There’s not much to do in Manchester. Or so I was told at my hotel. And by the tourism board. According to the hotel, there was absolutely nothing to do but shop and go to bars. According to the tourism board website, the top five things to do in Manchester included going to the airport. I wasn’t sure how I was going to occupy my time.

Manchester cityscape with ferris wheel in England

When I wasn’t eating, that is. I traveled to Manchester by train on Saturday evening after spending the day in its rival city, Liverpool. My hotel, the Malmaison, was conveniently located just down the street from the station. I met a friend there and we had a glass of Champagne in the hotel’s brand new lobby bar before having dinner at the new restaurant, Smoak.

Blackened figs Smoak restaurant in Manchester England

We spent several hours enjoying blackened figs, crab cakes, tuna steaks, and baked Alaska with a great bottle of Domaine Nicolas Rossignol “Santenots” Volnay Premier Cru 2006 as the restaurant buzzed with energy and the open kitchen was kept busy with a constant stream of orders.

Crab cake at Smoak restaurant in Manchester England

After the meal we were invited to have cocktails at the hotel’s new Ember Lounge Prive, a reservations-only bijou bar where our bespoke cocktails were made according to our tastes.

Cocktail at Ember Lounge Prive in Manchester England

Back up in our room, which the hotel had kindly offered on a complimentary basis along with dinner and breakfast, we slept soundly. The room was spacious and decorated in nice soothing grays, and the bathroom was a good size with a range of amenities.

Room at Malmaison Manchester in the UK

We woke up the next morning to a rainy day outside. Undeterred, we made our rounds at the extensive breakfast buffet, ordered plates of eggs Benedict, and waited for the sky to clear.

Breakfast at Malmaison Manchester Smoak restaurant in England

While we were waiting, we took a quick tour of the hotel. We saw the five conference rooms, the calm subterranean spa, and the small fitness room. By the time we had made our way back up to the ground floor the rain had stopped.

Spa at the Manchester Malmaison hotel in the UK

We got a map from the manager, who insisted that there was nothing to do in Manchester even as she pointed out places like Chinatown and the quarter with all of the museums and galleries, and headed out to see if we could prove her wrong.

Manchester city street with contemporary architecture

And we did. After a quick stop in Chinatown, we stumbled upon the Manchester Art Gallery.

Chinatown in Manchester England

We spent an hour exploring the museum, which had exhibitions about the city’s history that reminded me of the new Museum of Liverpool and the M Shed museum in Bristol, as well as 18th to 20th century painting galleries upstairs. While small, the collection had some impressive works and we were glad to have come across it.

Manchester Art Gallery in England

Back outside, we met up with Mark Garner, the brains behind Manchester Confidential, for lunch. He took us to a riverfront pub in Salford called the Mark Addy. The chef there was a big admirer of Fergus Henderson’s St. John restaurant in London, which offers “nose to tail” dining using all parts of the animal.

Soup at the Mark Addy pub in Salford England

As such, the menu was rife with everything from wood pigeon to offal. First we were treated to unique local specialties like pickled tripe, spam fritters, fried sand eels, and bone marrow. The first three were new flavors for me, although I had tasted tripe soup in Romania as a kid. The last wasn’t, and it was my favorite of the four.

Dessert at the Mark Addy in Salford England

The small bites were followed by everything from shrimp soup to lamb and cheesecake. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch with some more good Burgundy and then made our way back into Manchester to continue finding sightseeing opportunities.

Manchester library in the UK

We walked along Market Street, the large shopping thoroughfare that was sadly looted two days later in the Manchester riots, and made our way to Piccadilly Gardens, where local restaurants were selling picnic baskets and other goodies for people to try.

Manchester Picnic in Piccadilly Gardens in England

We bought some food for the train ride home, then walked over to the pretty city hall building, the historic cathedral, and a market in St Ann’s Square. After perusing the goods for sale, we made our way back to the Malmaison to pick up our bags and hop on our train to travel back to London.

Historic architecture in Manchester England

We left Manchester having found plenty keep us busy. I was happy that we were able to prove wrong those that claimed that there was nothing to do, and glad that we enjoyed our Manchester hotel, restaurant, and sightseeing experiences.

12 Comments on Lady in Manchester

  1. I visited Manchester very briefly when I was living in London and I find there’s ALWAYS something to do wherever you are in the UK. Such a nice narrative and foodie photos!

  2. I’ve been to Manchester a million times, but I’ve never seen Chinatown or the Art Gallery – I always go with family either out to a bar or on a shopping trip, just as you were told. I’ll have to check out those new spots next time.

    • Emily – Yeah, there are a lot of great parts of Manchester that seem to get overlooked. The art gallery is definitely worth a visit!

  3. Thank You to Lady in MnachesterI think whoever said there is nothing much to do in Manchester must be from Planet Zog..The John Rylands Library houses the oldest books in the world and the first English translated bible and has a rather fabulous restaraunt..There is also Castlefield where the Roman Ruins are and the fabulous network of canals with some of the best restaraunts in the North West Of England plus the amazing Museum of Science and Industry and the Space museum, both which are free to enter and needs 2 days to see eveything

  4. Hello,
    Manchester is very nice city to spend your vacation. It is full of joy and there are lots of things to do. For stay there are lots of good hotels which provide great service and offers to their customers.

  5. Please tell me next time you are in Manchester. Whilst there is a lot to eat and drink there is also lots of amazing architecture to see. I’ll swap you a sightseeing tour for some photography tips 😉

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