Especially relevant right now, but always worth celebrating, are the joys of staying local – and Manchester’s suburbs offer some excellent incentives for doing so. These areas, each distinct in their own way, are full of great independent businesses, green spaces and heritage venues. They are easily explored on foot, some a pleasure to reach by bike, and many with a day’s worth of diversions to enjoy, all in one place. Quieter than the city centre, the suburbs often benefit from leafy streets, well-established parks and a strong sense of community; there are also far more than we could realistically cover in this post, so these are just a few of the best areas to explore.

The birthplace of Manchester City F.C., Gorton is also home to The Monastery, a former Franciscan Church and Friary that still stands as a Grade II* listed gothic masterpiece. It’s an incredible building to visit, with a magnificent nave, elegant cloisters and a peaceful Friary garden. Gorton is known for being the filming location for several seasons of Shameless, and has experienced years of deprivation – but the area is also blessed with a large and scenic reservoir, bordered by Debdale Park and Fairfield Golf Club, which is a lovely spot for a walk, run or cycle.

Gorton is also at one end of off-road cycle path and pedestrian route, the Fallowfield Loop. Affectionately referred to as ‘the Loop’, or ‘Floop’, this former railway line traces a wide arc onwards to Levenshulme and beyond. If you’re looking to fit several of the recommendations in this guide into one day, the Loop is the way to go.

Street Art

Just off this leafy path is Levenshulme, with its fantastic Antiques Village. Located in a Victorian former Town Hall and operating for over 30 years, the Antiques Village is filled with dedicated traders as well as specialist workshops in the outbuildings at the back. It stands opposite neighbourhood bar and eatery Nordie, excellent bakery Trove and laid-back pub The Talleyrand, with its beautiful wooden bar. Further up Stockport Road is Levenshulme Market, which occupies the Levenshulme station car park at weekends, as well as Isca, purveyors of natural wine and organic food, and Bread, another independent bakery and café.

Levenshulme is connected to Heaton Chapel to the south by both the trainline and the busy bus route along Stockport Road. The expanse of Heaton Moor Golf Club, which is open to visitors, lies between the two, while Heaton Moor Road itself is packed full of brilliant venues including wine shop and bar Cork of the North, the independent Savoy Cinema, Bernie’s Grocery Store and craft beer shop The Epicurean.

To the west of Levenshulme is Withington, home to Manchester’s last functioning Edwardian pool at Withington Baths, and below that Didsbury, a genteel hamlet that can be divided further into East Didsbury, West Didsbury and Didsbury Village. Here you’ll find award-winning French patisserie Bisous Bisous (‘bisous’ means ‘kisses’ in English), eclectic café-cum-bookshop and bar The Art of Tea, as well as The Didsbury Parsonage, a Grade II listed building with gardens. Also here is the extremely beautiful Fletcher Moss Park, a botanical oasis that leads on to the riverside woodland at Millgate Fields.

Alternatively, keep following the Fallowfield Loop west from Levenshulme and you’ll reach Chorlton, a sprawling area dotted with several pockets of independent shops, restaurants and bars. Many, including Lily’s Deli, ethical co-operative Unicorn Grocery, neighbourhood restaurant The Creameries and Chorlton Bookshop are clustered around the junction between Wilbraham and Barlow Moor Road, but many more can be found en route to local nature reserve Chorlton Water Park. It’s also worth mentioning Moss Side and Hulme, north east of Chorlton, where Alexandra Park, 7 Limes Pottery (pre-booked courses only) and Hulme Community Garden Centre are all worth a visit.

Final mention goes to Cheetham Hill, north of the city centre, where the magnificent Manchester Jewish Museum (open from 2 July 2021) is a destination in its own right: following a multi million-pound redevelopment, this historic synagogue now includes a new gallery, cafe, shop, learning studio and kitchen.

By Polly Checkland Harding, Freelance arts copywriter and journalist