We arrived in Manchester on a Sunday morning around 10:00am after our Singapore Airlines flight. The immigration line wasn’t too long and since we were sitting in business we were one of the first people from our plane to get through immigration.
Train or Tram?
Our plan was to take the tram or train into town. However, we somehow got down to the train platforms and instead of buying train tickets we bought tram tickets. It was all a little confusing since the tram boarded right next to all the trains. There was no one checking tickets and so we hopped on the train that Google Maps suggested.
When we arrived at our station in Manchester, you had to stick your train ticket in to exit. Of course our ticket wouldn’t fit since it was meant for the tram not the train. The ticket operator there made us buy the correct tickets. It was kind of frustrating since we essentially paid twice, but these are the little mistakes you learn from when you’re traveling.
Since we arrived in Manchester around 11:30am, our hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express Manchester – Oxford Road wasn’t quite ready yet. This was something we kind of expected so we opted to leave our luggage with the front desk while we explored the city. We were well rested, but still pretty jet-lagged from our flight. Typically on our first day after flying we’ve found it’s best to do things that keep your mind and body engaged. Therefore, we usually tend to avoid art museums and instead try to walk the city and do something active.
Manchester has a pretty walk-able city center. From Oxford Road (in the southeast corner of the city center), we walked all the way to the Manchester Cathedral, which is located on the northwestern part of the city center. It was about a 25 minute walk.
When we arrived at the Manchester Cathedral, there was some type of service that was just wrapping up. The interior of the cathedral was undergoing some construction so a good amount of the building was covered in protective plastic sheeting. It was a beautiful church, but not nearly as magnificent as other European churches.
John Rylands Library
Next we walked over to the John Rylands Library. At this point, we were pretty exhausted, but managed to muster up the courage to wander the halls of this beautiful building. There were several art pieces and manuscripts on display, but we mainly enjoyed the architecture of the building. The interior space was like walking through parts of Hogwarts from Harry Potter. The best part is that it’s completely free to visit and actually functions as a library. We saw a handful of people studying in little alcoves off the main reading room.
After this we returned to our hotel to see if our room was ready. We got to the room and pretty much crashed. Before falling asleep, we set an alarm on our phones so we could wake up and grab dinner. We woke up and decided to grab dinner in the Manchester Chinatown neighborhood at at a delicious restaurant called Try Thai. We wandered around for a bit more after dinner and then headed back to the hotel to catch some sleep.
More Exploring on Day 2
We woke up pretty early in the morning due to jet-lag and grabbed breakfast at the hotel. We then made our way the Castlefield Urban Heritage Park. Based on the great Tripadvisor reviews, we were expecting it to be pretty cool. We were kind of disappointed when we arrived. It wasn’t really much of a park and the Roman ruins were mediocre at best.
Luckily, the Museum of Science and Industry was nearby, which was free of charge. The museum didn’t open until 10am so we decided to sit down in their cafe. Near the cafe, there were some brochures for things to do in Manchester including one with a walking tour. We logged online to see if they were offering it that day and sure enough it was available at 11am. This gave us a little more than a half an hour to wander the Museum of Science and Industry. We spent most of our time on the first floor before we left. The museum was definitely worth visiting and I wish we could’ve had more time to spend there.
We stopped by Starbucks for a little pick-me-up on our way to the Discover Manchester Walking Tour. Our tour guide met us in front of the City Library and proceeded to take us through several other buildings and streets while describing the history of Manchester. She described how Manchester was a very industrial city and was built around the cotton industry back in the 1800s. It was a very interesting walking tour and definitely worth the 7 pounds per person we paid.
After the walking tour, we grabbed a traditional English lunch at The Old Wellington, which consisted of fish and chips and shepherd’s pie. Then we wandered into the National Football Museum, which was full of trophies, signed jerseys, and football related art installations. They had some pretty interactive exhibits so it would be a great place to take your kids. My wife and I don’t know much about English football, but we enjoyed learning about it at this museum.
The next morning we packed up our bags and hopped on a train over to Liverpool. This time we made sure we bought train tickets and not tram tickets, but forgot to specify that we only wanted one way tickets. This wasn’t the end of the world though because after visiting Liverpool we did need to return to Manchester, but then continue on the Manchester Airport. We were able to buy the Manchester to Airport extension at the Liverpool train station.
Thoughts on Manchester
To be completely honest, we didn’t love Manchester. For being the second largest city in England, it seemed to lack the charm and culture that we’ve become so accustomed when traveling throughout Europe. It started to make more sense as we learned more about the history of Manchester in our walking tour. Manchester was a very industrial city, which explains the kind of grungy feel of the town.
Manchester was a neat city and definitely worth visiting, but I probably wouldn’t go back again (unless a flight deal took me there). There was a good amount to see and do, but it seemed to lack the vibrant culture of many other European cities.