When I arrived at the Sheffield Train Station this past weekend I was really confused about the disproportionate number of loud men boarding the train to Manchester. Things got really weird when they started chugging beers at 9AM. Then I realized. Football. Soccer, as we know it, is what Manchester is known for. Manchester United beat Sheffield United 1-0 that day and little did I know that the entire day this celebration (for some) would follow me everywhere I went. It even followed me back to Sheffield- hangovers, black eyes, and all.
I visited Manchester for a day because:
1) I had a hunch that Manchester was an underrated and often overlooked city
2) I was saving my splurge weekend trip for this coming weekend (Venice)
I was totally right in Manchester being underrated. It’s a centuries-old city that’s progressive, affordable, and unique. The architecture is amazing and the people are vibrant. The shopping district is a lot like Times Square in that its meant for pedestrians and lined with bright lights. A great thing to note about Manchester is that a lot of its attractions are free. If you have just one day in Manchester this is how I recommend spending it (in no particular order):
- Take the free city centre bus from Manchester Piccadilly train station and get off when something catches your eye - just go!
- Visit both the Central Library and John Ryland's Library and notice how different they are
- Walk through the Manchester Art Gallery - The Impressionist collection was...impressive
- Visit the People's History Museum if you're interested in history and/or politics
- Stop in Chinatown. Eat. Eat. Eat.
- Go shopping in the Central Retail District - I recommend going last so you don't have to lug bags around all day
- Walk through Manchester Cathedral and listen to the organist play
What made this day trip the most enjoyable was the decision to be spontaneous. I had an idea of what I wanted to see but didn't have too many expectations and ended up having a wonderful time. I walked everywhere once I got off the bus and found it quite easy to navigate. Admission to everything I visited was free so I got to splurge on a Thai feast for lunch. We need more cities like Manchester; rich in everything and without pretense. If you find yourself with time to visit England I would definitely put Manchester on the list!