Last updated on August 19th, 2019
Hi guys, this is my last post about Manchester (for now) and in this post, I wanted to share with you our itinerary for 2 days in Manchester, England. Many thanks to Visit Manchester for organising this trip and helping us with the itinerary, however, we tweaked it a bit and added some things we wanted to see.
This itinerary won’t include any football-related activities, however, you can easily replace any of the activities and things to do in Manchester that we will mention in this post for a visit to the Football Museum, for example, or to Old Trafford. The reason why we didn’t visit any football hotspots this time is that each of us has been to Manchester before – and solely for football. So this time, it was all about everything but football.
However, I would recommend taking one of the stadium tours e.g. Old Trafford or Etihad Stadium (Manchester City) – I’ve seen both or/and visit the Football museum (I haven’t been, so can’t say much, however, Pepe visited it before and saw a lot of trophies and football jerseys).
2 days in Manchester: the itinerary for a weekend in Manchester
Without further ado, let’s start with our itinerary for 2 days in Manchester.
Day 0: Heading to Manchester from London
If you’re travelling to Manchester from London, it’s a very nice and short journey of just 2 hours. You don’t need to arrive 1 night earlier to be able to see a lot of Manchester, so you can take a train on Saturday morning if it suits you. However, if you’re coming from further away, it makes sense to arrive a bit earlier and rest. You can check the train prices in advance via Trainline.
Visit Manchester kindly organised 2 nights in a hotel called The Lowry in the nice area of Salford. The hotel was 5* and had a really great breakfast, where you could order avocado on toast free of charge (how amazing is that) and the location couldn’t have better. The service was okay, but overall, it is a great hotel and I would definitely recommend it for a weekend in Manchester!
Day 1 of 2 days in Manchester: Northern Quarter and a bit of history (and much more)
John Rylands library
On the first morning in Manchester, we decided to start the day by visiting the John Rylands library. John Rylands Library is a working library of the University of Manchester, however, it isn’t a “normal” library. John Rylands library was opened in 1900, however, it looks way older than that. To me, it looked like a proper Hogwarts. There are multiple floors and a lot of small corridors and paths to explore.
John Rylands library was a filming spot for Harry Potter – it appeared in one of the scenes in one of the movies. However, as it’s a working library, you need to keep quiet, as there will be students preparing for the assignments. Also, the entrance is free, so there is no reason NOT to visit the gorgeous John Rylands library.
Coffee break & the Northern Quarter in Manchester
After visiting the library, we were supposed to have a walking tour, but the weather decided otherwise, so we ended up in a lovely brunch/coffee spot called Hampton & Vouis. I really loved the decor and featured it in my guide to the Most Instagrammable spots in Manchester.
Later on, we walked past the Town Hall, which is closed for refurbishing since 2018 and will be closed for the next couple of years. Such a pity, because it’s a beautiful building and it would be definitely worth seeing it.
Our next destination was the Northern Quarter, where we spent the next couple of hours. Northern Quarter is, perhaps, the trendiest part of Manchester, however, years ago, it was a centre of the cotton industry. Northern Quarter is a place where the industrial revolution was happening and it was not a glamorous place. It got its name in the 1990s when gentrification of Manchester had begun and now it’s one of the best places to shop and go out in Manchester. It’s one of the best places to visit for millennials (you can read about other places in my millennial guide to Manchester here).
Northern Quarter has some impressive street art, plenty of bars, brunch spots, coffee places, unique stores and galleries, and, of course, the shopping Mecca of all the unique and perhaps a bit “weird” things – Affleck’s, which we visited as well and absolutely loved it.
We picked Evelyn’s for lunch and it was great! It’s worth mentioning that Manchester is the vegetarian capital of England, so Evelyn wasn’t an exception and it had a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes in addition to non-vegetarian option.
Bubble tea and a bit of London in Manchester
After spending a couple of hours in Manchester and exploring the Northern Quarter, we decided to hide from rain (there are plenty of things to do in Manchester when it rains by the way) and grab a bubble tea from a newly opened Gong Cha – a newly opened Taiwanese boba tea. If you’re never heard of bubble tea before, here’s my review of Gong Cha in Manchester.
We also walked around the China Town in Manchester – it’s actually pretty big and nice, so definitely pay it a visit if you have some time.
After drinking a hot pearl tea from Gong Cha, we decided to check out the shopping area of Manchester – Manchester Exchange. It’s really huge will plenty of different shops, a shopping mall and Harvey Nichols as well as Selfridges around. The reason why I said a piece of London in Manchester is because of the Selfridges. Of course, Manchester Selfridges is way smaller, but it’s still nice to have one around and not have to travel all the way to London to buy something specific from there.
Going out in Manchester: dinner and drinks
In-between shopping and dinner, we had a bit of time to change and just relax in the hotel for 30 minutes. At 5 pm, we headed off to 20 stories – a trendy bar located on the top of a skyscraper in Manchester. 20 stories is the tallest rooftop bar in Manchester and it has a pretty unique view. Such a shame it was raining and the terrace was not the best spot to be – it actually didn’t have a roof, so you can get soaked. There are, of course, covered parts, but it gets really really crowded, so you need to book in advance.
Actually, if you want to go to the trendiest places in Manchester during a weekend, well, you need to book in advance and you also need to dress up a lot. Girls in Manchester dress very extra, so you need to put on some nice and fancy clothes not to feel severely underdressed.
Mackie Mayor – the best spot for eating in Manchester
For dinner, we went to Mackie Mayor with lovely Hannah from Visit Manchester and I tried one of the best pizzas I’ve tried in the entire UK. Mackie Mayor is a historical building, however, it was converted into a food market. There are a few stalls/restaurants, but all the dishes were amazing! Mackie Mayor is a must in every Manchester itinerary, so I strongly suggest you visit it for dinner or lunch (or both).
Getting around Manchester. Free buses?
Later on, we went for drinks to Jane Eyre – a nice and homey cocktail bar and also explored some amazing areas of Manchester on the way. I must say that Manchester is a pretty walkable city, however, if you get tired, you can either take an Uber (it’s very affordable in Manchester compared to London) or you can take a free bus. Yes, there are actually 2 free bus routes in Manchester and it’s absolutely amazing. Where else have you seen something like that?
After our drinks, we walked all the way back to our hotel, the Lowry and went to sleep, awaiting the second day of our weekend in Manchester.
Day 2 of 2 days in Manchester: Cathedral, the Mills and the University
On the second day in Manchester, we failed to wake up early, so we left our hotel around 10 am. Manchester at 10 am on Sunday looked like a ghost town. It seemed like all the city went out last night and didn’t want to wake up before noon. We took the free bus and headed to Manchester Cathedral. It was possibly the worst timing, as there was a mass, so of course, we couldn’t get in.
If you have a chance, visit the Manchester Cathedral on the other day, as there are a lot of masses on Sunday. The area around the Cathedral is very beautiful and it looks really historical as well. The architecture style is completely different. It reminded me of Canterbury or even York (a bit). However, this is just a tiny piece between a busy avenue and the Exchange square with all the shops.
Our second day in Manchester was even colder, so we had to go and buy some warmer clothes. To be honest with you, that week was completely crazy. It was the week of a crazy heatwave and it was 38 degrees on Thursday in London. On Saturday, it was 16 in Manchester and Sunday morning was even colder.
Burton Arcade and the Mills
Later on, we went to the Burton Arcade to explore a very beautiful and unique shopping arcade and had an early lunch with our fellow bloggers, who were also part of the press trip to Manchester. There are plenty of nice coffee spots around, so you can always stop for a coffee.
Pepe really wanted to see some of the remaining Manchester mills, so we went all the way to the north of the city to see some. Many of the mills were converted into luxury accommodation or co-working spaces and we managed to find a recently converted mill that even had a coffee spot inside.
The University of Manchester and Oxford Rd
At the end of our trip to Manchester, we decided to walk all the way from the mills (that were located steps away from Jane Eyre, where we had drinks last night) to Oxford road, there two universities of Manchester are located. It was quite a long walk (about 40 minutes), but we managed to see some amazing street art, shops, restaurants and a box park on the way.
The box park is a particular spot of interest for the 2-day itinerary for Manchester. It’s called Hatch and it has plenty of spots to eat and drink as well as some unique stores. If you have some free time, make sure to visit it.
After that, we just walked all the way to the University of Manchester. If you’re not that interested in the University and prefer football, I would recommend you to visit Old Trafford instead. We, however, wanted to take a look at the University and it was worth it. The university consists of multiple buildings, but all of them are beautiful and impressive. It reminded me of my year at the University of Edinburgh (it was a great experience) and I was quite close to applying to study in Manchester as well.
We also went for late lunch (very late lunch), more like an early dinner to a Chinese restaurant close to the University, but as I didn’t like it at all, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re planning to grab lunch nearby, I would recommend going to the Refuge instead.
After having a very late lunch, we picked up our bags from the hotel and headed to Manchester Piccadilly for a train back to London.
Summary of our itinerary for Manchester
I hope you found this itinerary for 2 days in Manchester useful and you can use some of the spots we visited. If you’re invested in our other posts about Manchester, check our Millennial Guide to Manchester and the best Instagram-worthy places in Manchester here.