I’ve been dying to see more of the UK (and more of the World, but you have to start somewhere). Manchester was one of the UK cities on my must-visit list. So when Virgin Trains had one of their popular rail sales, and tickets to Manchester were only £20, I couldn’t resist a 24 hour solo trip to the city in the North.
It was my first solo trip. Was I nervous? A little. Did I enjoy it? YES.
Manchester is known for being the birthplace of the industrial revolution and has a proud history in science, politics, music, arts and sport. Today, this buzzing, colourful city, strives to surprise visitors with its many restaurants, bars, museums, galleries and exhibitions, as well as street art. It’s at the centre of a number of market towns, green spaces and canal walkways, and easily reachable – which is why many love it as a place to live.
Being pretty arty, and a huge foodie as you all know from reading my blog, Manchester was the perfect place to start my adventures. Here’s how I spent 24hours up north:
With just over 24 hours to explore, I managed to fit in two brunches.
First up, Evelyn’s Cafe Bar – recommended by Spamella B. Such a cute spot, hidden away on Tib Street, the interior had a contemporary warehouse feel. With green plants filling shelves and hanging from the ceilings, an open kitchen and low-hanging lighting, it’s certainly Instagram friendly.
Food was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. The brunch menu includes a variety of dishes, catering for many dietary requirements, and offering many vegetarian and gluten free options.
The seasoned mushrooms, wilted spinach, poached egg, creme fraiche and sumac on lightly toasted sour dough, was a combination of fantastic flavours and textures. And at only £6.50 it was so reasonably priced. Slyly people watching, those around me appeared to be really enjoying their choices too!
Enjoyed with one of the best beetroot lattes I’ve had, my whole brunch came to just over £10, including service. Great start to my trip.
Service was quick, efficient, and friendly but not rushed. I wasn’t made to feel guilty as I enjoyed a read of my book whilst finishing my latte.
Federal Cafe Bar was my second brunch spot whilst in Manchester. An Australian/New Zealand independent coffee shop serving freshly prepared brunch all day. It’s not far from the main stretch of shops, and located on one of the main roads it’s not hard to find.
Pretty small inside, Federal Cafe Bar gets busy on the weekend! It’s gorgeous inside, with yellow leather booth style seating along the one side, dark walls, hanging artwork, wooden tables and chairs, and hanging pendant lighting. There is also seating outside, for those sunnier days, but it is on a main road, so not the prettiest of views.
The menu features everything you could want from a varied brunch menu, including Turkish eggs, smashed avo and acai bowls. There’s a variety of drinks too, from the regular hot options, to juices, iced coffees and Milo – the much-loved Australian chocolate milk drink.
The poached egg on toasted artisanal sourdough, with tomato salsa was simple yet delicious. The yolk was perfectly runny, the salsa tangy and fresh, and the sourdough held the whole dish together. The Milo reminded me a lot of Nesquik chocolate milkshake, thin and milky – I found out after that Aussies actually put Milo on so much!
Service was pretty quick, but so was table turnover – it didn’t feel as relaxed as Evelyn’s, but it was a fab spot for a quick brunch if you have places to be. At £7.70 for my brunch dish and drink, it’s also really well priced, so you don’t mind the speed of it all.
Manchester is perfect for wandering around. It’s a pretty big city, but small enough to walk everywhere. And there’s plenty to discover.
The Northern Quarter has some fab street art to see, some awesome shops to explore and plenty of food & drink stops. I found a fab tea shop (which I discovered actually have a branch in London too!), a record shop, a quirky Oxfam store, a HUGE art/design store, and more!
I really do recommend just walking and seeing what you find.
There are a number of galleries, exhibitions and tours you can do in Manchester, from the broadcasting company to The Whitworth Gallery and The Museum of Science. So dependent on what you’re interested in, there should be something for you.
I went to discover The John Rylands Library – it’s a late Victorian neo-gothic building, which opened to the public in 1900 and since merged with the University of Manchester library.
The inside of The John Rylands library is absolutely stunning. It’s worth going, just to see that. But they also hold a number of historical scripts, like medieval writings, which are beautiful – and you can’t quite believe they still exist.
There was a fab exhibition on at the time I visited. Unexpected recipes for extraordinary art:the alchemy of colour was so interesting. Giving the historical background to colours, as well as examples of the colours being used in historical texts, I was absorbed whilst taking a journey into the past.
What’s more, it’s free! So it’s great to slot into your day exploring.
Coffee & Cake
There are so many options for coffee and cake, it’s hard to choose. Wandering through the Northern Quarter I found a number of spots I wanted to try, but not enough time.
Just Between Friends Coffee, had only been open for 11days when I visited. A super cute, little spot, in the Northern Quarter, it doubles up as a shop for caffeine related products.
Service, by the owner, was super friendly, and I found a nice little corner to relax with my book for a little while.
The almond flat white was small, bold and deliciously creamy. The coffee strong, rich and not bitter. A beautiful flat white.
I took home a caramel shortbread too, as I just couldn’t resist. It was the perfect ratio of biscuit:caramel:chocolate. And seriously tasty.
It wasn’t the cheapest place for coffee and cake, at nearly£7 for my coffee and caramel slice, but for a cute independent coffee spot, I didn’t mind.
I also managed a quick stop at Pollen Bakery before heading back. Located behind Manchester Piccadilly station, it’s a super small bakery, inside one of the containers under the railway arches.
There are a number of sweet and savoury freshly baked goods. The cinnamon bun, was super sweet and flaky; it went down a treat with Alex. The buckwheat, dark chocolate & hazelnut madeline, a zesty, most sponge dipped in rich dark chocolate and crunchy hazelnut, was divine! I definitely should have bought more than one!
Not too expensive for an artisanal bakery, it’s a great pre-travel stop.
A huge fan of Indian food, I couldn’t visit Manchester and not try Bundobust!
Located in a basement, close to the main stretch, Bundobust serves Gujurat-inspired street food. The inside is bright, colourful and fun, with sharing tables, booths, and low hanging lighting – a bit like a pop-art style factory setting.
The food is served as small dishes, which are perfect for sharing so you can try more. 2-3 is plenty per person, but there’s so much to choose from, including many veggie and vegan options, that the choice is a tough one.
The Okra fries were beautiful. Lightly coated, mildly flavoured they’re a great accompaniment to other dishes on the menu.
The Massala Dosa, mini rice pancakes filled with a cauliflower & potato dry fry, were a different experience. Lightly spicy, they were fragrant and not too heavy. These were served with a thin lentil, aubergine & bottle gourd soup, which was more like a broth. Together it was a delicious dish.
The Paneer Kadai however was my absolute favourite. Paneer cheese cooked in a deep cinnamon, fenugreek, red pepper & tomato sauce, it was incredible, spicy, rich and packed with flavour. Served with a bhatura, a fluffy, deep-fried leavened bread, it was great for mopping up the additional curry, and was really filling.
The drinks menu had plenty of options too, from beer to cocktails and mocktails. The Kachumba Cooler, a refreshing, cucumber flavoured mocktail was the perfect accompaniment to the spicy and bold flavours of the mains.
At just over £25 for 3 dishes and a mocktail, it’s not too bad, and it’s totally worth it! I left full, and really happy -this is one of my fave dinner spots from this year!
Where to stay
There are a number of options for affordable accommodation in Manchester – I was looking at a few on Booking.com; and that’s not even taking into account the properties available on Airbnb. You can get a night stay on a Friday for about £80 which isn’t too bad at all.
I stayed at the Motel One Manchester Royal Exchange which was a fantastic budget stay – more to come so keep an eye out.
- Travel: Simple from London, and many other key UK locations. Keep an eye out for rail sales to get a cheaper offer.
- Food: So much choice! Brunch is the way forward, but you NEED to try Bundobust if you’re into Indian food. So many veggie/vegan choices!
- Coffee: There are some really cute coffee stops in the Northern Quarter. Just Between Friends Coffee is a fab quiet spot, with super friendly service.
- Exhibitions/Things to see: Plenty to see and so many galleries and exhibitions. Have a look on the Visit Manchester website to see if anything takes your fancy before visiting.
- Exploring: There’s so much to discover, especially around the Northern Quarter. The city is big enough, but not too large to explore by foot. It’s the best way to make sure you’re not missing anything.
- Where to stay: There’s plenty of budget accommodation in Manchester so look around. Motel One was a great spot to stay, so close to the centre.
Overall, a fab first solo trip. Definitely won’t be the last as I explore more of the UK (and the World).
Where should I go next?