On my way to South Africa, I found visiting England for a second time, this time on a layover in the city of Manchester.
Not knowing anyone who had been the city before and with limited information on what to do within the city, I decided to go out to discover everything that the city had to offer. The trip included a number of stops in shopping areas (and a rather embarrassing amount of time in the store Primark, which I did not include in this list), but it also included some cultural activities such as eating English foods, visiting Chinatown, and visiting an art museum.
The next time you find yourself in the city, consider checking out some of the places below!
Arriving to Manchester
If you are arriving to the city of Manchester on a layover via the Manchester Airport (MAN), you will need to take a train from the airport directly into the city; the ride lasts approximately 20 minutes.
As of 2015, a RT train ticket into the Manchester Piccadilly station will cost £7.80, however discounted tickets can be purchased in advance online and can save you almost 50% off of the price of the ticket. For further information, check out the Manchester Airport website.
Once you arrive into the city, exit through the main entrance at Piccadilly station and hop on the free Metroshuttle bus, which will take you to all of the major points of interest within the city. The bus has three different routes that travel to various points, the one located at the Piccadilly Station is Route #1.
An English Breakfast
If you happen to be in the city during breakfast hours, why not stop and have a lovely English breakfast?
Since I do not eat pork, I did not have a traditional English breakfast (bacon, poached or scrambled eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or toast with butter, sausages, and baked beans)and instead I opted for the vegetarian version.
I ate breakfast at Pane Vino (225 Deansgate, Manchester) in the city center and it was delicious! If you are looking for alternative options breakfast within the city, check out some of these ‘best of’ lists:
- Top 5 Best Breakfasts in Manchester: Breakfast better (Creative Tourist)
- The best breakfasts and brunches in Manchester (Time Out Manchester)
- Ten of the best places in Manchester for brunch and breakfast (Manchester Evening News)
Explore the City
Once you have finished your lovely English breakfast, spend some time exploring the city! While the bus is a great option for getting around, the center of the city is very walkable. I opted to walk around during the entirety of my layover and use the bus only when going to and from Piccadilly station.
If you are looking for a great place to go in Manchester for high-end shopping, international cuisine, and leisure, head over to Spinningfields in the city center. During the summer, Spinningfields hosts outdoor movies and during the fall and winter, Spinningfields is home to craft fairs, pop up food venues, and seasonal events.
Known as “one of the most important thoroughfares of Manchester city centre”, King Street is full of designer shops and historically significant buildings. If you are looking for luxury shopping, King Street is the place to go.
With over 200 shops and 25 eateries, Manchester Arndale is the premier shopping mall to go in the city. In addition to shopping, the mall also hosts regular events like the annual Manchester Jazz Festival.
Location: L13, The Arndale Shopping Centre, Manchester M4 3AJ, United Kingdom
Manchester Art Gallery
The Manchester Art Gallery is a publicly-owned gallery in the city center. Occupying a total of three buildings, the gallery houses both fine art and decorative art from the 17th century to the present day.
Interested in checking out more galleries around Manchester? Check out this great list of the 10 Best Manchester Art Galleries by Culture Trip.
Location: Old Granada Studios, Quay St, Manchester M3 4PR, United Kingdom
Admission & Hours: FREE; Open Daily 10 am – 5 pm
Manchester has a small but vibrant Chinatown located in the center of the city. The city’s Chinatown is the second largest in the country and the third largest in all of Europe.
In addition to checking out some of the neighborhoods great eateries, stop into the local grocery store for some authentic Chinese snacks and spices, have a massage at the Bali Health Lounge, or participate in one of the neighborhood’s many cultural activities!
If you get a chance, pop over to the Northern Quarter, a hip area with boutique and independent shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Eat Manchester: Fish, Chips, and a Pub
When in England, you must eat fish and chips at least once and have a drink in a proper pub.
For some delicious fish and chips, I headed over to The Fish Hut (27 Liverpool Road) and then I popped into Cask (29 Liverpool Road) for a nice beer.
Looking for more pubs in Manchester? Check out this list of Manchester’s Best Pubs (Time Out Manchester), and if you are looking for some alternative places for fish & chips, check out these reviews on Yelp.
Looking for more things to do during your layover in Manchester? Consider checking out the following posts below:
If you are looking to do something relaxing during your stay in the city, consider taking a ‘spa day’ to rest and relax in between flights; Sabina at Girl vs. Globe wrote a great post about how to properly do a Spa Day in Manchester.
Love the look of that vegetarian breakfast! Manchester can be a lot of fun especially at night!
The veg breakfast was divine, and I wish I had time to experience the nightlife – definitely next time! 😀
Very nice post Chanel. I’m actually from Manchester myself. Yep! You’ve covered it pretty well but I would add to do more walking around the Canal itself and then go to Canal Street which is what we call Manchester Gay Village (the best clubs and bars ever!
Since I’m more interested in Art & Culture, the Library Museum is excellent, the Halle (orchestra), the Science and Industry Museum (the Industrial Revolution was actually invented in Manchester), the Granada Studio which hosts Coronation Street (the longest shown soap in the world!), ALL the art galleries, the People’s Museum, Manchester United, the BBC, live independent music, pubs and clubs, shopping (there’s a Selfridges in Manchester now.. Honestly, I could go on and on LOL!
Victoria! I had no idea you were from Manchester and thank you so much for your suggestions! The next time I am back in the city I will definitely have to check out some of the things you recommended here!
i haven’t been to Manchester in years, would love to return and visit the art gallery
Suze | LuxuryColumnist
You should definitely return for it Suze. I hope I get a chance to get back there one day to see more of what the city has to offer!
What a great idea, Chanel! I always try to make my layovers as short as possible, but you bring up a great point that a long layover provides an opportunity to explore a city you otherwise might have skipped over. When we were in Europe this summer going from France to Bosnia, we had a layover in Austria, and in retrospect it would have been SO much fun to explore that country, even just for a day!
Oh, I adore Austria! Next time you have a long layover, definitely explore, it will be worth it! 😀
Manchester is a beautiful city. I live about 1hour 45mins away from there but have visited twice. You did lots!!! Puts me to shame lol xo
You’re lucky! I love England and I cannot wait to get back 😀
I have a 10 hour layover in Manchester on my way to Paris next month. This helped me so much! Thank you for all of the tips. Can’t wait to see this city!
Happy to help Mady and have a wonderful layover in Manchester! I cannot wait to get back and spend more time there 😀
Hi I will be traveling with my 13 year old daughter and 10 year old son to Manchester and we also have a 20 hour layover, I will be arriving on a weekend around 3:30pm and departing next day at noon, what places can we go to or what things can we do to stay entertained?
Hi Grace, I am sure you and your children will have a great time in Manchester. In addition to the activities listed above, consider looking at these tips from blogger Alex in Wanderland – https://www.alexinwanderland.com/a-weekend-in-manchester. Hope that helps and enjoy!
thank you for this awesome post. my husband and i will be traveling to Amsterdam from tha USA in August 2019 and have a 7 hour layover in Manchester. did you need to apply for a visa to leave the airport and visit the city? also, in your opinion would 7 hours be enough time to explore?
You do not need a visa to leave the airport in Manchester depending on where you are from and where you are going. You can use this official website to verify if you will need one for your specific travel plans – https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa
7 hours would definitely be enough but you will only be able to spend a few short hours in the city. Be sure the consider travel time within the airport, into the city, and getting back through customs and immigration when making your planning.
I hope that helped!