12 Hidden Gems in Manchester

This week, Manchester is our city of the week!

What does Manchester have that makes it so attractive to visit? Ask the tourists in the city and they will probably say it’s the Old Trafford football stadium, the famous Lowry, their crowded pubs with live music, a cheerful atmosphere and some nice beer, historic architecture and the international festivals attracting thousands of people every year. Nothing wrong with that of course!

But ask our Spotters and they’ll tell you it’s the openness and diversity of the locals who come from all over the world and bring different cultures together, the city’s history and heritage – which are proudly displayed all over town, and its lively restaurant and bar scene that will leave every foodie amazed! Here are our picks for some of our locals’ favorite spots in Manchester.

Get fit… at church?

Parthian Climbing Centre (by @parthianclimbingmcr)

Keeping fit while traveling can be challenging. Fancy discovering a fun, affordable form of exercise in a mind-blowing venue with rentable equipment? Our Spotter Denise knows just the place for you! Manchester Climbing Centre, a short bus ride or walk from central Manchester, is housed in a former church and allows visitors to climb all over its divine interior to their hearts’ content.

There are climbing classes for beginners, while experienced climbers can skip the intro and get straight onto the walls. If you’ve never tried climbing before, or if you’re nervous but intrigued, book yourself in for bouldering (i.e. climbing at a much lower height, no safety equipment needed). For those who don’t fancy getting physical, onlookers can relax in the café,  while soaking up the sun as it streams through the stained-glass windows.

Art in the park

‘Ghost Tree’ – Anya Gallaccio in Whitworth Park (by @thewhitworth)

Whitworth Park, located beside an art gallery of the same name, is a beautiful green area to spend a relaxed afternoon exploring. The park and gallery are a popular space for students from the nearby university, who spend lunchtimes and free periods relaxing in the grass or wandering through the exhibitions (as our own Spotter Lauren often used to). There’s also a great play park with a zip-line, which is always a win!

The biggest draw of the park is the artwork: while the park isn’t technically a part of the gallery, it still plays host to many wonderful pieces that are usually integrated into the natural surroundings. The gallery hosts an extensive and varied collection ranging from historical fine art to contemporary art, providing tantalizing fare for everyone’s tastes.

Ex-toilet turned bar

Temple of Convenience (by Denise Tench)

Every city has a signature bar that personifies its attitude, atmosphere and the personality of its people, and in Manchester that bar is Temple of Convenience. The name is a little wink to the bar’s location: Temple is housed underground, in a former public toilet. Nowadays a popular local drinking hole, it has a great vibe and the best jukebox in town, according to our Spotter Denise.

If you’re experiencing a dark night of the soul during your visit, consult the writing, doodles and nuggets of advice on the Temple’s bathroom walls. Far too genius to be passed off as graffiti, maybe “wisdom-drenched toilet murals” is more fitting. Either way, lots of people have been all kinds of drunk in the Temple’s cubicles and their walls are the fine product of Manchester’s wittiest drinkers.

Hogwarts-like library

John Rylands Library (by @JohnRylandsLibrary)

While this beautiful neo-Gothic building is not the place to pick up the latest bestseller, it’s still a must-visit for any book-lover. The John Rylands Library houses 250,000 printed volumes, and more than a million manuscripts and archival items. It belongs to the University of Manchester and is the third-largest academic library in the country, but you don’t need to be a student to visit.

The highlight of the library has to be the stunning historic reading room with beautiful stained glass windows and intricate ceilings. It’s the perfect place to study or curl up with a new book. On the third Thursday of the month, the library even opens late for live music events and poetry readings, and best of all, it’s completely free!

The fresh art scene

David Hancock – A Still Life Exhibition (by Paper)

Behind a stadium, under a bridge and tucked away around a corner lie Manchester’s most unique and quirky art spaces, galleries PS Mirabel and the thimble-sized Paper. The hunt to find these neighboring gems is completely worthwhile if you’ve grown tired of Manchester’s guidebook-approved art spaces. PS Mirabel and Paper have an edgier feel, cultivating newer, younger waves of artists.

Much of the artwork on display explores a wide range of media, from collage to paint and sculpture. The works are often produced by up-and-coming artists who occupy workshops in the building, so pieces can be one-of-a-kind and quintessentially Manchester. A visit to these innovative but accessible galleries is something you will not forget or regret while in the city – take the time to pop by.

Lovely indie cinema

The Savoy Cinema (by @savoycinemaheatonmoor)

There is just something so appealing about independent cinemas. Perhaps it’s the fact that they are run by people who actually love the art of film itself, and sharing it with others. They take so much care to make sure their auditorium is just the perfect place for you to enjoy a great movie, with no concern for anything else.

Savoy is one such cinema, one that our Spotter Alice absolutely loves. This cinema is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Decorated like an old-style theatre, with its one huge screen being covered by a thick red curtain that is pulled back in time for screenings. Oh, and the red velvety seats, comfier than in any typical commercial cinema.

Alternative market

Makers Market – The Neighbourhood Threat Stall (by @MakersMarket1)

Manchester’s Northern Quarter is known as the hip, trendy, alternative area. You will come across vibrant street art, bohemian bars, indie shops, and design studios at every turn here. It should be no surprise then, that their monthly market is not a typical produce market either, but rather an alternative one.

The Makers Market is the best place to find various creations of Manchester-based artists and designers (according to our Spotter Lauren). If you happen to be in the area when the market is open, you absolutely need to check it out, and perhaps take some unique handmade souvenirs home with you! Also, if you get peckish while wandering through the stalls, you need not fear; there are plenty of food options around, as diverse as Manchester’s culture itself.

Homage to an iconic drink

A Monument to Vimto (by @alexatourguide)

Vimto is a much-loved Manchester-born soft drink. This unique beverage, made up of blackcurrants, raspberries, and grapes, was first concocted by John Noel Nichols on Granby Row in the city center in 1908. An oak monument, carved by environment artist Kerry Morrison, was commissioned in 1992 to pay homage to the purple beverage. It sits on a lawn in Manchester University’s science campus.

While you should definitely try Vimto by itself, you can have it in a cocktail at The Font. Many of their greatest cocktails will set you back no more than £3, a price you won’t find anywhere else in town! And if you are not a fan of cocktails, they also serve some great beer, wines, and non-alcoholic cocktails. Last but not least, they have some great food as well – including vegan and vegetarian options. This magical bar truly represents the essence of Manchester – diversity, inclusion, and Vimto!

Vintage fair for all

Vintage Village (by @VintageVillageUK)

At Vintage Village, the name says it all. This monthly vintage fair is packed full of all kinds of vintage goodies: clothing, jewellery, accessories, furniture, tableware, textiles, and so much more.

Though it will definitely take a while to go through all of these goodies, you might just end up finding your new most beloved vintage possession! And even if you don’t, they say searching is half the fun – our Spotter Sarah can definitely vouch for that. Either way, you will not regret spending your Sunday here!

Local music & good coffee

Wilderness Record Store (by Hannah Tinker)

Most people would associate England with tea. While it’s true that tea is a quite popular drink in the Queen’s land, British people are not at all averse to a good cup of coffee either.

One place where our Spotter Alice would suggest you have your coffee is Wilderness. While they serve some nice drinks and good food, what really makes it special is that it is a record store above all! In fact, they even focus on supporting the local music community by hosting gigs on-site and collaborating with other well-known Withington and central Manchester venues to host live music events. Truly, a great way to experience local music while having a good cup of coffee.

The park that has it all

Heaton Park (by @dannyshep)

Manchester has a lot of great parks where you can spend the entire day relaxing, but none of them has quite as much to see and do as Heaton Park, our Spotter Lauren’s recommendation.

Despite having a huge area of over 600 acres, none of it ever feels too empty. You will find something special at every point in your walk here. For starters, it includes many historical buildings and landmarks, all of which are absolutely beautiful. Beyond that, there is also an animal centre, which houses both farm animals and more exotic ones (like alpacas and peacocks). Another spot you will find here is a tramway museum, where you have the opportunity to take a ride in a lovely historical tram. And the list of fun activities goes on… when the weather is nice, you can rent a boat to row on the lake, and various events, like open-air theatres, marathons, concerts, and many others, take place all the time!

Heritage baths

Victoria Baths (by @flo_roundtheworld)

Despite the name, this venue stopped being used as a swimming bath a few decades ago (though efforts are being made to restore it to its former state). But fret not, for you can still have a great time visiting this place!

Recently, the space of Victoria Baths has been used as a venue for various events, such as film-making workshops, film festivals, fiction readings, vintage fairs, and more. There are also regular tours where you can learn all about the history of this wonderful unique gem that will remind you of a bygone age.  Having been on one herself, our Spotter Alice would highly suggest it for anyone who is looking for an informative guided snoop! If you’ve seen Life on Mars or Peaky Blinders, you might even recognize it as the set of some of the scenes in those shows!

Want more hidden gems? Check out our Manchester blog & app!

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Last Changed Date: 2016-05-19 11:45:13 +0200 (Thu, 19 May 2016)