After spending two full days exploring Manchester, one Go Away editor decided it is one of her favourite cities in the world.
When I told my friends that my boyfriend and I would be spending a few days in Manchester in the middle of our London trip, most of them looked at us quizzically and asked, “But, why?”
To their defence, I kinda shared the same sentiment when I was still doing some pre-holiday research. Even though Manchester is often referred to as the UK’s second city, it seemed … boring. Apart from the two famous football clubs (though, technically, the home of Manchester United F.C. is in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester), other “must-do’s” I gathered from the Internet are pretty much museums, art galleries, and even more museums and art galleries. I imagined they would appeal to the artsy, cultured type. In other words, not me.
But since we had already booked our train tickets to Manchester, we might as well try to make the best of our time there. As it turned out, we didn’t even need to try. Why? Because of these:
1. The pace of life is perfect
Given I’d just spent five days in London prior to Manchester, the pace here was distinctly and refreshingly slower. Don’t get me wrong; I love London but, damn, Londoners must have started brisk-walking since they were toddlers – and I thought I walk fast! Plus, even the busier streets in Manchester are less crowded, which means we could explore the city at a leisurely pace without accidentally crashing into someone every three seconds.
2. It is home to the world’s largest Primark storeI repeat: It is home to the world’s largest Primark store. And in case you haven’t been introduced to the shining, shimmering, splendid world that is Primark, it is essentially an Irish clothing retailer operating in major cities across Europe as well as the US. The store stocks mainly clothes, but it also offers other products like footwear, accessories, and homeware. The best thing about Primark, next to its crazy-wide range of trendy products, is how astonishingly affordable everything is. For instance, a casual stretch singlet costs just SGD5, and a pack of five (very comfy) panties, SGD7.50! Anyway, the Primark store located on Market Street in Manchester occupies 155, 000 sq ft across three floors (that’s nearly two and a half times the area of The White House!), making it – because this deserves reiterating – the world’s largest. Seriously, the only reason my boyfriend and I didn’t wipe out half the store was luggage space constraints.
3. Manchester MetrolinkThe Manchester Metrolink is the largest tram network in the UK, consisting of seven different lines with 93 stops in total. What made the Metrolink a highlight for us is that the tram lines run through public streets – and coming from Singapore, seeing the trams whiz past you at the busy city centre was an exhilarating experience in itself!
4. Marvel at the John Rylands Library
This library, which opened to the public since 1900, is regularly featured as one of the most recommended places to visit in Manchester – and it sure is. Filled with dark corridors, spiral stairways and stained glass windows, John Rylands Library is the epitome of fine Victorian Gothic architecture. Even my boyfriend, who at first scoffed at the idea of checking out a library, was thoroughly awestruck. It is also home to more than 250, 000 historic books and and a million manuscripts and archival items, including illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages!
5. You can traipse all over the city of Manchester in half a day
After checking out John Rylands Library, my boyfriend and I decided to walk to the Manchester Museum (located at the University of Manchester) since, according to Google Maps, it shouldn’t take us more than 22 minutes on foot. Except we got distracted by a myriad of interesting sights and buildings, we ended up walking for an hour! After visiting the museum (which, by the way, is the largest university museum in the UK and contains 4.5 million items of archaeology, anthropology, and natural history), we used a different, shorter route to go back to the city. And because we are both rather geographically challenged, we got terribly lost and took close to 90 minutes to arrive at the city centre when it should have been only 17 minutes. But hey, a different route means a different scenery, and we stumbled across even more amazing architecture and sights, including a 222-year-old Catholic church aptly named The Hidden Gem as well as the picturesque Canal Street that’s lined with gay bars and restaurants.
6. You’ll better appreciate The Beautiful Game
Mention “Manchester”, and the first thing to comes to mind is probably the two famous football clubs – Manchester City and Manchester United. To any hardcore football fan who is ABU (Anything But United), it would be almost criminal to step into Old Trafford, much less pay for a stadium tour! But my boyfriend – a longtime Chelsea supporter – and I thought, how often do we get to be in Manchester? So, yes, we did the stadium tour and checked out the museum, and had a great time learning about the club! Football fans will also have a ball of a time at the relatively new National Football Museum, which houses four floors of football memorabilia and interactive activities.
7. Get your fill of Asian cuisine in Chinatown
The third largest Chinatown in the whole of Europe, Chinatown in Manchester offers plenty of Asian dining options – from Cantonese to Japanese and even Thai – that will leave you spoilt for choice! And since we were there during the Chinese New Year period, the bustling festive atmosphere made our visit even more special for us.
If you’ve never considered Manchester as a travel destination, I hope this post will change your mind! I’m positive there are many other interesting places and sights to check out in the city, but alas we only had two full days there. Until next time, Manchester!