john Rylands Library

Manchester’s fortunes may have been forged in the fires of the Industrial Revolution, with its history still evident in the historic buildings that dot the city - but it’s also a place that has never stopped looking towards the future. A day spent exploring the best parts of Manchester’s cultural offer perfectly reflects this: your itinerary might include a visit to Manchester Cathedral, which dates back to at least the 1400s, and to the newest brands and shops that have only recently opened their doors in Manchester City Centre. This guide to a day in Manchester showcases both the city’s historic treasures and the best of its modern offer, featuring a world-famous selection of pre-Raphaelite paintings, a meal in a former railway goods warehouse and tropical minigolf.

First, let’s start with breakfast. Evelyn’s Cafe and Bar in the Northern Quarter offers up a morning menu (10am-12pm Mon-Sun) that is the perfect combination of wholesome and indulgent. Yes, there are buttermilk pancakes and French toast, but there’s also cacao granola and their uber healthy Balance Bowl. Alternatively, the hugely popular, Antipodean-inspired Federal Cafe and Bar has locations both on the edge of the Northern Quarter, opposite Manchester Arndale, and on Deansgate, while American and Canadian-influenced breakfast and brunch spot Moose Coffee is still very central, but a little off the beaten track on York Street. 

Handily, Moose Coffee is very close to Manchester Art Gallery, one option for your first visit of the day. The collection here is immense - there are 25,000 artefacts and objects spanning six centuries, including a world-class selection of pre-Raphaelite paintings and 37 watercolours by Turner, all housed in a building designed by the architect also responsible for Highclere Castle (the setting for Downton Abbey). The gallery is also within sight of Central Library - drop in here to test the ‘whispering gallery’ effect in the stunning, circular Reading Room. Alternatively, if your taste is more of the sporting variety, choose the National Football Museum as your starting point: it houses the world’s biggest football memorabilia collection, with highlights such as the shirt worn by Maradona during the ‘Hand of God’ goal. It’s worth stepping inside the magnificent Manchester Cathedral opposite before heading to The Printworks for a round of tropical-themed minigolf at Treetop Golf

Lunch beckons. The Hard Rock Cafe at The Printworks is the UK’s second largest, decorated with mementos from The Beatles, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Oasis, and Elvis Presley and serving up the chain’s signature burgers and smokehouse specialities. Salvi’s Cucina on John Dalton Street is a rather more pared-back affair, but boasts a delicious Neapolitan menu and is among Manchester’s best restaurants and bars (read our guide to a day of eating and drinking in the city here). Salvi’s is also on the way to The John Rylands Library, which is your next destination.

Here you’ll find one of Manchester’s most astonishing buildings - an exemplary of neo-Gothic architecture that took ten years to build, with pioneering features including intricately sealed bookcases. The collection of rare books here spans five millennia, with catalogue highlights such as an original Gutenberg Bible. We go from historical treasures to cutting-edge fashion next, with a dip into Manchester’s best shops. Admittedly, you could spend an entire day shopping in the city centre alone, what with the fantastic range of designer shops such as Burberry, Barbour and Private White V.C, and the top jewellery shops that make up the bustling Jewellery Quarter. In this instance, though, we recommend exploring the retail offer in St Ann’s Square, including sportswear and yoga clothing specialist lululemon, outdoor clothing and equipment company Fjällräven and The Whisky Shop, where whisky and spirit specialists will guide you through the shop’s extensive stock. On the corner is elegant womenswear store & Other Stories - and at the other end of New Cathedral Street’s fashion thoroughfare are neighbouring department stores Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, for even more choice.

Evening is drawing in now - how to make the most of it? Happily, there are several options for food, drink and entertainment all in one place, under the roof of the Great Northern Warehouse. Here you can choose between bowling and karaoke at All Star Lanes (plus drinks and food from the Lanes Kitchen if you fancy it), a film at the Odeon or even a spot of axe throwing under the guidance of the specialist instructors at Whistle Punks. Cocktails come courtesy of Impossible bar with its outdoor terrace, and you can take your pick of cuisines at Spanish restaurant Evuna, Polish eatery Platzki Restaurant and Thai street food favourite Thai Smiles. And so ends a day exploring the very best of what Manchester has to offer.

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