The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own*
Do you want to see the best of the city in a day? Then this is the ultimate guide for you. I’ve pulled together, what I believe as a local, is the best, most jam packed, itinerary for one day in Manchester.
First things first, make sure to find accommodation. There’s great serviced apartments in Manchester. City centre is always useful but depending on your budget you might find Salford nicer on your bank account. Manchester is dead easy to get to and only a few hours from most cities in the UK. Once you’re here, there is a fantastic public transport system, including trams and a free city centre bus – it’s fully connected.
This guide reflects how vibrant and diverse the city is with cultural places to see, tasty places to eat and fun things to do. Make sure you get a good nights rest, don your most comfortable shoes and have your water bottle to hand. Ready?
Let’s start the day with a historic wander…
Explore Manchester Cathedral
Sitting pretty at the end of Deansgate and nestled between the hustle and bustle of the city, you will find Manchester Cathedral. You might be fooled into thinking it’s a relatively new build but in fact it dates all the way back to 700AD. The outside is in top condition thanks to multiple renovations and the inside is utterly stunning. The central organ practically glistens. Hosting special events from gigs to gin festivals – it’s the coolest Cathedral around. The door is very much open for all to enter and enjoy. LEARN MORE HERE.
Be wowed by John Rylands
Further down Deansgate you will stumble across John Rylands Library – a Victorian gem and ‘must see’ for those visiting Manchester in just one day. The Grade 1 listed, Gothic building is something truly special. Head up the modern staircase to floor one, turn left and enter a whole new world. Wander the stone passages, peruse the rare collection of books and be wowed by the exquisite Historic Reading Room – where you might feel like you’re on the set of Harry Potter. It’s free to enter and they offer weekly tours. LEARN MORE HERE.
Brunch at Federal
At this point you might have worked up an appetite, so carry along Deansgate and grab some brunch at Federal. The most talked about cafe in Manchester, and for good reason. With its wooden decor, denim donning staff and industrial brick wall, this is a bloggers delight. They source ingredients from independent local traders and pride themselves on making the best coffee. Expect a wait though, especially on weekends. LEARN MORE HERE.
Stroll around Castlefield
You’re all fed and warmed up, so let’s get back outdoors to meander Castlefield – the UK’s first conserved area that’s become a relaxed neighbourhood. You’ll find a network of canals with picture perfect boats, tree lined paths, wonderful wildlife and friendly waterside pubs and bars. Make sure to check out the Mamucium, a Roman Fort with parts reconstructed. You can probably tell, that’s where the city got it’s name from!
Views for days at Cloud 23
It’s become a habit to find a birds eye view in any place I visit. There’s something incredible about a view from above – it gives you a totally new perspective. Cloud 23 offers the best cityscape of Manchester. Enter the Hilton Hotel, take the lift to the 23rd floor and bask in the beauty of the evolving city thanks to the buildings unique position and floor to ceiling windows. You should be able to walk in and snap away, or take a seat and have a coffee, cake or tipple. It’s very la-di-da. LEARN MORE HERE.
You can also head to 20 stories only a couple of street away for another bar with skyscraper views.
Learn at Manchester Museum
You can’t spend one day in Manchester without visiting Manchester Museum. It’s a fantastic place to see amazing objects, including one million preserved animals. Take a selfie with local celebrity, Stan the Dino, and visit The Vivarium, where you can see engendered amphibians as part of a breeding programme. I particularly appreciate their work in educating visitors on living a greener life. The site is undergoing a renovation but are still open for business and free as usual. LEARN MORE HERE.
Chill at HATCH
Hatch is officially the hippest place to chill in Manchester and kind of undiscovered at the moment. Just down from the Museum, it’s a place to eat, drink and shop with independent traders. The coolest bit? Businesses are housed in shipping containers that are stacked upon one another with a communal space in the middle. We stopped off for a cheeky cocktail! I went for the Gin Rhubarb Triangle to honour my Yorkshire days. LEARN MORE HERE.
Wander the Northern Quarter
Walk across to the Northern Quarter – a trendy, hipster neighbourhood that is always worth a browse for anyone spending one day in Manchester. Along the narrow streets, find vintage buys, cute cafes (including a cat one) and some of the best graffiti artwork there is. One of my favourite eclectic shops is Oklahoma and find hand made jewellery or join a craft workshop at Manchester Craft and Design Centre. If you head inside the grungy maze that is Afflecks, you’ll find Gingers Comfort Emporium – an award winning ice cream shop on the first floor. Yummy!
Play at NQ64
This is a proper retro addition to the Northern Quarter. Play arcade games all with a drink in hand. It’s an underground neon explosion, with booming music, classic consoles and a buzzing energy. Get 15 old school tokens for £5 at the bar, slip it into a slot of your choice and get your game on. I had so much fun on the dance mat, pinball machine and a shooting game. A big kids paradise. LEARN MORE HERE.
Eat at PLY
Once your hunger strikes, head to PLY for tasty sourdough pizza straight from a mirror tiled, woodfired oven. Glitszy. It’s a down to earth bar with DJ sets and classic cocktails, which appreciates culture thanks to its small art exhibitions and book exchange. Sit back, relax and dine. LEARN MORE HERE.
Let loose at Junkyard Golf
To end your night, or start it again… Get freaky at the craziest, alcohol fuelled mini golf experience for adults only – Junkyard Golf! It was born in Manchester didn’t you know! It has three, 9-hole courses – clowns, scrap yard and jungle – for only £9.50 each. The cocktails to accompany are sweet explosions, the music will have you bopping and the golf is wonderfully wacky. It’s the shiz! Make sure you pre-book and have ID! LEARN MORE HERE.
Phew! So that’s the best way to spend one day in Manchester. You’ve made it through the ultimate guide to exploring the city from top to toe. For those who enjoy a slower pace, you could easily turn this itinerary into a weekend shindig.
From the cities industrial heritage and cool regenerated areas to its cultural institutions and commercial experiences, Manchester really does have it all.
Enjoy a city guide? Here’s more you might want to check out:
Let me know if you’re planning on visiting and whether any of these suggestions make it onto your list!