How to Spend 24 Hours in Manchester: The Ultimate One Day Itinerary 

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The following one day in Manchester itinerary is brought to you by Tilly from TillyText, a Manchester local! Read on for some of her top recommendations for making the most of 24h in the city.

Narrowing down all the things you want to do (as well as all the bars you want to drink in and all the places you want to eat at!) for one day in Manchester can be almost as stressful as when they first managed to split the atom in the city way back in 1932.

That’s because not only does Manchester have one of the most influential music scenes in the world, but it also has two of the coolest neighbourhoods in that category, too… There’s a reason they call it the London of the North! Except unlike London, Manchester is a hell of a lot cheaper, and everyone actually smiles at you on public transport.

Yes, there’s tons of great history (see here: the women’s suffrage movement was founded in Manchester, as was the world’s first modern computer) but a big part of getting to know the city is eating and drinking your way around it.

How else are you gonna be able to compare the cost of a pint from down South?

This ultimate 24-hour hours in Manchester itinerary combines everything I love about the city; its drool-worthy brunch spots, impeccable shopping opportunities, and intriguing cultural landmarks that actually make the history of the city worth learning about. 

If you’ve only got one day in the amazing city, make sure you do it right. 

Save this Manchester One Day Itinerary for Later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

Getting around Manchester

Just because it’s often called The London of the North, doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near as big. In fact, it’s pretty easy to walk between Manchester’s different neighbourhoods. 

However, if you want to check out what South Manchester has to offer (namely bustling urban suburbs and student digs with more green space but just as many bars) you’ll need to hop on a tram or a local bus.

Here’s a few tips for using the public transport in Manchester:

  • There are two free buses that take you around the city and start from the main train station, Manchester Picadilly. They’re a great way to do your own Hop-on Hop-off tour of the city.
  • For all other buses, you can use your contactless card to pay with the driver. A single ride is capped at £2 wherever you go.
  • Manchester has its own tram network, and just like London, you can tap on and tap off. Just remember to pay your way! Sometimes you’ll find an unsuspecting officer checking who has tapped their card on the journey…
  • The Bee Network app has live departure times for the bus, tram and train in Manchester. It’s probably the easiest way to plan your journey. But Citymapper still works, too. 

There’s no real need to rent a car in Manchester, especially when the best bits of the city can be found on foot. City parking is also pretty traumatic, and why waste time on a parallel park when you could be spotting dogs on the tram?

Now that public transport is covered, it’s time to get started with my ultimate 24 hours in Manchester.

Breakfast: Instagram-aesthetic and delicious

If you’re planning to squeeze in everything Manchester has to offer in 24 hours, you’re going to need some major body fuelling. Luckily, Manchester is home to tons of cute breakfast spots that’ll serve up some tasty plates – and look good while they do it. 

  • Feel Good Club: This queer-owned business in Manchester’s Northern Quarter serves up everything from everyone’s go-to smashed avo on toast, to feel-good favourites like tofu scrambled egg. (Get it?!) They also sell some killer merch, too.
  • Ezra and Gill: It’s rare not to find a queue outside this cafe that seems to get busier by the hour. Brioche French toast, Eggs Benedict, and even triple-stacked pancakes – they do it all.
  • Federal: A cafe so good, there are now 3 of them in the city. It’s just as hard to savour the food and eat it slowly, as it is to admit you’ll probably never cook anything this tasty in your own kitchen. 

Morning: Tourist Sights

As Taylor Swift once said, the best people in life are free. This also applies to most of the tourist sights worth seeing in Manchester. Fewer entrance fees, more money getting some wild garms from Manchester’s vintage stores (but we’ll come to that later!)

  • Manchester Central Library: This building is worth visiting for the gorj aesthetic alone, but it’s also worth a trip if you’ve always wanted to feel like Belle wandering around the second largest public lending library in Britain – it’s in the film, I promise.
  • People’s History Museum: Experience the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in this brilliant museum that explores the creation of democracy in the UK, how the NHS started, and the story of the suffragette movement. There’s not one dull exhibition here. 
  • National Football Museum: The small entrance fee for this museum is worth it – especially if you’ve seen the new Beckham documentary on Netflix. There’s a reason he was so gutted to leave Manchester United. 

A note from Christina: if snooping around old libraries is your kind of thing, then another beautiful must-see is the dreamy John Rylands Library, the stuff of Hogwarts dreams. Get more ideas for things to do in Manchester in my full post.

Lunch: Northern Quarter Grub

As far as neighbourhoods in Manchester go, Northern Quarter is one of the best. This grungy but trendy (you know the vibe) area is full of independent stores, lively music venues, and of course, some great places to eat. 

  • Northern Soul: Make all your cheesy dreams come true with this grilled cheese sandwich spot. How do you make mac n cheese even better? By putting it in a sandwich.
  • This & That: A great curry doesn’t have to cost the world. Get a plate of rice and three curries for £6 in this canteen-style lunch eatery. 
  • Arndale Markets: You’re spoilt for choice at the Arndale Markets. Pick from a number of independent food stalls offering everything from Thai curry, to Greek mezze. You’ll just have to push the office workers out of the way first.

A note from Christina: On the edge of the Northern Quarter, another cool food hall I enjoyed was Mackie Mayor. Similar to Arndale Markets, they serve a range of cuisines from around the world, all in a cool Grade II listed market building!

Afternoon: Hit the shops

Exploring Manchester like a true Mancunian means dressing like one as well. While Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre is great for high-street brands, you’ll want to stay in the edgy Northern Quarter for a slice of the city’s best independent stores.

  • Thrift stores: The ultimate crawl for vintage clothing starts at Blue Rinse, a massive emporium for second-hand items, continues to Oxform Originals, a slightly smaller boutique with only the best hand-picked bits on the floor, and ends at Pop Boutique, a haven for 60s and 80s fashion with some upcycled bits thrown in, too.
  • Charity shops: Manchester doesn’t do charity shops by half. Head to Oxfam for the best of Manchester’s donated clothes, homeware and books, and RSPCA; sworn by many as the best charity shop in Manchester. 
  • Record stores: Given the city managed to produce Oasis, New Order, and the Stone Roses, it’s no surprise Manchester’s independent record stores like Vinyl Exchange, Eastern Bloc and Piccadilly Records continue to attract music fans keen to waste hours flipping through their most iconic sleeves.

Dinner: Around the World in 24 Hours 

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cuisine that Manchester doesn’t do well. Which makes lining your stomach for an evening of bar hopping and boogieing a lot more fun. No matter what country’s cuisine you’re in the mood for, you’re guaranteed to find it just a walk (or a tram ride) away.

  • Pizza: When it comes to Pizza, Manchester sure gives Italy a run for its money. Grab a slice at the city’s legendary pizzeria Rudy’s, discover what a pizza looks like when you chuck on a whole ball of burrata at Ciaooo, or indulge in some Detroit-style deep dish at Ramona.
  • Asian: Forget that England says its national dish is a chicken tikka masala at Dishoom, a high-end Indian restaurant with modern cuisine bound to blow any takeaway out of the water. Or head to Vietshak for Vietnamese street food that’ll have you transported worlds away – until you look out the window and see the rain.
  • All cuisines: Fancy a bit of everything? Food-hall Mackie Mayor hosts nine independent kitchens bringing you the best Mexican, Ramen, Thai and chicken burgers in the city. Get the nachos, you won’t regret it.

Evening: Let’s Boogie

The final thing to do in your 24 hours in Manchester is probably the most important: sample the city’s music scene and nightlife. If you’re familiar with Northern stereotypes, you know that Mancunians love to party. This is your chance to see why. 

The different neighbourhoods all offer a different vibe depending on what you want your night to look like. I’ve included some honourable mentions for some of my favourite places to dance my ass off, but sometimes the best nights in Manchester happen without a plan. 

However, picking a general neighbourhood to stick to means you don’t have to wander around the city freezing without a coat – although, this is a very Northern thing to do.

Deansgate: A more glam cocktails with the girls neighbourhood where you can definitely wear your heels if you’ve brought them. Albert Schloss is a Bavarian-style Manchester institution that makes Oktoberfest look chic. You can also find Blues Kitchen in this area, a Blues bar with incredible live music every day of the week.

Northern Quarter: Definitely more paired-down than Deansgate, this is the place to go for great lively pubs and hidden bars with a beat. The best of the Northern Quarter’s nightlife is situated just on Oldham Street; The Freemount is a bustling pub with live local musicians playing to your pint, secret speakeasy Behind Closed Doors offers great cocktails with some very risque decor on the walls, and Lost Cat is one of those bars that turns into a club when the night truly starts getting underway…

The Gay Village: Centred around Canal Street, The Gay Village celebrates Manchester’s important LGBTQ+ history with lively gay bars and clubs. As one of the last places open late in the city, this area is popular with both those in the community and allies outside who are all looking for a good boogie. For good old-fashioned cheese, head to Bar Pop, while VIA hosts some of the best British drag queens on its iconic stage. Britney Spears tribute act, say what!

24 Hours in Manchester: Completed It!

Deciding how to spend a day in one of the best UK cities can definitely seem like hard work, but with this whistlestop guide to 24 hours in Manchester, I truly think you can experience the best this Northern city has to offer. 

There’s a reason Manchester’s symbol is the working bee. The city is like one big honey pot of great music, great parties, and great people – and once you get stuck in, you won’t want to go home. 

My Go-To Travel Favourites:

🧳 Eagle Creek: My favourite packing cubes

💳 Wise: For FREE travel friendly credit cards

🍯 Airalo: My go-to eSIM

🏨 For searching hotels

📷 Sony A7IV: My (amazing) camera

✈️ Google Flights: For finding flight deals

🌎 WorldNomads: For travel insurance

🎉 GetYourGuide: For booking activities

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