Maybe I’m rather biased, but as a Mancunian, I believe that Manchester is an unmissable spot in the UK. You’ll probably discover during your time at Bangor that a lot of us are from Manchester (hello there, fellow Mancunians!) – because for us, Bangor is in the perfect location only a direct train from home! The nearest big city to Bangor, whether you’re British or international, it’s certainly somewhere worth making a journey to, especially at this time of year!
By the age of twenty, my feet are molded to the shape of Mancunian stone and concrete walkways. Of course, like any other city Manchester has the usual high street shops and scent of pollution, but beyond the surface, in between the gothic buildings and layers of history that Manchester holds, you’ll really find something quite beautiful.
Speaking of history, if nothing that follows sounds like your cup of tea, then at least go to Manchester for the glorious buckets of history the city boasts!
Getting There: As I’ve already said, getting to Manchester is rather simple. A direct train with TrawsCymru/Transport for Wales, if booked in advance, can cost as little as £10! For this, your best bet is to check out the Transport for Wales and Trainline websites, both of which, when done with time to spare, can save you a heck of a lot of money. On top of this, you can also save a third off tickets through the 16-25 Railcard, so more money to spend on essentials! Alternatively, if you miss the direct train, there are also options to change at Llandudno Junction, Chester, and Crewe for trains into Manchester Picadilly, and Manchester Oxford Road.
Where to Visit:
If you hadn’t already gathered from my enthusiasm, Manchester is a vibrant, chaotic city, filled with innovation, arts, and rich political history. Having been at the epicentre of the industrial revolution, the birthplace of the suffragette movement, and the location of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, museums are far from mediocre. If you too love wandering through history, and have a thirst for knowledge, why not check out The People’s History Museum? This is the national museum of democracy, tucked away from the bustle of the rest of the city, and covers a huge breadth of political issues from the past 200 years. If you’re looking to make a statement with some tourist-y gifts too, this is also the place to be. Likewise, other museums include Manchester Museum, Manchester Art Gallery, and the Museum of Science and Industry. The former is a little trek down Oxford Road, but these museums are at the forefront of research, discovery, and creativity, so don’t leave without a visit!
As already mentioned, if you’re a scientist Manchester is steeped in discoveries and blue plaques dedicated to celebrating Mancunians in STEM. Namely, where Ernest Rutherford split the atom, and where Alan Turing lived out his final years. In the case of the tragic death of Turing, for those who are interested, why not take a leafy stroll through Canal Street (Manchester’s Gay Village) to his Pride Statue?
No visit is a visit to Manchester without a trip to the Northern Quarter. No, it’s not exactly aesthetically nice all over, but the hidden gems are worth every ounce of exhaustion, with explosive slices of graffiti and art around every corner. This is primarily known for being the part of Manchester that goes against the grain, and is bursting with creative shops, artist studios and the infamous Afflecks Palace – home to all your piercing, tattoo, and Mancunian merchandise needs.
Finally for the book lovers like myself. The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library is their equivalent to the Shankland Reading Room here in Bangor. If you love old texts, the scent of books, and gothic architecture, then get ready to arrive at Hogwarts! Likewise, Central Library and the Portico Library are also wondrous places, with books from every period to another place to get great coffee. If you fancy taking a break from the bustle of the city to read another page of your book, these are the places to go.
Where to Eat:
Pot Kettle Black in St. Anne’s Square is the perfect place to refill on some strong coffee, as is Fig and Sparrow on Oldham Street, having a rustic, industrial atmosphere and a delightful collection of drinks. If cake’s your thing, then you must try Sugar Junction. This café specialises and sells cake and cake alone, and whilst you’ll leave on your return journey feeling a little queasy, every inch is a punch of sugared wonder.
Meanwhile, if you’re wanting something a little more filling, take a look into The Blue Pig, a cosy restaurant right off Market Street with Churros y Chocolate that quite possibly have been sent down from the gods. You’re welcome.
Tips and Tricks:
As a native, unlike in another other Walkabout section, I do have some tips to make the most of your visit to Manchester:
- The free buses around the city are your friend. Tired? Running late? A little lost? They’re FREE! Not every city affords you that now, do they?
- If you don’t like crowds avoid Market Street at all costs. It is the same run-of-the-mill high street stores you’ll find in any British city. Manchester has so much more to offer than a trip to Urban Outfitters. Learn something new, see something new, don’t just buy something you can buy anywhere else!
- CityMapper is a fantastic app if you want some guidance in navigating the city. As I mentioned in our September issue, this is the most thorough travel app known to man and frankly Google Maps can eat its heart out. From quickest routes to where the nearest cash machine is, Manchester is one of their latest additions to the app and it’s extremely accurate. It’s free, but absolutely worth a few GB on your phone!