When first deciding to go abroad for six months, all I knew about Manchester was that it had a famous soccer team. However, what I came to find in a short time is that the city is culturally rich and perfect for those looking to have a good time. Here are some tips for living in or visiting Manchester – particularly for students or young travelers – that prove that London is not the only place in England worth seeing.
British food gets a bad wrap, especially when compared to other European countries like Italy or France. I believe the trick to British food is knowing where to get it. In Manchester, one of the most important culinary landmarks is the curry mile – a nickname for the part of Wilmslow Road known for its large number of restaurants, take-aways and kebab houses specializing in the cuisines of South Asia and the Middle East. Located near Fallowfield Campus of the University of Manchester and the Oxford Road campus of Manchester Metropolitan University, the curry mile is a must try. Two of my favorite spots include Mughli, a charchaol pit serving authentic northern Indian and Pakistani cuisine, and Beirout’s, a middle eastern buffet with a student special that can’t be beat! If you’re a fan of buffets, the Red Hot World Buffet located in Manchester’s City Centre is also a must-try (all you can eat Italian, Asian, and American food for just 13 pounds!). It’s dessert table-choice of seventeen ice creams, hot waffles dipped in chocolate, and mini crème brulees is to die for!
Nandos is another must – it’s a casual, quick spot to enjoy an awesome meal with friends and offers the best Portuguese chicken, sweet or spicy sauce, and choice of sides (I recommend the spicy rice, sweet potato, and ratatouille).
“Manchester is one of the most vibrant, culturally diverse places I have ever visited…”
Lastly, for late night grub, Kebab King reigns. Owner Paz serves up specialties like cheesy chips, fish and chips and, of course, kebabs between the hours of 10 pm and 3 am. For entertainment, Paz takes photos of his (often intoxicated) customers and displays them on a screen for customers to see and laugh at.
There is lots to do in Manchester aside from watching soccer games (though I do recommend going to either a Man U or Man City game at least once – it’s an unforgettable experience). Manchester’s Northern Quarter is the perfect cultural neighborhood with numerous vintage shops, vinyl record stores and cute cafes. Be sure to check out Afleck’s palace for eclectic shopping! Great shopping can also be done in Manchester’s city centre: Primark is great for cheap and stylish clothes (think: UK’s Target) and at Trafford Centre you can find more upscale lines. The City Centre often has an outdoor market on weekends for free samples of food and an abundance of fresh produce. Other great places to visit include Manchester’s China town, the Imperial War Museum North and the Old Trafford Stadium. Manchester’s biggest music festival, Park Life, takes place in June and is a must if you’re in the area around that time.
Lastly, some tips about going out in Manchester:
First, take the bus. Everyone does it, it’s fun and it’s cheap. Don’t be surprised when students break out in song, belting out an unforgettable rendition of ‘Oh When the Saints Come Marching In’ (Oh Manchester Is Wonderful!).
Second, buy tickets to clubs in advance. Tickets sell out quickly and if you buy in advance you’re guaranteed to get in the door.
Third, get to know the schedule of what clubs and bars to go to on which nights. It’s Pout Mondays, Juicy Wednesdays and Sankeys on Thursdays. This might sound like mumbo jumbo but locals will know what you’re talking about.
Fourth, try cider; it’s delicious and Manchester has a multitude of flavors! (my personal favorite: strawberry lime). Check out The Font for great options (it also has cocktails for 2-3 pounds each!).
A final tip for those looking to visit Manchester: learn the language. The city’s English is not the same as American English. Some helpful hints: chips = french fries; wellies = rainboots; flat = apartment; football = soccer; queue = line. The list goes on…
Manchester is one of the most vibrant, culturally diverse places I have ever visited and the city’s – and people’s – positive and welcoming demeanor is one of the many reasons to check out what it’s all about.