48 hours in Manchester | An insider’s guide to the capital of the North

Got 48 hours to spend in the capital of the north? Spend it wisely.

Rachel Kevern Rachel Kevern - 20th October 2021

You can pack a lot into a weekend, especially when you’re in a city with as much to offer as Manchester.

From the indie bars of the Northern Quarter, to traditional shopping arcades Deansgate, the high-end luxury of New Cathedral Street and beyond, Manchester has loads going on – but where should you begin? 

The Manc’s got your back.

With these unmissable highlights and local insights, you’re sure to have an unforgettable weekend in Manchester. 

From the best brunch spots and late-night hangouts, to art galleries, and top shopping destinations, here’s our guide for making sure you get the absolute most out of your 48 hours in Manchester city centre.



Where To Stay?

Native Manchester: Found in the Grade II listed Ducie Street Warehouse, Native aparthotel is a stone’s throw from Piccadilly train station and offers the best of inner-city luxury.


It was the winner of The Sunday Times Best Hotel, North of England 2019, and boasts 162 luxury serviced apartments. Go on, treat yourself. 

Prices from £131 per night. 

Manchester South Hotel: Staying a little further out from the city centre can bring you big savings. Manchester South Hotel in Fallowfield is just 15 minutes from the city centre by car and less than half an hour by public transport.


It offers guests light and airy rooms, free WiFi, and easy access to the rest of Manchester. With a bus stop just outside the hotel, it makes a great base for 48 hours of exploring. 

Prices from £54 per night. 

Friday Evening

Start your weekend right in Manchester’s lively Northern Quarter.

This vibrant neighbourhood has long been recognised as one of the city’s coolest hangouts – and you’ll see it at its best on a Friday night. 

Credit: Unsplash (Stanislav Ivanitskiy)

Grab a pre-dinner drink at El Capo, a buzzing South American bar and cantina that’s sure to get the party started with its amazing selection of 70 different types of tequila.


If it’s a cocktail you’re after, we recommend the ‘Mezcal Mule’ (Montelobos Mezcal, agave, lemon, and ginger beer) for an innovative twist on a classic. 

Work up an appetite by taking a stroll to spot some of the neighbourhood’s famous street art.

The art in the Northern Quarter is always changing, but the enormous blue tit mural on the side of a building in Newton Street is an iconic long-term fixture. 

When dinner calls, head over to BAB – a unique independent restaurant on Little Lever Street that offers mezze and “kebabs worth sitting down for” – think fresh flatbreads, moreish small plates, homemade marinades, and a serious commitment to big flavours.

In more of a pizza mood? We’ve got you covered.


PLY lies in the heart of the Northern Quarter and serves some of Manchester’s best sourdough pizzas, along with a regularly refreshed range of craft beer, quality wine, and twists on classic cocktails. 

When you’re fed and watered, head along to Matt and Phred’s – a jazz club and live music venue on Tib Street to dance the night away to their live jazz, funk and soul acts, or sip on a cocktail in the laid-back basement bar. 

Not ready to call it a night? Then head down to Dusk ‘til Pawn – a nearby speakeasy bar with an enormous range of drinks on offer and open till 2am.

Credit: Unsplash (Matheus Bardemaker)

Saturday Morning

Fuel up for the day (and chase away any thoughts of a hangover) with a proper breakfast from one of the Northern Quarter’s best cafes.

We love Federal, Fig + Sparrow, and Foundation Coffee House for their French toast, granola pots, and vegan options, but if you’re after a hearty full-English, you can’t go wrong with Koffee Pot


Need more brunch inspiration?

Check out our picks for the best places for breakfast and brunch in Manchester. 

Credit: Unsplash (Jack Niles)

Spend the rest of the morning browsing some of the city’s best independent shops.

Find vintage treasures in Cow, Blue Rinse, and Pop Boutique, before popping into Oklahoma – an artsy boutique bursting at the seams with handmade jewellery, eclectic homeware, and unique gifts. 

Continue your shopping spree with a quick tour of some of Manchester’s beloved record shops, as vinyl havens such as Piccadilly Records, Vinyl Exchange, and Eastern Bloc are essential stop-offs for any music junkie.


If you feel yourself flagging, Eastern Bloc has a great coffee counter where you can get re-caffeinated ready for the rest of the day. 

Credit: Unsplash (Joseph Pearson)

Saturday Afternoon

For lunch, head to Pollen, an airy bakery and cafe overlooking New Islington marina that has recently won Best Food and Drink Retailer at the Manchester Food and Drink Awards to indulge in one of the signature pastries for dessert. 

If you’re in the mood for something a bit more hearty, neighbouring Sugo Pasta Kitchen offers amazing spreads of Southern Italian pasta dishes. 

Continue your afternoon at Manchester Craft and Design Centre – a creative hub located in a Victorian former fish and poultry market building – where you can uncover hidden gems in the artists’ studios and purchase contemporary jewellery, ceramics, art, and more. 

Next, walk to John Rylands Library in the city centre.


A must-see for bookworms, architecture enthusiasts and Harry Potter fans alike, the library was built in the 1890s and has been called “a real-life Hogwarts”, and the gift shop is well worth a visit too. 

Just a short walk away you’ll find Central Library.

This impressive Grade II listed building received a £50m refurbishment in 2010 and is home to a huge collection of rare books. 

Tick off another iconic Manchester building by finishing your afternoon in the shops of The Royal Exchange. From luxury boutiques to some of the world’s favourite high-street brands, the historic arcade has over 30 shops to choose from, as well as tempting coffee shops and tearooms. 

Saturday Evening

Bundobust on Oxford Road is a great choice for dinner.


This 150-seat restaurant is also home to Bundobust’s own brewery, able to produce 20,000 pints of beer a month, so you can sit under the huge glass ceiling and feast on the best Indian street food the city has to offer. 

Kick off Saturday night at Albert’s Schloss – a Bavarian-style bar that bills itself as “a retreat from the modern world” – and expect impromptu live performances and tankards of Europe’s finest beer. 

If you want to keep the party going, Deansgate Locks and Canal Street are two of Manchester’s best clubbing hotspots. From Lola Lo, a lively tiki bar on Deansgate Locks, to Via, one of Manchester’s favourite gay bars, there’s something on offer for every night owl.

Credit: Unsplash (Louis Hansel)

If clubbing isn’t your thing, get a dose of culture at one of Manchester’s many theatres.

The Palace and the Opera House are two of the city’s main theatres, welcoming some of the biggest touring shows from the West End and beyond.


Sunday Morning

Pick up a takeaway breakfast pastry from Trove bakery and stroll to Manchester Art Gallery for a morning exploring its collection of over 25,000 objects of fine art, sculpture and costume.

Not sure where to start?

The gallery is best known for its important Pre-Raphaelite collection, so ask one of the friendly staff members to point you in the right direction. 

Sunday Afternoon

A Sunday afternoon in Manchester wouldn’t be complete without a great roast dinner, and the team at Trof have been cooking up a storm in the Northern Quarter for over ten years now, so they know what’s what when it comes to a great Sunday lunch.

Think free-range crispy pork belly, slow-roasted Lancashire beef, and some of the best roast potatoes around, and there’s great veggie options too.


If you’ve got room for dessert, Trof’s sticky toffee pudding is the ultimate Sunday indulgence. 

Spend the rest of the afternoon in one of Manchester’s famous museums. We recommend picking between the Science and Industry Museum, the National Football Museum, and the People’s History Museum

Credit: Trof / Lifestyle Commercial Photography / Sam Docker

The Science and Industry Museum traces the ideas and inventions that have shaped our world, from the Industrial Revolution to today and beyond, and the National Football Museum is the biggest football museum in the world, featuring iconic objects from sport history and exploring the importance of the beautiful game to the UK’s identity. 

Into politics and history? The People’s History Museum is for you.

It’s the national museum of democracy and tells the story of its development in Britain past, present, and future.


Sunday evening

Finish your whistle-stop tour of Manchester City Centre with a film at HOME.

A centre for art, theatre and cinema, HOME screens new releases as well as golden-age classics rarely seen on today’s silver screen.

The perfect way to end a busy weekend.

You might also like our picks of Manchester’s best restaurants and bars to visit on a date, and the best healthy eating restaurants in Manchester


Featured Image – Flickr