Thinking of coming to Manchester for Talk UX this September? Great decision.
While one of Manchester’s great benefits is its accessibility (2 hrs by train to London, just over 3 to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Bristol), it’s got so much more going around that you should really make a trip of it. Especially as Talk UX is on a Friday!
So why not come spend a little time in the UK’s coolest city 😉 The city centre is delightfully compact, which makes it really easy to get around on foot. There are also free buses in the city centre, as well as the Metrolink tram network if you need a little help getting around.
Everyone knows (you know, right) about Manchester’s musical heritage. Bands like Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths and the Happy Mondays had and continue to have an undeniable influence on the UK music scene. It’s a scene that thrives to this day – in 2016 Manchester was declared the best live music city in the UK, with 87 gigs per 100,000 people staged in the second half of the year, nearly double the rate of closest rival Glasgow, with 44 gigs per 100,000 people – London had just 17 per 100,000.
If you’re in the mood to shop music, hit up local institution Piccadilly Records in the Northern Quarter and pick up some vinyl. You never know – you might spot a famous face while you’re in there. And, if you’re in the area, there are a wealth of other vinyl hotspots, for new and second hand records, to choose from.
Speaking of the city’s famous Northern Quarter, it’s a great place for brunch spots, with more hipster coffee joints than you can shake an ironic tache at. Favourites include:
- Federal Cafe – Australian inspired cafe (we can’t guarantee you the weather) that does THE best topped toast options in the city, in our opinion
- Foundation – great coffee (and only a quid for filter coffee first thing in the morning), and excellent brunch options.
- Ezra and Gil – big chilled cafe with eclectic tunes, Mancoco coffee and ace brunches. If you find yourself in the area later in the day, their poke bowls are incredible too and they have a great cake selection!
There’s something for everyone in Manchester. Raver? The legendary Warehouse project opens the weekend of Talk UX. Saturday night’s sold out, but you can still catch Aphex Twin on the Friday night.
Prefer your drinks fancy and your crowd dressy? Head for Spinningfields, home of 20 Stories, and the Manchester outpost of The Ivy.
If you prefer things a bit more down-to-earth, stick to the Northern Quarter (are you seeing a theme here?) – the vibe changes day to night, from hipster, to enthusiastic party, and you won’t dodge the hen and stag dos, but it’s generally fun and good spirited. And you have everything from olde boozers, to chart pumping party bars, to craft beer houses, to trendy bars.
Culture isn’t necessarily the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Manchester, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have plenty for lovers of a museum or gallery. And if you look up and can find a gap between the ugly modern high-rises, there’s some stunning architecture on show too. Keeping it City Centre, some places well worth visiting include:
- Manchester Art Gallery – current exhibits include an exploration of the relationship between art and mindfulness and School of Integration – Why is integration always the responsibility of the immigrant? Bonus – entry is free!
- John Rylands Library – again, a free entry. Part of the third largest academic library in the United Kingdom, The John Rylands Library was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband. A stunning and tranquil place to explore or relax.
- Manchester Craft and Design Centre – support local makers by exploring the exhibitions and studios in this converted Victorian fishmarket, built in 1873. It’s also a sneaky top tip for lunch – the cafe is one of the Northern Quarter’s hidden gems!
- The Museum of Science and Industry – On the site of the oldest surviving passenger railway station, MoSI combines industrial history with contemporary science, making connections between the past and present, between scientific theory and real-world applications.
Further afield, you can find The Lowry, and the International War Museum North out at Salford Quays. You’ll want to get a tram out there, alighting at Media City (home of the BBC and ITV in Manchester) – it’s a 2 minute walk across to the Lowry from there.
South of town, you’ll find the Manchester Museum and Whitworth Gallery. Both are well worth a look, especially if you fancy a longer walk and the weather’s good (it doesn’t always rain here, you know!). The trams don’t go down that way, but you can hop on a bus.
Manchester shopping is pretty easy to split down – find all your high street and designer favourites in and around Market Street and the Arndale Centre. For secondhand and vintage shopping and independent boutiques, head into, you guessed it, the Northern Quarter!
We can’t not mention food market Mackie Mayor on the border of the Northern Quarter and Ancoats – a selection of stalls selling everything from fish to pizza, to steak to bao buns and much more. There’s a coffee house in there and craft beer and wine bars. Communal eating is at long tables and you can nip in for a bit or happily hang out all afternoon or evening!
If you’re a pizza fan, you must check out Ancoats institution Rudy’s. You know they’re cool cause they don’t take bookings, but their pizza really is worth waiting for.
If you’re looking for veggie and vegan friendly options, Manchester just keeps improving – there’s V-Rev for ‘vegan junk food’, a branch of self described ‘beer & Indian joint’ Bundobust (trust us, the okra fries are to die for and the tap selection is always excellent), and Evelyn’s mostly vegan and gluten free menu is as delicious as it is virtuous. And their cocktail menu is so worth hitting – it’s healthy, but not overly worthy.
So there you have it. Plus, with all the connections you’ll make at Talk UX, you’ll have a whole new gang to hang out with over the weekend. What are you waiting for?