We arrived in Manchester on Friday evening, just in time for May Day weekend and the bank holiday celebrations were already in full swing. Needless to say, we wasted no time in donning our glad rags and heading to the lively Northen Quarter area of the city for our first taste of what Manchester had to offer.
The gridiron style here links one street filled with bustling bars and bistros to the next, each one mobbed at the weekends with merry patrons spilling out on to the pavements drinks in hand. Before joining the festivities our first stop was at Solita’s, a bar & grill where we were fortunate enough to be squeezed in for a table in the much sought-after restaurant.
This diner serves up an imaginative variety of American style burgers and hot dogs including the ‘KFB’ with monterey jack cheese, BBQ sauce, jalapenos and Kentucky fried bacon and the ‘Manc-hattan’ a mix of British black pudding and Lancashire cheese with pastrami and Coney Island mustard mayo. Needlessly indulgent and every bit as satisfying as it sounds, the food here is a must for anyone looking to fill their stomach before a night on the town.
For the remainder of the evening we checked out the famed Manchester bar scene. We hit up Affleck & Brown to sample the happy hour cocktails and then moved onto the Black Dog Ballroom. Another cocktail den with an upbeat vibe, this bar is known for its late nights staying open till 4am all week and 5am on Saturday’s.
The atmosphere was buzzing and the bar already fairly crowded around 10ish. We were only planning on staying for one and then venturing somewhere else, however the staff invited us to try out the newly opened Jameson lounge. Hidden under the stairs we discovered the swanky room fitted with secluded booths, it’s own bar area offering a selection of exclusive cocktails and a pool table. It’s a nice contrast to the main bar and a great spot for couples to relax or groups of friends to chill out and knock a few balls in. The drinks are strong which makes racking up and playing a few frames all the more fun.
Having spent much of the past month in the chic, trendy bars popular in mainland Europe, we decided to change the pace and end the evening in some good old fashioned British pubs. Tucked away behind the shopping distric we found exactly what we were looking for. The Shakespeare is not quite the epitome of your cosy, archetypal British pub however it does fit the mold better than most bars in the city centre.
Kitted out with the obligatory pub quiz machines, an upstairs restaurant serving fish & chips and apparently haunted by the ghost of a female barmaid, pubs of this ilk are becoming less and less visible on the streets of Britain. If you want to take a break from your shopping and experience a traditional British public house, The Shakespeare is the ideal spot and it had the perfect homely vibe to round off our first night back in Britain.
In the morning we fought off the urge to stay in and shield ourselves under the covers from the sobering sunlight and instead decided to do a little exploring. We found some fantastic sights nearby the Victoria train station including the oldest public reference library in the United Kingdom, Chetham’s Library.
Unfortunately the library is not open at weekends so we could not explore the Hogwartsian interior, however there are plenty more iconic sights to enjoy in the area. The National Football Museum sits directly accross from the ancient library and the magnificent Manchester Cathedral lies adjacent with the beautiful town hall not too far away either.
As much as we would have loved to have spent our last day wandering around Manchester in the 26°C heat and enjoying the historic buildings from afar, we couldn’t pass up the chance to spend some time inside Manchester Museum.
A collection of 18,000 ancient Egyptian & Sudanese artefacts, an in house vivarium with a lively reptile population, innumerable important archaeological finds from a diverse selection of cultures, scores of fossils, minerals and meteorites, painstakingly recreated skeletal remains of our ancestors, a zoology section with mounted animals on display and even a T-Rex kept in the basement. All this merely scratches the surface of the myriad of intriguing objects to uncover within this wondrous world of relics.
The museum is free to the public, however after seeing the fascinating displays which lie within I would have had no qualms handing over some hard earned cash had there been an admission fee. I cannot say exactly how long we spent inside, though I can say with confidence that it is easy to lose entire afternoons in the complex with so much to see and do. Rather than revist old ground and tell you about the rest of our day which was spent enjoying more of the Mancunian nightlife, I’ll simply leave you with some of the photographs we captured inside this must visit museum.
We’re currently back home for a week however leave again on 13th May for Alicante. After which the blog will return!