Manchester, England Travel Guide

Well, I didn’t exactly hold back about my feelings towards Manchester. I kind of think that Manchester sucks; well, at least as a tourism destination. That being said, I would never tell anyone not to go somewhere. I think everyone should grasp their own ideas and feelings of a place and not be dissuaded by the opinions of other. However, as someone who isn’t really into museums on industrial history and doesn’t go crazy over Manchester United, I probably could have been completely satisfied spending just a couple days here rather than the four I stayed. Like I said, though, if you’re the type of person who gets a little bit turned out by the industrial revolution than this might be heaven for you. Don’t let me turn you away.

Time Needed: 2-3 days Backpacker’s Budget: 40-55 Pounds

England picture

Things to do in Manchester

I tried my best in Manchester, I really did.  It’s just that the things to do didn’t turn my crank.  If you’re either an industrial revolution buff or a shop-a-holic, you’re likely going to fall in love with Manchester.  Otherwise, I hope you like pub nights and football.

    • Museums: Granted I was there on the weekend, the museums were packed with small children which made it a little bit harder to enjoy.  I stopped in at the Museum of Science and Industry which is quite interesting actually.  Although I never made it in, a couple people staying at the hostel enjoyed the Whitworth Art Gallery as well.
    • Sights and Architecture: City Hall is probably the biggest attraction, however when I was there it was taken over by St. Patrick’s Day celebrations tainting its spirit. The John Rylands Library was a pretty pleasant surprise in terms of architecture and worth a look through.  If you’re a football fan, you’ll also have to make a stop at Old Trafford.  A wander through Chinatown is also worth your time.  There is a lot of history here, but you’ll have to dig a bit to find it.
  • Imperial War Museum: I’ve given this a separate category since it’s not exactly in Manchester.  Get directions from the hostel though because this should be your priority visit in the Manchester area.  It’s an amazing museum and if you’re a photographer you’ll be rewarded with some great shots.  I do, however, recommend that you try to come here on a weekday.

Eating and Drinking on the Cheap in Manchester

On a backpacker’s budget you’re not likely going to be eating at the up class restaurants in town, so I’ll instead tell you how I went about eating and drinking in town.

  • Fish and Chips: I found a place called Harry Ramsdens near the Museum of Science and Industry, and I loved it.  Great fish and chips and a decent price.
  • Kebab: I love Kebabs, so I went to a place I found in the center called Al Qudf on two occasions.
  • Pizza: I had a massive craving for pizza so I googled the best pizza in Manchester and I was taken to a place called Croma.  It was actually very good.  I also had pizza after a pub crawl on a Saturday night, but if you think I remember where that was you greatly underestimate the pub/club scene of Manchester
Speaking of the pub/club scene in Manchester, I had one really good night out in town.  Manchester really knows how to party.  Through the Hatters Hostel, the pub crawl started at about 10pm and the group of about 15 of us took the city by storm.  It worked out to be a very good deal, as we were taken to all the best places and given amazing drink specials including 2 for 1 pound shots at one club.

Where to Stay in Manchester

While in Manchester I stayed at the Hatters Hostel.  Check out my review of Hatters Manchester.  I thought it was alright, but did have some issues with a couple things at the hostel, namely the fact that you have to pay for wifi.  However, it’s a busy hostel and a very easy place to meet people.  To check out all the hostel options in Manchester visit

Getting out of Town

Manchester is connected by both train and bus.  As is the case everywhere in the UK, it is always cheaper to that the bus than the train.  However, the bus will likely take you much longer.  If you’re going to a nearby destination like Liverpool, take the bus.  However, if you’re heading somewhere farther away like London or Edinburgh you might want to consider buying a train ticket a week in advance to save some money and time.

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  1. It’s so odd to read this, or even to think of Manchester as somewhere on a tourist/traveler route. I was at college there in the late 60s and hated it, worked there in the late 70s and liked it, but going through there now and then on my way to visit the north of England I’ve found it consistently drab and soulless. This is possibly a sign of my own age, I admit. I haven’t yet been to IWM North (though the one in London is terrific so thoroughly want to!), but it looks to be worth seeing for the architecture alone. Its history does interest me, afterall, it’s a part of my own heritage, but not enough to want to stay there I guess. The last time I actually put down my head on a pillow in Manchester was when I went to see Eric Clapton in concert, and I found the audience dull and so the concert lacked the rapport necessary for a great memory, and I blamed the city, for me it’s never had heart the way other English cities do. As someone who knows the place (but less well in recent years) I’d go along with all you say.

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  2. Was at university there 1997 – 2001 and loved it, though it isn’t the easiest city for a newcomer to get a feel for. Haven’t been in ages, but Oldham Street was always a good bet for a night out: Night & Day and Dry Bar in particular, if they’re still there. N&D always good for a mix of artsy stuff and live local music, without being up its own backside. Trick was always to find the places in between the crappy student-focused drinking nights (Mcr has a huge student population for a city of its size) and the soulless style bars from the ‘regeneration’ projects in the 90s. I remember the local listings mag City Life being consistently great, so probably worth picking one up if you’re dropping in for a few days.

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    • @Nathan – I think Manchester is probably one of those places that you enjoy living during Uni. It has a good nightlife and a fun pub scene. But I think the average tourist doesn’t get the chance to dive into that as much. Solo travellers especially probably find Manchester a bit dry.

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