If you are wanting a change of scene from London for the weekend, then the obvious answer is Manchester.
The only sensible way to get to Manchester from London is by train – it takes about two hours and takes you from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly. Couldn’t be easier.
There are a huge range of accommodation options to choose from depending on the budget or style that you are looking for – try and get somewhere central so that you can pretty much walk everywhere.
For dinner – especially if you are with a group of friends fuelling up for a night on the town – then Luck Lust Liquor & Burn is the perfect choice. It’s in the Northern Quarter of town (so might be worth grabbing a taxi if you don’t fancy the walk). This place has a really upbeat and busy vibe – I was there recently with my water polo team (we were in Manchester for a tournament) and we hungrily tucked into burritos and beers, passing it off as carb-loading. The Northern Quarter is an interesting and artsy kind of neighbourhood. Almost Famous Burgers is another good dinner option here, but be prepared to queue – it’s very popular.
Manchester is renowned for having a hard core nightlife. The obvious place to start is Canal Street (made famous by the iconic television series Queer as Folk). I often start my Canal Street experience with dinner at Villaggio – it’s a basic but reasonable Italian restaurant with top drawer people watching potential. There are a huge range of bars and clubs in the Canal Street precinct and it depends a bit on the night of the week as to what is on where. I like Velvet for socialising, The Molly House for drinking, and The Eagle for dancing.
Manchester is not a city that is known for its good weather (officially one of the rainiest cities in the UK) so there aren’t many places designed to capitalise on the rare sunny days. Zinc Bar & Grill does have some outside tables and they grill good meat – you can’t go wrong with a medium rare steak and a side of spinach. For a lighter lunch you could try the Jack Spratt cafe (just near the Town Hall). It’s a funny little place with a bit of an odd combination of everything, but they serve up a good omelette and the coffee is good.
If you fancy a bit of culture then The Lowry is the place to head. This is a big modern complex containing theatres and galleries. L.S. Lowry (who the complex is named after) was a Manchester local and one of its most famous painters – known best for capturing the landscapes and people of the industrial towns on Northern England. Much of his work is permanently on show here.
For dinner, a solid option is Australasia on Deansgate. This is fusion cooking that Australian chefs seem to excel at, mixing South East Asian flavours with a European sensibility. I can never resist anything deep-fried, so I always start with a selection of tempura, and the pork belly with pineapple curry sounds wrong but is somehow an absolute winner.
After dinner you can head to cocktail bar Cloud 23 for some great drinks and stunning views across the city. For a taste of Manchester’s history in a glass, I always order The Industrialist – a bourbon based concoction that will knock your socks off.
Manchester is definitely a city that has got it going on.