Choosing to study at University of Manchester meant that I lived in Manchester throughout my time at University, which was three years. This pleased my Dad’s side of the family as they are all from Cheshire. Whilst I was there, I quickly fell in love with the city and wanted to explore the place well, bringing out the Dora the Explorer in me. I became so passionate about telling other people where else they could go to rather than their regular haunts (spending every night in the Students Union whilst we were in one of the best cities in the UK seemed shameful) so I made a TV show about it for students at my Uni.
Manchester for me is a cheaper and smaller version of London, making it much more manageable. It has everything London has, Soho with Canal Street, Shoreditch and Camden for Northern Quarter, Bond Street with Spinning Fields and Deansgate, China Town with China Town, Brick Lane with Curry Mile, Oxford Street with Piccadilly and Westfield shopping centre with Trafford Centre. With London, it takes a while to know an area, whilst here you can get to know an entire city pretty quickly. Although having a large amount of universities in the city; the city is not swarmed with students- which you think it would be, creating it to be claustrophobic. But rather, it has a balance of students, school kids and young creative professionals.
Being a student I lived in Fallowfield, where many other students laid their head, meaning the entire place is filled with chicken shops, late licence booze shops and cheap bars. The streets are lined with sick, beer cans and used condoms (yes I have seen this more than once). House parties are a regular occurrence and are filled with basements and DJs who play house on repeat, twinkly lights, a hotbox room (where many people do not move from the entirety of the night) and the occasional bouncer. I went to a number of parties there, some friends and some complete strangers (who leaves a front door open?!). Needless to say, the parties there were increasingly wild- I’ve been to one where there were 400 people there and another when a floor fell through, so just remember to be wary! Although fun for a student, anyone else should avoid like the plague. Many young professionals prefer to live in Withington or more popular, Didsbury, which is a bit further along the bus from the city centre (40 mins roughly) or you can travel by tram. Here there are plenty of edgy vegetarian cafes and nice wine bars. In Withington make sure you check out the Red Lion pub and Fuel Café, whilst in Didsbury you must try Aladdins for fantastic Lebanese food, The Violet Hour for cocktails, The Metropolitan for a pint and Crazy Wendy’s for Thai food and oddly a sing along as well, depending what day of the week you dine there.
In between Oxford Road and Fallowfield is Rusholme. A street lined with curry houses, shisha parlours and gold shops that will allow the Manchester wanderer to feel as if been whisked away to an Arabian country with the lingering smells of paprika and incense. Growing up in the Middle East, this street actually made me feel a bit homesick, but I was happy there was a street that reminded me of my home town. When being a student here, we were easily lured into various curry shops because of the cheap deals the managers threw at us. However, ignore these deals and head to Shere Khan or Mughli, which are both excellent curry houses- all final years finally learnt. A great venue just off the Curry Mile is Antwerp Mansion. It used to be a Belgian embassy (hence the name) and now has been converted to a music and arts space, with photography classes in the day and a variety of artists and music genres performing at night. It’s like partying at a house party but no one is worried about breaking anything, and there are bouncers to get rid of the fools!
Getting closer to the city centre and where the campus of both Man Met and Man Uni, is a great bar that is hidden away next to the Manchester Academy called Big Hands. With its scruffy yet comfortable interior adorned with ticket stumps and band posters, many artists pop here for a quiet drink after they have performed, and by chance I saw the lead singer of the band Elbow once here having a pint. This place also has a sister bar further along the Oxford Road called Temple Bar, which used to be a Victorian toilet (and is now full of odd but strong European lagers). Two great venues on Oxford Road are Sound Control and Deaf Institute whom not also host club nights, but have a number of artists play from all genres.
Reaching the city centre of Manchester, for all those who expect a beautiful sight similar in Paris or London, there is little except a bare patch of grass and grey buildings. Manchester is not snobby and loud with its grandeur, but rather is a city hidden with beautiful gems for those who want to find them, which you easily can. It makes finding these historic buildings; like St. Anne’s Cathedral, the John Ryland’s Library and hidden havens such as Sinclars Oyster Bar (A pub that sells its own cider, lager and stout and is the cheapest I have been to in Manchester) so much more of an achievement. Apart from the obvious Market Street full of your usual shops, I would recommend popping to The Alchemist which is behind the main bus stop, where you can grab a cocktail which seems as if made from a chemistry kit. Nearby is Fab Café, an underground bar which is every nerds dream filled with Pac man machines which have been off sale for years- and still so much fun. Opposite Fab Café is China Town, which in Manchester, is filled with Karaoke bars and buffet restaurants that slap a time limit on your eating habits, so be careful when choosing where to dine! If you fancy Tapas and are near the beautiful St Anne Square, make sure you head to Sandinista which although isn’t the high quality food like Evuna, but it is great value for money and has a fantastic ambience.
The two places I spent little time at were Deansgate and Canal Street, mainly because I fell in love with Northern Quarter so much! Deansgate is a great place for young professionals to mingle for drink after work or shop in exclusive and expensive shops. I had the lucky fortune to be taken out to dine in Australasia, a restaurant that has a DJ with an interactive screen and an extensive rum list (which immediately gives me satisfaction) as well as the food being incredible. Normally in high standard restaurants you are given small portions of good quality food, but here it seemed they enjoyed giving you filling portions of tasty food, which was a pleasure to see. Another restaurant which I cannot rave more about is Revolucion de Cuba, a Cuban restaurant with great food, a great vibe and great music. This place is packed from Thursday to Sunday with live music to the early hours in the club below so make sure you book ahead if you plan to visit. I spent my 22nd birthday here because I heard such great things, and I really did have such a fantastic time (as well as them having an extensive rum list). Other places to check out in Deansgate are Mojos, Liars and the AMC cinema (cheapest cinema I have ever been to in the UK). A visit to this area of Manchester would be incomplete if you did not visit the burger joint, Almost Famous. The third best burger I have ever had in the world (1st and 2nd place go to Fergburger and The White Lady in New Zealand), this restaurant serves burgers well with no fancy extras. Meat with layers of meat and dripping cheese are the perfect combination to fight a hangover, and many a time I have had my breakfast here. Make sure you get a portion of fries to share, I doubt you will be able to have a portion to yourself after a burger. Thinking about the sweet brioche bun with the warm juicy meat whilst writing this makes me want to run back there, (over 200 miles away). They don’t take reservations so just turn up and enjoy a pint next to the big gorilla if there’s a wait. They are worth the wait.
Canal Street is a great area for cosy pubs with great tapas and mad nights out with cheap shots (Poptastic is a fav) however I found I was not accepted in many places because I was straight. This led me to venture on to massive clubs such as, Joshua Brooks and Factory, which are both opposite from each other and are always packed with clubbers waiting to queue up and get obliterated. Special nights are Wednesday at Juicy, where they play classic hip hop and R n B (like KISSTORY from the radio station KISS FM) and Thursday at Factory is 99p entry and 99p drinks. Dangerous for all.
Finally this leaves me to share with you my favourite area of all Northern Quarter. Once nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site, this area is filled with classic record shops, greasy diners, vintage shops, and edgy bars and cafes. Here, your uniqueness is welcomed, not judged. Unlike Shoreditch in London, everyone is down to earth and honest, rather than pretentious and rude. For cocktails go to Dusk Til Pawn, which is a renovated Pawn shop turned bar; its small and intimate with crazy combinations for drinks, Hula Tiki a warm Caribbean bar which has the great classic cocktail: zombie, and is always rammed on a Saturday night, and Apotheca, a bar where the staff will make a cocktail fitted for you. For food, try Dough for strange pizza combinations, and Lust Liquor and Burn for massive tortilla wraps. If you are just stopping by for a cake or pot of tea, you must head to Teacup where their cakes are the size of your fist and their range of herbal teas is incredible. For a pint, go to The Castle Hotel– if you are a fan of cider try Old Rosie which is 7 per cent, or Odd bar with their funky décor. My favourite venue in Manchester, Band on The Wall, is also in Northern Quarter, funnily enough, so make sure you check out some live artists here or Night and Day café or Matt and Phreds for some smooth jazz. If it reaches the end of the night and you still crave more, head to Black Dog Ballroom, they close early hours in the morning and they have a number of pool tables for you to play with.
Manchester is famous for their world class clubs: Sankeys and The Warehouse Project. Both clubs host a number of artists that play a whole range of genres. So if you are into your electronic music, I am sure someone you love will be playing at one of these venues. Make sure you grab a ticket for one of these venues and a word of advice: avoid Sankeys during the week on its student nights, the queues and the UV paint ruins it unfortunately!
Now I know I have focused much of this post on drinking, eating and clubbing in Manchester (as I spent a lot of time doing that throughout University) Manchester does have a lot of culture submerged under its red brick veneer. As well as finding many gems in the city, make sure you learn the history of the place by visiting the Manchester Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry and People’s History Museum. Manchester is characterized by a large amount of arts, thus doing an arts degree in this city was extremely worthwhile. For independent films, visit The Cornerhouse, for art, visit the Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art gallery and for theatre, visit: the Three Minute Theatre hidden in the labyrinth of Afflecks Palace (a must see in NQ as there is everything sold here you could ever dream of which reaffirms the original and unusual styles in Manchester) Royal Exchange Theatre, Contact Theatre, Library Theatre, Palace Theatre and The Lowry.
A visit to Manchester would not be complete without visiting one of its stadiums for a match, or tour! Just choose who you support wisely!
Note to Dad: See I did do something’s cultural?! So as this blog draws close to an end, and as it is has become the length of an essay in my second year at University, I would just like to further highlight, if you get the chance, go to the North, specifically Manchester, whilst you are in the UK. You will find slang different, “dead” is tired and “tea” is actually dinner, but share a pint or a pie with a stranger and you will learn something interesting no doubt.