Last weekend Sam and I hopped on the train ready for a weekend in one my all time favourite cities, Manchester. We had tickets to go and watch The National at the O2 Apollo and decided to make a trip out of it, rather than heading across just for the evening. There’s something really lovely about playing tourist in a city that you know very well. I grew up near Manchester and it was always our go to location for a girly shopping day or a night out with my pals, so the city is very familiar to me and I know my way around. And yet, in the nearly ten years I’ve been living in Leeds, it’s changed a lot too – enough that I can still get giddy about discovering new shops and restaurants and hidden streets.
We decided to spend the majority of our weekend exploring Manchester’s Northern Quarter – it’s a part of the city that has absolutely thrived over the past few years and is now teeming with independent shops, bars and restaurants. It’s located in between the two main train stations meaning it’s easy to get to, plus it’s filled with plenty of colourful street art and interesting buildings. Sam and I did quite a bit of research beforehand and had a lovely time, so today I thought I’d share a little guide with you all…
My first tip for exploring Manchester’s Northern Quarter is a bit of a cheat, because this hotel is technically located in nearby Piccadilly Gardens. However, it is so close to the Northern Quarter that Sam and I timed that it took us less than 2 minutes to walk to a whole host of NQ bars that we had on our list.
It was quick and easy to check in, our room was spacious and bright, and best of all, our bed was super comfy. Which let’s face it, is just what you need after a long day of exploring and dancing at a gig! Plus, we also got to sample the epic breakfast buffet which definitely won me plenty of wife brownie points from Sam – it helped us both refuel for another a busy day.
If you like fried chicken (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?!) then Yard & Coop has to be on your list. They serve delicious buttermilk fried chicken (both classic and with a twist!), along with a huge variety of sauces and sides. The restaurant is bright and airey and it’s a really fun place to hang out with a group – this would be a perfect spot to start a night out.
Located just across the road from Yard & Coop, Common is a bit of a hybrid spot – they describe themselves as a bar, eatery, coffee spot and bakery. Basically all of the good stuff, right? I headed there early to try one of their famous brunches (The Sunday Times named Common the North West’s best brunch spot!) and I wasn’t disappointed – my frijoles on toast was fresh and flavoursome, and the coffee was great too.
We didn’t eat here on our most recent trip as we have a restaurant in Leeds and had been there recently, but I had to put it on the list as the restaurant in the Northern Quarter is the original and the best. They serve up the most insane burgers along with epic fries and yummy cocktails – let’s just say that I sometimes dream about their bacon bacon fries!
If you’ve got a sweet tooth then you absolutely have to put this place on your list. Serving up some of the most amazing cakes, pancakes and milkshakes, Home Sweet Home is the Northern Quarter’s take on an American diner. Sam and I both enjoyed a 5 dollar shake (it was worth every single calorie) and we also salivated over the delicious looking breakfasts that our table neighbours were eating – we’ll definitely be back for grub soon.
Another recommendation that isn’t technically in the Northern Quarter, but is close enough that you won’t really notice! You might have heard me banging on about the Leeds branch of Bundobust before – they serve up incredible vegetarian Indian street food and a plentiful array of craft beers. I think I actually prefer the Manchester restaurant to Leeds – it’s much more spacious and the food is just as tasty!
If you’re after a great cocktail somewhere trendy and hip, then this is the place for you. The interiors are super cool (think industrial chic) and the bartenders know how to make a mean drink – my espresso martini was one of the best I’ve ever had!
This New York style bar has always got a lively atmosphere, whether you’re there for after work drinks or a big night out. It’s a big space located in the heart of the Northern Quarter, and they also have pool tables too if that’s your thing.
This is one of mine and Sam’s favourite bars in Manchester and we always head there whenever we’re in the city. This place is always buzzing, with punters often spilling out onto the street. If all that beer makes you peckish then be sure to order some of their beef brisket – it’s divine.
This little place on the outside of the Northern Quarter could be easy to miss, but if you’re a beer fan then that would be a travesty! Port Street Beer House have an epic selection and you’ll always come across something pretty rare in here – it’s a craft beer haven.
If you’re looking for the most instagrammable coffee shop in the city, Foundation is it. Think high, lofty ceilings, white herringbone subway tiles and gorgeous minimalist furniture. The coffee is pretty great too!
Popular with the locals and the freelancers who you’ll find perched at the tables with their MacBooks, Takk is the best spot to find a really great artisan coffee. Hanging out here makes me want to quit my job, move to Manchester and blog from this spot all day!
Okay, so this place was basically all of the things I love under one roof. Think beautiful stationery, witty greeting cards, beautiful homewares and so much more! Let’s just say that despite being on a spending ban, it was impossible to leave empty handed…
When I was a teenager who thought she was oh so quirky, Affleck’s Palace was the place I used to head. It’s an indoor market based in the Northern Quarter and is teeming with all sorts of interesting stalls and shops – from vintage clothes to vinyls, it’s always worth a root around here.
Another Northern Quarter staple is the wonderful Fred Aldous, which is basically 3 floors of arts and crafts goodness! If you’re even mildly creative then you’ll go nuts for this place, and if not, it’s still worth a visit for their epic stationery collection and their black and white photo booths.
So there you have it – my guide to Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Have you visited any of these places before?
*Our accommodation was paid for by Travelodge, but all opinions, enthusiasm and recommendations are my own!