Although I had visited England before (on those dreary family holidays to Cornwall or Blackpool), I didn’t actually know much about the country until I moved down to Manchester to study at university. It was then that my eyes were truly opened to the great divide between Scotland and England.
First of all, I was the only Scottish student at the entire university and people were quick to question if I had a British or a Scottish passport, seemingly oblivious to the fact Scotland is part of Britain. I remember getting rather annoyed when, during a linguistics lecture on the difference between dialect and accent, the lecturer constantly drew comparisons between a typical Manchester accent and “the Scottish accent”. I was quick to point out that there are several different accents across Scotland, and none are worse than those found across England.
But the purpose of this blog is not to gripe about English intolerances but instead to give you reasons to visit Manchester. All things considered, it is a great place to live. Aside from the shopping – with the Arndale and Trafford Centres – there are so many restaurants, bars, clubs and galleries. One place I wish I had visited more is the Northern Quarter which is full of expensive cocktail and jazz bars, chic restaurants and music venues. Renowned for it alternative and bohemian scene, the Northern Quarter is also home to Affleck’s Palace, a multi-storey former department store selling alternative clothing and knick-knacks. Speaking of alternative, one of my favourite bars in Manchester is Fab Café, a cult movie and TV themed bar complete with a Dr Who Tardis and Dalek. Drinks can be expensive, but it is a great place to escape the mainstream.
Another favourite of mine is Manchester’s Chinatown, situated just behind Picadilly Gardens. Granted, some of the restaurants aren’t too great, but you can find good all you can eat £5 buffets here. My friends and I used to cheat, though, and have sushi at the Wasabai Japanese noodle bar just off the main square. (They do amazing cheap crêpes here and other desserts!).
It is also worthwhile visiting Salford Quays, easily accessed by tram from the city centre. Here you will find the ITV studios (home to the new Coronation Street set) and some BBC studios, as well as Old Trafford Football Stadium and the Lowry art gallery and theatre. However, one of Manchester’s (and indeed the UK’s) biggest attractions is the Christmas Market. Each year, stalls are set up on Albert Square and St Ann’s Square and along King Street, Exchange Street and Market Street (to name a few) from early November right up until around 21st December, offering international food and drinks and Christmas gifts.
Manchester also has a vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars and clubs ranging from the rather exclusive and elite to the student-friendly as well as the famous Canal Street Gay Village. One of my favourite places to go before heading to a club was Font, just underneath Oxford Street Station, a small but very, very cheap cocktail bar offering £2 cocktails even on weekends! If you are looking for more exquisite cocktails, The Alchemist Bar is the place to go, who describe themselves as “pushing the boundaries of the Manchester drinking experience“.