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Holiday Inspiration

Manchester Guide

By Susan Ward Davies

Where to Stay in Manchester

For a city of its size, Manchester is surprising light on cool, design-led hotel options. Making the cut is canal-side dazzler, Velvet (2 Canal Street, M1 3HE; tel: 0161 236 9003) a deliciously OTT boudoir-style boutique hotel with 19 rooms, a ridiculously popular restaurant and a central location slap-bang in the middle of Manchester’s 24-hour party hub, the Gay Village. Across town, the Great John Street Hotel (Great John Street, M3 4FD tel; 0161 831 3211) has generous, decadent, duplex suites complete with views across Granada Studios and the Coronation Street set, plus a smart, styled-up rooftop bar. For a hotel that combines Manchester cool with proper five-star service, it’s got to be The Lowry, though, a grown-up option with a buzzing bar, see-and-be-seen restaurant as well as the luxury of a contemporary-yet-comfortable spa to slip off to.

Where to Eat in Manchester

For the perfect amount of pre-night-out buzz, join the dashing, well-dressed set at The Grill on the Alley (5 Ridgefield, M2 6EG; tel: 0161 833 3465). The look is sleek, the steaks exceptional and the live-music smouldering. Afterwards, dip downstairs to the basement lair, Panacea. Skip the menu and ask the mixologist for a custom cocktail or default to Cristal – favoured by the off-duty footballers and celeb-y crowd who rule the roost. Situated on the first floor of a majestic heritage building, Room (81 King Street, M2 4AH; tel: 0161 839 2005) is another smart and sociable spot. Arrive early for an aperitif – try the Pornstar Martini, a tongue-tingling passionfruit and champagne fusion – before settling into the enormous wood-panelled dining room for a taste of British staple dishes with a twist.

If you’re looking for a long, lingering lunch or an old fashioned romantic night out, make a beeline for the very lovely Evuna (277-279 Deansgate, M3 4EW; tel: 0161 819 2752), a peach of a Spanish restaurant set just off the main drag. The tapas, paellas and pescados are divine but for a real treat, pre-book the eight-course extravaganza and enjoy the likes of Iberico black foot ham and seabass baked in rock salt teamed with carefully curated wines from Spanish family-run vineyards. A classy atmosphere, smiley service and a soundtrack of deep, sexy salsa music rounds it all off perfectly.

Where to Go Out in Manchester

The heady days of the Hacienda may be long gone but Manchester’s party spirit remains. If you're a fan of elegant modernist surroundings and a great mojito, try Alchemist, an indoor-outdoor glass boite in the centre of shiny Spinningfields (1 New York Street, M1 4HD; tel: 0161 228 3856). Round the corner, Antipodean-inspired cocktail bar and small plates place Australasia (1 the Avenue, Spinningfields, M3 3AP; tel: 0161 817 2950) transforms at 11pm from a svelte underground eatery to a sizzling subterranean nightclub with resident and guest DJs competing to ramp up the atmosphere from behind a luminous NASA-like screen. Deservedly popular, reservations can be tough to secure, so book a Late Lounge table well in advance.

If you want to stay out until the sun comes up, there are two ways to play it: either hot-foot it across town to Corridor (6 Barlow’s Croft, Salford, M3 5DY; tel: 0161 832 6699), a secret speakeasy with a packed dance floor and mean range of molecular cocktails, or get your G-A-Y (63 Richmond Street, M1 3WD; tel: 0161 228 6200) on over in The Village.

Where to Shop in Manchester

The Northern Quarter with its cobbled streets and converted Victorian markets is a pleasure to browse around – not least because it's home to one of the most comprehensive collections of vintage stores in the country. Rummage around the antique stores, jewellers and retro-clothing specialists at Affleck’s Palace (2 Church Street, M4 1PW; tel: 0161 839 0718) before seeking out those covetable one-off pieces from Pop Boutique (34-36 Oldham Road M1 1JN; tel: 0161 236 5797) and Junk (2 Dale Street, M1 1JW; tel: 0161 238 8517). For pre-loved designer labels, the Elite Dress Agency (35 King Street West, M3 2PW; tel: 0161 832 3670) is a well-known recycling point for the city’s WAGs and soap opera stars where it’s not unusual to pick up cut-price pieces from the likes of Gucci or Mark Jacobs. Over in Spring Gardens, meanwhile, Hervia Bazaar ( 40 Spring Gardens, M2 1EN; tel: 0161 835 2777) stocks exclusive designer fashion brands like Commes de Garcon and Yohji Yamamoto alongside fragrances, accessories and books.

What to Wear in Manchester

Manchester has two distinct crowds: the laid-back artsy brigade who hang out in the Northern Quarter, and the polished to perfection city-types. For the former, try to look like you’re not trying – think subtly printed jeans, a lace-collar shirt and a simple clutch. The latter lot embrace gloss and glitter, while towering designer heels are very much de rigueur.

Don’t Leave Manchester Without...

...a visit to Manchester’s Gallery of Costume (Platt Hall, Rusholme, M14 5LL; tel: 0161 245 7245). Recently reopened after a one-million pound renovation, it's second only to the V&A in terms of iconic fashion pieces and is brilliant for the sartorially inclined.

Beauty SOS - Where to Go for Pampering in Manchester

For a transformative haircut, make an appointment at James Roberts (14 St. Mary’s Street, Deansgate, M3 2LB; tel: 0161 832 2448), darling of the local lovelies and stylist to the likes of Victoria Beckham, Rihanna and Lily Allen. It’ll come as no surprise that James himself is generally booked up months in advance, but his 14-strong team are a confident bunch offering in-depth advice, award-winning colour skills and specialist treatments like the revolutionary Brazilian Blowdry. Add some nails from the in-house beauty team and you’re all set to party.

Like our Manchester guide but thinking of heading a bit further north? Check out our equally cool guides to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

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