Where the Locals go in Manchester

England and the UK in general is famous for giving birth to railway and is of course a popular European destination to this day. But what percentage of visitors to Britain stray from London? Not so many, which is a pity, because there’s so much to explore in the UK’s great cities. One of them is Manchester, the star child of industrialization — and all the ensuing social reforms. Follow these tips by Manchester locals and dig into its honest, friendly, revolutionary side.

A musical train ride

The Folk Train | Local tips Manchester

You just might find your train has a musical surprise when traveling to Glossop… Photo by: Alice Hunter

There are two trains leaving from Manchester’s Piccadilly station to Glossop and Hathersage that are unlike others. A different folk band each time livens up the atmosphere in these otherwise completely ordinary commuter trains, to the amused bewilderment of any tourists that might be on board. Don’t forget that you can travel for free with your Eurail ticket! Folk Train to Glossop: the 18:59 train every 4th Thursday of every month; to Glossop — the 2nd Sunday at 11:45. The musicians perform for the return trip as well.

An affordable lunch buffet

China Buffet | Local tips Manchester

For a cheap and delicious meal, China Buffet is the way to go. Photo by: Joe Holdsworth

Manchester isn’t exactly cheap, but you really don’t need to break the bank just to fill your belly, either. China Buffet has lunch deals on its daily buffet from Monday to Thursday, so you can really eat as much as you want for as little as £7.50. Alongside the usual British/Chinese dishes such as spare ribs, sweet-and-sour pork, Singapore-style vermicelli, hot-and-sour soup and so on, there are chips, fried and roasted chicken and sausages.

A classic dive bar

Big Hands dive bar | Local tips Manchester

When discovering the night life of Manchester, don’t skip Big Hands bar! Photo by: Big Hands Bar Facebook page

Big Hands is an unpolished, bustling, vibrant dive that has been my drinking buddy these last 16 years and is the best bar in Manchester, (big) hands down. Cringe. Sorry.” Local Denise couldn’t have said it better. It’s been around for more than sixteen years because it does several things well: “great beer, reliably excellent music and vinyl DJ slots, the occasional live band and an uncompromisingly gritty spirit that scrubs up for nobody.” If you’re in the area, don’t miss Big Hands’ sister establishment, The Temple of Convenience, an underground ex-public toilet turned bar.

The legacy of Anthony Burgess

Anthony Burgess foundation | Local tips Manchester

This nice café was inspired by the great Anthony Burgess. Pop over for a coffee or visit the exhibition. Photo by: Joe Holdsworth

You might have heard of Anthony Burgess from his book/movie A Clockwork Orange, but did you know that his works include thirty-three novels, twenty-five works of non-fiction, two volumes of autobiography, three symphonies, more than 250 other musical works, and thousands of essays, articles and reviews? You can discover all this and more about the famous Mancunian in the Anthony Burgess Foundation. Excellent café and exhibition gallery

An honest-to-goodness pub

The City Arms Pub | Local tips Manchester

When in England, you simply can’t avoid them. Pubs! The City Arms pub is a must. Photo by: Joe Holdsworth

The City Arms doesn’t for a second pretend to be anything more than it is: a long-established, traditional city boozer with a delightfully mixed clientele. It’s a proper pub where social drinking is the order of the day — and night. It has a good selection of cask beers and ciders, too. Come around five o’ clock to catch the afterwork crowd and the air of liberation that comes with it. This is what a thriving city pub should look like.

At the epicenter of history

The Peoples History Museum | Local tips Manchester

Manchester has an impressive history, a visit to the People’s History Museum will you all about it. Photo by: Joe Holdsworth

Manchester’s People’s History Museum is a great starting point for those who want to understand the city’s deeper history. Instead of the expected collection of random household items, this one’s actually tells the story of how the city was the frontline of the battle for universal suffrage, the right of every man and woman in the country to have the vote. With its industry, architecture and institutions, Manchester has the reputation of being the first modern city, and you can definitely catch a glimpse of that here. Free admission!

A memorial to an unsung hero

Alan Turing memorial | Local tips Manchester

Alan Turing played a big role in the end of WWII, but is also an important symbol of equality. Photo by: Sarah Buckley

Brought back to the forefront of popular consciousness through the film The Imitation Game a few years ago, Alan Turing made a critical contribution to the Allied victory in WWII by making a computer that would crack the Axis Enigma code. Despite this and his other contributions to IT, the British state prosecuted him for his illegal homosexuality and chemically castrated him a few years after the war. Only in 2013 was he officially pardoned by the Queen. The Alan Turing Memorial close to Manchester’s Gay Village pays its respects to this important man and is one of the city’s most important symbols of equality.

A weird junk shop full of treasures

Empire Exchange | Local tips Manchester

This thrift store may be a bit messy, but it has amazing vintage stuff for sale. Photo by: Matt Bramford

Empire Express is so messy it would give Marie Kondo a heart attack, but roll your sleeves up and you’ll unearth plenty of gems in what is definitely one of Manchester’s weirdest but most delightful shops. Heaps of old vinyl, vintage magazines, clothing, signage, toys, pottery, glassware and everything in-between await you to take back home. Come with an open mind and a large bag because, after all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.


For more local favorites across Europe, check out Spotted by Locals.

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