Continuing on with my exploration of my home country, one weekend at a time, last month I made my first EVER visit to Manchester. I know, as if I’ve never been to Manchester before, right?
I think it’s something to do with my London upbringing. When you live in London, you think there’s nothing worth seeing outside of London because London is the best city on earth. Then you leave and realise there’s SO much more to this amazing country of ours! (And the world obvs.)
Anyway, I was kindly invited by the fab folks at Ibis Hotels to come up and stay at their newly renovated hotel on Portland Street, and experience some of what this awesome city has to offer! Here’s how I got on…
A Manchester Weekender
First of all I just need to emphasise how easy it was to get to Manchester. When I do these weekends away, I pretty much always drive. But this time we hopped on the Virgin train from Milton Keynes to Manchester and it took under an hour and a half. And we were right slap bang in the middle of the city. It’s definitely encouraged me to look out for train deals for my next weekender!
Ibis Styles Manchester Portland Hotel
So let’s talk about the actual hotel first. Like I said, the Ibis Styles Manchester Portland Hotel has been recently renovated, and now boasts a fun and quirky new weather-theme! So as soon as you walk into the lobby you’re greeted with a ceiling full of umbrellas, a giant pair of sunglasses and a big stripy deck chair. It’s quite an unusual set-up but I quite liked it, it’s pretty cool.
Also, the reception desk is actually just a big wooden table so it feels very casual and the staff were really friendly in a non-hotel kind of way. Like, they were giving us restaurant and bar recommendations as if they were our friends, which was a really nice quality I felt. This would then form my opinion of people throughout the weekend, coming to this conclusion: people are nice in Manchester. Very un-London-like.
As we went up to our double room, I started noticing that there was a lot more to this weather-theme than the obvious umbrellas and sunglasses in Reception. There are so many hidden little details in the décor that I really appreciated. So there’s carpet in the hallways that looks like it’s covered in Autumn leaves and the lifts are decorated in illustrations of cats and dogs (because “raining cats and dogs”). It’s very cute.
The room itself carried on the theme with a cloud shaped side table and a rainy mural on the wall. And they even laid out sunglasses and an umbrella so that you could experience Manchester whatever the weather! I thought it was a nice touch.
Overall it’s a pretty cool hotel. I mean it’s gimmicky but not in a tacky Disneyland-esque way. It’s just a cool theme for a budget hotel, that you won’t forget in a hurry!
Staying at Ibis Styles Manchester Portland Hotel, we also got to try out their on-site restaurant, Jamboree. The premise of the restaurant is that it serves food from all around the world, so there’s lots on offer! And the setting is really relaxed with cosy booths, dim lighting, neon lights and big comfy chairs.
For lunch they served us chicken and steak sandwiches with a combo of skinny and sweet potato fries. It wasn’t anything fancy but it filled us up and hit the spot before an action-packed afternoon of activities.
I much preferred dinner though.
Josh and I shared a few starters and they were all really good. The serrano ham and cheese croquettes were amazing in particular. For mains I went for a jerk chicken burger and Josh opted for the Miso Salmon.
Both were good, but honestly I think the draw to this place is the drinks rather than the food. Because the cocktails are really good – the Babylon and Tulum Tower cocktails are both A++ y’all. Plus there’s a pretty attractive happy hour menu with 2 cocktails for £12 or 2 beers for £6. Nice.
Saturday In Manchester
Like I said, we had a busy schedule in Manchester and on the Saturday, between lunch and dinner, we were booked to go Urban Axe Throwing at Whistle Punks. Yes axe-throwing is a thing! It’s kind of like extreme darts and I had a lot of fun trying it out. So much so that I’m going to write a whole blog post about it, so stay tuned for that one!
After axe throwing we had a wander through the Northern Quarter and found SO MANY awesome shops! I love vintage clothes and there were so many shopping opportunities that I spent an absolute fortune. I got a cool Hawaiian shirt and a big skirt covered in birds from Oxfam Originals, two bandanas from Blue Rinse Vintage and an enamel pin from Sour Cherry, one of the little shops in Affleck’s. Oh and Affleck’s is really cool by the way, it’s like a giant department store but with lots of individual shops and kiosks full of hand made and vintage goodness! HEAVEN.
So thumbs up to shopping in Manchester. I’ll be back just for that.
After going back to the hotel, getting ready and having dinner in Jamboree, when then headed out to the Deansgate Locks area for a visit to The Comedy Store! I love comedy clubs (as long as I’m not near the front…) so I was really happy about this choice of evening activities. And although the comedy was a bit hit and miss, I really enjoyed Carl Donnelly’s set and had a fab night overall!
So again Manchester has won me over, this time on the nightlife front.
A Walking Tour Of Manchester
On the Sunday before we headed back to the big MK, we went to explore a bit more of Manchester on a Manchester Walking Tour! I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this tour but actually really enjoyed learning about the different buildings in the city and their history. It started from the Central Library and looped around Chinatown, then visiting important sites such as the Town Hall and the John Rylands library.
Both the Town Hall and John Rylands library were so beautiful inside with impressive architecture and tiles. The John Rylands library in particular looks so unassuming from the outside but inside it’s basically Hogwarts. Seriously though, it’s worth a look just for the beautiful arches.
The Royal Exchange Building was also quite impressive inside with lots of original features such as the trading board with the final day’s figures still showing from when it closed in 1968. It’s now used as a theatre and we caught a glimpse of a choir singing in there which was pretty awesome with the acoustics in that place.
This just highlighted to me how cool walking tours like this are because I never would have visited any of these buildings if I was exploring solo. And like I said, I learned so much about Manchester.
Finally we walked through to the Manchester Cathedral and finished the tour there. Our guide David had pointed out a pub nearby that had the cheapest pints in the city – Sinclair’s Oyster Bar – so we headed there for a drink to rest our legs from the walking tour. We then went for a quick burrito near the hotel at Barburrito and made our way home.
I had such a great time throughout the weekend, and not just from staying in a quirky hotel or doing the fun activities. I just really enjoyed the vibe in Manchester. It’s such a unique city and weirdly, after just 2 days there, I can really see myself living there one day!
Stay tuned for the axe-throwing post as well as my Manchester vlog!
Have you been to Manchester before? What did you think?
Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!
Total Blogger Transparency: I enjoyed a complimentary visit to Manchester with Ibis Hotels but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I wouldn’t play you like that, shorty.