A few things probably come to mind when you think of England - dreary skies, the royal family, and bangers and mash. Well, believe it or not there’s another city, a few hours north of London, that is just as chic and just as charming. What it has to offer may surprise even the most experienced and inquisitive traveler.
Where to crash and get some R&R
This 5-star, 60-room luxury, boutique hotel is an art-deco gem nestled in the heart of Manchester’s City Center. Having just gone through a major refurbishment, the Hotel Gotham’s new design celebrates original 1930’s charm and many of the hotel features and amenities are a reflection of its historical past as a former banking house. Guests can check in and dine at Honey Restaurant on the 6th Floor. Club Brass, the hotel’s VIP Lounge, is on the rooftop and can be accessed through steel vault doors. Oh, and the rooms are great too - hot pinks chairs and all.
The Radisson Blue Edwardian is what you might expect from a Manchester Hotel - grand, opulent and, well, old-looking. But that’s only from the outside. The beautiful 263-room hotel was originally built in 1863, but it has far surpassed its ancient history. Located in the heart of Manchester’s City Center on Peter Street, the Radisson Blu Edwardian is situated in the middle of the city’s best bars, restaurants and shops. The rooms are spacious and are decorated in neutral tones with rich chocolate, cappuccino brown and deep red fabrics. For a classic meal, head to the hotel’s Steak and Lobster restaurant and for great cocktails and modern British Food, Opus One is the place to mix and mingle with local residents and travelers alike.
Originally an old Victorian schoolhouse, the Great John Street Hotel has transformed itself into a luxury and whimsical townhouse hotel that’s situated in the heart of the city’s most exclusive shopping, restaurants and theatres. Rooms and suites are fun, quirky and tastefully done and all are different in their own way. There’s something for everyone including delicious afternoon tea, oysters and champagne at the Oyster Bar and views of the city center from its beautifully coiffed rooftop bar.
Where to chow down and then unbutton the top button
Judging from the sleek, white and open interiors of this place, you’d think you stepped foot into a restaurant in South Beach and not Manchester. Aesthetically speaking, its gorgeous and the food is good, too. AustralAsia combines modern Australian cuisine with Pacific Rim flavors in European cooking tradition. The various flavors of infused water are a nice way to clean the palate (Pineapple & Chilli if you’re ballsy), the sushi is safe and delicious, the Pot-Roasted Lobster with Keffir Lime is my favorite big plate and don’t leave before trying the Mango Souffle with Coconut Ice Cream for dessert. Dynamite.
Hands down, this could be one of the most adorable and quaint pubs in all of England. Located just about 20 minutes outside Manchester’s city center in a town called Mobberley, this 18th century pub feels like you just stepped into the movie The Holiday (minus Jude Law). When you walk in, there’s a cozy little fireplace that lines the pub’s main bar serving local ales on tap. And in every room there’s a different intimate pub feeleach furnished in its own charming way. The food is delightful - go for the Apple Cider Fish & Chips or The Church Inn’s Deep Dish Pie and you can’t go wrong. Sunday brunch is just as nice. And they even have Gluten-Free dishes.
Couldn’t resist another one of my favorite pubs situated just 20 minutes outside of Manchester’s city center in a town called Alderley Edge. This posh yet quaint town, is home to Alderley Edgea thickly wooded, sandstone edge (see more below) perfect for English countryside hikes. After the hike, snuggle up to the warm fireplace at The Wizard for some good English grub like their Yorkshire Pudding and Beer Batter Haddock and Chips. The Sunday Roast for Two is a must and don’t leave without trying one of their delicious desserts - my favorites include the Crumble of the Day with Warm Custard and the Banana and Butterscotch Sponge drizzled with Toffee Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream.
This is a chain restaurant. And though I don’t normally review chains, Pizza Express is a pleasant exception. With locations all over greater Manchester this pizza is nothing like you’ve experienced in the US. The restaurants are actually quite chic for a chain and the pizza is delish. Start with the Dough Balls and end with your favorite pie - mine is the Fiorentina, which is topped with spinach, egg, mozzarella, tomato, garlic and black olives. You’ll leave feeling like a fatty carb face but its worth unzipping your pants.
Bonus Dive Spot - This N’ That Cafe -
Had to mention this divey little Manchester Indian spot located in an alleyway in the town’s city center. I was brought here by a very “in the know” Manchester local and the food is outstanding. The ambience may not be something to write home about, but you won’t be disappointed with the fresh and authentic Indian food served up in this little gem of a place. Believe me.
Where to drink up and get down
If you’re looking to spot the “Who’s Who” in Manchester, look no further than Panacea. This uber-chic, lounge and bar is where all of Manchester comes to “see and be seen.” Located on John Dalton Street in the heart of Manchester, Panacea just went through a multi-million dollar (or euro!) renovation which includes sleek, new interiors, an expanded bar and walls that are lined with individual glass tiles. Everywhere you turn in this underground hotspot you’ll see beautiful people, famous footballers and people watching like none other. Drinks are always flowing and the music is always pumping. And, ladies, don’t forget the make-up and hair- there’s some real competition here!
The Lounge at Manchester House is located on the 12th Floor of Tower 12 in central Manchester and has nothing short of impeccable views of Manchester’s city skyline. This indoor/outdoor hotspot is ideal for a daytime jaunt just for coffee or a business meeting on the terrace. At night, it transforms into a stylish lounge and bar where guests mingle and take in the panoramic views of the city. A safe bet if you’re looking for a chic cocktail and great conversation.
Ants in your Pants
Where to go when you can't sit still
Dunham Massey Hall has a long history that dates back centuries and what you’ll find when you visit this extraordinary Hall and Gardens is a beautiful Georgian Style Mansion with endless, pristine grounds that are perfect for a stroll on a beautiful English day. Though a popular tourist attraction, Dunham Massey Hall & Gardens is still a place where you can go and have a day out that feels very serene and very English.
You can’t say the word Manchester and not immediately think of the famous English football teams and rivals, Manchester United and Manchester City. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets to see a game at Old Trafford, grab a pint and don’t miss out. Built in the early 1900’s, this football stadium now holds over 75,000 sometimes rowdy fans and is the second largest stadium in England. Old Trafford has been home to World Cups and has hosted football matches for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Located in the Northern Quarter of Manchester’s City Center, this is a popular area for bars, cafes, coffee shops, and boutiques. Northern Quarter is also a mecca for DJ’s who come to frequent some of the area’s many vinyl record shops. Be sure to stop by the trendy Café Pop (a café that also sells retro clothing and home items) and the Basement (a delicious vegan hotspot).
Located just a few hours north of Manchester, the Lake District is a natural gem and something not to be missed. Sometimes called The Lakes or Lakeland, this beautiful region is made up of pristine mountains, glistening lakes, and seemingly endless forests. It’s a popular holiday weekend destination but can also be just a day trip. Many famous writers such as William Wordsworth have been influenced by this area, and rightly so, the Lake District is absolutely beautiful!
I Just Bought These Pants
Where to nab the best threads
This lovely English department store has been around since the 1800’s and it’s still just as lovely today as it was back then. You’ll find everything you need if you’re searching for designer duds. Located on Cathedral Street in Exchange Square in Manchester, Harvey Nichols has all the shopping you need! To round out your shopping experience here, I recommend heading to the Second Floor Restaurant and finishing the day with traditional English Afternoon Tea that includes indulgent cakes, tea sandwiches, champagne and an endless variety of teas.
If you’re in the mood to drop some real dough, head to Selfridges. Located at Selfridges Exchange Square in the heart of Manchester, this uber-luxury department store is your one-stop shop if you want to shop for high-end brands like Victoria Beckham, Max Mara, and Stella McCartney. They do have lower price brands like Ted Baker and Maje as well as Beauty, Men’s and Kid’s clothes.