UPDATE: Since writing this post and falling in love in Manchester, I decided to take the leap and hang my #Lifeinabag by making Manchester be where I have my casita now. That being said, I have updated this post to reflect additional gems I’ve found now that I live here as an expat.
As I began the second leg of my Girl Takes Mundo journey back in February I was truly unaware of where I would visit, for how long and how I would get there. (Don’t believe me? See my post on my original chicken scratch travel plans here.) The only thing I knew for sure and what in my eyes seemed like my saving grace to some “plan” was that I would make my way to Manchester. Of course, this proclamation always followed with inquiring minds wondering why Manchester?
Sure, Manchester isn’t the number 1 city in the world like its neighbor London is and having only been to Manchester for 1 night before hopping on a flight to return to Chicago from a holiday in London a couple years ago, I really didn’t have any concrete reasons to defend Manchester or my “plan”.
Yet, somehow, someway, I had been convinced that Manchester would be where I would purposely stay for at least a month, slow down from my travels and finally play casita (“casita” = “house” in Spanish). So yes, play “house”.
Admittedly, I had never attempted playing casita, not even in Chicago. My focus on my career mixed with my workaholic ways had always taken precedent and so, things like going to a food market, cooking in my apartment or even decorating my apartment to feel like a home was almost non existent in my life. I use to go so far to call my parents home, “home” and my place, “the apartment”. “The apartment” was a place where I slept, showered and kept my things. To me, home was a feeling so naturally spending time with my family and my puppy “Montana” was what made me feel “home”. As you can imagine, traveling during this Girl Takes Mundo journey hadn’t brought me any closer to playing casita either. But l hoped that like with everything else I had decided to tackle in my life, ie. Girl Takes Mundo, I simply had to put my mind and energy into it. With a little “fake it till you make it” mentality, I knew I would dominate this temporary “Girl Takes”.
Fast forward 5 months from April when I first arrived in Manchester and with a blink of an eye I found myself spending a total of 3 months in Manchester with short breaks in Spain and Israel. The best part, I dominated and exceeded my expectations of playing casita. I cooked, I took my fitness to the next level, I gave directions like a local, I attended and did activities that locals would do like going to my first concert in England, seeing my first MMA fight and attending festivals. If that wasn’t enough, I celebrated my birthday here with my newly found English family who made me feel beyond loved, met up with past friends as they made their way through Manchester and even made new friends here. But the cherry on top was still managing to keep the Girl Takes Mundo spirit alive by still playing tourist from time to time. After all, I was a tourist.
See all that I got myself into while in Manchester and reach out if you have any Manchester questions here. I’m practically a local now.
- Auckland Center, sure it’s a mall but their food market in the first floor offers an array of global cuisine.
- Ziferblat, the cafe where you pay for the time spent and not the items consumed.
- Northern Soul Grilled Cheese, even the mac and cheese alone is delicious.
- V Rev, Vegan Dinner spot where you’ll be shocked that all the items on the restaurant are vegan.
- The Corn Mill, located in Llangollen in Wales. Surprisingly delicious pub food.
- The Drop, in Chorlton for delicious Jamaican cuisine in this boho neighborhood restaurant.
- The Lead Station, a contemporary restaurant in Chorlton with a pre-fix menu dinner option available before 7pm.
- Woodside, in Salford for yummy vegan and non vegan food.
- Bundobust, for delicious Indian Street food.
- Australasia, posh Australian Japanese fusion restaurant.
- Georges, another yummy restaurant in Salford with a nice rooftop area to grab drinks.
- Sapporo, for delicious teppanyaki aka hibachi. The tuna dishes were delectable.
- Curry Mile, unlike my initial belief that this was a restaurant I was overly gleed when I discovered it’s a “mile” long road of Middle Eastern restaurants, bakeries, markets ranging in prices. Everyone will find something to eat here.
- Armenia, very well known for its delicious and authentic Armenian dishes near town hall.
- Habesha, for delicious and surprisingly affordable Ethiopian cuisine. Their veggie platter is perfect for even non vegetarian’s who want to sample a variety of Ethiopian dishes.
- Boho Utopia, an adorable vegetarian cafe. You didn’t hear it from me but wether you are a vegetarian or not, this place is kind of a big deal and worth checking out.
- Mackie Mayor Manchester, offers another place to find an array of stalls offering delicious food, drinks and coffee all under one roof.
- The Botanist – Modern European Restaurant
- Albert Schloss – German restaurant with beer galore that has clubby feels on the weekends. (Great happy hour cocktails for just £5.)
- Revolución de Cuba – Yummy Latin inspired food with live bands, dj’s on the weekends so certainly check their website and make a night out of it.
- Black Milk – Fabulous place if you are looking to treat yourself with sundaes, waffles, cakes and shakes.
All “proper pubs” so that you can enjoy a proper English pub experience while in Manchester.
- Castle Hotel – Quite iconic for a pub experience in Manchester
- The Unicorn
- The English Lounge
- The Bank
- Port St Tavern
- Piccadilly Tavern
- The Shakespeare – Old Tudor style building with its iconic black and white look.
- Sinclairs Oyster Bar – Super cheap and soooooooooooo Manchester. Limited booze as it’s all locally brewed.
- O2 Ritz, popular music venue where I saw Akala, a popular English artist who also is an author. A month after the concert I found myself attending a book reading for his new book.
- Matt & Phreds, for live jazz. This spot became a favorite of mine with every time I visited.
- The Kings Arm, a pub that doubles as a play house with its theater in the second floor. Great way to mix things up and do something different from the usual going out and just drinking.
- Dirty Martini – If you are looking for a fun place to drink and dance on a weekend then this is a safe bet.
- The Ivy – Posh night spot for a fancy night out with drinks to match.
- Bliss – If you are looking to Latin dance then this is where you want to be on Friday and Saturday nights.
- Terrace NQ – Fabulous rooftop bar when you are trying to enjoy the fact that it’s not raining and the sun came out.
- The Temple Bar, a former victorian public toilet turned pint size bar.
- Velvet hotel bar, for happy hour cocktails from an always changing menu.
- Convenience Store, looks like a store from the outside but it’s actually a cool bar inside.
- Abel Heywood, a fancy/posh take on the English pub.
- Menagerie, a posh spot to grab cocktails near Spinningfields.
- Cottonopolis, a great cocktail bar with a cool and laid back vibe that even during the week has dj sets at night.
Coffee + Tea:
- The Richmond Tea Rooms – Try the very English afternoon tea which includes a tower or mini sandwiches and bakery items like scones, cakes and meringues. My favorite place to go for a delicious afternoon tea. Big bonus being that this place is themes around Alice in Wonderland making it feel even more magical.
- Takk – Nice place to grab coffee, cake and hang out if you have the time.
- Northern Tea Power Coffee – Delicious coffee drinks in the Northern Quarter
- Java – This hidden gem is inside Victoria station and its the perfect place for an Italian bar (coffee house) feel and drink.
- Afleccks Pallace, 60+ independent shops where you will be certain to find an array of options and unique items.
- Craft & Design Center, handmade artistry shops all under this one building.
- Cass Art, art shop for all your art needs including classes, workshops and free events.
- Empire Exchange, a retro and vintage store with vinyls, books and quirky memorabilia.
- Hatch – Incubator market with shops, restaurants, cafes and bars including a beer garden.
- Central Manchester Library, aka the place I spent many hours hiding from the city.
- Northern Quarter, walk around this hipster neighborhood to check out some of the iconic Manchester street art. Stay longer for the funky shops, vintage stores and cafes.
- John Rylands Library, to view collections including the earliest surviving pieces of the New Testament and always changing exhibits. I saw “The Alchemy of Color” an exhibit of color which was perfect after my visit to Morocco where I picked up powder paint. (FYI: Their gift shop has fabulous items compared to the usual and mostly boring library gift shops I’ve come across in my travels.)
- Manchester Art Gallery, filled with works from many local and English artists from past to present.
- Manchester Science and Industry museum, 4 buildings that are great for kids, kids at heart and people who enjoy learning new things.
- People’s Museum, to better understand the industrial revolution and its effects in Manchester.
- Stroll along the Queys canals and explore Media City where iTV and BBC is. (I highly recommend a stroll down most canals in Manchester as I find this as an enjoyable activity if exploring the city.)
- The Lowry – The architecture is one not to miss in this theater/gallery especially when exploring Media City.
- Chettam Library – The oldest free public library in the UK and where the infamous Karl Marx found himself researching with Friedrich Engels on what would lead to their work, “The Communist Manifesto”
- Mackie Mayor Altrincham – This Mackie Mayor is better than the one in Manchester with a food hall but also a market with local artisans and vendors.
- Chocolate and candy tasting, word on the street the chocolate bars in England are simply better compared to American candy due to the artificial sugar of corn syrup used in American candy so leave the cheese charcuterie and wine pairings for your trip to France and pick up some bars of “Starbar”, “Boost”, “Crunchie” and “Galaxy” and have a taste testing with your friends over coffee or tea and taste the difference.
- Try a 99 flake, the English take on a ice cream cone featuring a Cadbury chocolate flake. (Traditional ice cream shops or ice cream trucks will serve them.)
- Visit a “Chippy” aka a fish and chip shop. A proper one will sell you pies, currys, sausages, beans and obviously the iconic fish and chips.
- Tap into your inner child and take a stab at Chill factor’s E inflatable obstacle course. You’ll quickly remember how fun inflatables are but how fit you must have been as a child to tackle inflatables like a champ.
- St. John’s Gardens, a quite place near Manchester’s Science and Industry museum and popular by workers who take lunch here on nice days.
- Alexandra Park, the Caribbean Carnival happens here each year but year round it’s a great place for a walk or run.
- Worsley Woods, I love nature so walking through this park and allowing yourself to slow down life a bit is always a good time.
- Dunham Massey, for its deer park and gardens.
- Llangollen, in Wales with stops along the countryside.
- Mellor, near Blackburn for a made for picture countryside walk.
- Chester, with its beautiful walled city, stunning park, castle bridges and river walk. Another perk, the architecture in the city center is quite quaint and charming.
I’m excited to say that even after how long I’ve spent in Manchester I still have a running list of things I want to do here.
Still On My To Do List:
- Salfords Lads Club – For that iconic smiths picture.
- National Futbol Museum – Word on the street even non futbol lovers will find it interesting.
- Manchester Museum- Their dinosaur exhibit is apparently worth checking out.
- Museum of Transport – Don’t recall why but that makes this spot even more exciting for me.
- Imperial War Museum – Another one that is better than you would expect.
- BBC Tour in MediaCityUK – BBC, must I say more?
- BYOB Experience- Bring your own liquor and expert mixologist will create table side cocktails for 2 hours for you using the liquor you brought. https://www.designmynight.com/manchester/whats-on/date-night/bring-mix
Lastly, remember I said I finally took a stab at cooking while in Manchester? See the dishes I got high approvals from my taste testers including recipes to some of these. (Because, if I can cook, ANYONE can cook. SERIOUSLY!!!)
- Pollo en crema (my mums Guatemalan chicken in cream recipe)
- Spaghetti and homemade meatballs
- Lemon posset
- Parmesan rainbow trout on a bed of cauliflower mash topped with sautéed spinach
- Lemon Garlic Prawns
- Argentina’s Humita Empanadas with a strawberry candid pecan feta salad
- Roasted Chickpea Gyro (+ minced lamb for the meat eaters) with sweet potato fries
- Salmon clam chowder soup
- Jerk Chicken/fish sticks with Mango Lettuce Cups
- Low carb chocolate mousse
- Cauliflower Risotto with kale, mushroom and goat cheese
- Bass packets