On our recent weekend break in Manchester I spent an hour or so on the Sunday morning wandering around the Northern Quarter. On my Friday night out I’d got the impression that Manchester was all about dressing up WAG style in short skirts, high heels and the latest designer gear, but the Northern Quarter painted a different story. In this network of streets it’s more grunge than glitz and this is the neighbourhood where you’ll find the one-off designer and vintage shops, restaurants and bars as well as street art and cool, arty cafes.
We’d actually dipped our toe into the Northern Quarter the Saturday night before when we stopped off at for some late night live jazz at Matt and Phreds, and on a Sunday morning I rather felt I was missing out as we navigated half dug up roads and closed shops. I think that a Saturday morning would definitely be a better time to visit the Northern Quarter if you enjoy rooting around in Vintage stores for something kitsch, cool and not too expensive, or to hang around in some of the art cafes and co-operatives around the neighbourhood. We downloaded a walking guide called Creativity and the City, from the Visit Manchester website covering some of the highlights of the area, and used it for information on the cool places to look out for.
We did manage to stop by for a cup of tea at Koffee Pot, great place for a fat-boy fried breakfast, passed by the Manchester Craft and Design Centre in an old Victorian Market Hall, and pressed our nose against the glass of Rags to Bitches, queen of the many Vintage stores around here. Down some side streets I also spotted some unusual street art that was a cut above the usual colourful murals made of Blue and white painted tiles – were they by the well known Manchester Mosaicist, Mark Kennedy – can someone tell me?
These Manchester Urban Culture Trails are excellent for the weekend visitor to Manchester to help you home in on some fascinating things to see on the themes of Radical Manchester (Museums and Galleries), Creativity and the City (Contemporary Arts), The City Performs (Theatres), The Sound of Manchester (Music) Each of the downloadable trails can be viewed on screen with an interactive map with key places identified on it, or downloaded in PDF format with commentary on each place. You could either use them to easily find one of two places that sounded interesting or make a walking tour between them.
The Northern Quarter may be a bit scruffy (the word people love to use is bohemian) but it surely has soul – I just wish we’d had more time to wander around when the vintage shops were open so I could have invested in a 50s cocktail dress or granny’s crocodile handbag – sigh… Next time I’ll make a bee line for this area first.
If you’ve visited Manchester or if you’re a local did you hang out in the Northern Quarter and do you have any hidden gems to share?
More Arty things to do in Manchester