Two days in Manchester presents a wealth of opportunities. From world-class museums and stunning architecture to boutique shopping and an incredible selection of bars and restaurants, this city has it all. A weekend is not enough time to experience all the delights this metropolitan marvel has to offer. However, by following our itinerary, you’ll get as close as possible.
Where to stay
Hallmark Inn Manchester South is a short taxi ride from the city centre. In this beautiful budget hotel, you will find comfortable beds for a good night’s sleep, free access to super-fast Wi-Fi, 24-hour room service and a delicious breakfast buffet to set you up for each day’s adventure. Hallmark Hotel Manchester Airport offers the same level of service but within easy reach of the city airport’s three terminals.
Manchester is easily explored on foot, and the city centre is located within walking distance from many of the attractions covered in this guide. You can also purchase a System One Travelcard; they’re accepted on most local buses, trams and trains, making sightseeing even easier.
The city is also bike-friendly and has many cycle lanes that make attractions reachable by pedal power. Or, if you fancy making your way via boat, you can book a Waxi, which run seven days a week along Manchester’s famous canal.
The Northern Quarter
Image by Duncan Hull
This trendy neighbourhood offers an antidote to the interchangeable shopping experiences you’re probably used to. Consisting of narrow side streets decorated with urban art and bustling back alleys, you will find a wide range of independent boutiques and trendy eateries to enjoy.
Piccadilly Records is a great place to pick up vinyl. If you’re feeling nostalgic, Blue Rinse has a huge choice of vintage clothes and MAGMA is the go-to place for rare gifts. After filling your shopping bags, stop for lunch at the hip Fig + Sparrow or Cottonopolis, serving sophisticated Asian cuisine in a gorgeous Grade II listed building.
City centre sightseeing
The city centre is packed full of amazing architecture that is well worth your attention. Albert Square is dominated by the gorgeously neo-gothic Victorian town hall; Manchester Cathedral dates back to the Middle Ages and is one of the municipal’s oldest buildings; and Manchester Central Library’s stunning columned portico is loosely based on the Pantheon in Rome.
All three locations are convenient stops on Manchester’s fabulous hop-on-hop-off open top bus tour, which circles a loop of 15 stops that also includes The Quay, Media City and Salford Cathedral.
If you’re visiting Manchester on a tight budget, you’ll be pleased to hear there are several excellent museums you can visit for free.
Set across five listed buildings, the Museum of Science and Industry is full of inspiring exhibitions showcasing Manchester’s industrial past, present and future. Manchester Art Gallery includes historical collections and a wide range of contemporary art from around the world. Alternatively, The Pankhurst Centre is the first home of the suffragette movement and a legacy to women’s fight for voting equality.
The Corn Exchange
After a packed Saturday, you’ll need to refuel for a big night out. Manchester’s historic Corn Exchange building has been transformed into an outstanding dining venue. Under one roof, you will find 13 restaurants offering dishes from around the world. With so much choice, it’s hard to pick a favourite but under duress, we’d have to opt for Mowgli; home to lip-lickingly tasty Indian street food.
A big night out
Pubs, clubs and bars, Manchester has them all, allowing you to plan any type of night out you can imagine.
Peter Street is Manchester’s newest hotspot. Highlights include Impossible Manchester, complete with a hidden speakeasy serving gin, the Cuban party palace Revolucion de Cuba, and Albert’s Schloss, a Bavarian-style beer cellar that makes a twice-weekly trip to the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Plzeň to stock the real thing.
Canal Street sits in the centre Manchester’s Gay Village. It doesn’t matter if you’re not part of the LGBTQ+ community, this is a great place to have a party. Must-visit bars include Velvet Lounge Bar, Polari and G-A-Y.
Slightly north of Canal Street you will find Chinatown. Manchester’s Chinatown is the second largest in the United Kingdom and the third largest in Europe. From karaoke to experimental drinks to delicious Chinese cuisine, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained late into the night.
A 15-minute tram ride from the city centre, The Quays is a stunning waterside location and the perfect spot to blow the cobwebs off the previous night’s exertions.
After your Sunday morning stroll, head to The Lowry, home to a super theatre as well as galleries showcasing works by LS Lowry and other modern artists. From here, you can also visit the award-winning Imperial War Museum, embark on the Salford Quays Heritage trail, or jump aboard a boat tour to enjoy a fish eye’s view of the city.
Old Trafford and the Manchester United Museum is located within walking distance of The Quays. A tour ticket will grant you behind the scenes access to England’s most successful club. Alternatively, if you’re more of a Sky Blue or an all-round footy fan, you can travel back across the city to take the Etihad Stadium and Club Tour or visit The National Football Museum.
Join the craft drink revolution
In recent years, a wealth of speciality coffee shops and craft beer emporiums have popped up across Manchester. After a busy morning exploring, why not take the weight off, grab a spot of lunch and wash it down with something tasty?
Takk, Foundation Coffee House and the Pot Kettle Black offer caffeine fiends the ideal Sunday sip. In the same way that Port Street Beer House, the Piccadilly Tap and Beermoth provide full-flavoured pints for craft beer enthusiasts to wet their whistle.
Turn the page on Manchester’s literary legacy
Manchester was recently awarded UNESCO City of Literature Status, and the city bursts with bookish brilliance. In addition to the glorious central library, Manchester has three other magnificent libraries steeped in history; The Portico, John Rylands, and Chetham's. The latter is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world and the beating cultural heart of the city.
Sunday evening dinner
Manchester’s thriving restaurant scene boasts a huge choice of eateries for Sunday dinner. The Refuge by Volta, situated in a stunning central city location, recently won Food Pub of The Year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards. Iberica specialises in top-notch Spanish cuisine served against a lavish but quirky backdrop. And TNQ delivers a delicious British menu that rotates on a three-month basis to keep things fresh.
Revel in Manchester’s music scene
From local bands to famous names, Manchester’s music scene is legendary, which makes no adventure in the city complete without seeing a live act or two in action.
Iconic venues include Band on the Wall, Night and Day Cafe as well as newer settings such as Albert Hall (no, not that one), a beautifully restored Wesleyan chapel that hosts everything from live pop to classical concerts. The BBC Philharmonic is also based in Media City, playing a full calendar of concerts.
We hope our guide to the perfect weekend in Manchester will help you plan a break to remember. You can also check out our downloadable guide to the city, which provides information on the best things to do by season and hidden gems you might otherwise miss.
Why not take advantage of our winter breaks offer with up to 40% off? Click here for details and to book.