red meat is not your thing, there are a selection of restaurants around Albert Square or back towards Piccadilly Gardens, you will be spoiled for choice.
Address: Red’s True Barbecue, 22 Lloyd Street, Albert Square, M2 5WA
Opening hours: 12noon – 11pm (weekends until 1am)
Prices: Mains – £9.95 – £25.95, burgers £8.95 – £16.95
Serving: lunch and dinner
More information: http://truebarbecue.com/
Top 5 Manchester serviced apartments with the most central location:
- SACO Apartments Manchester Piccadilly, 6 Minshull Street, M1 3ED
- The Light ApartHotel, 20 Church Street, M4 1PN
- Roomzz Manchester City, 36 Princess Street, M1 4JY
- The Works ApartHotel, 22 Withy Grove, M4 2BJ
- Premier Suites, 64 Shudehill, M4 4AA
Things to do for FREE in Manchester
For more suggestions on what to do for FREE in this beautiful city read our blog post – 33 Free Things to Do in Manchester.
Have a wonderful 48 hours and don’t forget to let us know how you got on in the comment box below!