I love Manchester. This city has been my home for 6 years and is the most exciting place I’ve ever lived. The range of Manchester neighbourhoods reflects the diversity of this city but true for all Mancunians is a feisty spirit. The Mancunians make this city special to me, but even for visitors there are so many things to do in Manchester. You just can’t feel bored when walking around Manchester. For food lovers, Manchester is quickly becoming a key UK foodie destination. For culture buffs, we have a plethora of museums and galleries. Outside of the city centre we have great walking trails. Fancy a night out? We have a great bar and live music scene. Our massive student population keeps the city young and prices low in student areas. Do I even need to mention football?! First things first though, let this Manchester neighbourhood guide introduce you to the key areas of this vibrant city!
Rusholme, also known as Manchester’s Curry Mile
Do: Visit a shisha bar
Rusholme is home to Manchester’s famous Curry Mile, which is a stretch of road that is technically less than a mile long and historically had loads of curry houses. Nowadays, there are more takeaways, shisha bars and Middle Eastern restaurants than Indian, but this is a fascinating area nonetheless. This road couldn’t be more different from the rest of Manchester. For one, it’s lively late into night. Adherence to traffic rules is unheard of (actually…that applies to all of Manchester). The assortment of unusual food in the supermarkets is amazing and I enjoy just browsing the shelves. The smell is a blend of grilled meat and shisha. Arabic music is more than likely blasting out from the speakers of a car.
I must admit that I have only recently begun to appreciate curry, with my first bold choice a chicken korma (I know, judgement is allowed). Regardless, when it comes to Curry Mile restaurants, I have a recommendation that comes from all my curry loving friends and family. Basically, if you are going to visit one restaurant in Rusholme, make it Mughli! Mughli is a street food inspired restaurant that is easily spotted due to its fenced in outdoor area that says Mumbai in big letters. The atmosphere inside is classy and the food is really good (thinks my friends, family and I). The butter chicken is good (and not very spicy despite a medium rating on the menu).
Rusholme is bigger than just Curry Mile, but the rest of it is primarily residential and not really an area for tourists.
Manchester City Centre including Piccadilly Gardens
Do: Shop ’til you drop at Arndale or visit Manchester Cathedral for a more relaxed afternoon
The city centre is characterised by Market Street, which is the main shopping street. This street is normally buzzing and packed with people going about their day. Expect plenty of buskers, some of the regulars include a man ‘stuck in the wind’ and an elderly group of men playing music and dancing in animal costumes. The best way to describe the latter is eccentric. If possible, plan your visit to Market Street on a weekday rather than the weekend as it gets very busy.
There is some worthwhile sightseeing around the city centre. Manchester Cathedral is a nice place to spend an hour (especially if you get stuck in that infamous rain). For all the football fans out there, I suggest you visit The National Museum of Football. The Royal Exchange Theatre is a beautiful building for the more culturally inclined with theatre performances and cultural events. One of my favourite Manchester experiences was watching a discussion with Margaret Atwood here (so star struck).
Personally, I don’t find the Manchester city centre restaurants that great (much prefer e.g. Northern Quarter) as there are a lot of chains and fast food. A couple of highlights are Shoryu (Japanese ramen), Chaopraya (Thai) and The Fusion Lab (Asian fusion) in Arndale Food Market. I’ve heard good things about Moose Coffee too (Canadian/American) but so far the queues have been too long for me.
Do: Visit Affleck’s Palace for alternative fashion and loads of curious merchandise
Eat: Home Sweet Home
I’ve spent many tipsy afterwork nights in Northern Quarter and this area is great for a night out. If Rusholme smells of shisha, Northern Quarter probably smells of beard oil. This is where the hipsters congregate, side by side with the alternative crowd. Northern Quarter is actually a really cool Manchester neighbourhood though, once you get past the plaid shirts and carefully curated beards. As a matter of fact, in my humble opinion, it’s one of the best areas in Manchester. I love the Northern Quarter street art and there is even a Banksy hidden by stickers in the area. I’d like to point out that covering a Banksy in stickers is pretty Manc.
Manchester’s Northern Quarter is a hub for alternative culture and the epicentre is Affleck’s Palace. Even if you’re not into alternative fashion, Affleck’s Palace is worth a visit as they have so many unique and fascinating products. I’d also recommend a visit to the many vintage, crafts and comic stores that give Northern Quarter its special vibe. If you appreciate crafts, you’ll enjoy the Manchester Craft and Design Centre where crafters and artists sell their own designs in a gorgeous old fish market building.
My favourite part about Northern Quarter is the bars and restaurants though (surprise, surprise!). New Northern Quarter restaurants and bars crop up every month and there’s always something new to try. My latest obsession is Oké Poké, an Hawaiian restaurant/takeaway where you can build your own bowl of Hawaiian awesomeness. For sushi lovers, this place is heavenly! One of the pillars of the Northern Quarter restaurant scene though is Home Sweet Home which serves great comfort food.
There are so many amazing eateries in Northern Quarter though that they deserve their own post (clicky clicky here)!
Do: Try out all the new restaurants opening up
You know how everyone always talks about upcoming areas? Ancoats, just north of Northern Quarter, has been on the Manchester radar for a while and is evolving into a foodie destination. Ancoats is still a bit rough around the edges but has seen a slew of trendy restaurants open up. My nemesis is Rudy’s (elusive) Neapolitan Pizza. I’ve been to Rudy’s 3 times and the waiting time has been around 1,5 hour each time. And every time I haven’t had time to wait that long. One day, Rudy’s, one day. Another place I can’t wait to try is Cha-ology, where matcha takes centre stage. My foodie misadventures aside, this is a cool Manchester area that you should include if you’re into your foodie travel.
Spinningfields and Deansgate
Do: Visit John Ryland’s Library
Glam is probably the best way to describe Spinningfields and Deansgate. Deansgate is a long street that runs to the west of the city centre and houses high end restaurants and shops (and a Wetherspoon’s). This street gets very lively in the evenings when well-dressed lads and glam girls take to the bars. One of the Deansgate bar highlights is The Living Room, which serves up really nice cocktails (sending my love to the Bramble).
Deansgate is also home to one of my favourite attractions in Manchester; John Rylands Library. John Rylands Library is the first place I take any Manchester visitor. I’ve even had a successful date here. Now, don’t just read library and think ‘laaame’. This historical library dates back to 1900 and looks like it came straight out of a Harry Potter movie. Now, if you just read Harry Potter and thought ‘laaame’, I have no words. Honestly though, check out John Rylands and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Spinningfields is a modern area just off Deansgate with upscale restaurants and luxury boutiques. In summertime this is a lovely area to go for the free outdoors cinema. This year Oast House hosted the event in their incredible outdoors seating area. Oast House is located in an old hops storage building and is one of the cooler looking pubs in Manchester, think Swiss alpine cottage. Another great shout if you’re eating in Spinningfields is Tattu. This Spinningfields restaurant is a modern Chinese gastronomical experience. I spent a birthday here and love both the food and atmosphere. Tattu even has a cherry tree in the middle of the restaurant.
Do: Go for a night out in one of the many Canal Street clubs or watch the Pride Parade in August
Eat: Richmond Tea Rooms
Manchester’s Canal Street is home to the LGBTQ community (I’m sure you can guess what nickname the community has given this street?). It’s bigger than just one street but anyone will know what neighbourhood you mean. The LGBTQ community is large in Manchester and every year the city holds a popular Pride festival. If you get the chance, you should definitely watch the parade.
Canal Street is home to a lot of clubs, but be aware that these often have a strict door policy. If the bouncer doesn’t recognise you or you are part of a large group of girls, you might not get in. This is to ensure that the Canal Street club scene primarily serves the community. Because of the door policy I’ve only been to a handful of Canal Street clubs including G-A-Y and Velvet. I’ve never had a bad night out on Canal Street and if you’re in the right company, then go for it.
In daytime, you should check out Richmond Tea Rooms which is hidden away down a back street. This is a tea room with Alice in Wonderland decor that looks amazing. The afternoon tea is ok, but the main draw is definitely the experience. I’ve only tried the afternoon tea, but the cake counter did look good.
Do: View the Chinese archway and explore the Chinese supermarkets
Eat: Happy Seasons
Saving the best for last; one of my favourite neighbourhoods is Chinatown. Manchester’s Chinatown is the third largest in Europe and if you haven’t gathered by now, I love Asian food. A Chinese archway marks the centre of this foodie neighbourhood and is well worth a visit. The supermarkets are great for just wandering around and ogling at all the unique produce. The noodle selection at Hang Won Hong is my favourite.
The most important part of Chinatown is the restaurants though and this area is home to some great ones. Happy Seasons in Chinatown is my favourite restaurant in all of Manchester. The outside looks very unassuming but Happy Seasons is always packed with queues out the door. You can instantly recognise it by the roasted ducks on display (and that is also exactly what you should order, along with the char siu). My mouth waters just thinking about it. Some other highlights include Hunan, Try Thai and Chatime.
If you’re lucky enough to visit during the Chinese New Year this area gets really exciting. Try all the food on offer and watch the dragon parade.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Manchester neighbourhood guide! I love exploring Manchester in my spare time so expect to see plenty of posts covering the city and its surroundings. For example, check out my suggested Manchester weekend itinerary for a first-time visitor here. For more UK city guides, check out my post on Southport here.
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