How to: one day in Manchester City.
(On a very low budget!)
Arriving in Manchester
I arrived at Piccadilly Station at 11 AM with just one day to explore Manchester. With me, I had a total of 20 pounds, a phone that was unable to do anything but take pictures, and a rough plan in mind of what I wanted to do in Manchester. I walked from my train platform to the Manchester Tram and hopped on the line to Old Trafford Cricket Grounds.
HINT: The trams are straightforward and easy to navigate, follow the signs for the Metrolink. Once there, look at the tram route maps to locate where it is that you are getting to. Trace your finger along the tramline line past your stop to the final stop. The final stop of the line will be the name of the tram you will be catching.
Catching a tram in Manchester
The tram had my head moving on a continuous swivel trying to take in all the views. We glided through the city of Manchester. I passed the shooting fountains of Piccadilly gardens and the towering pillars of the art museum. Eventually, we glided out of the ancient center of the city and entered the westernized area. There were glass buildings and construction sites littering the ancient views.
Watching cricket at Old Trafford
I got off at the stadium, proceeding to watch 4-hours of cricket, ill spare the detail for your sanity's sake. For you football fans, Old Trafford Cricket ground is a 15-minute walk away from the Old Trafford Soccer Stadium. For non-fans, that is the home to Manchester United Football Club.
HINT: There is a tram stop on the Northern side of the football stadium for those who prefer not to walk.
While watching the game I was giggling at all the silver foxes with white hats in the stadium. Although most of them were past cricket legends, I felt like I didn’t fit in with the average age… I wasn't interested in walking through construction sites and glass buildings, so I caught the tram back towards town. My plan was to gradually walk a looping route the rest of the way back to Piccadilly station.
Roman Fort in Manchester
My first stop once off the Tram was the old Roman Fort Mamucium which was first constructed around AD 70. You can now see and walk through the reconstructed stone gateway as well as alongside a short stretch of the classic ancient stone wall, square crenels and all. Unfortunately, when I read about an ancient Roman Fort, I was stoked to see a stone fortress.
My expectations included surrounding walls and a cobblestone courtyard. Upon arrival, I saw one piece of the wall about two city blocks away from the reconstructed gateway. I spent only 5 minutes walking around the two historic sites and snapping a few pictures. As small as the remains are, it is unbelievably cool knowing I’ve seen something that is juuuuust slightly older than my parents (sorry Mum and Dad).
The Roman fort wall
Museum of Science and Industry
Near the Roman Fort is the Museum of Science and Industry, a huge bonus because it's a free entry museum. But, not a huge bonus when you arrive after 5 PM to discover that it is closed for the night. I've heard it's a massive museum with 5 different halls of exhibits, one you could spend a whole day wandering.
HINT: Check open hours of Museums at the beginning of the day !!
John Rylands Library
My next stop was the John Rylands Library with a huge arching hall… Or at least that’s what google told me after I discovered that it too had closed at 5 PM.
HINT: Maybe just precheck the times of all activities at the beginning of the day !!
It was a gorgeous day for Manchester weather, only drizzling occasionally. This isn’t my idea of a gorgeous day, but I’ll take it! I continued on my walk, heading into the center of the city.
My next stop was the Midland Hotel; a modern hotel concealed by an ancient exterior. It was a sight that took my breath away. It was a huge sunset-brown stone building with windows framed by carvings wound into the stone. I did a lap around the building, staring up while casually bumping into a pole and two people. No regrets it was totally worth it.
The Midland Hotel
Upon arriving at the Manchester Cathedral, I was again wowed just at the beauty of ancient architecture. The steeple is supposedly the most magnificent part of the whole cathedral, but after walking a circular lap of the building, I fell in love with each section and each corner, all with their own magnificent carvings. The Cathedral had a security officer standing at the main entrance with a neon yellow high-vis vest on. He looked fabulous photobombing the ancient cathedral *nooooot*.
Hint: Make sure to walk around both sides of the Cathedral!
Manchester Cathedral main entrance
My route continued from the cathedral all through the city to the football museum and into the Northern Quarter. I wound my way back and forth through the blocks of the Northern Quarter before arriving back at Piccadilly station.
HINT: The Northern Quarter is not as high end as the rest of the city. The streets are more hippie. There are a few police cars parked on the main streets. It had many hidden gems and hole-in-the-wall cafes to admire or stop at for a coffee. There were a lot of beautiful murals and street art to see around each corner. I felt completely safe walking down the main streets as a tiny, solo traveling girl and would recommend to check it out during a visit to the city.
How to get around Manchester
If you dislike walking, there are two free bus routes around the city that roughly follow my walking route. Otherwise, if you have the choice I would highly recommend walking. I passed so many beautiful buildings and streets that hadn't come up in any research prior to visiting the city, as well as the cute coffee shops, hanging flower baskets, pubs in ancient buildings and breweries with aesthetic layouts. All of which were tucked away from mainstream tourism and hidden from the internet.
Overall, I had not intended to go to Manchester because I thought it wasn’t my scene. The image in my mind's eye was all tall glass buildings and a classic big-city style. I went for the cricket game and simply planned a walking route from the stadium back to the train station. Now that I have been to the city, I am wowed at my ignorance of such a beautiful place. Furthermore, I am reminded that I can't make assumptions or judgments about anything until I know the whole truth.
Local pub based out of an ancient Manor house
How to survive Manchester
From the moment I arrived at Piccadilly Station, I spent a total of no more than 5 GBP. My money was spent on a drink during the cricket game, and my one-way tram ticket to the stadium. This was because I brought a backpack full of lunchtime snacks with me. That being said, there were some tasty looking food places of all different cuisines and ethnicities torturing me along every street I walked.
Now recovering from my rapid swiveling head, I am stuck in a mostly straight position while the stiffness subsides from my neck...