“Manchester is in the south of the north of England. Its spirit has a contrariness in it – a south and north bound up together – at once untamed and unmetropolitan; at the same time, connected and worldly.”
– Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
I’ve made no secret of my love for Manchester. Although it isn’t my home town – I grew up in a tiny market town in Warwickshire that no-one has ever heard of – it’s the city where I feel most at home. I’ve lived in a few places, but Manchester will always be special; it’s the place where I grew from idiotic teenager to idiotic twenty-something.
Manchester is unique.
Yeah, the weather can sometimes be a bit tempestuous (I have lost count of how many umbrellas have been massacred during monsoon season) but that’s a small price to pay for living in such a brilliant, vibrant city. After all, this is the place where the industrial revolution began, the first programmable computer was invented, and the Hacienda (and legendary musicians) was spawned. It gave us Oasis, Elbow, The Smiths and – most importantly – The Stone Roses.
It’s a place where people actually acknowledge each other, somewhere with all the big city attractions – excellent theatres, thriving industry, amazing bars and restaurants – with a far friendlier vibe than our capital.
As I pack all my belongings in preparation for my return north, it got me thinking about all the things I love about the rainy city.
So I’ve decided to start a new series of posts on Emma Is Writing about all the reasons why – although I will cheat and travel the world – Manchester will always have my heart.
First up, here are six reasons why I reckon you’d love Manchester too!
1. Music Legends
If you put your ear to the ground, you can probably hear music surging through Manchester’s cobbled veins. The city is renowned for its rich musical history, and it’s even richer musical present. Offering up artists such as New Order, The Bee Gees, Elbow, Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Take That (to me, possibly the greatest artist of all time) there really is something for everyone.
And if live music is your bag, then look no further. The city is studded with excellent venues such as The Albert Hall, Night & Day, The Deaf Institute, The Ritz, The Academy, The Apollo, hosting great local, national, and international acts.
2. Theatre, Galleries, Culture…Oh My!
London may have the famous West End and some seriously legendry theatres and galleries, but Manchester has talent and culture to boot. The city holds a vibrant history, resulting in a huge treasure trove of museums, galleries and exceptional architecture
Here’s a list of must-sees:
The architecture of Manchester demonstrates a rich variety of architectural styles. As I mentioned before, the city is a product of the Industrial Revolution and is known as the first modern, industrial city. Manchester is famous for its warehouses, railway viaducts, cotton mills and canals. Juxtaposed against modern high rise buildings and green spaces, Manchester makes for excellent scenery.
Check out: Manchester Town Hall, The Midland Hotel, Shambles Square, St Ann’s Church, Chetham’s School and Library, the Bridgewater Canal (Castlefield), Manchester Central Railway Station (now Manchester Central Convention Centre), the John Ryland’s Library and the façade of Victoria Station.
3. Food Glorious Food (And Alcohol, of course)
I am such a fan of going out for dinner; it’s quite possibly one of my favourite ways to while away an evening, especially if it involves a vat of wine. Manchester is home to a whole host of amazing eateries to suit every budget, from high end bistros, to affordable pizzerias, quirky tea rooms and quaint Italians tucked away in suburbs.
One of the best culinary finds from my time spent living in Manchester has to be the delicious, and very reasonably priced, Sindoor – a small southern Indian restaurant located in Burnage, approx. 15 minutes outside of the city centre.
Similarly, there are a whole heap of amazing places to head out for drinks. From bars serving up excellent cocktails and fancy wines, to unique pubs secreted under the streets of Manchester, to local pubs and establishments serving the best beers. Manchester boasts excellent night life.
Check out my favourites:
The Gas Lamp (off Deansgate)
Cask (Liverpool Road)
Which brings me on to my next point…
4. The Northern Quarter
The Northern Quarter has fast become the cornerstone for nightlife in recent years. Twenty years ago, it was a small area of Manchester mainly full of wholesalers and jewellers. Now it’s a vibrant area bustling with cafes, bars, shops and restaurants. Full of pre-war buildings, the streets are often used as locations for films (The Avengers and Sherlock Holmes have both been filmed here – I once walked past an extra in full Sherlock Homes clobber who took one look at me and fake passed-out. I am still not sure what to make of that situation).
The big guns like Affleck’s are still around (but changed over the years – think boutique shops rather than the flea market of old) but new and impressive shops, bars, and restaurants are popping up all the time. There are many fab shops in the Northern Quarter but if vinyl is your particular pleasure, you should spend some time getting lost amongst the shelves in the famous Piccadilly Records.
A favourite venue of mine is Soup Kitchen which combines great food, gigs and club nights. And I’m also partial to cocktail bar Apotheca which does a mean absinth based cocktail and is the ideal bar for a date.
5. Shiny Happy People
The people of Manchester are known for the friendliness. It’s a place where it’s not seen as a huge social faux pas (or a sign or mental illness) if you smile at someone on public transport or talk to people in the line for a club. It’s an open, vivacious, welcoming city and its people are pretty fabulous too.
And a little extra!
Manchester has a thriving and novel (pun totally intended) literary scene. I was lucky enough to spend six years studying at the prestigious Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University where I was taught by – and studied alongside – some truly excellent writers.
From readings (check out bookstores such as Blackwells and Waterstones on Deansgate for both local writers and household names) to live literature nights (Bad Language at The Castle Hotel in the Northern Quarter is a must for lovers of all things literary) and literary festivals (Manchester Literature Festival, Manchester Childrens Book Festival), Manchester has a lot to offer book lovers like me.
Thanks for reading this post and welcome to my new #itsnotgrimupnorth series! Expect photos, tips and tales!
I’d really love to know what you think about the city and my posts.
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