Following regeneration projects in its neighbourhoods like the Northern Quarter and Chorlton, Manchester has plenty of alternative things to do – now steadily emerged as one of the best places to visit in the UK. We can see why. Vibrant bars, hipster cafes and a thriving creative scene to boot, that embrace rather than forget the cities industrial roots and carry them proudly into the 21st-century. And being just less than an hour away on the train from me and also the place my other half grew up, it’s somewhere I’ve been back to more than a few times. So below you’ll find my guide to my favourite alternative things to do in Manchester whenever I’m there.


1. Takk

Takk is a Nordic-inspired artisan coffeehouse, found on a quiet corner in the Northern Quarter. Its name means ‘thank you’ in Icelandic, and you’ll certainly be saying that once you’ve visited their Brew Bar. It serves up their very own super quality North Projekt coffee, as well as the best guest European coffee roasters they can find. Add in a brunch menu whose inventiveness surpasses the usual smashed avo and sourdough mantra (although it’s still there), and you’ve got the perfect place to meet, relax and even work.


2. Affleck’s Palace

Affleck’s Palace is one of my favourite alternative things to do in Manchester and is somewhat of an institution in the indie shopping scene. Found in the Northern Quarter, it’s an unusual emporium of little independent businesses. Set out in a maze-like fashion across multiple floors, here you’ll find a treasure trove of pretty much everything. Records, handmade jewellery and vintage clothes to name a few. But there are also more unusual things here like a tarot reading shop, a barbers and a theatre meaning you can easily spend a good couple of hours exploring everything.


3. Artzu Gallery

Artzu is one of Manchester’s best small independent art galleries, found in the old Granada TV Studios close to Spinningfields. Artzu exhibits progressive contemporary art, with the collections changing regularly. We had the opportunity to see some fantastic neon artwork on display during our visit. The staff here are also really friendly and are happy to chat with you about the artwork. A good alternative for art lovers who want to venture away from the touristy hubs of the Manchester City Gallery and Whitworth Gallery.


4. Ruddy’s Neapolitan Pizza

This place is small but mighty. Set in a little spot in the Ancoats area, Ruddy’s serves up the most amazing pizzas. They are made in the traditional Neapolitan way, so are only cooked for around 60 seconds making the base is deliciously soft rather than crispy. The restaurant itself is nice and cosy with a great laid back atmosphere that suits their no-fuss menu. Great for casual date nights or a catch up with a bunch of your friends.


5. Dusk Till Pawn

This eclectic bar takes the word hidden to the next level. From the street, it’s styled like an old-fashioned pawn shop, complete with neon lights and bric-a-brac in the windows. Easy to walk past and be none the wiser. But step through the doors, and you’ll find a lively bar with a back shelf stacked with spirits, a seasonal cocktail list and comfy sofas to enjoy them in. If you’re there in the early evening, make sure to choose a song or two on their free play Juke Box. Whilst local DJ’s take you through to the early hours at the weekend.


This is not by all means not an exhaustive list alternative things to do in Manchester. But hopefully should be enough to get you started in exploring this fantastic city. Have fun!


Interested in alternative things to do in other European cities?

Read my other alternative European city guides 


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