So, I got caught up in a torrential rain storm on my way home last night, and, having screamed at the rain all the way while cycling down Oxford Road, I did the only reasonable thing and sought shelter at Big Hands. As I was trying to get a little dryer (by sitting on bench… I know, good story, right?) I started chatting to some Australian girls who had been in Manchester for a few weeks. I kept asking which places they had been to and ended up jotting down a list of my favourite spots to visit in Manchester. I couldn’t help but turn this into a blog post,* so there you go:
Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)
Oh, how I love this place. Whether it’s for a full tour round the different exhibitions (which can easily take you half a day), or just for a sneaky visit to the absolutely magnificent steam engine hall, MOSI is one of my staples to take visitors to. If you’re lucky, the steam engines are running, and you can spend quite some time just marvelling at these fantastic pieces of engineering, with their bolts and pistons moving to what seems like a perfectly choreographed little dance. Well, I do.
This pub, just round the corner from MOSI, offers some of the tastiest pub grub in town. They used to have a grilled halloumi sandwich which was so good, it made me weep (I do get very emotional when eating nice veggie food); the Lancashire cheese and beet root pie (if that’s your kind of thing), however, has now become my new favourite.
While I find Cloud 23 as a bar rather unattractive, it’s definitely worth a visit for the Afternoon Tea (or, aptly named, “High Tea”). Watch Manchester from above while eating cake – winner.
It seems every Mancunian has a story of how they used to hang out at Affleck’s in their teens. This indie shopping mall is a huge maze of little shops spanning several floors, ranging from second hand to fancy dress, posters and badges, hand-made jewellery, and general weird stuff. There’s a tasty little milk shake bar hidden in some corner on the 1st floor (maybe… I tend to lose my bearings as soon as I enter the building), a cafe on the top floor, and endless hours of fun.
The Star & Garter
When I first moved to Manchester, I spent many a Saturday night dancing at Smile, “Manchester’s longest running indie night” at the Star&Garter pub. While the novelty of drinking double g&ts and falling up and down the epic staircase has worn off, I still enjoy the odd night out at Smile, dancing to some excellent and un-embarrassing tunes. I’ve never made it to the Smiths night (which, apparently, attracts a fair number of quiffs), but it’s definitely on my “things to do before I leave Manchester” list.
Big Hands & The Temple
While I don’t usually spend too much time at pubs, Big Hands and The Temple are certainly two of my favourite places in Manchester. They’re gloriously dark and scruffy places with similarly scruffy patrons, brilliant jukeboxes (always fun to take non-Brits who are not yet used to the concept of jukeboxes) and overpriced beer.
This art gallery/cafe/bar/restaurant/cinema “complex” is always a safe bet if you fancy art/coffee/drinks/food/indie and artsy movies. Having said that, the cosy little cinema screens are certainly my favourite, in particular because you’re ok to bring in your own snacks (unlike basically any other cinema). My go to combo for rainy days is a pack of biscuits and a cup of tea from the cafe to go with my movie.
I like to hang out in the live animals bit of Manchester Museum and watch the chameleon climbing around its little artificial rainforest, which is strangely meditative. Apart from that, it’s the place to go if you’re into dead animals (stuffed and skeletons alike). The bony dude on the picture is called Stan, by the way.
Fuel, Withington (south)
Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel. I love Fuel. If it was legal to marry pubs, I’d have drunkenly proposed to Fuel a few times already. Mind you, I probably have. There’s veggie food, which always ends up being absolutely perfect, lovely staff, a brilliant quiz on Tuesdays (hosted by two Welsh brothers), open mic on Wednesdays, free gigs on weekends ranging from hip hop to hardcore and back, knitting groups, poetry, comedy, and what not. Oh and there’s no bouncer to yell at you when you stand outside with a drink, so on busy nights half of the fun is usually happening outside on the pavement.
Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury (south)
My favourite park in Manchester. The Japanese garden is absolutely gorgeous in spring/summer.
Bury Market, Bury (north)
One of the biggest markets in Europe. Definitely worth the visit if you want to eat your way across the continents and perhaps buy some slippers.
Boggart Hole Clough, Blackley (north)
I came across this place very randomly when I got my first bike in Manchester and pointed at a map saying “let’s cycle to that place with the funny name“. This seemingly average park turns into what can only be described as a huge hole in the ground, with a little garden and a few benches at the bottom. We sat there eating our lunch while watching a small group in fancy dress filming what looked like an Alice in Wonderland themed scene. Weird-o-rama.
Islington Mill, Salford (north west)
There’s art, gigs, yoga, dancey nights, and more gigs. For some unknown reason, I hardly ever make it down that side of town, but if I weren’t such a lazy bugger, I’d definitely spend more time at the Mill. You should go. It’s good.
Now it’s your turn – What are your favourite (non-pub) places in Manchester?
* I actually woke up at 6am and couldn’t go back to sleep because I was so excited about the idea of writing this up as a blog post. And while getting out of bed to write is certainly laudable, not sleeping off the drinks has started to take its toll on me over the course of this blog post being written and I only just about managed to finish it without curling up on the sofa. I guess that’s what they call “writer’s dilemma”.
[Images cc-licensed by no22a, ScraggyDog, marcus_and_sue, and Pimlico Badger because I lost 30GB worth of photos in a Time Machine backup accident.]
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