Friday 29 January 2016

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Friday 29 January 2016


A student's guide to Manchester

Local yet international; full of heritage yet incredibly multicultural; large yet friendly and accessible – it has to be Manchester

Exchange Square, Manchester
Exchange Square, Manchester Photo: Alamy

It’s impossible to say exactly what draws people to the Rainy City (an undeserved nickname).

The saddest part about living in such a tremendously vibrant, exciting city as Manchester is how few people from the South consider visiting. There appears to be a gulf between Birmingham and the North that few southerners have crossed. Whenever family or friends visit, they comment without fail how attractive, friendly and lively the city is.

The centre of town is where most people begin. From main station Manchester Piccadilly, located in the city centre, it’s simple to travel to other areas. The city centre feels surprisingly small – Manchester manages to fit an enormous range of places to shop, eat, drink and have fun into a space that you could walk across in around an hour.

The Northern Quarter

The Northern Quarter is Manchester’s intensely trendy, bohemian area. Independent cafés, bars, and live-music venues line the streets, and men in horn-rimmed glasses shop for vintage clothing and vinyl.

Live music still plays a part in why many students pick Manchester One of my favourite places is Common, a bar on Edge Street serving great food and drinks. Until a recent makeover the walls were covered in graffiti-style art about capitalism and workers’ rights. I also have to mention the maze-like emporium of alternative clothing shops, Affleck's Palace, which embodies the spirit of the Northern Quarter.

The Northern Quarter is full of extraordinary graffiti. In fact, in lieu of a gallery or museum, you could easily spend an afternoon wandering its streets appreciating the abundant street art, produced by public art project Out House.

Manchester’s cafés deserve a mention, too. Independent teashop North Tea Power on Tib Street offers great fresh coffee, a range of teas as well as really good toasted sandwiches. Also, pay-as-you-stay café Ziferblat is a brilliant place to visit where you can eat and drink as much cake and coffee as you like, but only pay for the time you spend.


If you’re looking for a slightly classier night out or meal, it can be found at the south end of Deansgate. Areas such as this and the Northern Quarter might be more expensive, but are often worth it for the change of location and special experience.

Still, students clearly don’t always have a lot of money to splash out. Fallowfield and Withington, where the majority of students live, have a great selection of restaurants, bars and even a couple of clubs that won’t set you back nearly as much.

In particular, Koh Tao has a great atmosphere and serves Thai and Vietnamese-inspired food and drinks. Vegetarian café Fuel also offers great value meat-free meals.


For such a convenient and accessible city, Manchester retains distinct and diverse areas. Just past Piccadilly Gardens, the city’s transport hub, you find yourself in bustling Chinatown, with traditional supermarkets and less traditional all-you-can-eats.

Canal Street

Just south of there is Manchester’s Gay Village, the most popular part being Canal Street. The sense of celebration and liberation in this area is evident, with the LGBT pride symbol set into the pavements at the boundaries, and doors open to anyone.

Check out Richmond Tea Rooms, an LGBT-friendly Alice In Wonderland-themed teashop.


The stunning MediaCityUK sits on the Manchester ship canal, a short tram ride from the city centre, and is the home of much of the BBC and ITV.

Many students go to watch The Jeremy Kyle Show live and for free, but for something different there is also the option of going to watch an opera or play at The Lowry.


Manchester’s music scene remains huge. There has been a big change since the Madchester era of the 1990s, but people still travel across the country for events such as The Warehouse Project or Transmission, enormous events held regularly for appreciators of electronic music.

Inventive venues, including the Albert Hall – formerly a church – make these nights even more of an experience.

Live music still plays a part in why many pick Manchester for their student experience. Gigs by unsigned and up-and-coming bands can be seen at bars around the Northern Quarter, such as The Castle, Night and Day, and Gulliver’s, which often book new student bands to perform at really affordable prices.


Manchester has produced some of the UK’s most popular comedians and is a great place for new talent to start out.

The Comedy Store on Deansgate Locks books bigger names such as Sarah Millican, Johnny Vegas or John Bishop, but the Frog and Bucket is where you can find more independent, new comedians.

Beat the Frog is a weekly open-mic event, in which the audience can vote comedians on and off the stage – it’s also free for students, if a little more hit-and-miss.

Manchester’s food scene has reached a whole new level in the past few years

Museums and galleries

In terms of museums and galleries, my pick would be Manchester Museum, located right in the centre of the University of Manchester.

Many students are unaware of how extensive it is; the “Vivarium”, for example, contains live reptiles and amphibians. The new Whitworth Gallery is home to stunning modern art installations and has large plans for the future. Most museums and galleries in Manchester also have free entry.


Independent cinema Cornerhouse sits near the universities on Oxford Road. It offers a great place to see a film, have a meal or catch an exhibition.

Sadly, it’s closing in May, so it can move down the road to First Street and become arts centre HOME, in collaboration with the Library Theatre Company.


Manchester’s food scene has reached a whole new level in the past few years. Independent, trendy restaurants and street food outlets have become some of Manchester’s crowning glories.

Hidden away in the Northern Quarter, Almost Famous Burgers serves some of the best burgers around.

However, one of my favourite places to visit is the Arndale food market. Criminally under-visited for its location in the shopping centre, it has a diverse range of different street food, my favourites being Vietnamese food from Viet Shack, and the burritos from Pancho’s.

Manchester is also the location of the UK’s first Taco Bell, but it has nothing on the real Mexican food available in the city.

The Curry Mile, between the University of Manchester and Fallowfield, is a colourful stretch of curry houses, shisha bars, and kebab shops that you can’t miss. My pick would be MyLahore, which serves some of the finest curries I’ve tried.

It would be easy to spend your time at university hardly straying from the route from Fallowfield to university. However, making an effort to look further than the "Oxford Road bubble" can really enrich the experience. The things I’ve seen and done in this amazing city have made me really feel like I belong in Manchester.


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