Have you ever visited a city that you fell in love with instantly? Manchester was that city for me. Having never been before, I decided to head up to Manchester with my good friend Charlotte for a spot of shopping, cocktails, and good food. It is safe to say that I was not disappointed!
Manchester is an industrial city in the North West of England. Despite being well known for its culture, architecture, textile history and football clubs, I had no idea what to expect when I got there. I was amazed at the sheer size of the place; I live near Birmingham so I'm used to big cities but Manchester just seemed to be a maze of quirky independent shops and unusual side streets where you could find yourself lost for the day. A lovely place to be to explore!
So, what impressed me about Manchester? Let me tell you about the places that knocked my socks off during my time there...
The sheer size of Manchester, and it's shopping destinations, will be enough to keep any shopaholic happy. We didn't spend a lot of time in the Arndale Shopping Centre however I was very impressed with how many shops it contained. Any shop or brand you can think of can be found inside the Arndale and you could easily spend an entire day perusing the shops in this place. My one criticism is that the parking is ridiculously expensive however this is expected when you're trying to park inside a huge shopping centre that is slap bang in the middle of the city.
Outside of the shopping centre is a fantastic Primark. Now, you might find it weird I'm mentioning a Primark in a 'Best Of' style post but this is the best Primark I've ever seen in terms of size and amount of stock they have. I think it is probably the biggest Primark I've ever stepped in and they had literally everything you could want in there. The homeware section was a particular hit for myself and I found a few bits in there I hadn't seen in my local Primark.
We spent a lot of our time in the wonderful Afflecks. Afflecks is a huge indoor market which houses many cute and quirky stores where you can buy anything from shoes and corsets to art prints and tattoos! I loved how Afflecks felt like a labyrinth of unique shops stocking items you could not find anywhere else. I think we spent about three hours here but it felt much less time - it's one of those places that feels like a never ending treasure trove of beautiful finds. I bought some Star Wars Lego prints from here that I couldn't help but take home. I also had a cracking chocolate milkshake in the cafe on the top floor.
FoodI'm not a big eater but I reckon I gave it a good shot at eating as much as I could at every food establishment we went into.
To start our day, we asked one of the lovely ladies at Lush Manchester Arndale to recommend a good place for a veggie breakfast and she suggested Moose. After a quick stroll from the shopping centre, we found Moose and I have to admit I was a bit unimpressed from the outside. However, looks are deceiving and when we stepped inside from the drizzly Manchester rain we were greeted with a warm smile by the staff. I treated myself to the French Toast which was AMAZING. The biggest slices of soft bread, fried and served with maple syrup - it was heavenly. Even though it was busy, our orders came quite quickly and we were looked after really well - thanks, Moose!
If you're after an evening meal, I would highly recommend Dough Pizza Kitchen. Charlotte had been recommended Dough by a colleague and we didn't really know much about it - in fact, we'd walked past it a few times in the day without realising it was there! But once you're in, you can expect a sleek but relaxed pizza kitchen, and a huge menu of which to try and choose your pizza from! I went for a classic Margherita (I literally always go for this pizza I am so basic) which tasted delicious. I like the fact you can pick the flour for your pizza base, and then watch it being made from the comfort of your seat. It was reasonably priced too which is always a good thing!
Finally, if you're after a cuppa and a slice of cake I can recommend two places. First up is Home Sweet Home. I loved the aesthetic of this place; it's a quirky, American-style diner with a relaxed feel. We were seated quickly and all the staff were friendly and had a giggle with us. Although we didn't have any sweets here, we were highly recommended this place for cakes and the like, so if you're around definitely check it out!
Next is a place we literally stumbled upon by accident: Bonbon Chocolate Boutique. The lady who owns the shop is wonderful and the shop itself is just a gem! It was like a gothic, Steampunk boutique cafe and although it was tiny, it felt comfortable and like a place you could stay for hours to gaze out the window. The hot chocolate there is pure cocoa; no milk, no sweeteners, just pure chocolate. I opted for the chocolate orange and it was insanely good. I wish I had it on tap at home - my hot chocolates will never live up to that!
Places of Interest
If you're not a big shopper, I did see a few places I'd recommend to those who fancy doing something a bit quieter. The Northern Quarter is the place I was most impressed with. It was a hive of independent shops and cafes, and being such a short walk from the city centre I'm surprised more people weren't checking it out! Having said that, the Northern Quarter seemed to be thriving and all the shops looked inviting; there was something for everyone and I would suggest you check it out if you prefer more individual, handmade and one-off items when shopping.
Another place Charlotte and I accidently discovered was the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. We actually saw a girl carrying the CUTEST bunny print and Charlotte asked where she got it. We were directed to the Craft and Design Centre and ended up finding a sweet little place full of independent artists and crafters of Manchester. The centre served as a hub for these creative people and the atmosphere was great - it really felt like all the vendors were good friends and helped each other out when needed. Although it was small, there was a nice selection of art styles and plenty of opportunities to browse the work of talented creatives.
What are your favourite places in Manchester? Or, if you've not been before, where on my list would you check out first?